Can You Make the World a Better Place?

“Politics cannot begin to put the connecting tissue back in society. It is ill-equipped to reconstruct traditional moral beliefs. The best policies cannot recover courtship or marriage, make fathers responsible for their children, restore shock or shame where it once existed . . . The vast majority of moral problems that trouble us cannot be eradicated by law.”

ARE you inclined to agree with those words of a former U.S. government aide? If so, what is the solution to the many problems today that stem from greed, lack of natural affection in families, loose morals, ignorance, and other corrosive factors eating away at the fabric of society? Some people feel that there is no solution, so they just get on with their lives as best they can. Others hope that one day a charismatic and brilliant leader, perhaps even a religious leader, will come along and point them in the right direction.

In fact, two thousand years ago, people wanted to make Jesus Christ their king because they perceived that he had been sent by God and would make a most able ruler. Nevertheless, when Jesus discerned their intentions, he quickly left the scene. (John 6:14, 15) “My kingdom is no part of this world,” he later explained to a Roman governor. (John 18:36) Nowadays, however, few take the stand that Jesus took—even religious leaders who profess to be his followers. Some of these have tried to make this world a better place, either by attempting to influence secular rulers or by holding political office themselves. We can see this by looking at the 1960’s and ’70’s.

Religious Efforts to Improve the World

In the late 1960’s, certain theologians in Latin-American countries took up the fight for the poor and downtrodden. To this end, they developed liberation theology, in which Christ was interpreted no longer as a savior in just the Biblical sense but in a political and economic way as well. In the United States, a number of church leaders who became deeply concerned about the erosion of moral values formed an organization called the Moral Majority. Its objective was to get into political office people who would legislate wholesome family values. Similarly, in many Muslim lands, groups have tried to curb corruption and excesses by promoting closer adherence to the Koran.

Do you believe that the world is a better place because of such efforts? The facts show that, overall, moral values continue to decline and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, including in those countries where liberation theology was prominent.

Because the Moral Majority failed in its key objectives in the United States, its founder, Jerry Falwell, folded the organization in 1989. Other organizations have taken its place. Nevertheless, Paul Weyrich, coiner of the term “moral majority,” wrote in the magazine Christianity Today: “Even when we win in politics, our victories fail to translate into the kind of policies we believe are important.” He also wrote: “The culture is becoming an ever-wider sewer. We are caught up in a cultural collapse of historic proportions, a collapse so great that it simply overwhelms politics.”

Columnist and author Cal Thomas revealed what he viewed as a fundamental flaw in trying to elevate society through politics: “Real change comes heart by heart, not election by election, because our primary problems are not economic and political but moral and spiritual.”

But how do you resolve moral and spiritual problems in a world where there are no absolutes, where people decide for themselves what is right and wrong? If influential and well-intentioned people—religious or not—are unable to make this world a truly better place, who can? As we shall see in the next article, there is an answer. In fact, it lies at the very heart of why Jesus said that his Kingdom was not of this world.

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COVER: Dirty water: WHO/UNICEF photo; globe: Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.

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Children: UN photo; globe: Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.