Values Void

A few days ago I read an amazing poll. Sponsored by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, the survey found that 75 percent of Americans are highly concerned. No, not about the national deficit. Not even about the economy. They're concerned, the survey says, that "traditional values have grown weaker and need to be strengthened." What a remarkable turnabout in public attitudes. It wasn't too long ago that the phrase traditional values was treated as an object of ridicule-a conservative hobbyhorse. In political circles, values issues were defined narrowly to include only things like abortion and school prayer. But the new survey shows a general unease among Americans, a fear that the fundamental values that hold a society together are fraying-that the social fabric is unraveling. This sense of dissolution was expressed across the board, by men and women, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites. A Wall Street Journal report says there is "a growing belief across the political spectrum that social values are eroding and that the decline of the family is at the heart of the problem." This is the first piece of good news I've seen in the national media in a long time. Americans finally sense that something is wrong-that we desperately need to revive traditional values to shore up the family. The bad news is that people are terribly confused about what traditional values are and how to strengthen them. For example, when asked what government policies might help bolster families, two-thirds said they support government-subsidized day care for two-income families. Nothing shows more starkly how mixed up people are. Subsidized day care is guaranteed to erode families still further. In essence it punishes parents who raise their own children by taxing them more heavily. Then it rewards dual-career families by paying for their child care. This is totally inverted. As the Wall Street Journal report says, "Americans seem to be vaguely searching for some formula to restore an old-fashioned notion of family." "Vaguely searching" is right. Americans are groping in the dark for answers. Here is a golden opportunity for Christians. Today 75 percent of Americans agree that our society is in trouble-and that the root cause is family decline. That's three out of four of your neighbors, your co-workers. But they haven't a clue what to do about it. You and I know that ultimately the answer has to be found in morality. Values are strong only when they're based on a transcendent moral standard. Values change behavior only when people feel accountable for their actions before a divine tribunal. In a secular age it may be difficult to arouse interest in religion. In a post-Christian world, people tune out "God-talk." But today Christians have a wonderful opportunity to present our faith as the answer to America's decaying social values. Biblical truth fulfills a need that is eating at the hearts of 75 percent of Americans today. The First Epistle of Peter tells us to "be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us." The time is ripe for Christians to make our case.  


Chuck Colson


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