Virginia continues to deal with scandals engulfing its top three leaders.
Gov. Ralph Northam is facing renewed calls to resign today over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook. Attorney General Mark Herring has admitted that he wore blackface at a college party in 1980.
And a college professor, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, is accusing Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. He denies the allegation.
Meanwhile, Gucci has apologized for marketing a sweater that appears to mimic blackface. It looks like a black turtleneck that is worn over the nose, with a red-lined cutout for the mouth. After a public outcry, Gucci removed the product.
In other news, President Trump spoke yesterday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The president stated, “We must build a culture that cherishes dignity and sanctity of innocent human life.” He added: “All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God. Every life is sacred, and every soul is a precious gift from heaven.”
What do these stories have in common?
“An affront to human dignity”
Russell Moore is an ethicist and president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a very perceptive article on the Ralph Northam scandal, Dr. Moore notes that both racism and abortion “are rooted in the counter-Christ idolatry that sees human dignity and lives worth living defined by power.” He states that “abortion and racial injustice are alike an affront to human dignity, and to the image of God.”
The first temptation is the heart of all temptation: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche noted, the “will to power” is the basic drive in human nature. From Cain’s sin against Abel (Genesis 4) to those who join Satan’s final rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7-9), all of human history can be read as the story of misused power.
The process is both simple and tragic.
“Products of conception”
Perpetrators of power begin by dehumanizing their victims. Planned Parenthood calls babies in their mothers’ wombs “products of conception.” Racists refer to African Americans and other minorities by a variety of demeaning slurs.
Perpetrators then feel justified in attacking their victims and empowered by doing so.
Racists feel empowered by denigrating and persecuting minorities. Sexual assailants feel empowered by abusing their victims. While pro-abortion advocates claim that they are protecting and empowering women, the fact is that abortion empowers adults to take the lives of defenseless babies.
Every crime is an expression of power at the expense of others. (This is why there are no “victimless crimes.”) Our entire legal system is our consensual attempt to restrict personal power for the sake of the larger community.
Speed limits are intended to keep us from driving as fast as we wish to the endangerment of others. Illegal drugs are illegal because they harm users, devastate those who care about them, and lead to other criminal activity.
If humans could abandon the “will to power,” how different would our world be?
The spiritual power to refuse sinful power
The Christian faith is the solution to the problem of power. That’s because Christianity offers us the spiritual power to refuse sinful power.
Human rules don’t change human hearts. Most drivers speed as much as they think they can without getting caught. Sex trafficking is illegal in the US but escalating so quickly it has been called “the new American slavery.”
The US Congress has passed more than 63,000 bills and resolutions over the last ten years. Would you say our society is becoming more or less moral?
However, Christianity changes the hearts of those who make Jesus their Savior and Lord: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The more time we spend in Jesus’ presence, the more we become like him: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
And the more we demonstrate “the fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a). Note that Paul adds: “against such things there is no law” (v. 23b).
Power the world cannot imagine
Not only does Christianity enable us to refuse sinful power–it empowers us on a level the world cannot match or even imagine.
After Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost, he preached with such power that three thousand were saved (Acts 2:4, 41). When John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,” he met the risen Christ and received the Revelation (Revelation 1:10).
Paul testified that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). That’s why he could say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). And why he could pray for followers of Jesus to be “strengthened with all power, according to [God’s] glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11).
Three steps that will change the world
Human history will continue to be the story of sinful power and its victims until the King of kings returns to end our fallen planet’s rebellion (Revelation 19:11-16). Here’s how you and I can reject this doomed rebellion and join the winning side.
First, surrender today to the power and control of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Second, ask the Spirit for the wisdom to detect the “will to power” and the strength to resist.
Third, stay submitted to the Spirit as you serve God and others with humility and grace.
The Spirit of God will then draw people to the Son of God, to the glory of God.
Is there a greater power than this?