President-elect Trump has chosen Dr. Ben Carson to become secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Trump continues to make headlines for his choices. Though America goes through this process every four years, I don’t remember a year when such decisions generated such controversy. Why is this process making global headlines? Consider three factors.
One: The election and its aftermath have been so contentious. Critics of Trump are being critical of his Cabinet nominations; supporters are being supportive. That’s not surprising.
Two: Some of Trump’s nominations are generating controversy even among his supporters. Mitt Romney, for instance, has been backed by some on the Trump team and castigated by others. I don’t remember seeing a presidential transition that aired its internal arguments so fully, but our 24/7 social media-driven culture makes formerly anonymous processes more visible than ever.
Three: We know people by those they know. We make decisions about a person’s character and capacities by judging the character and capacities of those they choose as friends and colleagues. Since Donald Trump has never held office, we’re trying to understand how he will lead by examining those he chooses to lead with him.
These factors are unsurprising expressions of human nature. But I think there’s more to the story.
Our culture is more contentious than it has been in my adult lifetime. I certainly would not compare our divisiveness to the Civil War era or the Civil Rights years, but it seems to me that we are more polarized than we have been in decades. It’s hard for Congress to agree on even basic legislation. In this sense our representatives really do represent us. The polarization we see in Washington reflects those who elected the people who serve in Washington.
Here’s my bottom line: A culture that has no moral compass shouldn’t be surprised when it loses direction. A ship without a rudder is at the mercy of whatever currents it encounters. A sailboat without a sailor at the helm will go where the wind blows. For decades we’ve believed that truth is what we say it is. We take it as an absolute truth that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Tolerance is the only value we all seem to affirm. But tolerance is not a strategy for the future or the present.
In We Cannot Be Silent, Albert Mohler notes: “We cannot understand our times without looking honestly at the moral hurricane sweeping across our culture, leaving very little untouched, if not radically changed, in its wake.” How should we respond? Dr. Mohler: “Understanding is just a start. When it comes to marriage and morality, Christians cannot be silent—not because we are morally superior, but because we know that God has a better plan for humanity than we would ever devise for ourselves.”
Only when we choose to live by the word of God can we know the truth of God that sets us free.
Jesus’ famous pronouncement adorns libraries the world over: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). But I’ve never seen these words displayed with their previous verse: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (v. 31). Only when we choose to live by the word of God can we know the truth of God that sets us free.
How free will you be today?