News Articles

Connor: Christians have ‘cultural mandate’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The abandonment of sound Judeo-Christian moral principles foundational to the American republic and the embrace of ideas counter to those values are at the root of the nation’s cultural decline, Ken Connor told a chapel audience at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Christians are under “a cultural mandate” by which God has ordained their stewardship of all of His creation, Connor said in delivering the seminary’s annual Tharp Lecture Oct. 31. Connor is chairman and co-founder of the Center for a Just Society, a Washington-based evangelical public policy think tank.

“We are increasingly in this culture moving away from a sanctity of life ethic that maintains that human beings are special, precious and worthy of protection, to applauding a quality of life ethic that measures the net worth of people … on the basis of their functional capacities,” Connor said. “This has profound implications for the handicapped, like Terri Schiavo, and the elderly, who live in nursing homes whose quality of life is compromised and who cost more to maintain than they produce.”

An advocate for the sanctity of life, Connor represented former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the Schiavo case, in which the Florida woman died after various legal and legislative challenges failed to stop the removal of her feeding tube.

Connor said the cheapening of life is a byproduct of a rejection of Judeo-Christian ideals: “For all practical purposes [as a culture] we have denied the existence of God, deconstructed truth and demoted man from the status of bearer of God’s image to simply the best of the beasts.”

As a result, Americans are living with the consequences of what Connor called “a new moral and philosophical order.” Among those: 47 million children have been aborted since Roe v. Wade in 1973; the divorce rate has doubled since 1960 while the marriage rate has declined, fueled by the push to abandon traditional heterosexual marriage.

“That new order, I would suggest to you, threatens the weak and the frail and the vulnerable in ways that we have not heretofore witnessed in our society,” Connor said.

Echoing a recent opinion piece he wrote for Baptist Press, Connor said the country was founded on a moral and theological consensus rooted in a belief in the God of the Bible. And of the rights granted by God, the most important is the right to life.

“The right to life is foundational to all others,” Connor said. “It is that right that, without which, no other right can exist. Our right to freely assemble, to worship as we please, to pray in the manner in which we please are all foundational to the right to life, without which, no other right can exist.”

Connor responded to secularists who he charged would toss away the foundational values of the republic in favor of a secular humanist view that gives rise to moral relativism, situational ethics and law determined solely by the state.

“This worldview, I would suggest to you, has led to an erosion of the respect for life and threatens the protection of the individual in our culture, especially for those who are the weakest, the frailest and the most vulnerable among us,” Connor said.

By contrast, Connor said, “The Judeo-Christian worldview, has led to the greatest freedom and the greatest protection the world has ever known.

“Ideas have consequences, folks,” Connor said. “What we believe determines how we behave.”

Connor cited Thomas Jefferson, who, while not evangelical, saw God as foundational to American democracy. “The only firm basis of a nation’s liberties,” Connor quoted Jefferson as writing, “is the conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties are a gift of God.”

In order to stem the tide of moral decline, Connor said, the church must “reclaim and proclaim the Gospel of Christ. We must remind man of who he is and what Christ has done for us. We must remind our neighbors and our co-workers and our friends that we have value because God loves us and gave Himself for us.”

Connor reminded the audience that there are no political solutions to moral problems, and that government reflects the views of the people it represents. It will be up to those in ministry to help shape those views.

Connor said the church should follow the examples of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the Old Testament Book of Daniel. The three Hebrew young men and other biblical role models set an example for the culture.

“The church must be willing to take a risk. We have to be willing to stick our necks out,” Connor said. “Because these young men were willing to stick their necks out, they were able to change the culture.”

While taking a stand will lead to persecution and resistance, Connor urged the seminarians to persevere. The seminary’s resurgence after Hurricane Katrina is cause for optimism, he added.

“As long as this seminary is able to produce people who proclaim the Gospel of Christ, who are willing to stick their necks out and persevere to the end, there is reason for hope.”
Paul F. South is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

    About the Author

  • Paul F. South