How Good are We?


An Evangelical Christian Perspective:   How Good are We?

Something seemed amiss in a statement made by our president in his October 11th news conference.  Can you find it?  Does it make you feel uncomfortable?   In answering a question, President Bush replies, “How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed — like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are.”

How “good” are we, Mr. President?  Do we measure up to “good”?   I understand what our president is saying–good in the relative sense in which most people use the term.  We are good compared to Nazi Fascists or to evil terrorists.  But as a Christian, it is difficult to invoke the term “good.” Christians define good in an absolute sense, that is, good compared to God’s goodness.   Christians are very familiar with the famous verses of Romans that define man’s goodness.

There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understand, there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become useless.  There is none who does good, there is not even one.”

But even in the relative sense of the word, are we a “good” people?  We are a nation that produces yearly 1.5 million violent crimes; 100,000 rapes; 20,000 murders; 7 million thefts; and let’s not fail to mention the murder of 1.5 unborn children.   Fourteen million Americans use illegal drugs–10% of all teens.   In addition to all this there is the proliferation of legal activities that God calls sin:  immorality, pornography, lewd and violent entertainment, broken homes, religious apostasy, etc.   If we are a “good” people, I would like to know the point at which we become a “bad” people.

In the nineteenth century, the Frenchman, Alexis De Tocqueville analyzed our nation and concluded that America is great because her people are good.   Could he say the same thing today?  If our forefathers could see America today,  I doubt even they would call America “good.”

Yet, there is some relative good in America! Let me mention just a few positives: there is a strong work ethic; we are the biggest givers to charity; our culture despises prejudice and injustice; we defend and support the poor, the sick, the widows and the strangers; we contain more religious colleges than any other nation; and we top the statistics in  missionaries and aid workers. 

I suppose the best way to respond to the Islamic countries that have a “vitriolic hatred for America”  is not to say that we are good, but to say that America is a melting pot of good and bad.  American thinkers have long been saying America is developing into two opposing cultures.  There truly is a  “Misunderstanding of what our country is about.”   It is about freedom!  And the downside of freedom is that it attracts and produces the very best people and the very worst people.  Some use freedom to sin; others uses freedom to do right.

Furthermore, I too can’t believe “that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America”–not because we are good, but because they too struggle with the same evil.  How can one sinner stand in judgmental hatred over another sinner?   Such hatred is unbelievable because it shows an extreme, self-righteous, arrogance.

Well, Mr. President, let’s put it this way:  Some of us are bad and some of us are good, but even then, not good all the time and not absolutely good.   Jesus said it all in His words to a rich young ruler,  “There is none good but God.”  And it is in the character of God we all find hope!

Bradford E. Winship
Harbor Bible Church
Laurence Harbor, NJ