The decline of America has been underway for decades and has dramatically increased in recent years. Signs of it are now evident throughout our society. Part 1 of this essay explained how Churches can help solve the problem by directly addressing moral issues from their pulpits. At present, virtually no Catholic churches do so; nor do most Protestant churches. The result is that 62 million Catholics and many of the 150 million Protestants are influenced by mainstream and social media rather than religious teachings. Part 1 offered several examples of the kinds of sermons needed to correct that imbalance. Part 2 will offer more examples.
Issue: PARENTS’ RESPONSIBILITIES
Sermon Outline: Today our culture in many ways undermines traditional religious teachings about the roles of parents and children. TV shows and movies depict children as wiser than their parents. Schools teach students that they should follow their feelings rather than parental advice. In some cases, they encourage students to keep major decisions, including sex-change plans, secret from their parents. Such influences make it difficult if not impossible for parents to provide the guidance that is not only their right but their religious obligation to provide. They therefore have a moral obligation to oppose those influences.
Scriptural Foundation: Deuteronomy 6:6,7 “And these words that I [Moses] command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Proverbs 1:8 “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Ephesians 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Hebrews 12:7 “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Issue: PRIDE VS HUMILITY
Sermon Outline: Throughout the Bible, pride is regarded as something that, though not in itself evil, tends to lead us from the virtue of humility and is therefore something to be wary of. Unfortunately, the dominant theme of our culture is almost the exact opposite. It teaches that pride—now called self-esteem—is not only a virtue but a necessary condition of success in life. This belief has caused many people to shun humility, which in turn has prevented them from seeking truth, acknowledging their shortcomings, and learning from others. Everyone who values the biblical perspective needs to return to the traditional view and encourage others to join them in promoting it.
Scriptural Foundation: Jeremiah 50:32 “The proud one shall stumble and fall, with none to raise him up.” Proverbs 25:28 “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Ephesians 4:2 “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Timothy 3:1-5: “. . . In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Sermon Outline: From the first book of the Bible to the last, human nature has been recorded as imperfect and therefore vulnerable to error and wrongdoing. And human history has consistently validated that view. (As G.K. Chesterton noted, the evidence for Original Sin “can be seen in the street.”) The consistency of that view makes it all the more embarrassing that our culture claims humans are so perfect that whatever they believe is “true for them,” and whatever they do is “moral for them.” Those who believe such nonsense include people who want to abolish police departments and empty prisons. They also insult us by denying the difference between men and women. But the implication of such assertions is in one sense more dangerous than the assertions themselves. That implication is that we humans do not need to improve ourselves intellectually or morally, and it stifles both moral and spiritual growth. We need to reject this nonsense and strive to grow in knowledge and virtue.
Scriptural Foundation: Proverbs 16:32 “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” 1Corinthians 13:4,5 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” 2Peter 1:5,6 . . . “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Issue: SEPARATING TRUTH FROM ERROR
Sermon Outline: Religion teaches us to seek truth and beware of falsehood, but human imperfection makes the search for truth challenging. The complexity of an issue may cause us to misunderstand it. Or the information we find may be flawed. Or the people or institutions we trust to be honest may be unworthy of that trust. Today, increasing numbers of people believe that truth is whatever they want it to be and that their opinions are more reliable than facts and evidence. They therefore have no interest in exploring issues, asking questions, and comparing viewpoints, and little regard for those who have this interest. A number of these people are employed in journalism and communication and not only bring their biases to their jobs but exclude other viewpoints from their reporting. As a result, their viewers and readers are deceived about important issues and, without knowing it, give their support to error rather than truth and evil rather than good. The only way to avoid this is to compare journalism and communication sources, determine which are more reliable, and choose accordingly.
Scriptural Foundation: Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Psalm 120:2 “Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” Proverbs 26:24 “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart.” Malachi 3:18 “So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” Matt 5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matt 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Issue: LOVING OUR NEIGHBORS
Sermon Outline: The Bible teaches us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and that everyone is our neighbor. The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” reinforces that teaching. In everyday terms that means we should treat others with kindness, compassion, and respect, even when they treat us harshly. Most of us were taught those lessons as children, but today the temptation to ignore them can be overwhelming. Our culture’s message is to think well only of those who agree with us. That message has led not only to suspicion of one another, but also to distrust, denunciation, and refusal to work with others toward the common good. We need to resist that temptation and encourage those around us to do the same.
Scriptural Foundation: Psalm 97:10 “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” Matt 22: 37-40 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” John 8:7 “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone . . . .” Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 12:9 “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
Issue: THE BORDER SITUATION
Sermon Outline: Helping those in need is a central biblical teaching, and one well-known expression of it is the parable of the Good Samaritan, who rescued a beaten traveler and paid an innkeeper to care for him. An important point in the parable is that the Samaritan used his own money to pay for his good deed. Today such kindness, indeed most charity, is handled through government programs using other people’s money without their consent. The result is often bad judgment and lack of discernment that harms both those who receive the kindness and those who pay for it. For decades our government has given financial aid to poor countries whose corrupt governments promptly stole it, which increased the desperation of the poor. Our government largely ignored that corruption, the waste of taxpayer money, and the growing desperation of the poor, which caused them to leave home and seek refuge elsewhere, notably in the U.S. Our government, in the name of kindness, then violated its own rules for manageable immigration and allowed at least eight million people to enter the country illegally and without meaningful guidance. This mockery of discretion and prudence has created havoc in the U, S. Our government must find an effective way to alleviate poverty and want in the poor countries, so that people don’t feel the need to migrate to foreign lands.
Scriptural Foundation: Leviticus 19:15“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Isaiah 1:1″Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” Proverbs 2:11 “Discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 3:13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.” Proverbs 8:5 “O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense.” Proverbs 8:12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.” Proverbs 12:22 “Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.” Romans 13:7 “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Matt 17:20 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit, . . . therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Luke 14:28-30 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
ALL SIX OF THE SUBJECTS DISCUSSED HERE are, first and foremost, moral matters and therefore within the jurisdiction of religion. It follows that the clergy have the right to address them in their churches or wherever else they offer instruction to their followers, including the public square. The fact that some of the subjects are also within the jurisdiction of government in no way alters the rights of clergy to address them.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Catholic and Protestant churches understanding the significance of the last paragraph. It exposes the erroneous notionthat speaking on moral matters from the pulpit somehow forces religious beliefs on the populace. It thus encourages the clergy to apply their moral teachings more effectively to their over 200 million (combined) followers and thereby counteract the ideas and movements causing America’s continuing decline.
Copyright © 2024 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved.