Back when I was riding the school bus at Clement growing up, we always wanted the driver to go faster. The bus drivers back then were responsible high school students with licenses. Imagine that, school bus drivers who are still in high school! Today that would be considered reckless and irresponsible. But I never remember a driver having a wreck, except for maybe sliding in the ditch on a slippery dirt road.
Yes, we wanted the bus to go faster. When we would try to get the driver to go faster, he would tell us to quiet down and we would. It’s funny how a teenage bus driver could keep a busload of students under control back in those days. I suppose the fear of punishment from the principal and from your parents had a lot to do with it. The bus drivers were responsible and knew not to drive too fast.
There was also another reason. There was a governor on the bus. No, it was not the chief executive officer of the state, but a device attached that automatically controlled the bus so that it wouldn’t exceed a certain speed. So the driver couldn’t go fast, even if he or she wanted to do so.
That little device, a governor, controlled that bus. I’ve been thinking lately that we live in a world seemingly without a governor, or at least in one where it is not working too well. There seems to be little controls on society.
Speaking of governors, our own North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory, is in the middle of the HB2 controversy. The fact that which bathroom people can go to is dominating the news says much about a lack of a governor in our culture. Then, there is Donald Trump, definitely no governor with him. Even locally, almost daily, the front page of this newspaper is headlined by drug arrests or other criminal activity. Yes, things do often seem out of control.
Years ago, I read an interesting quote from Thomas Sowell, African-American economist, author and social theorist. He stated that there are four factors that contain, or put a governor, on our behavior. They are: (1) love of God, (2) fear of God, (3) love of man, and (4) fear of man. If he is right, and I believe he is, we may be able to better understand the situation in our society today.
Basically, society, that’s us, has decided that God is irrelevant, not important. I know a lot of TV preachers say America is becoming anti-Christian, but I think that is wrong. To be “anti” something you have to care about it enough to want to get rid of it. Of course, there are some who want to see Christianity eliminated, but the majority of society itself could care less. To them, Christianity, the church, and therefore God, is not important. So why would the love or fear of God matter in controlling their actions? In their eyes, he’s irrelevant.
Welcome to, as author Charles Colson put it, “post-Christian America.” Polling shows more Americans now profess “no religion” than all Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans combined. To us, deep in the Bible Belt, it may not be as obvious. Church is still a Sunday tradition for many, but where is its impact on our day to day lives and on our community? So, if God is irrelevant, why should the love or fear of God constrain us? And if God is unimportant, why should I care about or love my fellow human beings whom he created, except for selfish reasons?
It should disturb us that the only dominant controlling force left is the fear of man. If the situation becomes bad enough, people will demand more and more control from those in authority. They will allow government to do whatever it takes to bring peace and safety. As an example, remember how easily we Americans gave up personal freedoms to the government after the chaos of 9/11, all in the name of security.
The positive effects of acknowledging God on society are a side benefit of a personal relationship with Jesus. But, sadly, it’s a relationship that many in America now feel is unnecessary, unwanted or just ignored.
Author Philip Yancey writes, “I’ve concluded that God goes where he’s wanted. As the corruption and economic indexes prove, Christianity can be good for a society. But as that society achieves a level of comfort and prosperity, its citizens feel less the need for religious faith. They live off the moral capital of the past. Meanwhile God quietly moves on, to a place that senses more need.”
Those high school bus drivers did a good job. But the idea of a teenager driving a school bus full of children without a governor controlling its speed, is frightening. So is an America without its controlling moral governor.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org