Making it rain more places

But what is a Christian's duty in the spread of common grace?

Issue: "Debunking Darwinism," Nov. 22, 1997

Editor's note: This "From the Publisher" appears as a corrected version of that which appeared in the print version of WORLD, which became jumbled in the editing process. The rain falls, Jesus taught plainly, on the just and the unjust. The view out my window right now of the snow-capped Rockies in Glacier National Park near Kalispell, Mont., is just as visible to an atheist as it is to me. And you could say the same thing of a very great number of God's good blessings. Theologians call it common grace. But simply to note that God chooses in so many cases to bless those who ignore him, or perhaps even blaspheme him, doesn't answer a difficult parallel question: How hard should we as God's children work to bring about good ends for people who have no time for God? How much energy should we pour into the improvement of a society, or portions of that society, that reject the very cornerstone on which we want to establish those improvements? On virtually opposite corners of the country, two members of the board of directors responsible for the publication of WORLD magazine are struggling these days with those questions. I've mentioned them before in this space, but new developments suggest an update might be appropriate. Way down in Fort Myers, Fla., lumber dealer Lanny Moore has been making national headlines because he believes even public school children shouldn't have to go through life illiterate about the greatest book ever written. Elected a year ago to the board of education of Lee County, Mr. Moore and a couple of his colleagues last month infuriated local liberals by voting yes on a modest proposal to allow local public-school students to sign up for a voluntary course in Bible. For that bit of radicalism, Mr. Moore has been interviewed on NBC's Today show and has been quoted--and castigated--in newspapers all across the country. "Yes, it's been tough," says Mr. Moore. "Maybe the toughest assignment I've ever had. They beat you up. They tear you down." And why does he do it? Simply because he feels for the thousands of students in his own county who don't get the benefits of a Christian education. He thinks their education is being truncated by the politically correct doctrine that nothing that smacks of religion has any place in a public school. To the contrary, Lanny Moore would like to be an agent whereby a little of God's common grace falls on some young people who might otherwise never know it. Here in Montana a year ago, Ray Thompson ended a term on the Kalispell public school board just as Lanny Moore was entering the Florida fray. Mr. Thompson founded and heads a high-tech manufacturing company here that, with 1,200 employees, is one of the biggest employers in the county. But some of his innovative ideas about education, along with his conservative perspective on other issues, were not liked by the local teachers' union, which went all out a year ago to make sure someone other than this gutsy spokesman for integrity would get elected. "It's not fun having the voters turn you out of office," Mr. Thompson said last week. "You go home, turn up the electric blanket, and assume a fetal position for a while." So why is Ray Thompson thinking now about the possibility of making himself vulnerable to another insult like that? "I think about the things the girls are being taught over and over again in our schools-all the politically correct stuff, you know-and I wonder how they can ever grow up to be the kind of moms our society is going to need." He wonders the same thing about the young men; how can they keep being poured full of so many wrong ideas, and some ideas that simply haven't been tested, and then be expected to be strong husbands and fathers in the generation ahead? So Mr. Thompson is toying with the idea of running again for the Kalispell school board, knowing full well he may end up embarrassed by a community he has served with extraordinary commitment and generosity. Both Lanny Moore and Ray Thompson, as I explained here a year ago, are first of all committed to distinctly Christian education. Both have served tirelessly on the boards of Christian schools and have given generously to help those schools do their work. They know that the work they do in the public forum isn't likely to bear the same kind of fruit they have seen in schools that specifically honor Christ. They also know they won't get the personal appreciation. For both men, that's OK. They're not in it either for guaranteed results or for personal recognition. They believe instead that God's love reaches out mysteriously even to works not done in his name and by people who have rejected him. At the same time, both men also face a daily struggle and series of questions. How much energy and how many resources should be channeled toward explicitly Christian work, and how much reserved for efforts like the public-school boards they've served on? Which also might prompt them to ask whether an infinite, omniscient, and omnipotent God ever stops to calculate exactly how much rain he should allow to fall, respectively, on the just and the unjust.

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Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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