This speech was delivered July 3, 2016.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honor to be back for a third time to the Western Conservative Summit. I’m calling my brief remarks today “The Political Illusion: Choosing Christianity Over Ideology.”
Let me begin by noting that the Western CONSERVATIVE Summit operates under the authority of Colorado CHRISTIAN University. That’s an authority we should take seriously. We move into dangerous territory when we allow any political ideology, even conservatism, to have authority over our Christian worldview. We should never forget that what we conservatives are conserving is a Christian understanding of the world, a Christian worldview.
And I would also observe CONSERVATISM, political conservatism at least, has not always been on the side of a Christian worldview. In the 19th century, when William Wilberforce devoted his life to ending the slave trade in Great Britain, his position was considered progressive in the context of its day.
A century later, Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced similar challenges. In the 1920s and ’30s, Germany was at a low point, but one man promised to make Germany great again. To complicate matters even further for Bonhoeffer, in some ways, Germany did become great again. But Bonhoeffer knew this so-called greatness was an illusion. Bonhoeffer knew this greatness came at the cost of his beloved country’s Christian heritage, a country that had been the birthplace of the Reformation. By the late 1930s, for Bonhoeffer — as for Wilberforce — to “conserve” the status quo meant standing with evildoers . . . something he could not do.
We should note that neither Bonhoeffer nor Wilberforce lived to see the fruit of his lifelong efforts. Bonhoeffer’s death was particularly tragic: He died in a concentration camp just weeks before that camp was liberated by Allied forces.
But a strange and beautiful thing has happened since: Hitler may have thought he had crushed Bonhoeffer, but it turns out that history has since crushed Hitler, and we now celebrate Bonhoeffer as one of the heroes of the Christian faith, a champion of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Like Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer, we must decide today, as we leave the Western Conservative Summit and go back to our lives, which side of history we want to be on.
Like Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer, we must never let our allegiance to a political ideology or party rise above our commitment to Christ and the God of the Bible.
Much is at stake in the upcoming election. We’ve heard this weekend, for example, that the Supreme Court hangs in the balance.
But, friends, something infinitely more important also hangs in the balance, and that is a decision not about the politics of our country, but about the character of our country.
There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Character is destiny.” Not policy. Not politics. Not processes and procedures. Not even the number of conservatives on the Supreme Court. It is our nation’s character, and the character of our leaders, that always has been, will now be, and always will be the definer and decider of our nation’s destiny.
When we sacrifice moral high ground for the sake of political victory, we succumb to what one of my mentors, Chuck Colson, called “The Political Illusion.” Said another way: Any political or policy gain that comes at the expense of “the good, the true, and the beautiful” — at the expense of a Christian understanding of the world — is a price too great to pay.
It is a political victory masquerading as revival, or cultural transformation.
The great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “Predictions are dangerous, especially predictions about the future.” That’s why I won’t predict who will win this fall, or what that person will do when he or she gets in the White House, nor would I trust anyone who did make such predictions.
But what I will guarantee you is this: I’ve read the last page of the Bible, and God wins.
So, to return to where I started: Let us leave the Western Conservative Summit in a few minutes resolved to hold loosely to political labels, but let us never quit fighting for the good, the true, and the beautiful. Let us hold onto the label CHRISTIAN as though our lives depended on it, for indeed they do.
God bless you, and may you go from this place today in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.