A Breed Apart

It's election season, and you know what that means: campaign signs, TV ads—and the usual attacks on Christians who dare to throw their hat in the political ring. The Christian agenda, according to Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal, is mean-spirited, intolerant, and out of the mainstream. In comparison, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman's comments sound almost friendly. In a recent fund-raising letter, Whitman referred to Christians as "the radical right" and a "vocal minority." Unfortunately, a lot of people view Christianity in the same terms—narrow, loud, reactionary. But what critics fail to see is that the Church, for all its faults, real and imagined, has been a highly positive force in our society. Jesus' command to love the world has inspired a great outpouring of social and philanthropic work. Take education. Most of the Ivy League universities, including Princeton and Harvard, were founded by Christians who believed in nurturing the life of the mind. The earliest opponents of slavery in the United States were Quakers, who operated an underground railroad to Canada. And during the Civil War, the Christian Sanitation Commission cut the death rate in hospitals in half by providing bandages and nursing care to the wounded. The record of Christian charity is so impressive that even John Dewey, one of the founders of modern humanism, praised believers for their social conscience. And we see the same thing today. A few years ago, a major Gallup study called "The Saints Among Us" found that people who are deeply and personally committed to Christian faith are, in Gallup's words, "a breed apart." Statistics show they are happier, more charitable, more ethical, more likely to help the needy and yes—more tolerant. And help them we do—though we're often accused of being homophobic. In San Francisco, the largest agency helping people with AIDS is Catholic Charities. So despite what the secular elites may say, Christianity has been and still is the most powerful force for good in Western culture. And biblical truth still provides the answers to our most vexing problems. Let me give you one example. Government officials often come to us here at Prison Fellowship with questions about criminal justice policies. One of our recommendations is that costly prison space be saved for truly dangerous offenders. Nonviolent offenders ought to be sentenced to supervised work programs, using their salary to pay restitution to their victims. Compared to just throwing everybody behind bars, restitution is clearly cheaper and more effective in curbing repeat offenders. I love it when officials then ask me, "Where did that idea came from?" I usually ask them, "Do you have a Bible? Go home, dust it off, and read what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai." The concept of restitution is straight out of the Bible. So don't let anyone make you feel as if you belong to a faith that is mean-spirited, intolerant, and uncaring. Christian love and Christian truth are essential underpinnings of society in modern America, just as much today as ever in the past. And keep that in mind over the next days, when everyone's thoughts are turned to politics. Christians do have a civic duty to live out their faith in the public square. And the public square desperately needs the influence of biblical truth.


Chuck Colson


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