Fighting a Moral Meltdown

When you walk into the office of most congressmen, the decor announces "I’m important and influential." Photographs display the lawmaker posing with everyone from the president to rock stars. But visit the office of Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, and you’ll find a prominent portrait, not of a pop star or president, but of a religious figure. The picture symbolizes Smith’s desire, not to pursue personal power, but to use his office to further God’s purposes. Smith’s popularity repudiates the notion that Christians cannot be true to their convictions without alienating voters. The portrait Smith prizes is of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. For Catholics like Smith, Our Lady of Guadeloupe represents the conversion of the Americas from paganism to Christianity. In a recent profile of Smith, the Washington Post noted: "It is unusual for a member of Congress to display a religious symbol quite so prominently." But Chris Smith is no ordinary member of Congress. He’s a tireless champion of the poor and powerless. His passion is most clearly revealed in two areas: abortion and human rights. For example, Smith thinks nothing of bringing the House to a halt in his efforts to protect the unborn. As the congressman puts it, "Respect for innocent human life is the defining issue of our time." During one rancorous abortion debate, he angrily told his House colleagues, "I’ll stay on the floor until hell freezes over." Smith has also defied his party leadership’s free-market ideology by insisting that trade favors be linked to human rights. He’s campaigned tirelessly for a free Tibet and for an international ban on land mines. And according to the Post, Smith’s idea of a congressional junket is "handing out Bibles in a Russian labor camp or visiting a Romanian orphanage." Smith’s legislative priorities spring directly from his Christian worldview—a worldview he will not apologize for. "If you have deeply held convictions," he declares, "you should be proud of them, and ask for a place at the table." Conventional wisdom says that convictions like these are a political liability. In fact, a recent survey by the University of Virginia revealed that more than 50 percent of Americans think the terms extremist and intolerant accurately describe the Christian Right. But people like Chris Smith defy the conventional wisdom. Since his election to Congress in 1980, Smith’s district has been redrawn four times in efforts to unseat him. But the attempts have failed spectacularly. Despite being a prolife Republican in a largely Democratic district, Smith’s seat is considered secure. As the Post explained, Smith "is the kind of person a voter would want to have in Congress—seemingly incorruptible, principled… concerned for the underdog, and hard-working." Congressman Smith’s story is evidence that Christians can be true to their convictions without turning voters off. Besides, Smith would be the first to tell you that our Lord demands our unswerving allegiance—no matter what the consequences. As he reminded students at Franciscan University, "We know what our Lord thinks about wishy-washy, lukewarm people—especially when a culture is in the clutches of a moral meltdown." Yes, we do, and that’s why I say God bless Congressman Chris Smith: a man who serves his constituents by serving Christ.


Chuck Colson


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