Personally Opposed But…

Back in 1906, Hilaire Belloc ran for election for the British Parliament. As a Roman Catholic in a strongly Protestant country, Belloc knew his religion would be a campaign issue. So in his first campaign speech, Belloc stood at the rostrum, rosary in hand, and said straight out: "I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. As far as possible I [pray the rosary] every day." Then he looked boldly into the audience and said, "If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative." Belloc won the election. Compare that now to another election story. In 1960 John F. Kennedy ran for the U.S. presidency. Since no president before had ever been Catholic, Kennedy knew his religion would be a campaign issue. So in a landmark speech he stood at the rostrum, looked boldly into the audience, and told them not to worry about his religion, that he would never let it influence public policy. Kennedy won the election. And his speech set a pattern followed ever since by politicians who espouse policies opposed to Christian truth. A politician's religion, they say, should have no effect on his or her public policy. We hear it all the time. In a speech at Notre Dame, Governor Mario Cuomo used the same argument to justify his pro-choice position. I know the Church teaches that abortion is wrong, and I'm personally opposed to it, he said--but I can't impose my view on others by making it the law of the land. In essence Cuomo was saying, I'm personally a Christian, but God's law is subject to majority vote. Utter nonsense. A Christian in public office has a duty to be true to his first beliefs. If circumstances make it impossible to do what he knows is right--if he can't serve both God and Caesar--then he must resign from serving Caesar. To stay in office and whine about being Personally Opposed is a cop-out. This doesn't mean we use the state to enforce religious orthodoxy. The institution of the state should be kept separate from the institution of the church. The state is not to be the instrument for ushering in God's kingdom. But Christian principles are meant to be applied in all areas of life and all structures of society--in the family, church, business, school, and state. Christians are called to lovingly and persuasively contend for biblical principle in the political arena. In the current election, we have the interesting case of all four candidates for president and vice-president claiming to be Christians. As the campaign proceeds, watch how each one expresses his position on the relationship between religion and politics. We'll be able to see which candidates adopt the Hilaire Belloc pattern of boldness regarding their faith. And we'll see which ones adopt the John Kennedy and Mario Cuomo pattern--by making God's truth a matter of majority vote.


Chuck Colson


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