Voting on Values

One of the most fascinating aspects of the recent election was not the returns; it's what the campaign ads told us about what's really on the hearts and minds of the American people. Take, for example, a commercial that ran in Oklahoma. Democratic Senate candidate Dave McCurdy was pictured holding hands with his wife and children around the dining room table, saying a blessing before a meal. It's warm, it's homey, it's . . . family values. And it's a perfect illustration of the way the campaigns this year were dominated by the theme of values. Listen to the litany that played all across the nation. In Michigan, Democratic Representative Bob Carr warned that the "moral fabric of society is coming apart." In Ohio, voters heard Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine lament the "breakup of the American family." And in Tennessee, Democratic Senator Jim Sasser focused on social issues such as crime, pornography, welfare dependency, and even school prayer. What's going on here? The standard political wisdom is that most people vote their pocket-books. But not this year. In the words of Don Sweitzer of the Democratic National Committee, "It used to be people talked about crime" and other social issues, "but ultimately they voted on economic issues." But in this election, says Democratic campaign consultant Ray Struther, "the whole playing field [was] values of one kind or another." This was a dramatic change in strategy for many of the candidates. Why did even the most liberal politicians stampede toward family values so fast they left footprints on Dan Quayle's back? The answer is simple: They were following the advice of their pollsters. And the polls reveal that Americans' deepest concerns today are over social and moral issues. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin says Americans over-whelmingly support "returning to traditional moral values." In his words, "values are central to the public's diagnosis of what's wrong with America today." This is good news for Christians, and its significance goes far beyond who won or lost the elections. Americans are becoming more acutely aware that our nation is suffering a moral breakdown and that we desperately need a moral solution. This is the hunger so many politicians played on during the campaign. But the truth is that the moral malaise infecting American society cannot be treated by electing the candidate who chants "values" most loudly in his campaign rhetoric. Rank-and-file Americans are finally realizing this. They're beginning to understand that virtue begins with the condition of the individual soul, not a government program. The pollsters have it right: People are not worried about pocketbook issues; they're hungering for real values. That means there's a remarkable opening for the Christian message today, and you and I ought to take full advantage of it. We should not be taken in when we see those warm, fuzzy commercials in which politicians reassure us that government will solve our values crisis. We need to confront people with the truth—that lasting social reform begins with personal reform and repentance. That the return to virtue begins with the nurture of our souls.


Chuck Colson


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