Our Founding Bigots

Who are these people and what do they want? That seems to be the question many Americans are asking about Christians who get involved in political life. The fact that Ollie North recently won the Virginia Republican nomination for U.S. Senate has notched up the hostile tone of the question. North won the support of many conservative religious believers across Virginia, and pundits everywhere are issuing ominous warnings about the power of the Religious Right. In the Wall Street Journal, Albert Hunt accuses the religious right of standing far outside the American mainstream. On "Crossway," Democratic consultant Frank Greer called religious conservatives "hateful, intolerant, and bigoted." The New York Times said North's victory reveals that religious conservatives are "a far more powerful force . . . than they have historically been in the state." But is that true? Are Christians becoming more powerful in Virginia politics than they have been historically? If political writers would dust off their history books, they'd find that Virginia politics has been dominated by Christians for centuries. In fact, there are historical figures who make the Ollie Norths of our day look like pikers. Take this quotation from a history textbook: "It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God," this famous Virginian writes; "and to recognize . . . that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord." Is this the voice of a zealot from the radical right? No, it's the voice of George Washington, born in Wakefield, Virginia, and our nation's first president. Flip through a history textbook again, and you'll find these words spoken by another Virginia politician: "We have staked the whole of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves . . . according to the Ten Commandments of God." Is this one of those "stealth" candidates we hear so much about, plotting to put the Ten Commandments back on classroom walls? No, it's James Madison, born in Port Conway, Virginia, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution. Another look at the history books turns up a real firebrand—the kind of person modern pundits would surely label "divisive." Listen to his words: "If we wish to be free, we must fight! . . . We shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations." Are these the words of a dangerous theocrat, out to impose his views on everyone else? No, the speaker is Patrick Henry, born in Studley, Virginia, a leader of the American Revolution. The historical record is overwhelming: Virginia politics has always been influenced by Christians acting on their religious convictions. Historically, Christians have taken seriously their duty to be salt in our culture, to preserve the good and reform the bad. Today critics speak as though Christians were intruders in our nation's political life with no business getting involved. You and I need to stand ready to give people a true picture of American history. Christian involvement in politics has a long and noble history. And contemporary Christians have not only a right but also a duty to continue that respected tradition.


Chuck Colson


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