Pope and President

The photograph covered the front page of my local newspaper in full color: President Clinton standing under the richly painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, gazing up at Michelangelo's famous rendition of the Last Judgment. A little later, the president must have felt as though he had encountered a foretaste of that final judgment a little later when he met with Pope John Paul II. The pope made it clear that he deeply opposes the president's policies on abortion, which have consistently aimed at making abortion more accessible. When he emerged from his meeting with the pope, Clinton draped himself with political euphemisms, declaring that he and the pope had "made progress" in resolving their differences. Immediately, the pope sent out his spokesman to correct the president. In an unprecedented statement of opposition, the spokesman denied that there was any narrowing of the difference between their views on abortion. As Wesley Pruden of the Washington Times put it, the president stood rebuked like a schoolboy. Once again, this pope has proved that he will not be cowed by political power or prestige. What a model for Christians everywhere. In publicly confronting America's president on abortion, the Catholic church has been a beacon for us all: Mother Teresa in her address at the National Prayer Breakfast, the pope last summer in Denver, and now he has done it again. Along with several other Christian leaders, I recently signed a joint statement called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together." Some of my friends have asked me why I signed it. There have even been rumors that I'm about to convert to Catholicism! Let me erase any doubts: I am a Southern Baptist by conviction and thoroughly Reformed in my theology. But I do confess a great admiration for the pope and other Catholic leaders for firmly opposing moral anarchy. We evangelicals would do well to take a page from their book—to follow their example in publicly defending biblical morality. When it comes to standing against a secular world—when it comes to confronting the moral relativism eating at the very foundations of our society—I believe that every true Christian has to take a stand. The differences in doctrine and theology that divide Christian denominations are very important, and we must never paper over them. But we must also recognize that we face common enemies in a culture of secularism and New Age paganism. And against these enemies of the Gospel all Christians need to join in a common cause in defense of the truth. There is a time for Christians to be tactful and cautious, and there's a time to speak out boldly. On the issue of abortion, I believe the time has come to make a clear public proclamation. This administration is charging ahead aggressively to make abortion more accessible, not only in America but also around the world through the United Nations. At this time, tact will be misunderstood as weakness. At this time, silence is complicity. As the great painter Michelangelo understood so well, there will be a Last Judgment—when all of us, whether president or common citizen, will answer for how faithfully we have obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Chuck Colson


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