The Gospel According to Jesse

  Not long ago, Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura made headlines when he called religion "a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people." He then chastised the faithful for "[sticking] their noses in other's people's business." Plenty have people have been setting Ventura straight—and for good reason. There's plenty of evidence proving that the world is a far better place when the faithful do, as the former wrestler put it, stick their noses in other people's business. Ventura's comments appeared in Playboy, a magazine that's not exactly known for sympathizing with religious concerns. When the magazine hit print, the former wrestler was taken to task by liberals and conservatives alike. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne reminded Ventura that many American social movements, such as the anti-slavery and civil rights movements, were started by people of faith. The fact is that, through the centuries, churches have carried on a tradition of promoting the social good. They've founded schools, built hospitals and orphanages, and ministered to those in prison. In other words, even if Christianity WERE a "sham" and a "crutch," it would be in a society's best interest to encourage piety, because people of faith help build liberal societies. Yet the stereotype persists of Christians as repressive and ILLiberal. One person who could give Ventura and like-minded cynics a crash course on religion's influence is Guenter Lewy of the University of Massachusetts. Lewy is the author of the recent book, Why America Needs Religion. Interestingly, Lewy is neither a Christian nor a theist. He originally set out to write a book with the opposite thesis: Why America DOESN'T need religion. It was to be "a defense of secular humanism and ethical relativism." But when Lewy researched the data, he reversed himself 180 degrees. Lewy discovered that Christianity has historically been a strong support for human dignity and social justice. He also discovered how faith makes a difference in the lives of so-called "weak-minded" people. Lewy found that Christians exhibit measurably lower rates of marital conflict, divorce, prejudice, out-of-wedlock births, juvenile delinquency, adult crime, and other "indicators of moral failure and social ills." Though remaining a nonbeliever, Lewy concluded that Christianity is vital to creating a healthy, humane society. Lewy's research points to one reason why Christians are motivated to seek reform in the public arena: Objective evidence shows that living by biblical principles makes people happier and healthier. We Christians know that we are called to be agents not only of God's saving grace, for redemption, but also of His common grace. He intends for us to works toward a just and humane social order—one that reflects the great liberal ideals. As Lewy demonstrates, it is Christians who worship a God who became poor so that we might become eternally rich. And it is Christians who are on the side of the poor and exploited. That's why Christians should never tire of trying to persuade their secular neighbors that the principles we espouse truly are the foundation for a humane society. And that's why—whether Jesse Ventura likes it or not—Christians ought to keep "sticking their noses in other people's business." It's a truly liberal thing to do.


Chuck Colson


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