No Stuffed Christians Here

A few years ago the Smithsonian Institution put up a museum display that included Archie Bunker's overstuffed armchair from the famous television sitcom. A symbol, perhaps, of the narrow-minded, reactionary viewpoint Archie Bunker was supposed to represent. A lot of people think of Christianity in the same terms—as narrow and reactionary—and they wish they could relegate it to a display in the museum of human history. The Religious Right has become the latest "bogeyman" in American politics. But what critics fail to see is that the church, for all its faults, has been a highly positive force in our society. Jesus' command to love the world has inspired a great outpouring of social and philanthropic work. Take education. Many Ivy League universities, including Princeton and Harvard, were founded by Christians who believed in nurturing the life of the mind. The earliest opponents of slavery in the United States were Quakers, who operated an underground railroad to Canada. During the Civil War, the Christian Sanitation Commission cut the death rate in hospitals in half by providing bandages and nursing care to the wounded. The record of Christian charity is so impressive that even John Dewey, one of the founders of modern humanism, praised believers for their social conscience. We still see the same thing today. A major Gallup study called The Saints Among Us found that people who are deeply and personally committed to Christian faith are "a breed apart." Statistics show that they are happier, more charitable, more ethical, more tolerant, and more likely to help the needy. Despite what the secular elites may say, Christianity has been, and still is, a powerful force for good in Western culture. And biblical truth still provides the answers to our most vexing problems. Let me give one example. Government officials often come to us here at Prison Fellowship with questions about criminal-justice policies. One of our recommendations is that costly prison space be saved for truly dangerous offenders. Non-violent offenders ought to be sentenced to supervised work programs, using their salary to pay restitution to their victims. Compared to just throwing everyone behind bars, restitution is clearly cheaper and more effective in curbing repeat offenders. I love it when officials ask me where the idea came from. I usually ask them, "Do you have a Bible? Dust it off, and read what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai." The concept of restitution comes straight out of Scripture. So don't let anyone make you feel like your faith belongs in a museum, alongside Archie Bunker's chair. Christian love and Christian truth are essential underpinnings of society in modern America, just as much as they ever were. Keep that in mind over the next few days, when everyone's thoughts are turned to politics. Christians do have a civic duty to live out their faith in the public square. And the public square desperately needs the influence of biblical truth.


Chuck Colson


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