Any of us who have come to Christ later in life know the factors that led us to Him. The Spirit was tugging at me for a while. C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity started it. Like me, he was once an atheist. Until he could be one no more. “In 1929, I gave in, and admitted that God was God,” wrote Lewis, “perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
A few committed people of faith did the rest for me, as I witnessed in them the power of the Holy Spirit. It was the power of their lives. The way they lived made them stand apart from other people I knew. And in the fall of 2007, I became the most excited and reluctant convert in all northern Mississippi.
“What brought you to Christ?” my friends asked.
“Christians,” I replied.
“What took you so long?” was the usual follow-up.
“Christians,” I replied. The kind more focused on other people’s sins than their own.
I didn’t meet many of the latter. Much of what I thought I knew about Christians before I became one came through the lens of the media, which tend to ignore the contributions Christians make to American life. That is, when they aren’t actively denigrating Christians as mindless simpletons, or fundamentalists hell-bent on turning our country into a theocracy.
The only time I heard from Christians themselves was in the political realm. Two issues defined them — abortion and gay marriage — leading secular folks like me to believe that Christians wake up thinking only about babies in the womb and gay people at the altar.
That perception changed when I moved to a place filled with Christians — Oxford, Miss. Eventually I became one myself.
I joined a great church, one where the focus is on living good lives. We rarely talk politics, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve talked with anyone there about gay marriage or abortion.
Like most Christians, we’re busy trying to live up to the standards of our faith. We sometimes succeed, and sometimes fail. Our church is focused on strengthening our faith and families and giving of ourselves to help others. And having some fun doing it.
The fact is, nearly 90 percent of all homeless shelters are run by people of faith. Not all of these are Christians, but most of them are, and they have a quite a record of compassion in America.
But when I was a secular conservative, I knew none of this. I saw Christian conservatives only as a potential political liability in America’s highest-density populations. I thought they’d hurt the cause of conservatism by chasing secular voters like me from our ranks — and, in doing so, hurt their own cause. Because an ever-expanding government crowds out the private sector, and private institutions like churches. Europeans didn’t wake up one day and all decide to leave the church at once. The state kept getting bigger, and the church kept getting smaller, one day at a time.
So alas, as a new Christian (I am but five years old), I must address two elephants in the elephant house. Many in the GOP are blaming social issues for our loss and for doubts about our future viability as a party, so I figured I’d address both head on.
ROE v. WADE It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that life begins before the second trimester, or that Roe is bad constitutional law. In 1972, abortion was legal in 20 states. Overnight, it became legal in 50, and all because the Supreme Court said so.
Christians have been battling Roe ever since, and though it’s still the law of the land, there are now lots of restrictions on abortion, most with strong popular support — including parental-consent laws, bans on late-term abortion in many states, and a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. In addition, the number of abortions has been cut by 25 percent from the record high in 1990, and Gallup finds a strong majority of Americans (61 to 37 percent) believing abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances, or in no circumstances.
Christian advocacy is working. And science itself — and especially the sonogram — is helping us along.
The question is this: How far do we push forward before we start slipping backward? The comments by Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock on rape and abortion were prime examples of how much damage we can do to our cause when we take our position to the extreme.
The pro-life movement is misguided if we’re demanding that a woman must have her baby once conception has occurred no matter what the circumstances, and no matter how early she makes her decision.
In short, if our goal is 100 percent victory, we risk losing ground with the very public with whom we have been gaining ground, one small step at a time.