Opinion

Letter to a Christian Nation

American Christians must live our faith and tell our stories –

By Lee Habeeb

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 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.

Moreover, even if Roe is overturned, the issue would return to state legislatures, and abortion would probably be legal in more states than in 1972. In states where abortion was illegal, leftists would provide their version of an underground railroad, providing safe harbor and transportation for women to get abortions in states where it was legal.

Not exactly a big win for Christians, that scenario. Or for life.

Is this a call to abandon our political efforts? No. But to win any long-term political battle, we need to more profoundly engage the culture. Christians are the majority in this country, but we often act like outsiders. We keep to ourselves, and spend too little time marketing our message and our works to the outside world.

One Super Bowl ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mom did more to engage America in a discussion about life than thousands of political ads combined.

So what can we do? For openers, Christians could let every pregnant woman in crisis know we care about her, not just her baby. Such women, many of them very young, are facing the most profound decision of their lives, and they feel they have only two options: terminate the pregnancy, or go it alone as a single mom. Having a child is different from raising one, and it’s the raising part that terrifies most young single women. Many choose termination without telling anyone; that’s how hard their choice is.

Why can’t we provide a substantive third option and broadcast it to the nation? We hear stories of couples aching to adopt, and going outside the country to do it. How about setting up a network of couples seeking to adopt single pregnant girls?

We’ve got eHarmony and ChristianMingle. How hard would that be?

What if every church in America agreed to adopt one pregnant woman in need for every 100 members of the congregation? What impact would we have on those women? And they on us?

That would be one heck of a pro-life and pro-choice campaign all rolled up in one. Indeed, it would be one heck of a marketing campaign for life. And for Christians.

People who know only the media caricature of Christians would rethink everything they thought they knew about us, and why? Because we were being the best versions of ourselves.

All this storytelling just might make more converts. And a better nation.

I know because one Christian man’s story changed my life forever. His name is John Croyle. He was a star for Bear Bryant’s Alabama team in the 1970s. An NFL career beckoned, but he had a conflicting dream: He wanted to run a ranch for at-risk kids. He had a gift for working with young people, one he knew was God-given. With help from Bryant and friends, he chose the kids, not pro football, and started the Big Oak Ranch in Gadsden, Ala.

Croyle has spent his life raising and loving children whom no one else cared about. His impact has reached 3,000 kids and counting. And all without a single dime from the government. “Big John,” as his kids call him, raises millions of dollars each year, and gives those kids the love and mentoring they need every day. And all this is fueled by his faith.

Can’t we find more John Croyles and share their stories?

Look at one Christian couple, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, and what they did for a homeless Memphis ghetto boy named Michael Oher. They took him in and raised him as their own, and watched him become a football giant. Their story, told in Michael Lewis’s book The Blind Side, and in the movie made from it, inspired a nation.

We would recruit more people to our position if they knew who we are and what we stand for. And we would engender a lot more respect from those who don’t share our beliefs.

We would also prove the efficacy of private solutions to public problems. John Croyle’s work has not only helped save thousands of kids, it has removed them from the public dole. And from the cold grip of bureaucracies ill equipped to deal with matters of the human heart and soul.

Stories matter. More than legislation or politics, they have the power to change hearts and minds.

A friend of mine recently told me a story about his son and daughter-in-law, and how the two struggled to have a baby. They tried everything modern medicine allowed, and found themselves expecting not one but three babies. Then came talk of a “reduction.” That is a euphemism for terminating a baby in the womb when multiples are involved.

The son asked his dad for advice. The dad is pro-choice. But he told his son that he and his wife should not “reduce” because that decision would haunt them the rest of their lives. Others counseled the couple to do it.

Years later, father and son were in a park watching three beautiful kids playing in the sun. Is there anyone who can’t imagine how they felt about that choice not to “reduce”?

There are stories like that all over America, stories about what happens when we choose life. Even pro-choice advocates routinely choose life. We should tell those stories over and over again, anywhere people might have a chance to hear them.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

This issue consumes a lot of Christian resources, and also divides Americans like nothing else but abortion. Nearly every American knows and cares about someone who is gay.

“What would you do if Reagan was gay?” my mom asked me about my seven-year-old girl on Thanksgiving Day. My mom was very sick, and she has since died. The question came out of nowhere. “I wouldn’t care,” I told her. “I’d love her just the same.” “Good,” said my mom.

“And if that meant me attending a civil service with the girl she loved,” I told her, “so be it. I will still believe she’s a child of God. And that Jesus loves her.” That answer will confound some of my Christian friends. It confounds me. But this much I know: I will always show unconditional love to my girl.

This much I also know: Being gay has never been an easy path in America. What else accounts for so many people lying about their sexuality to their peers? To their families? To themselves, even? It is a kind of pain I don’t know, keeping something so fundamental about yourself a secret. It is a category of rejection I can’t fathom.

The idea that prevails in the minds of some Christians that the culture is producing more gay people just isn’t true. And the notion — in a small corner of the evangelical community — that gay people can be turned straight doesn’t square with what we know deep in our bones. The notion that Anderson Cooper could be trained to be sexually attracted to my wife is as silly as the idea of me being trained to want to have sex with Anderson Cooper’s boyfriend.

Just as science has proven that life begins at conception, and that the beating heart inside the womb belongs to a baby, we may someday learn that gay people are born gay. That it’s genetic.

I know I just lost a lot of Christians there. Some of you are questioning my own salvation. Isn’t that what we do with Christians with whom we disagree?

So what is the answer to gay marriage? From one point of view it should be easy for a conservative. Live and let live has been the credo of economic conservatives; what you do in your private life is your business.

But what should we do, we who believe that marriage is a sacred union ordained by God? Should we keep fighting at the ballot box to prohibit gay marriage? Here’s the answer, though many Christians won’t like it. We should continue to believe what we believe, and keep getting married in our churches. And let gay people get married by the state in civil services. Let the state be the state, and the church be the church.

Gay marriage is simply not the threat to marriage that some church leaders believe it is — certainly not more than adultery, not to mention divorce. I don’t see church leaders fighting to make either of those illegal.

Sensible people are coming to a consensus on the importance of marriage. No government program can replace the love of a family, and many of our nation’s ills stem from the breakdown of the family. The economic costs are staggering. So are the human costs.

If anything, we should be comforted that gay people support an institution Christians and conservatives care so much about, one that our culture has for decades derided as being boring and utterly bourgeois.

In his letter to the Jews of Newport, R.I., George Washington reassured those people who had fled religious tyranny in Europe that life in our new nation would be different. That religious tolerance and liberty were inseparable. That our government would not interfere with individuals in matters of conscience and belief.

Quoting the Old Testament, Washington wrote, “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

He wrote, “For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

There will still be great churchstate issues before us. The free-exercise clause of the First Amendment commands that religious institutions be allowed to prosper freely and in keeping with their conscience. Christians have every right to defend that freedom, and can and should do it at the polls and in the culture. Gay people have the right to defend their freedoms too.

The most important political debate of our time — the one that dwarfs all others — is about the size and scale of government, and the degree to which the state intrudes into our lives. Are more government programs the answer to society’s ills, or are stronger families, businesses, churches, and civic institutions?

Will we go the way of Europe, or will we return to an America that values freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to pursue happiness and prosperity, all of which are essential to a thriving people?

Winning the argument for freedom is the best way to protect all of us, Christians and non-Christians, gay people and straight people.

That’s the American creed. If only we’d all start living it.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.

 

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60 Comments on "Letter to a Christian Nation"

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Mark MD
1 year 8 months ago

I was going to join. I am a gay conservative. I’m holding off – seems like this organization is anti-gay.

I’d never join AARP, but the members here seem anti-liberty to choose.

AD Roberts
3 years 7 months ago
What a disappointment. God does not PLAY politics. He does not back off on questions of morality. He does not compromise. And yet this new Christian is advocating just that. And that is why the Church is losing its SALTINESS. Yes, you can’t stop abortion. But you must continue to love those who continue to live in sin and kill their babies. Yes, you should continue to love those who are homosexual. But you do NOT have to APPROVE or allow their agenda to be forced on all of society. Are we going to lose” I do not know. But I have watch as Republicans have played as if they are the opposition and trying to save the nation. I have watched as union leaders tried to compromise and wound up losing everything for their own people. I have watched as CHURCHES around the world have watered down their message… Read more »
Patricia Kappers
3 years 8 months ago

Very well written. I am a christian but have believed for a very long time that being gay is not usually a choice.
I would never go that way but I try to treat all people with respect.

The abortion solution was right on..Love the single mothers into the right choice instead of judging them.
There are plenty of people that want babies. If all people could have children then there would be no VERY SPECIAL
adoptive parents.

DrJCA1
3 years 8 months ago
I am NOT a Christian and I could not care less what you believe or think. If your belief system, whether religious or atheist, makes you a better person and causes you to be a good person, then that system is terrific. The problem with religion of all kinds is the simple fact that you all are so arrogant. Every one of you thinks that you are right and other religions are wrong. Incredible, since religion is based on totally unprovable people and acts. How would you possibly “prove” this fellow named Jesus ever lived. Everything written about him is based on the bible. There is not one historical record of his existance. Likewise you cannot prove Moses, Adam and Eve, Isaac, or Jacob ever existed. If AMAC is going to turn from a politically oriented organization to a religious side show, you will lose many members. I joined because… Read more »
Stephen Mosier
3 years 8 months ago
DrJ Telling me that you are not a Christian and telling me what it is about Christians that bothers you is somewhat interesting and in another forum I might be interested in exploring your view point on those things. However, in this forum I would rather know what points Mr.Habeeb raised that you either agree with or disagree with. You have told us nothing on either score. You have not even given us (at least in these comments) enough information to know whether you consider yourself to be conservative or liberal. You note that AMAC is a politically oriented organization (although you lament that it may be morphing toward a more religious orientation). It is in fact a conservative oriented organization which attempts to address political, legal, social, economic, cultural, health, education, entertainment, and even leisure issues from a conservative perspective. In order to serve that purpose it must accept… Read more »
Randy Word
3 years 8 months ago

If you don’t care what people think why should it brother you for those of us who are Christians to stand up for our principles. Any christian will consider their standers in all decisions they make. I hope you will also consider you standers in your decisions. We need people in this organization that offer varied opinions. How else will we know when we’r right.

Debbie
3 years 8 months ago

So many good responses. God loves everyone, Jesus died for all of our sins, and not everything is good for us. We live in a distorted world but Christians are charged with the job of loving our neigjhbor. Reading these responses has given me new hope for this USA. Thank you.

Sherian
3 years 8 months ago

What do we do with God’s word? Ignore it?”” We can’t change it. Yes love others Love the sinner,not the sin.. We keep forgetting about that one word. Sin. And we all are sinners. Marriage is between one man and one woman according to God’s word….One of the problems I see is that gayactivists want to force their lifestyle on straight people and their children.. They are trying to change our books, and they are trying to get the minds and hearts of our children!

sorry
3 years 8 months ago

56 million abortions since roe v wade. Think about it.

sorry
3 years 8 months ago

56 million abortions since roe v wade.

Don Schnickelfeldter
3 years 8 months ago
Welcome, Lee, to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). You should be feeling very good by now. You understand, of course, that we humans are all playing to an audience — people we admire and respect and whose approval we crave. Some of these people in your life must be very pleased that as a relatively young Christian you have articulated well two critical issues of the current “enlightened” church, namely abortion and homosexuality. You appear to be firmly pro-life and pro-gay. Just a few observations, if I may: 1. I believe that our reponse as a church to the sin of abortion should be a strong organized focus on adoption, whether the normal adoption of the babies, or the adoption of the mother as you suggest. To do so would be to express our faith through loving support of the victims and it would… Read more »
jim howard
3 years 8 months ago
Dear Christians, et al I am NOT an athiest! I first wish to make that perfectly clear!! It is the many and varied religions that have come down to us that is truly incredible…and it is these that I find fault with How man can accept ancient (over 2,000 years) concepts, supposedly “God’s Word” LITERALLY yet have to interpret various many foriegn words and phrases, eventually coming up with a “holy book” that today is considered by many to be gospel and infallible. To me this portrays the absolute height of arrogance. God is complex! We must seek to find just who and what He is and we must use our brain-power to accomplish this unlike all other animal life, that depend on instincts and emotion, man was given a superior brain to depend on for his survival!. I must also take issue with those that refer to the “heart”… Read more »
Gregg
3 years 8 months ago

Jim, if God were small enough for you or me to get our minds around Him, how could He be big enough to do all the things He has done, is doing and will do?

Concerned citizen
3 years 8 months ago
I appreciate reading so many well-written comments on topics that usually bring out the worst in words from a few people and do more to destroy the Christian message than reach the lost. I’m only adding the thought that the one man, one woman Biblical definition of marriage given to Adam and Eve is/was more than just a two person relationship. God’s intent was that a faithful, committed relationship between husband and wife also include God as a tri-unity – a picture to the world of the relationship of loving faithfulness we are to have to God. Just as we are to be ever faithful to our marriage vows (and thus to our marriage partner) we are to be faithful to God – having and serving no other god before (other or in addition to) Him. Whether or not we ever marry, this picture still should speak to us as… Read more »
Philip McKee
3 years 8 months ago

Yes concerned citizen, I Agree with that,could not have said any better myself.Thanks and have a great day..

Tammy
3 years 8 months ago

Can not remember the source, but I can not believe all this chitter-chatter about “gays.” Actually, only 2 to 4% of the nation identify as “lgbt.”

So, with only 2 to 4%, why has this drawn so much attention?

Regardless, the definition of Marriage is “One Man, One Woman.”

God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!

Philip McKee
3 years 8 months ago

Tammy 2-4% of over 300 million is a large number wouldn’t you say?

Robert
3 years 8 months ago
I so agree with Lee. These issues are, for us Christians, issues of the heart. If we had done what Jesus told us to do, we would not have such a divided society. Yes, these acts are sin, but so is fornication. How many of you Christians are guilt of that sin? So who of you has the right to throw the first stone? Get off your pompous behind and Love these people that need your love. You be the source of their needs, not the government, and they will listen to you tell them about Jesus and what He has done for you and will do for them. This is how the Church (Body of Christ) will change the society. Become a positive member of your community, telling everyone of your Joy in the Lord and you will get others wanting what you have. When the right to sin… Read more »
Philip McKee
3 years 8 months ago

Robert, Not everyone believed Jesus or his disciples, not many but a few. Have you not read in Matthew chapter7:13,14, He said enter you in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction and manythere be whichgo in thereat.

Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, that leads to life and few there be that find it.
Some people will not listen to the words of the Lord, because they think nothing is going to happen to them.

Have a great day..

Bill Webster
3 years 8 months ago

Teri :

When Jesus met the prostitute at the well he forgave her sin and then told her to go and sin no more.

standwithterry
3 years 8 months ago
From the Biblical account: Two Angels go to Sodom and are intercepted by Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who practically begs and drags them inside his home for their own safety. Lot is afraid of what might happen to them if they remain out on the street. At dark, the house became surrounded by all of the residents of Sodom, who demanded that Lot release the two men to them “so that they might know them (a polite way of describing ‘sodomizing them’). Lot goes out the door to plead with them to “do not so wickedly” to these men, since they are under his care and keeping. They press in on Lot, and they threaten Lot that one of them is the town Judge, and if Lot does not bring forth the two men, the Judge will deal severely with Lot. Just then, the two Angels intervene on Lot’s behalf. They… Read more »
Bill Webster
3 years 8 months ago

Homosexuality and lesbianism are sin. God hates sin, sin leads to death. God destroyed Sodom and Gomora because of their sin of the same lifestyle.

Deborah
3 years 8 months ago
Regarding Mr. Habeeb’s comparison of homosexual marriage to sins of adultery or the complex difficulties of divorce: There are no politically-motivated advocacy groups infiltrating the curriculum of our public schools and teachers colleges, displacing valuable educational resources in favor of “normalizing” and graphically portraying the “safe” practices of Adulterous and Divorced Lifestyle Choices. I too am Christian, even more threatening to our Brave New society, I am Catholic. If not for the aggressive nature of the homosexual advocacy groups and their political allies, we could indeed afford to live and let live and allow the slow process of our Christ-centered to lives bear witness to His love and invitation. However, reality is a harsh task-master. Beyond education indoctrination, civil laws are even now being impacted: A private citizen, operating a B&B out of her own home in a homosexual union-rights state was recently subjected to legal and confiscatory punishment for… Read more »
BIOLARON2000
3 years 8 months ago
The ‘Spirit of God convicts of sin and righteousness’. We are not the Spirit. We may be used by the Spirit. The woman caught in adultery was not condemed by Jesus, but rather saved from death by his wise understanding of the hearts of men (and women). The commercial sale of the B&B room to a gay couple does not validate their relationship, nor does it give assent to their relationship. The B&B seller is not asked by Jesus to ferret out every gay, adulterous, fornication or other sinfullness for dissapproval. God is the judge. God made the world and everything in it. He made it, it belongs to him, and only He can redeem it. Christ redeems all who cry out to Him for redemeption. Christ followers have the ‘Good News’ message, Jesus sets us free only if we ask Him to. Some people are ‘unreachable’ because of their… Read more »
Deborah
3 years 8 months ago
Please note, declining an overnight “honeymoon” suite to people not desired under one’s roof is not equal to “ferreting out” every gay, adulterous, fornication or other sinfulness for disapproval. It is, rather an assertion of rights. Yes, the majority and business also have rights! (shock) I do not know the innkeeper personally, but know that if she lovingly accepts the persons involved vs their “union” is irrelevant. It is not even known if her objections were religiously based. The point is her rights are now firmly trampled by the State. She had certain convictions that were not for sale. Do understand that by enforcing and promoting the historically unconventional practices of a small minority(>2%) the Law clearly denies the right of others to live and operate in concordant moral conscience. Teachers must now subjugate themselves to the mandates of the State in this regard and otherwise highly qualified candidates to… Read more »
C D B
3 years 8 months ago

Two points, If life begins at conception (which I believe) then taking that life at any time is murder–clear as day. Second, homosexuals are not born such. It is not genetic since they cannot reproduce. Also, it is very clear that many come from and environment where a father figure is lacking. That applies to both male and female. Also, God says that it is an abomination.

Wes
3 years 8 months ago

Hiding sin in plain sight is something Screwtape could have written home about.

Randy Word
3 years 8 months ago

I agree with most of your article. After being a christian for over thirty years and studying the bible for over twenty of those years I’ve come to believe that sexual orientation can’t be changed. I don’t know why some people are born gay and most of us are strait.That is a question for anthor time. Marriage on the other hand is an institution ordained by God and sanctioned by the state not the other way around. What’s wrong with a civil union it affords the same rights.

bonnie langstaff
3 years 8 months ago
I agree that you sound like a recent convert still imbued with many secular inclinations. I converted about 35 years ago and over the years of studying theology and scripture have grown to understand the preeminence given to some doctrines that the Church holds as non-negotiables. Two of these are the integrity and dignity of human life in all stages from conception to natural death, the other one is the sanctity and sacrament of marriage between one man and one women for the essential essence of the family which is a metaphor for the Trinity and for God’s relationship with His spouse the Mystical Body of Christ. You might want to read John Paul’s “Theology of the Body,” to get a grasp on all that is involved in both of these doctrines. God’s own name “I AM,” requires the understanding of ontological Being. He is Being and He is outside… Read more »
Charlie
3 years 8 months ago
Thank you Bonnie! Either you belive the Bible, God’s Holy Word is inspired by Him (God) or you can choose to take your own path that will separate you from Him. We cannot interpret God’s word to benefit our desires and lifestiles. God hates sin, He does not hate the sinner; and there is only one thing God can do to sin, and that is to “punish it.” He could not even look upon his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, hanging on the cruel cross at Calvary, because he was carrying OUR sin! Christ death, burial and resurrection was not a story to be passed on to a generation of people who just call themselves “Christians”, it was God’s plan from the beginning that we would need a savior, a redeemer. God’s word also tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission from sin. I can only… Read more »
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