Sunday, March 12, 2000

Mission statement

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        “As president of the United States, I, (Your Candidate's Name Here), promise to serve others with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

        Now wouldn't that be cool?

        Wouldn't it be wonderful if our leaders hitched their hearts and souls to such uplifting goals, rather than panting after the shabby, fleeting rewards of personal ambition, ego and power?

        Wouldn't it be fantastic to find a new Prozac, Zen philosophy or self-help guru diet that could make them — and all of us — think of others instead of me, me, me?

        Good news. There is such a power. It's thousands of years old, but still works its mysterious miracles of inspiration and renewal for millions of people every day.

        It's called Christianity.

        That imaginary oath of office comes from the Bible: the fruit of the Holy Spirit, described by Paul (Galatians 5:22-23, one of my favorites lately).

        Before your eyes roll out of your head and into the safely religion-free Sports section, let me testify that this is no sermon. I'm just trying to explain why faith has an important role in selecting our leaders; why Christians have every right and duty to squeeze and poke the presidential candidates as they shop for the fruit of the Spirit.

        As pointed out by columnist Alan Cochrum (right), Americans have become squeamish about discussing religion. The media often treats it like some shameful social disease. Our culture is increasingly hostile toward faith.

        Jesus said there would be days like these. The world is divided into light and darkness; those who dwell in darkness resent it when someone turns on a light that illuminates their ignorance and sin.

        There's that word that makes anti-Christians break out in hives. Sin. Contrary to the tired stereotype, real Christians don't nag sinners to “Repent, For the End is Near.” They seek a life of love, joy, peace, kindness . . . all the ingredients on the label of life. They try to lead others to Christ using words as a last resort, walking the walk, not talking the talk.

        But there are times to speak up, too.

        If other groups select candidates to protect the environment or a woman's right to choose, Christians have every right to support candidates who think the most important choice is choosing life over death. A good Christian such as Jimmy Carter doesn't always make a great president. But our greatest leaders — Lincoln, Washington — were men of deep Christian faith.

        But now we are being told that politics must be sanitized of religion — something our founders would find very foolish and strange.

        Democratic candidate Bill Bradley refused to answer any questions about his faith, saying it was private matter, off limits. Most of the media cheered.

        Republican candidate John McCain insulted many Christians by calling the Christian right an “evil influence.” Most of the media cheered even louder.

        Both candidates lost in the Super Tuesday primaries for many reasons. But maybe voters are instinctively uneasy with someone who won't share his deepest beliefs with the people he hopes to lead. And there was no maybe about Mr. McCain: Voters strongly rejected his comments on religion.

        Driving home from work one night, I heard a radio interview with a college professor who had a new concept: People desperately want moral leadership today, he said. They want to work for a company or organization that has a mission statement about doing the right thing, not because it is smart or profitable, but because it is ethical and moral.

        Stop the presses. Mankind discovers the obvious again. The founders of our nation knew about moral leadership. Their mission statement said, “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . .”

        That did for government what Martin Luther did for Christianity. To put it in terms the 401k generation can understand, we're all stockholders, not employees. And we all should seek leaders whose mission is ours, not their own, whose character is good, who serve others, not themselves. Faith should not be our only issue, but it is foolish to ignore it.

        I don't know all the answers. I don't even know half of what I don't know. But the best mission statement is a life that blossoms with the fruit of the Spirit, and Christians should not be afraid to say so.

        As Paul said, “Against these things, there is no law.”

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. If you have questions or comments, call 768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.