This has been a banner year for human rights. The administration has brokered what looks like a peace deal in Sudan ending years of genocide and the enslavement of Christians. The president pushed for and got $15 billion to combat AIDS in Africa. And the bill to end the trafficking of women and children in international sex trade was signed by the president—an issue the president spoke about at the United Nations.
A reporter for The New York Times discovered a strange thing—on all of these initiatives, evangelicals seemed to be in the vanguard of support. So the Times ran a front-page story last week on how evangelicals worked with the White House for these momentous human rights advances.
As BreakPoint listeners and readers know, these have been high priorities for the Wilberforce Forum for the past five years. Bill Bennett and I helped organize the first coalition for the sex-trafficking issue when President Clinton opposed us. We’ve also been working on the Sudan issue from the very beginning. And, along with Franklin Graham and Cardinal McCarrick, I met with President Bush to push for faith-based provisions in the AIDS legislation.
What most excites me is not only the president’s courageous leadership—and he has really been heroic in this—but also the witness that all of this is to the media and to the public. When Elisabeth Bumiller, who wrote the Times article, interviewed me, she seemed surprised that evangelicals care about anything other than abortion and gay rights issues. I explained to her that we are passionate about the fundamental question of human dignity. In our view, all humans are made in the image of God, and we care equally for the child dying of AIDS in Africa, the unborn child in Chicago, the six-year-old sex slave in Thailand, the prisoner raped in a prison yard.
This kind of witness completely disarms our critics. They regularly talk about the religious right trying to cram its “narrow-minded, bigoted agenda” down their throats. Well, now we’ve taken over issues that liberals like to talk about, but have done nothing about for years. The Times article suggests even admiration over the evangelical passion for human rights. Amazing—the New York Times.
This is precisely the Wilberforce model of public engagement. Wilberforce was a conservative who advanced one of the great social reforms of his day—the abolition of slavery. It was his Christian worldview that informed his views about human dignity and human rights, just as it is our Christian worldview that informs us. And this sort of thing shatters the stereotype of evangelicals.
Allen Hertzke, who is Jewish and is mentioned in the article, is about to publish a book on evangelicals in the public square titled Freeing God’s Children: The Faith-Based Movement for International Human Rights. A friend who has seen the galleys says it is very positive about the way Christians have been engaged in this critical issue.
You can call us here at BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) for a copy of The New York Times article. Use it with your friends who think Christians are narrow-minded and bigoted. You can remind them that over the centuries, it has been Christians—conservative Christians who believe the Bible—who have done and continue to do the greatest works of mercy and justice for the oppressed.
Jesus’ words are true: When we let our light shine before men, not only is God glorified, but people see the truth of Christianity.
Charles Colson is chairman and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries: www.pfm.org