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August 10, 2011

The Courageous Faith of Senator Mark Hatfield

by Dave Malnes

While serving in an inner city ministry in St. Paul, Minnesota, I became very good friends with an African-American pastor.  He was a long-time member of the Democratic party and was very active in working campaigns throughout the city.  Growing up in the South during the 1960’s, he knew first-hand the tragedies of discrimination.  As he grew older, his passion shifted toward reaching out to youth who were falling through the cracks.  I had the opportunity to help him establish a ministry that is still thriving today and making an impact in the community.

Politically speaking, I had a much more conservative bent than my good friend.  We both believed that politics was the answer to solve the nation’s problems.  Two different bents.  Two different answers to problems.  But politics was the solution.  While serving together in reaching out to youth, we both discovered something very important that had a profound impact on our lives.

Politics isn’t the answer.

Government plays a very important role in our society.  We all know that.  However, when government is looked upon as the predominant solution to solve the nation’s ills, than our nation suffers.  And in its place, you find political factions that promote extreme all or nothing power-grabs instead of the give and take of compromise that truly reflects the thought of what’s best for the people.

Mark Hatfield, former senator and governor of Oregon who passed away earlier this week, understood this and also knew that politics isn’t the answer.

The following is a good post that reflected his faith:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-chuck-currie/christian-faith-mark-hatfield_b_921230.html.

A devout Christian, he withstood the extreme all or nothing factions within his own Republican party, and governed by faith and good common sense.  He appreciated the separation between government and religion, yet understood its unique partnership.  A democratic society can’t have one without the other, yet each having a distinct role.  Government cannot replace religion, nor can religion replace government.  Theocracies don’t work, nor can Socialism.  The people suffer as a result.

What bothers me the most about today’s politics is that those within the Republican party who exploit religion for political gain.  Yes, I know it’s been a common practice by all political parties throughout our history.  But, it’s a dangerous road that kindles the thought within the Christian community that political power advances the kingdom of morality and good works — that solves the rising tide of immorality, instead of love and other fruits of the spirit that is reflected in the lives of common people outside government walls.  I appreciated Senator Hatfield’s approach to politics and appreciated his leadership and approach toward governing with a heart that was prompted by his faith.

I hope his legacy is re-visited upon his death.  It would be a good exercise and reminder for those who serve in our nation’s capital.

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