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Values still matter

 

Millions of conservative, evangelical Christians flocked to the polls on November 2nd and re-elected George W. Bush to another term as president of the United States. The exit polls indicated that "moral values" was the number one issue that motivated voters to re-elect him. The second most important issue that mattered to voters was the war on terror, followed respectively by the economy/jobs and the war in Iraq.

The president tenaciously held on to his social agenda regarding the sanctity of life, stem cell research and the conviction that marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman. News reports indicated that 76 percent of Bush voters said "moral values" was the most important issue in the election.

One reporter indicated that he was in a conversation with a British news anchor who thought it incredulous that "moral values" could be the driving force in any election.

Quite frankly, I was not sure that America, with its increasing bent toward pluralism, still had enough evangelical Christians with the convictions and determination to change the course of a national election. I was pleasantly surprised.

With so much debate about the separation of church and state, should Christians cast their influence in the political arena? Absolutely! We are to be salt and light. Salt, in order to arrest corruption, must be applied. Light, in order to dispel darkness, must be uncovered and allowed to shine.

T. S. Eliot is a rather unlikely advocate of Christian participation in the political process, but consider his life. He was born in St. Louis where his paternal grandfather, who had been greatly influenced by William Ellery Channing, the dean of American Unitarianism, founded the Unitarian church. Eliot attended Harvard and was enamored by the stylish skepticism of George Santayana, who was a principal figure in classical American philosophy.

At Harvard, Eliot honed his skill as a poet and served as the secretary of the Harvard literary magazine, the Advocate. In the fall of 1910 Eliot studied in Paris and entered into the intellectual life of France. Subsequently, he was temporarily converted to Henri Bergson's philosophical interest in the progressive evolution of consciousness.

Upon returning to Harvard in the fall of 1911, Eliot was as preoccupied with ideas as with poetry and literature. He was inspired with the ramblings of atheist Bertrand Russell, a visiting professor at Harvard. William James and Josiah Royce were also influential contemporaries in Eliot's life. His exploratory mind delved into the fields of anthropology and religion and he took multiple courses in Sanskrit and Hindu thought.

In the following years the American-born poet found residence in England and found a lucrative job at Lloyd's of London Bank, which gave him the security he needed to return to his love of writing.

The preceding paragraphs are written simply to provide evidence that Eliot was a pioneer and proponent in the modernist movement. However, in 1922 Eliot wrote "The Waste Land," a work that described the decay of civilization at a time when Communism was rising in the East and fascism in Europe.

Although Eliot had been exposed to liberal thought, diverse experiences and avant-garde publications, he came to one conclusion. There was only one-way to stem the tide of moral decline and the dissolution of the Western way of life: a vigorous rediscovery of what it meant to be a Christian.

Philip Yancey, freelance writer, says of Eliot, "He believed that unless England and America recovered a form of Christian society, they would fall into the paganism that had overtaken Germany and Russia."

In Thoughts after Lambeth Eliot wrote, "The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized, but non-Christian, mentality. The experiment will fail ... We must ... redeem the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide."

Should the evangelical church express our opinions through the democratic process and therefore have a dramatic impact upon a pluralistic society? Even T. S. Eliot, despite his often-tenuous philosophies, believed that the Christian faith was the only hope for a civil and productive society.

The challenge now is for those who were motivated by moral values and Christian convictions in the November election to refrain from retreating into a cocoon of passivity and continue to stand up for Christ "until every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed."