“It may have surprised readers to see how vital prayer is in the individual and collective lives of those serving in high office, and yet this book illuminates that fact as a shining truth. Weekly prayer breakfasts, regular bible study groups, and conversations with others who also cherish God—these guide the relationships and inner lives of these men and women, and they strive to align their service with their values and belief systems.”
In the midst of a contentious election cycle, this book stands out for its optimism, its courage, and its confidence in the ways of God. Virginia Foxx, Congresswoman from North Carolina, compiled these essays, asking her congressional colleagues who are devout Christian believers, to tell their stories. Here we have essays from nearly twenty Congressmen and women from around the country, each of whom trusts in God amidst the national crises of the day. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, contributes the Foreword, encouraging readers to have faith.
Patheos caught up with Virginia Foxx and invited her to reflect on the message of the book and her hopes for its impact.
What motivated you to write this book?
The media portrays such a negative view of members of Congress that is not accurate. Hearing the stories of other members who had strong faith in God, knowing and living my own unusual path to Congress, and wanting the world to know there are people of faith in Congress are what motivated me. My hope also was to encourage other people of faith to consider running for Congress.
How do Christian Congress members support one another in faith?
We pray together, we become friends, we show each other that we care in every way that we can.
What kind of relationship do you and other members of Congress have with devout believers of other religions?
There are many Jewish members of Congress but not many of other faiths. However, we are very respectful of each other in all ways and do not let our differences in religion affect our working together as far as I have seen.
In your chapter, you talk about “God moments.” I think it’s fair to say that most American Christians these days would like to see some national “God moments.” How are members of Congress handling the stress of the election?
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years so we are probably more acclimated to the stresses of the election cycle than most people; however, there is stress, especially for people who are in tough elections and all of us are aware that any person can be in a tough situation in a nanosecond. I know that many read Jesus Calling (by Sarah Young) regularly, which stresses trusting God in all things, and that others read other devotionals and scripture, along with praying for guidance, of course.
I know, too, that every meeting of Republicans begins with a prayer given by a member and that in that prayer we ask for wisdom and guidance from God.
What kinds of religious fears or concerns do you encounter when you or your fellow believers talk to constituents?
Many, many constituents are fearful of losing our freedom to worship and almost everyone I talk to is very concerned that we are losing our moral underpinnings, which they understand have made us a great nation.
The de Tocqueville quote with which you begin your book—“America is great because America is good”—is a provocative one in light of the state of the nation. The measure of greatness is debated; the meaning of goodness is disputed. What signs of hope sustain the members of Congress when things seem so grim?
I cannot speak for everyone, but for me, it is being in my district every weekend and seeing the people I represent who are engaged in such positive activities in their communities. Newspapers are full of stories of neighbors helping neighbors, i.e. fundraisers for persons with diseases who have no insurance or lack sufficient coverage, volunteer fire departments, and all manner of civic organizations. Our local and state government officials are engaged in doing their part to make the communities better. There are endless examples of reasons to be encouraged by the goodness in our country. There is no other country in the world that comes to the aid of its citizens and citizens across the world when there is a disaster such as a flood. And if one looks closely, the most timely and efficient help comes from faith-based groups. Also, when there is a disaster, members from both sides of the aisle band together to respond positively.
The book is full of stories of divine intervention—God among prisoners in Hanoi, God with premature babies, God in a Veracruz, Mexico hospital, God with a paralyzed sixteen-year-old. You gathered these stories from all these members of Congress. How have these stories changed you and your faith?
The stories have encouraged me in knowing that there are people of faith and that we can work together to find solutions. We often do not agree on the role of government in our lives but when faced with a major need, we will focus on what we agree on and not on what we disagree on. It has certainly made me feel more positive toward colleagues that I might not have known as well except through their profession of faith.
What can Christian Americans do to support what God is doing in government?
Become educated about the role of government at different levels, understand the current situation and then get involved in whatever way is most comfortable: work on a campaign, give money, encourage others to run, run for office. Always pray for all involved that God will give them wisdom and discernment and that we will understand God’s will.