I don't think it's fair for people on the Left, when they see a big mass movement, to find a label and call them all racists. Nor do I think it's right for people on the Right to call somebody a communist because they believe in state intervention in a way that the person making the charge finds inappropriate. So I think we ought to be really careful about putting labels on people in ways that misrepresents them and damages them. Just critique the policy.
I trust that I have earned the respect of liberals and conservatives alike, because they know that I respect them all. The fruits of the Spirit ought to be exhibited in these kinds of exchanges. And if they aren't, then one has to reexamine one's commitment to the central truths of the faith.
It's too easy in this town to get so stirred up ideologically that we forget our prior commitments. The dead are not raised by politics. There are some things that transcend politics that are more urgent than winning political victories. It's always very important, when Christian politicians reach across the aisle, that if their opponent gets sick in the hospital then they should be the first people there to see them.
One of the great characteristics of Rick Warren is his ability to do this. I hosted and moderated a luncheon discussion on the new shape of evangelicalism last November. Twenty-five journalists were there. Ten months before, Rick had given the invocation at the Obama inauguration, so the press were curious about him. And in room of twenty-five journalists, I would estimate that twenty or more were coming from a liberal perspective.
So, how do you defuse a room full of liberal, skeptical journalists? You hug them all. Every time Rick Warren walked up to someone, he would see their name tag and exclaim, "Oh, Dan Gilgoff! You did such a great job on that last article you wrote." None of it seemed contrived. It's just who Rick Warren is. But I said to myself: twenty years ago, would Falwell go around the room hugging all these New York Times writers? I doubt it. There would have been all sorts of suspicion. Rick was just going around the room, greeting everyone, totally comfortable in his own skin.
That's a really powerful thing. Those coming into the room who really wanted to hate or dismiss him had a harder time doing so. We need more of that: the hugging ministry!
What does it mean to live in the imitation of Christ, even as one lives and works in the corridors of great power and wealth? What does it mean to imitate a crucified carpenter when one is walking in the marble halls of the Capitol?
Some believers have a tendency to become prima donnaswhen they find success. It's refreshing when you meet a person, like Fred Barnes, who is not affected by his notoriety and position. David Brooks, although he is not a Christian, is simply one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He's never in a hurry, dashing around the room to meet other people. He's a fundamentally decent person.
Whether we're working among the poor in South Atlanta, or among the rich in Chevy Chase, Maryland, the way in which we comport ourselves personally, emotionally, relationally, ought to take on those attributes that Thomas à Kempis talks about. That may mean displaying a posture of decency and charity, of listening and humility, remembering people's names, caring about their personal needs. The way we treat the people who park our cars, the wait staff at a restaurant, and a Senator, ought to be the same.
It's sad when people come to Washington and get all hyperventilated about people of power, as if the person they're standing next to is somehow more important in God's economy than the person who parked their car in the parking lot. I don't think that's true. We ought to treat all people in all walks of life with the same kind of respect and dignity, because they are made in the imago Dei. It's a spiritual discipline to remember that. We have to realize that the God we worship is far more important than the person with the big title in front of us.
That ought to enable us to relax around people of power, and not to be intimidated. Our decency ought to overflow as a person, so that they realize that we are people who try to imitate Christ.
In the past six years, I've worked as a commissioner the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In the international human rights community, you meet many people who care about humanity but a little less about humans. You meet people who care about the suffering in Sudan but who treat people who are working on those issues poorly. We have to remember that in all these areas, all people are valuable and made in the image of God, and thus we should treat everyone with the same respect and dignity.