December 6, 2007
At a medical clinic in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Michael Gerson, then a senior policy adviser to President Bush, was asked if he wanted to meet one of the patients. He was introduced to a girl who was waiting for the results of her AIDS test. She told Gerson: "A few years ago, I would never have talked to a foreigner about AIDS. But now I know that even if I'm positive, it isn't a death sentence."
That this is true-that millions now have hope-is due, in no small measure to the willingness of Christians to get involved in politics and human rights issues-including evangelical Christians working at the White House.
Gerson, who was once a valued colleague of mine at Prison Fellowship, is the author of a book titled Heroic Conservatism. In it, he describes the tremendous good that is being done in Africa among those afflicted with deadly diseases.
Take the modern-day plague of AIDS. In November 2002, Gerson writes, the president's senior staff was gathered around a coffee table in the Oval Office, discussing a proposed $15 billion plan to provide AIDS treatments to Africans on a massive scale. It would reach two million people with lifesaving drugs, prevent seven million new infections, and provide care to 10 million victims and their orphans: "the largest health initiative to combat a single disease in history."
The president asked the hard questions. It is a worthy goal, he said-but will it work? Policy experts weighed in, describing an innovative model of drug delivery and the Uganda plan, which is based on Christian principles. But the keepers of the budget were strongly opposed. When Gerson's turn to speak came, he said, "If we can do this, and we don't, it will be a source of shame." Six weeks later, I sat in the Roosevelt Room with other Christian leaders while President Bush announced his decision to go ahead.
Three years ago, Gerson saw the results. At a Sisters of Charity orphanage in Addis Ababa, the sisters were caring for 400 HIV-positive orphans. "Until a few years ago, every single child at that orphanage died before the age of . . . nine," Gerson writes. "Now, because of AIDS drugs, nearly every child lives, and the sisters have begun planning for job training when the orphans" grow up.
This is, Gerson writes, "An honest-to-God miracle of science, repeated in hundreds of thousands of cases across Africa-and Americans should be proud of the part they have taken in it."
Miracles like this might not have happened if Christians withdrew from the political scene-something many in our secular society would love us to do and some Christian leaders think we ought to d stay out of the dirty world of politics, they say.
But for those who are called to the political realm-like my hero, William Wilberforce-that would be a dereliction of duty. And I saw firsthand as part of a coalition fighting for human rights over recent years what a difference we can make.
"Because politics can protect the weak in the cause of justice," Gerson writes, "it can be a noble profession. And because the oppression of the weak is an offense against the image of God, politics is an urgent calling."
Mike Gerson is right, and I urge you to read his book, Heroic Conservatism. You will learn more about what happens when Christians get involved in politics. The fact is the lives of millions made in God's image are saved.
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