I just finished reading a book by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, called The Faith, Given Once, For All (Jude 3). Chuck Colson is best remembered for his part in the Watergate scandal during Nixon's presidency. For his part in that episode, Colson went to jail. Just prior to his incarceration, he became a Christian and his jail term served to form him for the prison ministry that he began once he was released.
He is a good writer, the prose is fluid and it keeps one's attention; he is also well-informed on many issues and his desire to unite Catholics and Protestants on issues of faith is well known. In fact, I find what he writes on that score to be the best ecumenical effort that I have read.
I heard about this book on a Focus on the Family broadcast, when James Dobson was interviewing Colson about it. Colson wrote the book because he had become aware that Christians were unsure of what they believed, and they were reticent to spread the Gospel in the current atmosphere of cultural relativism. Even students in evangelical Bible colleges felt that there was no such thing as absolute truth and that they could not impose their beliefs on anyone else. This is hardly fulfilling the Great Commission when Jesus commanded his apostles to go and make disciples of all nations.
Colson makes the point that western civilization owes everything to Christianity: from our democratic form of government (first practised in the monasteries when they elected their abbots), to the scientific revolution ("science itself might never have been invented if not for Christianity's belief that all the world could be explored for God's glory, thus initiating the inductive methods essential to scientific advance"), to the establishment of the first universities and the public education system (fueled by the Christian belief in equality of persons), to the sanctity of life since every person is made in the image of God Himself.
With regards to the abortion issue, I found Colson's remarks clear and lucid. He sees without any doubt that Christians must engage in the political process when it comes to human rights.
The Church's passionate engagement in politics in defense of life is not due to the emergence of the "big bad religious right," as Christianity's detractors might say (and many Christians mistakenly believe as well). It was the early Church that consistently challenged the state, describing abortion and infanticide in terms that would be politically incorrect today... Many Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox have argued that we are in a great struggle that pits a culture of life against a culture of death. This is, in fact, the preeminent form that the battle of good versus evil has taken in our day - as it did in the early days of the Church. This may sound inflammatory and extreme to some, but what could be more crucial than whether the worth of a life comes from being created in the image of God or from its usefulness to society?
Like so many others, Colson talks of William Wilberforce as one of the great Christian defenders of human rights. What I found of particular interest was the fact that Wilberforce spent three hours each day in prayer.
Wilberforce argues for the holy, righteous life to be lived out in society. Along with other members of Wilberforces' intentional community, the "Clapham sect," Wilberforce modeled it, praying for three hours a day that justice would reign in Britain.
Early in his efforts, Wilberforce wrote in his diary that "God has laid before me two great objectives: the abolition of the slave trade, and the reformation of manners." By the latter he meant the morals of the British people. And throughout his career he pursued both goals simultaneously. He realized that he needed not only to end the slave trade by law but to lead a spiritual renewal that would counter the sin motivating it.
Isn't this the same problem with abortion today? Abortion is a grave evil that must be abolished, but our society also needs a spiritual renewal so that sexual promiscuity, which creates the demand for abortion, can be overcome.
For your own reading:
The Faith, Given Once, For All, by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett
Real Christianity, by William Wilberforce (full title is A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country Contrasted with Real Christianity)