Like all of us, I’ve had some powerful moments in my life — moments that have created memories that will stay with me and have made an impact upon me for the better. Six years old and milking cows on Christmas morning with my father. Walking hand-in-hand with my wife on the day we were married. The first time I flew formation as a young pilot in the Air Force, my wingtip only 3 feet from that of another aircraft. Holding my newborn child.
One of these powerful memories happened just a few years ago as I stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and listened to the chaplain offer a prayer, invoking the goodness of God on the new Congress as we were sworn in. Feeling the power of that prayer, I was grateful; I felt that we needed, and still need, God’s help.
There was a time in this country when it was accepted that America was a blessed land — that its rise, protection and preeminence were the result of God’s active will. The Founders, and many great men and women since, unquestionably believed that this God cares deeply about what happens in this world and, in particular, about what happens to America, because America is a special product of this God.
While I recognize that Americans today vary greatly in their thoughts and feelings about God, my faith in a loving, supreme being is indispensable to who I am and to my confidence in the future of this great country. I believe that God still cares deeply about this nation. I believe that America still represents something important to Him and that this faith can be a source of hope as we endeavor to help this country realize her full potential.
My faith teaches me that the spirit of God is the spirit of freedom. Because of this, I believe that God cares about the freedom of all men, that it’s impossible to have one without the other, and that this is the primary explanation for why the Founding Fathers guaranteed religious liberty in the First Amendment. If this is true, then we have a tremendous responsibility to be an example of liberty and goodness, not only to each other, but to the rest of the world.
Several years ago, I found myself wandering through the streets of a foreign country that was not friendly to the U.S. Many of the citizens in this country considered us with profound suspicion, if not open hostility. Yet, deep in the backstreets of the capital of this nation, I saw an old man, a simple merchant standing guard over his money box in his market stall. And there, on the ancient timber behind him, he had posted a piece of paper, written in English. Seeing the familiar script, I stopped to read: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Reading the Gettysburg address, thousands of miles from America, I was reminded that millions of people around the world look to us for an example. Millions of people around the world see this nation as something different, something blessed.
The Gospel of John recounts a powerful, hopeful interaction between Christ and his disciples. After hearing the teachings of Jesus in Capernaum, many followers “went back” and “walked no more with him.” When his faithful disciples were questioned if they too would go away, Peter responded resolutely: “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
This raw, honest question “to whom shall we go” characterizes my feelings of the role our faith should play in our personal, professional and, yes, even political, lives.
To whom shall we turn after we have debated and discussed measures that will greatly impact the very lives of millions of people? As we are faced with the prospect of wars and conflicts, where shall we go for solace and clarity? When the bright future of our country is temporarily obscured by the haze of discord and prejudice, shall we seek hope in the idea that something bigger than us is mindful of our plight?
In my life, both personal and professional, I have turned to God. Whatever your spiritual beliefs or religious convictions, there is a place for faith in American politics. Though severe storms lie before us and around us, we need not struggle through the darkness by ourselves.