Sunday, May 03, 2009

Congressman Jack Kemp served God and Country

Jack Kemp, former pro football quarterback, United States Congressman, and Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States has died at the age of 73. Like millions of Americans, I was sad to hear the news of the passing of this great leader. It was my privilege to interview Congressman Kemp in Washington, D.C. in 1988, when I was writing a syndicated newspaper column. As a tribute, I am reprinting that column below.

What about Christian involvement in politics? I posed that question to Congressman Jack Kemp while in Washington, D.C., recently. His answer was more than I expected.

“People ask me how can you be a Christian and involved in politics?” said the representative from New York. The question should be, ‘How can you be a Christian and not be involved in politics?’”

In addressing a meeting of the Board of Governors of the American Coalition for Traditional Values, Kemp stated, “The country cannot survive without the recognition of those Judeo-Christian values upon which America was founded.” He called it a moral, philosophical, spiritual and economic statement of profound import that “The only safe repository for human freedom is in self-government – and the only way to ultimately have self-government is to have a nation under the laws of God.”

In his book An American Renaissance written several years ago, Kemp called for a rebirth of economic and political freedom. He said the two are inextricably linked together – that our freedoms cannot be separated.

Today Kemp says he looks at freedom and realizes a third dimension must be added when considering economic and political freedom. The three form a triangle. He says, “The foundation of this triangle, the basis of our whole economic and political freedom, is a spiritual and biblical value system.”

The conservative lawmaker spoke forcefully and explicitly: “America can only have a rebirth of freedom, and a rebirth of opportunity, and a rebirth of true peace as we experience spiritual renaissance. The roots of freedom are grounded in the Judeo-Christian idea of one God. He is the source of our inalienable rights.”

For those who fear Jack Kemp’s voice is that of just one more radical from the religious right, he pointed out a recent study sponsored by the National Science Foundation. It concluded that Americans are more religious today than they were a century ago. The same study demonstrated that as Americans have become more religious they have become more tolerant. It is not the other way around, as some so-called intellectuals and elitists have been saying. The truth has been revealed. The more secular a society becomes the less tolerant it is.

“It’s one thing to say that we are a nation under God,” Kemp continued, “but quite another to say that we’re a nation with an established religion. The first is true; the second is not true.”

He said our founding fathers and mothers would be astonished at the current popular idea against public prayer. They did not consider invoking God’s blessing a violation of the constitutional prohibition against the establishment of a national religion.

Kemp quoted Thomas Jefferson, who fought against established religion all his life. Jefferson asked “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis – the conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties are the gift of God.”

Kemp expressed sympathy for teachers and children in schools today who are given “inalienable rights” by their Creator but are not allowed to praise or pray to that creator. To him it is unthinkable that a judge has ruled the Ten Commandments “unconstitutional” when posted on a school bulletin board. By that reasoning even our Declaration of Independence might be interpreted as unconstitutional because of its references to God.

Is all of this talk by Jack Kemp just the political rhetoric of a man who would like to one day be President? I might be tempted to think so if he had not been saying the same things for so many years. Like Barbara Mandrell, who “was country when country wasn’t cool," Jack Kemp was an outspoken evangelical Christian long before it was politically expedient to be so. His stand goes all the way back to the days when, as a professional football player, he involved himself wholeheartedly in the National Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Kemp’s colleague in the Congress, the brilliant Newt Gingrich of Georgia, credits him with being “the man who first created the positive optimism which President Reagan articulates so well.”

To Jack Kemp, God is not just a political issue; He is an intimate personal friend. Kemp believes the most important thing in life is to realize mankind is God’s creation and none of us are here by accident. The Christian’s highest calling is not to vote Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, but to know God and be involved in fulfilling His higher purpose for our world.

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