washingtonpost.com
Faith in a Winning Message

By Sam Brownback
Monday, November 12, 2007

One of the great things about running for president is that you get a good sense of what Americans are thinking. I found a great love of our country and great concern for its future in the hearts of Americans.

There is, unfortunately, a lot of fear as well. There is apprehension about the war, the economy and health care. In particular, there is concern in many quarters about the future of the faith-based movement.

Message is all-important. I believe the biggest threat to our future as a movement is a negative public face, when we don't project a welcoming and hopeful message based on an authentic faith. The future of the conservative movement in our country will be strong if we can be moved by genuine faith and love for mankind, but not by political power.

On the campaign trail I talked about being pro-life and whole-life. This is, first and foremost, recognition of the fundamental dignity of every human person. It says that every person, at every stage and in every place, is a beautiful and unique child of God. It says that every life, everywhere, has value and is worth fighting for.

I think this is a winning message. Unfortunately, the GOP primary process this year, as in times past, has been more focused on "electability" than message. I believe that's the wrong focus.

Recent history has shown that, as a party, when we focus on message, we win; when we get bogged down with questions about which personality is most "electable," we lose.

The pro-life message is both hopeful and winning. We know that America is better than abortion. We ought to work for a society where the strong protect the weak and every child, in every circumstance, is welcomed and cared for. The truth of our message is undermined, however, if we are not among the first to support adoption and assist pregnant women in difficult circumstances. We must support women in every way we can.

The pro-life and whole-life message does not stop with abortion. It embraces the child in Darfur, the woman struggling in poverty, the child born with Down syndrome, the man in prison and even the immigrant.

It has led me to spend nights in prisons in America and to visit homeless shelters, orphanages and refugee camps across the world. I have tried to understand the difficult circumstances in people's lives and ways that we can help. Some of the most profound people I have met possess souls that radiate a beauty that comes from finding strength and hope amid hardships unimaginable to most Americans.

The fundamental truth of human dignity can shed light on every issue. It means that we should help the poor in America, reduce prison recidivism rates and fight addiction by helping others break the bonds they cannot break themselves.

It means we ought to stand for marriage as the unique bond that can bring new life into the world. It means we should have an economy that helps families, honors freedom and shows compassion to those in need.

This philosophy welcomes the immigrant and has mercy on the prisoner. While we must secure the border and enforce the law, we cannot forget that every immigrant, whatever his or her status, is a person with innate dignity. This is our duty to the "foreigner amongst us" (Deuteronomy 10:18). A wise man once told me that we get into trouble when we look at people as problems and not as people.

The same can be said for those in prison. While we must protect society and enforce our laws, the prisoner, too, is a child of a loving God. I am glad to support programs that help prisoners deal with their problems and ease their return to society so that they don't find themselves back in jail. And unless society cannot otherwise be protected, we should not use the instrument of death but instead should seek to build a culture that values every life.

Human dignity has a significant bearing on the question of faith in the public square. I am convinced that a society that celebrates faith will have greater respect for human dignity. Atheistic communism ran counter to human nature when it tried to create a society without God. Such a society will never honor human dignity because it turns man in on himself, instead of outward in love.

The conservative movement in America will succeed to the degree that it is faith-filled. We must exude the virtues of authentic faith: joy, hope and love. Our movement must be more compassionate, loving and welcoming.

It doesn't mean we abandon our principles. Of course we will continue to stand for life, marriage and faith in the public square. The question is whether we move forward as bold people of faith, focused on compassion instead of judgment and dedicating our daily lives to witnessing instead of winning.

The writer is a Republican senator from Kansas.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company