Few Americans will ever read "Between Two Worlds," the memoir John Anderson published in 1970. Nor will Anderson be spending scarce campaign funds to repuplish the book. To do so would risk bringing its message of active religious intrusion into American politics squarley before the electorate. Serious questions about the sincerity of Anderson's belated commitment to the seperation of church and state in the United States would again be raised. The issue first caused Anderson political damage when the press revealed that, while in Congress between 1961 and 1965, he three times sponsored the constitutional amendment that proposed placing the country under "the authority and laws of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations."
Since he became an independent candidate for presiden, Anderson has sought to minimize his involvement with that amendment, an understandable disavowal considering his heavy dependence upon the support of Jewish voters and others especially trouble by his having sponsored the bizarre proposal. Anderson's explanations of his role have been various and inconsistent: he could not recall it; a staff member drafted it: a minister-constituent requested that he introduce it; and, most recently, a former senator from Kansas drafted it in 1955 and -- six years later -- somehow "it was just handed to me. I promptly forgot about it, and hadn't thought about it much until the campaign of 1980." No pride of authorship there.
Most press accounts have quoted only Section One of the amendment and omitted mention of Section Three, its mischievous enabling clause: "Congress shall have power, in such cases as it may deem proper [italic added], to provide a suitable oath of affirmation for citizens whose religious scruples prevent them from giving unqualified allegiance to the Constitution, as herin amended," Had the amendment been adopted, and had Congress not "deemed it proper" to pass exempting legislation, this clause would have deprived a number of groups -- Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, and various disenting Christians, such as Quakers -- of the right to vote, to hold office or to engage in those professions that required "unqualified" oaths of allegiance to the Constitution.
Anderson wa 43 years old when he last introduced this amendment. When he published "between Two Worlds" in 1970, he was 48 years old. The book presents a confessional of personal faith (including a fascinating description of Anderson's boyhood conversion experience) and also, like the constitutional amendment, offers a proposal for the Christian renewal of America.
The memoir's self-righteous position stand in sharp contrast to the retrained secularism that Anderson now professes and that he expressed earlier this year to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. He then assured his audience that he had abandoned his earlier views on church-state linkage after "evolving" from a political conservative into a moderate: "I think that says something about me." He also insisted that "religion had no place in a political campaign," that it "should not and will not claim any influence in the political and decision-making process in this country" and that he "vigoreusly" affirmed the principle of the seperation of church and state.
But Anderson's current chronology of beliefs lacks candor. Anderson claims in the book that he has become a political moderate -- a dove on foreign policy issues and a strong supporter of civil rights, among other things. But at the same time he remained a zealous preacher, committed to injecting a heavy dose of religious didacticism into all aspects of public policy.
"We have a history and tradition as a Christian nation," Anderson concludes in his memoir. He emerges from its pages as a frenetic churchman-legislator intent upon reconciling the contentious interest groups of American society by converting them to his "Christian" vision of experience; "We must be born again."
In campaigning for the presidency, John Anderson has maintained a low profile for this Christian vision. Questioners, however, might want to know whether Anderson still holds the views he expressed so passionately in his memoir a decade ago. Does he believe, for example, that "God's grace in Christ is the only force that can reconcile the hearts of men toward one another"? And must Americans "as Christians . . . recognize that underlying all these tensions and hatreds among nations and tribes, and to some degree reponsible for them all, is the fact of sin in individual lives and the need for the redeeming love of Christ"?
The religious beliefs of a candidate for public office should remain a personal matter as long as he or she understands the constitutional boundaries between church and state. But this year, the electorate confronts a remarkable situation: three "born again" presidential candidates. Jimmy Carter has discussed his evangelical convictions in a number of forums and appears to understand clearly where religion ends and politics begins. Nor has Ronald Reagan evidenced any public trace of religious zealotry. But questions remain about John Anderson. He avoids serious discussion of his support for the constitutional amendment, and he has yet to indicate whether he still holds the messianic Christian beliefs espoused in "Between Two Worlds."
"Man," Anderson then wrote, "is a sinner, and . . . all of his social institutions are affected by sin . . . man himself cannot be changed simply by redesigning or altering his environment. If that were true, Christ's death on the cross would have been completely unnecessary, and the whole rationale of God's plan for man's redemption would collapse."
In 1970, while a congressman, Anderson advocated this country's remodeling into a "Christian nation. "A decade later, with no indication of a change in heart -- only of ambition -- presidential candidate Anderson assures Jewish leaders that religion should not influence political decision-makinging in American. Will the real John Anderson please stand up?