Recently I have been asking a question of strangers—for example, seatmates on an airplane—whenever I strike up a conversation: "When I say the words evangelical Christian, what comes to mind?" In reply I hear about scandal-plagued televangelists and strident pro-life activists, or opposition to gay rights, or proposals for censoring the Internet. Not once—not once!—have I heard a description redolent of grace.
As a journalist, though, I have had the privilege of seeing many wonderful examples of Christians who dispense grace. These are the people I wish would come to mind when I poll my airplane seatmates. Although this group does not often make the newspapers, its members serve faithfully, seasoning our culture with the preservative of the gospel. I tremble to imagine what the modern United States would look like without the "salt of the earth" in its midst.
I know the hospice movement well, for my wife works in one as a chaplain. I once interviewed Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement, at Saint Christopher's Hospice in London. A social worker and nurse, she was appalled at the way medical staff treated people who were about to die—in essence, ignoring them, as tokens of failure. This attitude offended Saunders as a Christian, for she knew that care for the dying was traditionally one of the church's seven works of mercy.
Since no one would listen to a nurse, she returned to medical school in middle age and became a doctor before founding a place where people could come to die with dignity and without pain. Now there are 2,000 hospices in the United States alone, about half of which have a Christian base. Dame Cicely believed from the beginning that Christians offer the ...1
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