How is it that Christians, called to dispense the aroma of amazing grace, instead pollute the world with the noxious fumes of ungrace? If grace is so amazing, why don't Christians show more of it?

Because I am writing in the United States in the 1990s, one answer to that question springs readily to mind. The church has allowed itself to get so swept up in political and cultural issues that it has adopted the rules of power, the rules of ungrace. In no other arena is the church at greater risk of losing its calling than in the public square.

I had a rude introduction to the polarization in our society when I visited the White House during Bill Clinton's first term as one of a group of 12 evangelicals invited to a private breakfast.

"The President has no agenda," we were assured. "He simply wants to hear your concerns." It took little political savvy to realize that the President was convening such a meeting primarily because of his low standing among evangelical Christians. Indeed, he addressed some of those concerns in his opening remarks at breakfast. As a lifelong Southern Baptist, he said, he was finding it difficult to find a Christian community in Washington, D.C., "the most secular city I've ever lived in."

"Sometimes I feel like a spiritual orphan," explained Clinton. When the First Family goes to church, it turns into a media circus, hardly conducive to worship. Few of his staff members (whom, of course, he had appointed) shared his concern for faith. Moreover, the conservative Christian community had dissociated itself from him. When the President jogged through the streets of Washington he saw bumper stickers like this one: "A vote for Bill Clinton is a sin against God." Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry was publicly ...

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