Civil Reactions | Stephen L. Carter: The Courage to Lose

In elections, and in life, there is something more important than winning.
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Charlie brown, playing on Vince Lombardi's famous dictum, revealed a profound understanding of modern life when he said, "Winning isn't everything but losing isn't anything." Too often, even we Christians live as though nothing is more important than what we achieve on this earth. Driven by worldly concerns, the commands of our faith—many of which involve sacrifice of immediate desire—ultimately become less important than getting ahead and staying there.

This sad truth is nowhere more apparent than in our politics, especially as we look back, through Christian eyes, at the difficult and divisive battle that followed the November 7 presidential election.

During the course of the campaign, both major party candidates told voters they were Christians serious about their faith. George W. Bush said his favorite philosopher was Jesus. Al Gore informed us that at difficult moments he asks, "What would Jesus do?"

Presumably, neither man was pandering; each was sincere. But what were we voters expected to make of their statements? Were the candidates telling us something important about their character—that they exemplified the Christian virtues? Were they telling us something about how they would govern—that Holy Scripture would be an important source of moral knowledge for the next presidency? Or were they delivering merely demographic information—letting us know which box they would check on a census form?

The answer matters, not only for the sake of politics but also for the sake of Christianity. It matters for politics because, when a candidate implies that his beliefs are relevant, he has a responsibility to tell us how they are relevant. It matters for Christianity because of the Third Commandment, which warns us against misusing ...

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