Putting Faith Back in Public Service

An interview with John DiIulio, Bush's charitable-choice point man
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Back when his main occupation was political science, John DiIulio once wrote that "the evidence is growing that the only people who are now doing something to make inner-city blacks part of 'one nation, indivisible,' are those who seek "one nation, under God, indivisible.'" Now, as the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, DiIulio is working to aid those who help "the least of these." Ronald J. Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, spoke with DiIulio about the recent debate surrounding his new office.

On several occasions you have described yourself as a "born again" or "evangelical" Catholic. What do you mean by that?

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I attended a Catholic school. I always believed that Jesus Christ was who he said he was. But, from college through graduate school at Harvard and into my 30s, I had little regular prayer life. I attended church only episodically. I was a lapsed Catholic and an indifferent Christian. I didn't hide my faith, but I didn't nurture or share it much, either. Then, in the mid-1990s, I began to grow in spiritual awareness through a theologically untidy mix of Pentecostal preaching and Catholic social teaching. The African-American pastors whose social-service work I was studying had inspired me. I began drawing closer to committed prolife Catholic friends. On Palm Sunday in 1996, while sitting in church with my family, I felt that the moment had come for me to strive to live in self-emptying obedience to Christ, and to serve God with gladness. That's pretty much what I mean by "born-again Catholic."

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