Every death is a reminder that we have only one shot at this thing called life, and as I reflect on the recent passing of former Senator Mark O. Hatfield my mind sifts through the last seventy years of American history that shaped his life. But the present world badly needs his voice as well, directing us once again toward a spiritual revolution based on faith, hope, and love.
In the 60s and 70s America was torn by the Vietnam War, corporate America fought the emerging environmental movement, cities burned. But our leaders enacted landmark civil rights legislation, laws to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe, and programs to expand services to the poor. Amid the discordant cacophony in Washington today and the noise and death of multiple wars, I hear Hatfield, a US senator for 30 years, urging the nation toward compassion, care, and peace.
Each person needs the consistent and constant guidance of a strong moral compass. Mark Hatfield made his mistakes, but he allowed his personal faith in Christ and his own life experiences to continually form and reshape his politics. His early opposition against the Vietnam war and his vote (joined by only one other Republican Senator) against military action in the Gulf were based on his naval service in World War II, ferrying the wounded from Iwo Jima and Okinawa and viewing the unspeakable devastation that was Hiroshima in the wake of the atomic bomb. As a result, Hatfield became a passionate defender of life. He opposed abortion, the death penalty, and fought to transfer funding from nuclear arms to programs to aid the poor and starving.
Hatfield publically called the nation to repent for the sin of the Vietnam War. He envisioned a confessing church – “a body of people who confess Jesus as Lord and are prepared to live by their confession." He railed against "a theological 'silent majority' in our land who wrap their Bibles in the American flag; who believe that conservative politics is the necessary by-product of orthodox Christianity; who equate patriotism with the belief in national self-righteousness; who regard political dissent as a mark of infidelity to the faith." In contrast, he spoke of "a greater power, the power of the Holy Spirit working within us” expressed in love and compassion.
Once again cities are burning. The barricades are up and battles are raging across the globe. Lives are sacrificed in the cause of freedom. But I hear Mark Hatfield directing us to an altogether different revolution – the complete transformation of the heart that will, one heart at a time, transform the world. "Whatever role I may have,” he said, “it is all part of my goal of helping build the kingdom. I am striving to help trigger a spiritual revolution."
No wonder he was drawn to Eberhard Arnold, who penned the following lines in the crucible of Nazi Germany:
In the midst of escalating injustice, widespread cruelty, and coldness of heart, love will be revealed – a love that towers above the mountains of earth and shines more clearly than the stars of heaven; a love stronger than the most violent earthquake, the most powerful volcanic eruption, a love that influences history more than the worst catastrophe, the longest war, the most turbulent revolution, the most oppressive political force. Above all nature and the works of men, I believe that love will yet prove itself as the ultimate power of the Almighty – the ultimate greatness of God’s heart, and the ultimate revelation of the Spirit.
Hatfield called God's Revolution (a collection of Arnold’s writings and talks) “a truly inspiring account of individual and group commitment to an authentic Christian alternative” and recommended the book “enthusiastically.” Two very different people who led very different lives have profoundly impacted my own, and at the time of Hatfield’s death the two are brought together once more to direct us all to the transformation of all things.
God's Revolution is available as a free ebook