Mark Hatfield, a high profile United States Senator and Governor of Oregon, died yesterday, Sunday, August 7, 2011 at a Portland residence. He had become increasingly frail for the last couple of years. He was as much known for his Christian faith as he was as a politician. This writer got to know him through our frequent appearances together on The PTL Club, the international Christian TV program out of Charlotte, North Carolina, hosted by Jim and Tammy Bakker.
He was a Republican, but was known as a liberal in politics. He was against nuclear war, but he was not a pacifist. He supoported programs to aid the poor, but wanted to put an end to welfare. He was a friend to Billy Graham, co-sponsored a resolution with Sen.Edward Kennedy and he would become the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
While he would often vote against a measure that 90 percent of his constituents wanted, they would continue to reelect him to office. As the New York Times lamented, "He does not fit the mold."
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In an October 23, 1982 interview with Chrisitanity Today (CT), Hatfield recalled that he responded to Jesus in April of 1935. He went to Williamette University, a Methodist school in Salem, where he had to attend chapel every day, three days a week.
He served in the navy in 1943, and carried with him a little New Testament that his parents gave him, which he kept with him right up to the end of his life.
He would become Dean and teacher of Political Science at Williamette, and would tell his students, "Don't just inherit your philosophy or reflect your environment; define it."
CT asked if his duty as a senator conflicted with his Chrsitian convictions. He said, "Yes, in matters of war and peace, I may be willing to risk my own life--but do I have the right to risk the lives of others?"
Mark Hatfield, who belonged to the Edmund Burke school of thought stated, "I have a single objective; to help create spiritual understanding, being a voice raised when maybe other voices have not been raised and an ability to stand in the breach."
He gave these words of wisdom to CT that we could all profit from in our life's walk: "On top of the hill the wind blows harder, and we are more vulnerable to that wind in all directions. In church work you can be so busy for Christ that you take no time to be with Christ. You can be so busy telling people how to study the Bible that you do not take time to take in the Word for your own needs.
These are valuable words for all Christians, especially ministers. Hatfield did make his Mark, which made the world a better place. Hopefully more politicians will follow his example.