I was just 19 when George McGovern ran for President in 1972. He lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon. It was my first election and I voted for Nixon probably because Nixon was pursuing peace with honor in Vietnam and improved relations with the Chi-Coms.
My folks broke with voting for Democrats that year as well. They liked Humphrey in 1968 and voted against Nixon, but by 1972 had enough of Vietnam to stay the course with Nixon, despite the Watergate issue. Apparently most of the country felt the same way because McGovern lost the popular vote by one of the largest margins ever. If memory serves me right McGovern also lost so heavily because he was perceived to be the “hippie” candidate and people preferred Nixon as the law and order candidate, ironic, considering the Watergate mess.
I didn’t know much about either candidate then and only found out this past week some interesting things about George McGovern.
For example, he was a B-24 Liberator pilot in WW2 flying 35 missions.The name of his airplane was Dakota Queen and he was shot down once crash-landing his plane on an island in the Adriatic Sea.
Most Presidents and most presidential candidates have had military service. It was almost a prerequisite that they served in the military. I think that in this year’s election it is the first time since 1944 that neither candidate served in the military.
I don’t think military service is a necessary prerequisite to be President but I do think it strengthens a candidate’s hand especially if they were involved in combat situations like McGovern was.
I think there are a great many take away lines in the interview but here area few that got my attention:
McGovern: My own view is that we work toward the kingdom of God, not necessarily by trying to capture control of Congress through a certain political agenda — although I have participated in those efforts and will probably continue to do so. But it’s unlikely that you’re going to achieve it by capturing the Congress or capturing a moral majority or capturing those on the left or the right who think that they have a special formula that’s going to transform society.
There are way too many on both the left and right that look to politics as a substitute Savior for what ails mankind. For the left the secret formula seems to be a skewed, mostly unbiblical view of social justice. For the right, the secret formula seems to be a type of “moral majority” and if we could just get people to be a more moral society that would turn the country around. Both views see the salvation of the country through the lens of “being good” whatever that means and ” good works.” While morality and works are related to the gospel, they are not the gospel.
Thomas questions McGovern as to what he thinks about Christ, eternity and what the gospel means. Here’s an edited version of the exchange:
THOMAS: One of the slanders against you in the ’70s was that because you were a liberal you must be godless. Just tell me straight up what you believe about God, about Christ, about eternal life, about salvation.
SEN. MCGOVERN: Well, I’m primarily a believer in what is called “the social gospel.” But don’t forget that that includes the word “gospel” as well as “social” I believe in the teachings of Christ that the central commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors. The second is likened to it: love our neighbors as we love ourselves. At a later point Jesus said, “How can you love God, whom you have not seen, if you can’t love your fellow (humans), whom you have seen?” I take that as an invitation to make sure that we love our fellow human beings first and foremost. I think that may help lead us to an understanding of God.
THOMAS: Now, it sounds as if you’ve elevated the second commandment to the first. Jesus said you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
SEN. MCGOVERN: I suppose I’ve taken the excuse that Jesus is saying you can’t love God, whom you haven’t seen, if you don’t love your neighbors, whom you have seen. A person confronted him late in life and thought he had screwed up everything and didn’t serve God very well, and Jesus said to him, “No, inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” You may not have known it, but when you fed the hungry, cared for the sick, ministered to the homeless and those in prison, you were actually serving me. I take that on a leap of faith to mean that if I live a life that’s humane and loving, with concern for other people, maybe if there is a judgment out there someday, I can stand up and say, “Well, God, I wasn’t quite sure what you were like, or how best to communicate with you, but I’ve tried to be a decent human being, I’ve tried to be honest and loving and compassionate to my fellow humans, and sometimes I have been, and so I stand here with that as my only recommendation.”
THOMAS: You have just described salvation by works, yet Scripture says that salvation comes not by works, because man’s righteousness before God is as “filthy rags” and we are saved only by grace through faith and not by works, “lest any man should boast.” You are correct that there is a social application to the gospel, but it comes as a result of faith and, by itself, does not qualify one for heaven. So let me ask you a bottom-line question. The apostle Paul said that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, we will be saved. Your father would want me to ask you, George, whether you can make that confession?
SEN. MCGOVERN: Yes, I can. I believe that.
Taken at face value McGovern’s commitment to the social gospel was driven by his commitment to Christ and relying on Christ alone for his salvation. ( Cal Thomas is quoting Isa. 64:6, Eph. 2:8-9 and Romans 10:9-10.)
What will transform society? The gospel, rightly understood. It is an inner transformation (kingdom of God within) that comes to bear on the kingdoms of man. Politics can change some things, but cannot change the heart of man. Only God can do that. (John 3:1-15)
I have an interest in politics as most of my readers know, but I have no illusions about either party being any kind of personal savior. Both parties are more concerned about what they see as the evil outside of themselves rather than the evil that resides in all of us. Ultimately, a right understanding of the gospel is the answer and our only hope. From that all else stems.