Cover Story


"TeamBush" Continued...

Issue: "Ashcroft: Under fire," Jan. 13, 2001

-Terry Eastland was the Justice Department's spokesman during the Reagan administration Heartland reformer
Likely pick for Office of Faith-Based Action has a record of Bush-style compassion
by Russ Pulliam

The one new White House office promised by the Bush administration, the Office of Faith-Based Action, was still without a head on Jan. 3. Reports, though, are that Mr. Bush will place Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith in charge of the project to develop compassionate conservatism and help faith-based initiatives resolve serious social problems. In laying the groundwork for this new federal policy, the incoming president met late last month in Austin with Mr. Goldsmith and two dozen religious leaders. The discussion was nonpolitical; these initiatives transcend partisan schemes. The compassion in them comes from individuals who work with low-income families and are usually motivated by biblical faith to help those in need. The conservative side of the equation comes from the experience of failed government programs and the success of private initiatives when it comes to drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and other social problems. As mayor of Indianapolis, Mr. Goldsmith tried to get government out of the way of faith-based programs and to help them achieve their goals. He formalized this attempt with a program called the Front Porch Alliance, which linked ministries with opportunities for service. Mr. Bush had a similar experience as governor of Texas. In his first term, state government officials threatened to shut down the Teen Challenge drug rehabilitation effort on the grounds that regulations demanded that counselors have state licenses (WORLD, July 29, 1995). The counselors had something better, recovery from drug addiction through commitment to Jesus Christ and a remarkable track record of success in helping other addicts recover. Governor Bush recognized the problem. His administration established a separate set of criteria for faith-based programs like Teen Challenge, recognizing that licenses and academic degrees are not as important as the mixture of personal faith, practical experience, and results. Traditionally liberals have claimed the compassion label, charging conservatives with hard-heartedness for questioning the wisdom of expansion of government benefits. If compassionate conservatism catches hold on the national level, liberal compassion claims could be challenged, with both parties competing for the best way to encourage faith-based groups to tackle social issues. But the stories behind many faith-based initiatives are so compelling that even jaded journalists have trouble considering them to be politics as usual. When a man helps an accomplice to his father's murder get out of prison, that is a kind of compassion that cannot be contained in a government program or political party. At age 15, Tim Streett saw robbers murder his father in his northeastside Indianapolis family driveway. Mr. Streett became a witness at the murder trials, hoping he could put the matter behind him after the convictions of the defendants. Stephen Goldsmith was prosecutor for Marion County and Indianapolis at the time. Through a long spiritual journey and commitment to Jesus Christ, Mr. Streett became involved with a racial reconciliation ministry in Chicago. He also came to a point of forgiving his father's killers. The forgiveness he had known from Jesus Christ laid the foundation for him to forgive the offenders, including Don Cox, who supplied the gun and getaway car. Mr. Streett met with Mr. Cox in state prison in 1997, developing a friendship and then pleading with public officials for a reduced prison sentence for Mr. Cox and his recent assignment to a work release center in Indianapolis. Among those who heard from him was then-Mayor Goldsmith, the former prosecutor who had put more people in prison than anyone in the history of Indiana. With the normal instincts of any former prosecutor, Mr. Goldsmith balked at the request for support but was moved to join in the plea after hearing Mr. Streett's testimony about his forgiveness. Tim Streett is now part of another kind of faith-based initiative. He is the minister of Urban Outreach for Indianapolis's East 91st Street Christian Church, which partners with several predominantly black churches, the Community Resurrection Fellowship, to sponsor the Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord provides) Community Center in the inner city (see WORLD, Dec. 18, 1999). The suburban church is physically and economically a long way from the center. But the kind of Christian faith that Mr. Streett is putting into practice has a way of building bridges over canyons that otherwise seem too wide to cross.

-Russ Pulliam is an Indianapolis columnist Carefully Matched
Bush's Cabinet is ideologically balanced, but social conservatives are in the right places
by Bob Jones


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