This remembrance was originally published at the Huffington Post.
Former Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR), who died at 89 years of age, was a hero to many of us who consider ourselves "New Evangelicals."
My first occasion to hear him speak was in 1970, the graduation ceremony at Fuller Theological Seminary. It was a contentious political era in the height of the Vietnam War, and the hard feelings were felt deep in the nation’s psyche and exemplified by the black armbands being worn that day. As an opponent of the War, one of the few in the United States Senate, Hatfield was invited to address the graduates. Upon completion of his message, which presaged thoughts from his 1971 book "Between a Rock and a Hardplace," a banner was unfurled entitled "We Love You Mark." It represents how so many of us felt then, and always have since, about this principled man.
A few years later in 1980, upon completion of my own seminary degree from Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, which was Hatfield’s denomination, I was invited to join the staff of the National Association of Evangelicals governmental affairs office in Washington, D.C. Among those evangelical leaders whom I would come to know personally, including Carl F.H. Henry, Frank Gaebelein, Richard Halverson (who would become US Senate Chaplain), was the unforgettable Mark Hatfield.
Senator Hatfield was a pacifist, which I am not. He was also an opponent of the defense build-up of President Ronald Reagan, which I supported. But Mark Hatfield above all else, personified a kind of evangelicalism that knew how to build alliances across party lines and respect those with whom you disagree, and to do so amiably. It was rooted in a born-again faith that realized an essential truth as C.S. Lewis put it: "To make politics not just something but everything, is the devil’s lie."
Hatfield was a leader whom many Evangelicals outside of the pacifist tradition opposed, and treated most unkindly, but he never returned that unkindness. Hatfield was always gracious, thoughtful, and kind to even those who despised him for his votes against the war, and every defense appropriation bill. In the 1980’s and early 90’s under the directorship of Robert P. Dugan, also a Conservative Baptist, NAE’s Office in Washington invited Hatfield to address its many Washington Insight Briefings, and College Student Seminars, and Hatfield would always accept, even if it meant leaving a Senate hearing. Such was his concern for the Church and the witness of the Gospel in the nation’s capital.