BY MALLORY HARMON
The Shared Justice Student-Faculty Research Prize, now in its second year, has been renamed to honor the legacy of the late Senator Mark O. Hatfield, a United States Senator from Oregon known for integrating his Christian faith and his public policy commitments.
The Hatfield Prize is designed to foster and advance Christian scholarship on today’s most complex social challenges. Awarded annually to three student-faculty pairs from Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) institutions, the Prize facilitates student-faculty research over the course of a semester, and culminates in the publication of three policy reports. In its first year, pairs from Gordon College, Wheaton College, and Azusa Pacific University wrote policy reports that comprised the 2018 Reframing the Safety Net series. In 2019 the Prize was awarded to pairs from Baylor University, Eastern University, and Abilene Christian University. Their research will be published in early September.
The Hatfield Prize reports integrate faith with academic scholarship, pursuing today’s pressing social challenges through a public justice framework which recognizes the unique roles and responsibilities of government and civil society. Students articulate the normative principles that ought to guide society’s response to issues like the social safety net, and then make practical applications and recommendations for the ways in which government and civil society can promote human flourishing in their local communities.
SENATOR HATFIELD’S DISTINCTIVE CONTRIBUTION TO PUBLIC LIFE
Hatfield, a United States Senator from Oregon from 1967-1997, was known for integrating his Christian faith and his public policy commitments. Hatfield, described by the New York Times as “a liberal Republican”, was known for challenging his own party’s agenda and shaping his worldview based not on political and societal norms but on his Christian faith. His public witness was influential to many founding members of the Center for Public Justice and he served as the keynote speaker in 1977 at the first International Christian Political Conference, which was co-sponsored by the Association for Public Justice (later renamed the Center for Public Justice).
Hatfield’s desire to follow Christ in politics drove him to keep asking what the Bible’s teaching about the Kingdom of God and about the world required of him, our government and our society. That’s very different than the common tactic of identifying a few key biblical themes, deciding which party best comports with those themes, and then adopting and blessing the whole party agenda.
To better understand Senator Hatfield’s legacy and the ways it complements CPJ’s desire to inspire and equip Christian young adults with a hopeful vision for political life, Shared Justice interviewed two friends of CPJ, Richard Gathro and Jerry Herbert, who knew Senator Hatfield personally. Below Gathro and Herbert reflect on Hatfield’s impact on their lives and why they celebrate renaming the Prize after the late Senator.
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON SENATOR HATFIELD’S LEGACY
Richard Gathro dedicated much of his career to working with Christian college students. He spent 11 years teaching at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ (CCCU) American Studies Program, and later served as the executive vice president of the CCCU. He went on to run the Washington, D.C. semester programs of Nyack College and Pepperdine University.
Gathro first met Hatfield while he was studying in Washington, D.C. in 1975. Their first interaction was at a party, sitting on the floor and chatting. When they discussed Hatfield’s recent book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, which addresses the role of faith in politics, Gathro recalled Hatfield admitting that when it came to policy decisions, “sometimes I am an apologist and sometimes I am a realist, and it takes a lot of thoughtfulness to know when to be which.” Though Hatfield identified with traditionally Republican ideals, he was known for working across the aisle, as his driving motivation on policy issues was based on his faith rather than party line.
Gathro described Senator Hatfield as reserved and slightly introverted, but with a presence that felt very pastoral. According to Gathro, Hatfield kept 2,000 files on people he cared about to keep up with how they were doing. “I was blessed to be one of those people he cared about,” said Gathro. After Gathro’s son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, he shared that Hatfield called him to express his concern and care for the Gathro family. Gathro said that he was touched that the Senator had remembered their connection and reached out to him during a difficult time.
Senator Hatfield was unique in many other ways. “He didn’t specialize in soundbites, he specialized in substance and that is so tough in politics,” Gathro said. Gathro drew a connection between Hatfield’s dedication to substantial solutions and the way in which CPJ tackles policy issues. “[CPJ’s] answers aren’t soundbites; its richness is in creating a biblical worldview,” he said.
Hatfield understood that to be pro-life, as he was, you have to care about the poor, the marginalized, the infants and their mothers, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Gathro described Hatfield’s conviction as multi-faceted: “His name is synonymous with peace — not the absence of conflict, but the holistic idea of peace that is captured by the word shalom.”
Gathro proposed that if Senator Hatfield could see how CPJ has grown over the years, he would be proud of the thoughtfulness that is displayed and the specific attention paid to equipping young adults to live out their faith in the public square.
Jerry Herbert first heard Hatfield speak as a keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention. “I just knew he must have been a believer; just the way he talked and the things that were important to him. So I began to follow him more closely,” he said. Herbert said that the Senator’s writing was extremely influential in shaping his thinking about Christian engagement in politics. “It made it possible for me to see the benefit of the pluralist approach that CPJ now advocates for,” he said.
Jerry Herbert served in the Army for three years in military intelligence, and then earned a graduate degree in political science at Duke University. During his graduate years, Herbert attended an after-church Bible study with several other fellow graduate students, during which they would discuss faith and how it applied to their graduate work. It was there that he became close friends with James Skillen, the future founder and former president of CPJ. Herbert went on to serve as a trustee of CPJ.
Herbert said he had been raised to understand that “religion is personal and politics and business is public” and at first was perplexed by the integration of faith and politics that was being discussed. Six months into the Bible study it became clear to him. “It was unbelievable,” he said. “The Holy Spirit finally opened my eyes to what these people were talking about, about the lordship of Christ, how Jesus was Lord of politics, and that his word actually structures and shapes American and human public life. It blew me away!”
Hatfield helped Herbert develop a framework for connecting faith and politics. Herbert noted the connection was unorthodox in those years. “Evangelicals or Orthodox Christians were fearful to be engaged in politics because it was such a nasty business and they didn’t really see it at all as a part of their faith,” he said. “It was a sacred-secular split.” In his 1977 keynote at the International Christian Political Conference, Hatfield spoke directly against that sacred-secular split — against the idea that religion is personal and sacred and politics is public and secular.
Like Gathro, Herbert devoted much of his career to working with young adults. Herbert served as the Director of the CCCU’s American Studies Program for over two decades and has also taught as an adjunct professor. Herbert said that he believes Senator Hatfield would have appreciated what the Research Prize is designed to accomplish: to equip Christian young adults to tackle complex policy questions by first identifying normative principles that should guide a Christian response to issues like the social safety net. “[Hatfield] was working at being outside the typical paradigm of American politics,” Herbert said. “He had it in his bones that somehow the lordship of Christ would break through that left-right gridlock into some fresh and creative ways forward with policy.”
THE HATFIELD PRIZE: EQUIPPING FUTURE GENERATIONS
The Hatfield Prize strives to honor the legacy of Senator Hatfield that Gathro and Herbert described. With a commitment to advancing thoughtful Christian scholarship on matters related to social policy and human flourishing, the reports are distinctive in their contribution to current discourse and policy debates. As Shared Justice prepares for the release of the 2019 reports this September, and soon after open the application process for the 2020 Hatfield Prize, it is our hope that Christian young adults will be inspired, like Senator Hatfield was, to live a public faith and equipped for a lifetime of civic engagement.
Mallory Harmon attends Covenant College (GA), majoring in international studies and minoring in Spanish and political science. She was an intern at the Center for Public Justice during the summer of 2019.
WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
1. Sign up for the Shared Justice monthly email to stay updated on this series and more.
2. Write for us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
3. Form a Political Discipleship group and advocate for a justice issue in your community. Political Discipleship is an 11-week praxis-based curriculum that helps Christians form lifelong habits and practices of citizenship. Email email@example.com for more information.