WASHINGTON – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke about struggling with doubt in his Christian faith, as well as how his faith informs his views on war and abortion, at the Values Voter Summit Friday in Washington, D.C.
In an election season with politicians speaking often about their firm convictions, Paul chose to speak openly about his own internal conflicts. Quoting Dostoevsky, Paul said he arrived at his faith "through a fiery furnace of doubt."
"My faith has never been easy for me," Paul said, "never been easy to talk about and never been without obstacles. I do not and cannot wear my religion on my sleeve. I am a Christian but not always a good one. I'm not completely free of doubts. I struggle to understand man's inhumanity to man. I struggle to understand the horrible tragedies that war inflicts on our young men and women."
As a physician, Paul said, he struggled with the tragedies he encountered and seeing good people struck with "inexplicable disease." He talked about his first patient as a medical student -- a "beautiful young woman" who would not live much longer.
"I struggled to understand her tragedy and how tragedy could occur in a world that has purpose and design. ... I struggle to understand how evil individuals sometimes reap earthly rewards and saintly heroes are martyred by their fellow man."
He also spoke of feeling conflicted on the issue of war. After reading All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul said, he "recoiled at the horror of war" and "wondered whose grand design is this."
"I'm not a pacifist," Paul said, "but I do think it unacceptable not to hate war. I'm dismissive of those who champion war as sport and show no reluctance to engage in war. Any leader who shows glee or eagerness for war should not be leading any nation. I believe truly great leaders are reluctant to go to war and try mightily to avoid war."
After speaking about war, Paul tied the "coarsening of culture towards violent death" to abortion, saying that culture is responsible for "the death of 50 million unborn children in the last 40 years."
In one of the biggest applause lines of the speech, Paul said, "I don't think a civilization can long endure that does not have respect for all human life, born and not yet born."
Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), ran for the Republican presidential nomination and lost to Mitt Romney. What distinguished Ron Paul most from the rest of the Republican candidates was his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rand Paul, some believe, may continue his father's legacy by running for the Republican nomination in the future.
In the speech, Paul said that if he were in a position where he were responsible for sending armed forces into battle, he would be able to do it, "but only reluctantly and constitutionally and after great deliberation."
The country is in a crisis, Paul said, that is not just fiscal, but moral and spiritual.
"I don't think the answer is in any politician. I don't think the answer is in any particular law. I think the answer really is that we need to somehow find our way back to God, find our way back. And I think we find that by taking the time from our busy lives, from everything around us, taking the time to reflect what are the important things. I hope we will find that out, I hope we will reflect, and I hope we will find spiritual renewal as a country and a people."
Paul's speech can be viewed here on YouTube.