Congressman confesses Christian convictions

Congressman Mark Neumann opened his desk drawer, pulled out his well-thumbed Bible, and read from James: ". . . the testing of your faith develops perseverance." That's the lesson he learned during three political campaigns.

Neumann, the newly-elected Republican representative for Wisconsin's first congressional district, says he developed that perseverance by losing his first two races for office.

A member of St. Matthew in Janesville, Neumann acknowledged that religion was an issue in the campaign. When he ran for office, he said, "I was crushed to learn all the things I thought were good and right were supposedly wrong: go to church, believe in God, raise a family with Christian values."

In his first two election attempts, Neumann followed his campaign managers' advice to avoid talking about those values--and he lost the elections. "That taught me you have to be strong enough to stand up and say what you believe," he said.

He ran his third campaign without professional help. This time, when opponents called him a conservative Christian, he said, "I just smiled and said, 'Thank you for the compliment.' "

Neumann believes he represents the majority of Americans. "I'm not an ultraconservative. I'm right in the middle of the road. Most people believe the same thing I do," he said. "I look at society, see it crumbling, see Christian values pushed aside. Nobody wants politics to take over in churches, but we have to recognize that if we don't stand up and be counted, our values will be taken away."

Neumann's wife, Sue, and three children will remain in Janesville while he is in Washington. Andy, 17, and Tricia, 16, attend Lakeside Lutheran High School. Matthew, 12, goes to St. Matthew School.

"They're excited right now, but it's going to be hard," Neumann said of his children. "They're used to having Dad at every basketball game. But they understand I have a commitment to my country. I'm doing this because I care about my country."