Mitch McConnell, Steve Bannon, and Roy Moore

My Open Letters to Mitch McConnell, Steve Bannon, and Roy Moore

This week was the culmination of the Republican primary war between Sen. Mitch McConnell and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, which former Trump advisor Steve Bannon publicly jumped into during the last several days. I hope you’ll find my short letters to them insightful regarding the real war that was being fought.

Dear Senator McConnell:

I saw an article after the election that said you and those in the Republican Party who think like you will “likely fall back on their old pitch to voters that their . . . candidates are more ‘pragmatic’ and are able to get things done.”

When someone is said to be a pragmatist, I know either they don’t know what that term means and are using it incorrectly, or they truly are using the term correctly. In your case, I do believe they are using the term correctly. I believe pragmatism is your governing philosophy, and that, Senator, is my problem.

My problem with pragmatism is that it is actually the product of a worldview that says there are no transcendent truths by which our decisions and actions can be guided, so we just go with “what works.” Essentially, pragmatism says whatever seems to work is what is “true,” even though our experience should teach us that what we often think will work doesn’t, particularly over the long haul.

Pragmatism puts the focus on immediate effects and results, which is only natural because, as human beings, we just can’t see too far into the future. But that leads to “kicking the can down the road” when it comes to solving problems, which is what you and your colleagues do on most things, assuming you even do anything.

So, Sen. McConnell, I really don’t mind that you are “established” in office so much as the fact that I believe you to be a moral relativist who embraces pragmatism.

So, I’m glad when candidates who align with your way of thinking lose to someone like Judge Moore. May the “success” you had last Tuesday continue.

Dear Mr. Bannon:

First, let me say that I appreciated your support for Judge Moore, and I do hope you and the good folks of Alabama can carry him to victory in the General Election.

But, alas, sir, from the comments you made about Pope Francis’ views on immigration, I’ve come to believe that you, too, are a pragmatist, just one with a different set of answers than those of Sen. McConnell.

It’s not that I necessarily agree with the pope’s views on immigration; to be honest, I don’t know what they are. What troubled me was your statement that you respect “the bishops on doctrine” but “this is not about doctrine,” and that on this issue, “they’re just another guy with an opinion.”

Your relegation of Scripture to matters of religious doctrine only and its utter irrelevance to issues like immigration is a form of pragmatism that allows people to have religious beliefs so long as they keep those views in their “spiritual” place and don’t let them get in the way of what works relative to the “real” world.

The pope may not have applied scriptural truths to this issue accurately, but at least he’s not denying their relevance to the problems we face.

I may like your solutions to any number of issues better than those of Sen. McConnell, but in the final analysis, I believe you both come from the same worldview. Anyway, I again thank you for helping Justice Moore through the primary.

Dear Justice Moore:

I am so delighted you got through the primary. I don’t know that I will agree with all the positions you take, but I do agree with the foundational worldview out of which your positions will come.

I thank you for being bold enough to actually contend for the proposition that there is a Creator God and that the Scriptures give us real truth about the nature of the cosmos, why things are the way they are, and what we need to do for things to improve.

I know many people today may choose not to believe that, and I know other well-meaning people try to find a way to get around the fact that the Bible’s authors seemed to think that that’s what they were doing. But you don’t back down from your beliefs, and that makes those pragmatists who actually understand the difference between their worldview and yours really come after you. Thankfully, however, those pragmatists who don’t like Sen. McConnell’s pragmatic conclusions will still support you.

Hang in there and Godspeed. I would love to see Sen. McConnell and pragmatists everywhere have to deal with someone like you.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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stack of books against a chalkboard, map of U.S. with words "We the people," and the TN Capitol

Constitution Day, Gubernatorial Candidates, and Public Education

September 17th was Constitution Day, commemorating that same date in 1787 when a majority of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention approved the draft of the U.S. Constitution they sent to Congress for consideration. As I read the results of a just-completed survey by Newsweek about our knowledge of the Constitution, I found nothing to celebrate and couldn’t help but think of every gubernatorial candidate’s promise to “improve” public education.

To better evaluate the “improvements” to education our gubernatorial candidates might propose, we need to understand the results of the survey and what the “experts” interviewed in connection with the survey said was the solution to our constitutional ignorance.

Results of the Newsweek Survey

The results of the survey were abysmal. Seventy percent of the 1,000 citizens surveyed by Newsweek couldn’t correctly answer the question “What is the supreme law of the land?” Nearly one-third could not identify even one branch of government, sixty-one percent didn’t know the length of a U.S. senator’s term, and sixty-three percent couldn’t name the number of Supreme Court justices on the bench.

Surprisingly, even when it came to rights, the results were no better. Forty-eight percent could not define the Bill of Rights. With respect to the First Amendment, 37 percent could not name one right guaranteed by the First Amendment, forty-eight percent could only name freedom of speech, and only fifteen percent identified the freedom of religion.

As bad as our constitutional ignorance is, the reasons given by “experts” for our ignorance were worse.

Complexity of the U.S. Political System

According to Newsweek, “Most experts agree that the relative complexity of the U.S. political system makes it hard for Americans to keep up. . . [W]e’re saddled with a nonproportional Senate; a tangle of state, local, and federal bureaucracies; and near-constant elections for every imaginable office (judge, sheriff, school-board member, and so on).” While we do have too many bureaucratic agencies, the gist of the so-called problem is we are no longer able to understand a constitutional structure that folks 200 years ago were able to understand. In other words, the Constitution itself is the problem.

Decentralized U.S. Education System

According to a political scientist at Yale, another “big” factor “is the decentralized U.S. education system, which is run mostly by individual states: ‘When you have more centrally managed curricula, you have more common knowledge and a stronger civic culture.’” So, again, our ignorance is a result of the Constitution itself, namely the principle of federalism embodied in the Constitution that knowingly left education up to the states (and failed, I might add, to include an “enumerated” power authorizing a federal Department of Education).

Those Troubling Free Markets

Of course, there were indirect attacks on the Constitution as well.

For example, according to Newsweek, “it doesn’t help that the United States has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world, with the top 400 households raking in more money than the bottom 60 percent combined.” This problem, of course, is caused by our “complex” structure of limited and broadly dispersed governmental powers that was designed, in part, to protect us from the tyranny that so easily flows from the redistribution of wealth by benevolent politicians who know how much money we should have.

And the last “hitch” is our free market system that creates a “reliance on market-driven programming rather than public broadcasting, which, according to the [European Communications Journal], ‘devotes more attention to public affairs and international news, and fosters greater knowledge in these areas.’” In other words, we need fewer free market news outlets and more PBS news programs dependent on funding from politicians in Washington.

Gubernatorial Candidates and Educational Reform

As I read this information, I couldn’t help but think about the statements by our gubernatorial candidates about education, which they all want to “improve.” One theme seems to come through from all of them: We need educational reforms so we will have the workforce we need to strengthen our economy. I am all for jobs and for a strong economy, but I believe education is about far more than that.

For one thing, as demonstrated above, our educational system must restore a right understanding of the constitutional structure on which our nation rests and help students cut through the nonsense of the “experts” like those above who think the Constitution itself and not enough federal government is the problem.

In fact, I would argue that the material success we’ve enjoyed as a nation and our politicians want to further is because of our Constitution and its structure, not in spite of it, as these modern “experts” imply. And if that is true, then our continued ignorance regarding that constitutional system, which opportunistic politicians have banked on to manipulate education and interfere with our economy, will only lead to more so-called “income inequality.”

Therefore, I hope our gubernatorial candidates think education is about more than supporting our economy. And if so, I hope that somewhere along the line they will lay out a vision for what they believe a good education actually is and how their proposed solutions support that vision.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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the devastation that a hurricane can do

Hurricane Stories Help Us Identify Our Worldview

Like most Americans, I’ve been keeping up with the hurricanes that have recently wrought so much destruction to the shores of Texas and Florida. And I have found three hurricane-related news stories particularly interesting because they have approached this weather phenomenon from three completely different worldviews.

Naturalism

The first worldview statement was found in this Tennessean headline: “Science Explains Why Hurricanes Even Exist.” The article went on to say, “Simply put, hurricanes are the atmosphere’s attempt to move heat from the warm equatorial regions toward the cold polar regions.” This is naturalism, the worldview that says everything can be explained in terms of purely natural causes. There can be no supernatural element to the phenomenon we experience and observe.

But the article only explained what hurricanes do; it didn’t explain what produced the conditions that caused the hurricanes.

In this regard, as C.S. Lewis wisely observed in God in the Dock, the laws of nature relied on by scientists to explain hurricanes only describe “the pattern to which the movement of [something] must conform. Provided, of course that something sets [it] in motion. And here comes the snag. The law won’t set it in motion. . . [H]owever far you traced the story [of the movement] back you would never find the laws of Nature causing anything.”

Pantheism

At least pantheists are smart enough to see the limitations of science when it comes to ultimate causes, and it was actress Jennifer Lawrence who articulated that worldview. She said, “You know, you’re watching these hurricanes now, and it’s really hard . . . not to feel Mother Nature’s rage and wrath.”

This is a classic statement of pantheism. Nature is divinized by using capital letters in reference to nature (“Mother Nature”) and by ascribing to it purposes and personality through the words “rage” and “wrath.” The very notion that nature could exercise judgment is to attribute to it a uniquely human capacity.

But real pantheists—who are consistent with their worldview—have no basis upon which to distinguish good from evil or God from the physical world, because all is one. And, thus, Ms. Lawrence really has no basis upon which to judge any aspect of the hurricanes as good or bad in any real or meaningful sense or to differentiate between the physical effects of the hurricanes and God’s ultimate purposes.

Theism

And, finally, actor Kirk Cameron gave expression to the theistic worldview that sees God as Creator, distinct from His creation, but sovereignly controlling and directing all things toward an end that reveals and is consistent with the moral perfections He is.

Cameron said, “When he puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random and we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance.”

Scripture bears this out. In Psalm 147:17-19, notice that the psalmist draws no distinction between the “word” that provides the cause for acts in nature and the “word” of revelation in the laws given to Jacob (Israel): “He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel” (KJV).

Sadly, many Christians are embarrassed by the clear import of such verses. They seem so unenlightened in our scientific age, but as Lewis noted, science can’t show how things “get a move on.” And, unlike the pantheist, whose worldview makes no differentiation between God and nature, the Christian can judge the physical effects of the hurricanes as actually and really horrible while still believing “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB).

The point, however, is that we all have a need to explain and make sense of what goes on around us. And, in these three stories, we find the only three worldview explanations of ultimate reality that are available to us. So, if you want to know what your worldview really is, just find the explanation you would be willing to defend in public.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Sign that reads, "Immigrants make America great," President Trump against the U.S. flag, and the Mexican flag

DACA, ‘Dreamers,’ and My Dream

This week President Trump began the process of winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) that was instituted by President Obama by executive order. The program prevented the deportation of those adults who are not here legally but were brought to the United States as children by parents who were not here legally. “Dreamers” are essentially those who want Obama’s executive order to become law through the DREAM Act (short for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act). Well, I have a dream, too.

Let me preface my dream with a few observations.

Who Is to Blame?

First, the children of those brought here by their parents’ illegal entrance into this country are not culpable in the decision to enter illegally. Though the average age of “Dreamers” covered by DACA is estimated to be between 22 and 25, they did not create their illegal status of their own volition. Unfortunately, however, children often bear the “sins” of their parents.

Second, the child’s parents aren’t the only ones having a measure of culpability in creating their child’s illegal status. While there will always be families here illegally, the magnitude of the problem is the result of failures by past presidents and Congresses to uniformly and routinely enforce our immigration laws.

Third, notwithstanding the “sins” of those who created the problem, no dependent child should be deported without his or her parents being deported as well. However, at some point the child becomes an adult and is, in fact, here illegally. Of course, Congress can exercise its legislative power to bestow citizenship or some other form of legal status on them or provide a means by which they can lawfully obtain citizenship status, and that brings me to my next point.

Congress is inept, irresponsible, and willing to shirk its constitutional duties to avoid making tough decisions—either by taking steps to “encourage” or demand presidential enforcement of existing immigration policy or by changing the policies that define an illegal presence in our country so as to conform to current practice. Thus, Congress was willing to let a president get by with an unconstitutional executive order.

What Is the Dream?

So, with all that being said, what is my dream? It’s that someday we will have presidents and members of Congress who have at least a limited understanding of the rule of law and will take it seriously.

If they will not believe in the real rule of law—that civil laws should have as their foundation and be judged for their rightness by the laws laid down by our Creator God—then may they at least believe in a rule of law that requires them to adhere to the Constitution, with presidents not doing the work of the legislature by executive order and Congress challenging unconstitutional usurpations of its power by the executive branch.

Dreaming With My Eyes Wide Open

But right now, it seems that other things are more important to a number of us than even a constitutionally-based rule of law. Many business owners don’t care about the rule of law, for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that rescission of DACA could lead to the deportation of employees and, of course, those deported would be consumers of their goods. Republican leadership doesn’t seem to care about the rule of law, because the rescission of DACA puts them on the spot with the DREAM Act, the passage of which might irritate the Republican electoral base that elected President Trump. Democratic leadership doesn’t seem to care about the rule of law because rescission of DACA eliminates benefits that appeal to their electoral base.

Thus, I suspect that my dream will go unrealized for the time being, at least until the rule of law regains its rightful place in the minds of a majority of us, and we have candidates that we can, in good conscience, vote for who understand and govern according to the rule of law. But if others can dream, then so can I.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Nashville Statement

Will You Affirm or Deny the Nashville Statement?

This week a group of evangelical heavyweights met in Nashville and released a document called the “Nashville Statement.” It speaks to the issues of human sexuality rooted in the psalmist’s declaration that it is God “who has made us, and not we ourselves.” Not just the content but the structure of the statement itself was important. Its structural importance was brought home by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s response to it.

As one would expect of evangelicals, the Nashville Statement affirmed the creational goodness of the sexual complementariness of male and female. It affirmed sexual intimacy in the context of marriage.
But the basis for those affirmations was rooted in a keen and fundamental insight contained in the Statement’s preamble:

Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.

In other words, if God made us bodily male and female, then that distinction is important and related to human flourishing within God’s created system, His “beautiful plan.” If the difference is simply due to random genetic mutations that could have been otherwise, then we are free to import our own sense of meaning into those distinctions.

It is nothing less than a particular application of what I said last week about history, namely, that “if Genesis is not history, then that . . . changes everything.”

Thus, the Nashville Statement is instructive and worth considering at the profound level of what we believe about origins, one of the foundational philosophical issues with which man has grappled since antiquity.

The Necessity of Denials

But the structure of the Nashville Statement is important, too. In 1987, very similar affirmations were made in something known as the Danvers Statement, but what is different thirty years later is the affirmations made in the Nashville Statement are accompanied by a corresponding set of denials.

In other words, the new Statement not only says we believe X, but that X means we deny and do not believe X’s opposite. In other words, if we believe God made us male and female and what He made is good, then we deny that to disregard God’s design is good. If sexual intimacy was designed by God for expression in the marital context, then we deny that sexual intimacy by other means and in other contexts is good.

Here’s the point: Affirmations and denials are now necessary because we live in a culture that can increasingly hold to contradictory positions. We uncritically say we are against all discrimination, and then discriminate against those who don’t believe that. We urge everyone to be tolerant of others, but we can’t tolerate those who don’t.

The point is that Christians need to increasingly say not just what we believe but make clear that what we believe also means we don’t believe other things. More and more, we don’t like to do that because it feels judgmental and puts other people on the spot. It makes them choose sides.

Mayor Barry’s Response

And that leads me to Mayor Barry’s response to the Nashville Statement. Mayor Barry tweeted that the Statement “does not represent the inclusive values of the city (and) people of Nashville.”

Perhaps it does not. But that Mayor Barry responded is significant. The Statement was theological in nature, not political, so by responding, Mayor Barry, consciously or unconsciously, recognized that the theological always has implications for the political.

And so, with its inclusion of denials, the Nashville Statement left Mayor Barry with no room to accept its affirmations and still politically embrace homosexual marriage and sexual self-identification.

Taking Sides

Mayor Barry has clearly taken a side that is consistent with the premise in the Preamble that “human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.”

That, of course, is her prerogative, but it also means she has taken the side that says we were not created by God or that God’s creational design in making us male and female is not meaningful or important to our human flourishing. Otherwise, as a matter of brotherly love, she would not use the law to encourage confusion in regard to that which she believed would undermine human flourishing.

And that’s what Jesus and the Gospel do when presented rightly; they make us choose a side. So, thank you, sponsors of the Nashville Statement, for leaving us no room for fence-straddling on one of the most pressing issues of our day.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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