Who Am I Voting For?

Rarely a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me what I know about a candidate running for office. I am honored by such inquiries. I also feel the responsibility that comes with any response I give since my response may affect that person’s vote.

As the leader of a nonpartisan, not-for-profit educational organization, I do not make endorsements. As the primary election draws closer, the number of inquiries I am receiving for some “insider insight” has increased, and I cannot physically respond to everyone. So, what can I tell you?

Well, I can share my thoughts about what I look for in a candidate for a particular office. So, that’s what I’ll be doing over the next few days. I will do so unapologetically from a Christian perspective, based on what I understand from Scripture.

The debate on whether that is appropriate is for another day.

Looking for a ‘Preacher’ or a Politician?

When considering a candidate, the first thing I look for is whether the person in word and deed demonstrates an understanding of the fact that they are a “minister” of God. Yep, a thought that would send chills down the spine of any liberal and a number of don’t-talk-about-religion preachers in our state. But, hey, the thought is not mine; it’s the apostle Paul’s. But am I looking for a candidate who could preach a good sermon?

No, I’m not. What I’m talking about is found in Romans 13:3, 4, in which the ruler or magistrate is referred to as the diakonos of God. That word is one from which we get our church word, “deacon.” It’s a word often translated in the Bible as “minister.” But it’s also one that is often translated “servant,” and it is in that sense that I actually use the word when considering who I will vote for.

“Minister” is actually a good word, but it too often carries the connotation of a “preacher” who is trying to convert someone to Christianity. I would hope that any Christian, politician or not, would contend for the faith and seek to bring about a “conversion” in the lives of those with whom they are in relationship. However, it is not the “job description” of an elected official, as an elected official, to “convert” anyone into becoming a Christ-follower, particularly when it comes to using the power of the state to do so.

But if the Bible is to be accepted as revealing spiritual realties, then this word diakonos must mean something. Here are my thoughts. There are three.

Accountability

First, it conveys the thought that an elected official does “ad-minister” an authority or power that ultimately and in a final sense belongs to God who has, in His providence, allowed a measure of that authority to be delegated to a civil ruler.

What all this theology and doctrine mean is that I’m going to look for a person who knows that there is an accountability beyond the ballot box, an ultimate accountability to God. It is an understanding reflected in Article IX, Section 2 of our state constitution that provides that “no person who denies the Being of God or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.”

Candidates that believe they are only accountable to voters will compromise their values and their principles when it is politically expedient to do so. We’ve seen plenty of that through the Tennessee Waltz and through the way Republicans AND Democrats have governed in Washington. They will become poll-watchers, putting up their finger to feel the current of the political breeze. I’ve had my fill of those kinds of politicians.

Source of Values

But secondly, and related to what I just said, if the person understands he is accountable to God, it also tells me that he is more likely to believe that he must exercise the power he holds in a way that is consistent with the values of the one from whom that power has been received. In other words, it might give me some insight into whether that candidate believes God or a public opinion poll determines good and evil. A politician who understands his or her accountability to God is less likely to be guided only by opinion polls. He or she is probably not going to be too excited about explaining votes to God by handing Him an opinion poll. I don’t think God cares about opinion polls.

All this is probably a bit foreign to someone who has not read history or who has been trained only by political liberals, but these thoughts are sprinkled on the pages of history and reflected in our current governing structure and documents. The examples are too numerous to mention, but the very idea of a republic is to avoid the tyranny of majority opinion. The reason why U.S. Senators were given six-year terms instead of two like Representatives was to mitigate the blow of whatever majority opinion may be prevailing a that particular moment in time. And even the oath your state legislator takes makes the legislator accountable to his or her own judgment, not just an accurate reflection of public sentiment: “I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people …” (Article X, Section 2, emphasis added).

Attitude of the Heart

But thirdly, a candidate that understands this should reflect a servant’s heart. Christ in laying aside the glory that was his to take on the form of a man set the supreme example of servant’s heart. Too many elected officials get the big head, and it becomes all about them (which makes my first two thoughts even more relevant).

What to Look For

So, what do these thoughts mean for me in a practical way? I want to know about a candidate’s spiritual life. I am wary of campaign rhetoric and try to look behind the mere words the candidate speaks. The “good” politician will know what his or her audience wants to hear. That doesn’t mean the politician doesn’t mean what is being said, but I try to be on guard—even with rhetoric that I happen to “agree” with.

  1. Does the candidate’s life reflect an understanding that they are accountable to God in a final sense? This can show up in lots of ways beyond what they may say on the campaign trail. For example, what kind of church is the candidate involved in? Has the candidate ever referenced a personal accountably group, and what kind of people is the candidate accountable to? What is the person’s charitable giving practices and involvement? The Book says that where your treasure is there your heart is also.
  2. Does the candidate’s tone and demeanor reflect a servant’s heart, or is there an element of arrogance or pride? Is there any sense of humility? Does he speak of others in a condescending way?
  3. Does the candidate refer to doing the “will of the people”? And, if so, is it said in such a way as to provide insight into whether the candidate is driven merely by public opinion or by firmly held and articulated principles?
  4. Does the candidate’s rhetoric reveal an attitude that government is the solution to all our problems? Is there room to let God to be the solution to someone’s problem? If not, government can become god.

Word of caution: Don’t assume that if a candidate is not referencing the Bible at every campaign stop that the person doesn’t get this concept of diakonos. Remember that in Romans 17 we find the apostle Paul reasoning from the Scriptures when in the synagogue and referencing pagan poets when speaking to the gentiles on Mars Hill. Rather, ask yourself, “What message is the candidate conveying, what values are being communicated, and is it being done in a way appropriate to the venue/audience and in a tone that reflects the heart of an accountable servant?” Then consider the other “clues” above to better understand where that message comes from.

Independence Day 2010

History, they say, repeats itself, and there are sure signs that American history is repeating itself. In anticipation of the celebration of Independence Day, I read the Declaration of Independence again with one eye on what the signers of that document asserted and complained about and one eye on the United States I see today. The parallels are striking.

The Purpose of Government

Our Declaration begins with a premise that framed all that followed, namely, that only those rights “endowed by their Creator” were “inalienable,” among which were “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and that it was “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Destructive Government

Based on this premise, they believed that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

But, they said, when a government “had long been established,” the “right to alter or to abolish it” should not be exercised “for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.“

Stopping ‘The Train’

There was, however, a tipping point that called for change: “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

And for them that “long train of abuses and usurpations” was demonstrated by “the history of the present King of Great Britain” that was “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” Listing their grievances, they declared to the people and to the nations that it was time for the colonies to make a change, and the official process of birthing the United States of America began on July 4, 1776.

A Comparison

So, on the day we honor those who declared and fought for our liberty in the face of “absolute Tyranny,” let us pause to reflect upon what has been taking place in our country and examine if history is repeating itself:

Declaration of Independence

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Today’s Congress and President

President Obama and the Congress essentially “forbidding” laws and actions securing our borders, a matter of “immediate and pressing importance,” because action will reduce the pressure to pass laws that essentially grant amnesty to people who are in the United States illegally (See U.S. Sen. Kyl’s statement.)

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
U.S. House passing health care reform after midnight on Christmas Eve, a process “fatiguing” the citizens and at a time so “unusual” and “uncomfortable” as to make it impractical for those supposedly being represented to engage with their representatives.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners.
Preventing the protection of the “population of these states” by “obstructing” laws to secure our borders.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Czars, Czars, and more Czars; Congressional creation of unconstitutionally authorized Departments and Agencies, and erection of an IRS Code so complex that we are “harassed” by its application and so burdensome that countless bureaucrats “eat out [our] substance.”
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.
The Presidents and our Congress abdicating our sovereignty to the United Nations and consideration of such treaties as The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, SALT Treaty, etc, all of which “subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution.”
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.
Expansive federal laws beyond the intended limited powers given under the constitution, increasingly reducing state governments to mere “agencies” and “administrators” of the federal government and abrogating their sovereignty; confirming Supreme Court Judges who rewrite our constitution by a “living” construction and look to international laws for validation of their rulings.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us.
Officially calling conservative Christians, gun owners, and other Constitution-loving patriots “terrorists” and racists and setting a tone of such incivility and name calling among themselves that, as a nation, we have become like them.
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
Presidents essentially “suspending” the policy-making prerogatives of the Congress through increasingly frequent Executive Orders, most recently undermining DOMA at every turn and now rewriting the Family and Medical Leave Act.

 

The brave founders of our nation said, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is [the people’s] right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

For them, on July 4, 1776, “the patient sufferance of these Colonies” came to an end and they said, at that time, “necessity … constrain[ed] them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

With so many striking parallels, will we ever reach the end of our “patient sufferance” and say, “No more” to those who lead us in Washington?

Revolution at the Ballot Box

By these words, some will no doubt call me a terrorist. They will accuse me of treasonous thoughts and words. But only thoughts and words they are, and absent a judicial rewriting of our Constitution, “speech” is still not to be infringed. (However, I must say that putting people on “terrorist watch lists” sure chills, if not infringes, on free speech by its ominous threat of government action.)

But hear me, everyone—I am not advocating action like our founding forefathers. Nor am I advocating violence or destruction of property. Indeed, we are blessed that by the brave actions of our founding fathers and by virtue of our wise Constitution, we do not need a bloody revolution; we need not take up arms. We just need to look at our present holders of federal office and wherever there is an incumbent, for whatever office, remember in November (and maybe in August primaries, too) this “long train of abuses and usurpations” and “throw off” those who have shackled us.

Paying the Price

Unlike our courageous forbearers, we do not have to pledge our very lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to rectify our situation. We just have to register and vote far more wisely than we have.

But, as they say, freedom isn’t free. There may be a price we have to pay, though not so severe as those who put it all on the line in 1776.

For example, to stand up and say “enough” to every incumbent who has stood for (or stood by during) these “usurpations” and to our fellow citizens who have advocated for these “usurpations” may mean we have to forego the “sacred honor” of the approval and praise they would bestow on us if we just went along with business as usual. We may be called names instead. But the “honor” I would receive from them I will gladly sacrifice if it means stopping this train of abuses. Will you?

Perhaps enraged liberals will threaten not to do business with you (see Washington’s response to Arizona immigration law and watch Governor Brewer’s reply!), and it might cost you a larger fortune. But is losing some of your potential fortune now for the sake of your children’s children not something worth giving up in view of the fiscal and moral bankruptcy we are handing them by our continuing silence?

If we remain silent and continue to allow Presidents and Congress to continue the course of the last 60 years, accelerated by our most recent Presidents and Congress, we may someday only be remembered in the history books as “the land of the free” because we ceased to be “the home of the brave.” May that never be because today we resolved to be the next “greatest generation” and fight for our country by speaking up and voting more wisely.

How to Destroy America

America’s greatest threat might not be from outside, but from within.

As we consider our nation’s future and the threats to our nation, we may not realize that the greatest threat is not war with foreign nations or being overwhelmed with illegal immigrants. If we think about what America really is, then our greatest threat might not be from outside, but from within.

The issue really turns on how you see America. Is America simply a plot of land over which nations might fight? Or is America an idea, one that can be killed by destroying or changing what it means to be American?

National PTA Turns to the ‘Left’ on the Way to Memphis

The national PTA has told a national organization that seeks to support and befriend ex-gays who are often ridiculed and harassed by proponents of the homosexual agenda that their organization’s values are not welcome at their upcoming convention. Perhaps it’s time to start a new parent-teacher association that respects the traditional family and the rights of those who do not want to see heterosexuality denigrated to just another form of sexual expression.

Today Memphis serves as host to the national Parent Teacher Association convention. I remember the PTA of my childhood, but an outrageous decision by the national Association has made it clear that it’s not the PTA most of us remember. It’s clear that the PTA took a sharp turn to the left on its way to the convention in Memphis.

The Parent Teacher Association was formed in 1897 by two women in Washington, D.C., who were concerned about the education children were receiving. It was originally known as the National Congress of Mothers. But over the years, as with so many other education-associated organizations, it has taken a hard turn to the left. And its recent treatment of another national organization, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), has made it clear that the PTA is interested in “teaching” a view of the family and human sexuality that is destructive to the traditional family.

According to its website, PFOX “supports families, advocates for the ex-gay community, and educates the public on sexual orientation.” It “promotes an inclusive environment for the ex-gay community, and works to eliminate negative perceptions and discrimination against former homosexuals. PFOX conducts public education and outreach to further individual self-determination and respect for all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation.” And it invites others to “join” in “our journey for truth, tolerance, and understanding.”

Not ‘Inclusive’ Enough?

Sounds like PFOX respects other views of human sexuality but encourages those others to be “inclusive” in their understanding of the challenges faced by those who desire to leave or have left the homosexual lifestyle. But PFOX is not “inclusive” according to the national PTA.

PFOX recently applied to be one of the many exhibitors at the PTA’s national convention that begins in Memphis this week. But in the letter denying the request, the national PTA said PFOX’s “mission, goals and objectives are not in harmony with the National PTA’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy.” The letter also said PFOX’s mission does “not align with our Association’s core values and beliefs.”

In other words, the national PTA doesn’t have as a value supporting people who have left the homosexual lifestyle and who, for having done so, can be vilified, harassed, and ridiculed. The national PTA doesn’t believe such people deserve support for their “self-determination.” Only those who “self-determine” in favor of homosexuality deserve to be supported and treated with respect for their acts of self-determination.

What PTA Really Means by ‘Inclusive’

Obviously what PFOX “teaches” is not what the national PTA wants students to be taught. Only approval of homosexuality is okay to be taught. And lest you think a wrong conclusion has been reached, then consider that the national PTA did permit Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to be an exhibitor. The national PTA is not neutral; it is only a “friend” to certain kinds of organizations who seek to befriend people who engage in homosexual behavior.

Several years ago, when the National Education Association embraced a radically liberal, anti-family agenda, many teachers disagreed with that agenda. It eventually reached the point that many conservative educators did not want to be perceived as being in accord with the view of their national organization or even the state version of that organization. So they started an alternative professional teachers organization.

No Comment from Tennessee’s PTA

Likewise, there are many good people involved in the PTA in Tennessee and many who would strongly object to the national PTA’s actions and its current “core values and beliefs.” But when the state PTA organization in response to our request for a comment simply said we have “no official comment because we are not a part of that process,” it sure leaves parents in Tennessee wondering where their state organization stands on whether it shares for our schools those same values. Their unwillingness even to say they don’t share that same philosophy or don’t concur in the decision, coupled with the fact that they are a part of the national PTA, at the very least fosters a perception that they support the national PTA in matters such as this.

Like teachers, perhaps it’s time that parents in Tennessee leave behind fond memories of a PTA from years gone by and form a new competing parent teacher organization that actually supports parents who believe in the traditional family. It’s time for those who don’t support such things to stop supporting such things.