a photo of Phil Bredesen from 2007, Phil Bredesen sticker, Democrat donkey

Don’t Cast a Naive Vote for U.S. Senate

One thing I know from 12 years in the Tennessee Senate and another 12 years trying to work with the General Assembly is party politics and how it affects what legislators do. So, with early voting starting this week and a hotly contested U.S. Senate race on the ballot, here’s what I have to say to those who say to me or to you, “I vote for the person.”

Let me be straight up: I really don’t like party politics. To me, it’s a necessary evil. I identify as Republican because the totality of that party’s policy positions offends my conscience less than identifying as a Democrat with its policy positions.1

I don’t like party politics because I’ve experienced it as a person who ran against an incumbent, establishment Republican; as a member of a party’s legislative caucus; and as a lobbyist who has been tromped on by party leaders and had legislation be met with stony silence in committee rooms by legislators who were afraid to buck their leaders.

So, I tell you this from experience: Feel free to vote for who you want without considering the candidate’s party, but don’t think party politics will not come into play if your chosen candidate gets elected.

And for the following reasons, I don’t think Phil Bredesen will be an exception.

My Background With Bredesen

I served in the state Senate during the first four years Bredesen was governor. I have no strong feelings about him personally one way or the other. I found him a thoughtful person in regard to a number of matters.

In fact, I suspect his demeanor and air of thoughtfulness, along with some of the policy positions he took as governor and some he did not take, might lead some voters to believe he will be the breath of fresh air and independent spirit that he talks about on television.

But my thought is that voters should not make too much out of what he did as governor.

‘Reforming’ TennCare Proves Nothing to Me

Yes, Bredesen, once elected governor, did cut tens of thousands of people from the TennCare program, our state’s Medicaid expansion program, and there were some Democrats who were mad at him about that. But let’s put that supposed display of party “independence” in context.

Bredesen was elected after four years of nasty tax fights in the state Legislature. It was an awful four years, and I lived through the whole thing. But a few months before Bredesen was first elected, then House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh forced the House to vote on a personal income tax.

As an alternative to an income tax, the Legislature, in the spring/summer of 2002, passed a 1% sales tax increase and adjusted some other taxes to provide somewhere over $700 million in new revenue for the next governor to work with, Bredesen as it turned out.

But what Democratic leaders found out during the 2002 legislative session is that even the majority of Democratic party voters (at least at that time) hated the income tax. In November’s elections that followed, Democrats got a better dose of reality when their incumbents who voted for the income tax began to pay the price at the polls.

Unfortunately, TennCare’s appetite for money continued unabated following the legislative session and election cycle. So, despite the influx of new revenue, Bredesen was left with only two ways to “fix” TennCare: cut the rolls or pass an income tax either to supplement the sales tax increase or to replace and supplement the sales tax increase.

Given the political bloodbath that had just preceded him, the only thing Bredesen could do was cut TennCare. That is why the Democratically-controlled House and Senate did not resist his efforts to do so. They knew what the real alternative was!

So, don’t be fooled into thinking Bredesen’s “reform” of TennCare is some kind of evidence that he’s willing to make hard decisions that buck his own party. His party leaders didn’t want another push for an income tax and, in a few years, the prior push cost them the majority in both chambers of the state Legislature.

Bredesen Didn’t Push Divisive Social Issues

Some may think Bredesen is “safe” because he won’t be too bad on social issues like abortion and making one’s sexual activities a protected civil right. Some may even think he’ll protect religious liberty. They most likely think that because he didn’t make a big deal of these issues as governor.

Again, don’t assume too much.

During the first four years Bredesen was governor, he didn’t have to deal with any of these issues because the Jimmy Naifeh-led Democratic majority in the House killed anything that social conservatives were for. So, Bredesen never had to dirty his hands on those things. Never had to address them or veto them.

His last four years, Republicans had a slim numerical majority in the House, but quasi-Republican Speaker Kent Williams made sure two of those four years were “bi-partisan,” meaning he treated the Democrats who elected him speaker well. Committees were evenly balance and nothing controversial could still get through to Bredesen.

And remember, prolife legislation was largely off the board because the Tennessee Supreme Court had made legislation on that topic taboo under the state’s constitution.

Concluding Thoughts—The Viciousness of Party Politics

You can reject what I’ve just said, but don’t ever think that the Democratic Party and its leaders in the U.S. Senate won’t do everything in their power to put Bredesen in their hip pocket and make him toe the party line. His asserted independence and seeming disinterest in divisive social issues will not last long, if at all.

For 24 years I’ve seen how caucus leaders in both parties can punish those who are not loyal. It’s very real here in Tennessee, and I have no doubt it’s much worse in D.C.

You’ve been forewarned. Vote wisely, not naively.

NOTES

  1. For an entertaining take on Republicans from a conservative Christian viewpoint, check out Stupid Elephant Tricks: The Other Progressive Party’s War on Christianity by a friend of mine.

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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screenshot of video featuring protesters banging on Supreme Court doors and a photo of Brett Kavanaugh's swearing in

Was Kavanaugh the End or Beginning of a Revolution?

As I watched video of people banging on the doors to the U.S. Supreme Court chambers while Justice Kavanaugh was being sworn in last Saturday, I couldn’t help but wonder, am I witnessing the end of the first American revolution or the beginning of a new one?

Over the last few years, I’ve heard talk about the beginning of a revolution in America, either a revolution against our current form of government emblemized by the protesters caught on video last Saturday or one instigated by those fed up with them. But I wonder if both views are wrong.

How to Define a Revolution

There are many ways one might determine whether a revolution is taking place. If a worldview approach to the question is taken, we must compare the worldview of those who we think may be revolting to the worldview of those who formed our social order and framed our civil government.

If the contemporaneous worldview is the same as that on which our social order and civil government were laid, then there is no revolution even though things may seem to be in turmoil. The turmoil, in that case, is just an outworking of the original worldview’s implications.

The Worldview That Defined the American Revolution

No doubt, most of our Founders had what Christians would call a basic Christian worldview. They believed in a Creator God, that rights came from that God and not the civil government, and that fallen (sinful) people were predisposed to liking autonomous power that they could corrupt and would corrupt to the extent possible.

So, they articulated the first two points in the Declaration of Independence and listed some of those rights in the Bill of Rights.

The third point they enshrined in the U.S. Constitution by creating a mixed form of civil government. They divided power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches; created dual sovereigns in the form of state and federal jurisdictions; and provided various checks and balances in regard to the branches of government and the dual sovereigns.

Did the Founding Fathers Sow the Seed From Which We Now Reap?

But our Founders, particularly Jefferson and Franklin, were not immune from their own times and the influence of Enlightenment thinking, which exalted the power of man’s reason and minimized the effect of the biblical doctrine of the Fall on man’s reason. It made man’s reason autonomous and the need for revelation in the day-to-day affairs of man unnecessary.

We see this Enlightenment influence in the Declaration of Independence’s reference to self-evident truths. The signatories got the part about the source of rights correct but didn’t do so well in the part about truth being self-evident. The truths to which they held were only self-evident because they presumed the biblical story of Creation and the Fall.

As long as that presumption had rather broad currency among our people, then things proceeded without insurmountable upheaval. But all that changed when, in 1859, Darwin began to put the creation story to flight among the Enlightenment crowd and when it was no longer self-evident that one person should not own another as a piece of property. The Civil War ensued.

Then, in 1925, the Scopes trial prompted evangelicals (then called “Fundamentalists”) into a full-scale retreat. Many thought they could “protect” Christianity by relegating its truth claims to a personal, spiritual closet where what they believed didn’t have to do battle with the evolutionary streams of thought that had begun to infiltrate the natural and social sciences and the law.

Without God to constrain the conceits of autonomous reason (called “vain thinking” in the Bible), people were free to reason their way to anything. They could even divorce the thoughts of their minds from the objective realities about which their minds thought; in other words, someone like me thinking I am a woman despite what my biological reality tells me I am.

America’s ‘French’ Revolution Coming to a Head

The anti-God, Enlightenment thinking that fueled the French Revolution ended with its leader, Maximilien Robespierre, being subjected to the guillotine, and its terror was only brought to an end by the tyranny of Napoleon.

With respect to America, in 1959, historian Roland Van Zandt wrote, “America’s French Revolution has awaited the twentieth century.”1 And I think he was right, though off by maybe 75 to 100 years or so.

With the pounding on and screaming at the U.S. Supreme Court’s doors, an America revolution isn’t starting; the old one is headed into its final stages. I think what we’re seeing is the inevitable consequences of an error in our Founders’ thinking, though seemingly small in view of how much they got right, but error nevertheless—trust in the autonomous reason of man.

The question in my mind is whether the chaos that comes in the death-throe thrashings of that revolution will be greeted by a tyranny worthy of Napoleon or a reformation worthy of Luther in Germany and a great awakening worthy of Jonathan Edwards. I’m praying for and working toward the latter.

NOTES

  1. Roland Van Zandt, The Metaphysical Foundations of American History (Mouton & Co., 1959), p. 72.

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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Judge Kavanaugh with daughters, photo of wedding, and photo of a baby

Is Abortion Really THE Issue Regarding Kavanaugh’s Confirmation?

Over the last few weeks we’ve learned that Democrats fear and conservatives hope that Brett Kavanaugh, if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, will provide a fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, prevent a president (Trump, in particular) from being indicted while in office, and limit the deference that courts have been giving to federal agencies that expand government and grow the law by their rule-making power. But it’s what neither of them said is a fear or a hope that concerns me most.

I can’t count the number of times in recent weeks that I’ve heard conservatives, particularly Christian conservatives, say that the issue in regard to his confirmation is abortion, that it is the reason Democrats and political liberals have gone to such lengths to thwart his confirmation.

The Fear Not Heard

What I’ve not heard from Democrats is any concern that Kavanaugh would join the four dissenters in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision to overturn its rejection of the millennia-old understanding that marriage involves a man and a woman.

I suspect the reason we’ve not heard much, if anything, about this possibility, even from those who define humanity in terms of their sexual attractions, is that we’ve not heard much, if anything, about it from Christians, the one group that should have a strong theological reason for wanting to see that decision overturned. Why is that?

I’m tempted to answer by saying some not-so-charitable things about the leadership within the Christian community and the growing embrace of gay theology, but I will assume the best and attribute the silence to the fact that Christians don’t understand what Obergefell really did that makes Roe v. Wade pale by comparison. Yes, Obergefell is worse than Roe.

So, now I will tell those who have not been listening why that is so: Obergefell did not just impose on our nation a new understanding of marriage, it imposed a whole new understanding of what it means to be human, one that spits in the face of what God has said about those whom He created.

Redefining the Image of God, Not Just Marriage

When the Court eliminated the male-female aspect of marriage and de-sexed it, the parties to that marriage necessarily had to be de-sexed, too, at least in the eyes of the law. Humanity itself was reconstituted and recreated in androgynous terms for the purpose of marriage.

As a good friend of mine has said, when the human person is redefined with respect to the societal institution that has always anchored our understanding of what it means to be male and female, we have hit rock bottom when it comes to our social order.

In other words, Obergefell is not the beginning of a slide down some slippery societal slope, as if there remains a question of how much further down the moral abyss our social order will descend; rather, it is a question, as my friend says, of what will fly out from it. Picture what takes place when the blast from the rocket’s engine hits the base of its launching pad.

The speed at which the transgender rights movement has taken off since Obergefell is but one example. And well it should have because, after Obergefell, biological differences are constitutionally and legally meaningless.

Worse yet, because this unbiblical anthropology was cemented into our Constitution, no one will be able to escape its ramifications. In time, not even the institutional Church will escape from it, at least with respect to the preservation of its tax-exempt status.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Bob Jones University what happens to a Christian organization’s tax-exempt status when its religious beliefs about interracial dating, an activity not protected in the Constitution, runs afoul of constitutional rights and the constitution’s understanding of what it means to be human ethnically speaking.

Why Dred Scott and Roe Pale in Comparison to Obergefell’s Understanding of God’s Image

We must put Obergefell in context with other groundbreaking decisions regarding boundaries grounded in our understanding of what it means to be human and made in the image of God.

In Dred Scott, the Court denied the image of God rooted in the fact that He has made “of one blood all nations of men”1, and it substituted for that truth a false boundary between people based on levels of melanin in their skin.

In Roe v. Wade, the Court denied that we were “formed in the womb”2 and that even there we bore the image of God, and it substituted for that truth a false boundary based on the level of development or location between two biologically different and distinct human beings.

Obergefell denied that the distinction between male and female was required by God to fully express His image in us, particularly notable as the one place in the Creation story in which God stopped and said something wasn’t good. This is the most fundamental boundary from which future life springs (Roe) and the diversity of races has sprung (Dred Scott). It was abolished. Entirely.

Obergefell Will Undermine Life and Deny Ethnic Differences

Because of Obergefell, life in the womb will have to be cheapened. Children will increasingly be seen, at least constitutionally speaking, as those whose lives are manufactured artificially simply to meet the emotional and dignitary needs of adults in intrinsically sterile relationships.

And if biological ties are constitutionally insignificant for the purpose of the family, the most fundamental unit of society, then in time differences as to race and ethnicity cannot be constitutionally significant either. Those boundaries, too, are dependent on the continuity of biological reproduction, and besides, if we’re androgynous biologically, then logically that androgyny must be carried through to every part of our human identity. All of what it means to be human must change.

Comparing the Consequences of Denial

With Dred Scott we saw what happened when the image of God was denied; a horrible war tore us apart. Hundreds of thousands of American’s died, more than in any other war.

Since Roe v. Wade, we have seen what happens when the sanctity of life is denied; millions of our fellow Americans have died and been prevented from bringing to our lives the contributions they would have made as God’s image bearers. Now a culture of death, euphemistically known as “death with dignity,” is beginning to envelop us all.

Now, we will see what happens when the law constitutionally discards the image of God reflected in the distinctives of male and female. I suspect it will be much worse.

NOTES

  1. Acts 17:26. In the Greek, the word translated “one man” in the NASB version of this verse is actually εἷς αἷμα, which literally means “one blood.”
  2. Psalm 139:13

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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July 9, 2018 - President Trump nominates Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Weighty Issues Associated With Judging Kavanaugh

Being a “public figure” who has had to leave my home with my family because of escalating threats that ended with a death, emails using every profanity and expression of ill will I could conceive, and lampooning by cartoon editorialists who think they know me but don’t, my heart broke as I observed yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee “hearing.”

I know my experiences pale in comparison to what Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh have experienced over the last ten days and in having aspects of their personal lives played out before a nation. It is easy for those who have never experienced any open and public vitriol not to appreciate the effect of such things on people in their zeal to achieve a certain desired political end.

I know there are those who would say I don’t care about people or certain communities of people because they are offended by the public policies for which I advocate and, because those policies run counter to their beliefs and practices, they take them as a personal attack. I understand that, and such comes with the territory.

Getting to the Truth

But we must remember that we will always have public policies touching on matters of human sexuality and thus, in principle, it’s as right for one side of a policy position to be offended and feel attacked as it would be for the other side. So, it is not personal in the same way as one person accusing another person of a particular sexual assault.

Dr. Ford’s accusation was a direct, personal charge of wrongdoing against one particular person, Judge Kavanaugh. If her recollection is accurate, she alone was the victim of sexual assault, and he alone was the perpetrator. If she is lying, then Kavanaugh is the victim of character assassination, and she is the perpetrator. And if her recollection as to the identity of the perpetrator is just an honest mistake, then there are only losers, Kavanaugh having the most to lose because he is now unemployable among a large percentage of those who would otherwise employ him.

I don’t think we’ll ever know which of the three scenarios is the truth. It would be easy for some to assume Dr. Ford has misidentified her perpetrator because none of those who she says were there recall the party, let alone the act, including her female friend. And those on the other side will have their reasons for explaining why none of those identified as being present or involved remember the event.

Furthermore, if the goal of further investigation by the FBI is to conclusively vindicate either Dr. Ford’s memory or Judge Kavanaugh’s character, then that is not going to happen. Justice Clarence Thomas has not had any allegations of sexual impropriety brought against him over the 26 years since he was confirmed, yet, as we’re now seeing, Anita Hill’s charges against him will always be associated with his name.

The Weightier Issues of Biblical Justice and Mercy

As I thought about how these matters could have been investigated in a more confidential manner to protect the innocent, whoever it is, and listened to the Senate wrangling over notations in a high school notebook over flatulence and vomiting in a high school yearbook, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the story in Matthew 23 in which Jesus condemned the Pharisees. Jesus noted that the scribes and Pharisees tithed beyond what the law required, tithing even the contents of their spice rack—mint, dill, and cumin. However, it wasn’t going beyond what the law required that Jesus condemned, but rather the fact that they “neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (v. 23 NASB).

I believe Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh really have been made pawns for the sake of a political matter in which at least some senators have made true justice and real mercy the victim. People who believe a wrong cannot ever be “lived down” and that “repentance” cannot be demonstrated by exemplary character for more than three decades have no concept of mercy. What they really want, assuming they really deep down believe a wrong was done 36 years ago and they are not just politically motivated, amounts to vengeance, paying someone back, and in that way, justice also suffers.

In the end, I couldn’t help but think of what the Psalmist said in Psalm 130:3, “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand” (NASB)?

May God save us from ourselves.


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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Dianne Feinstein and a lit match

Did Feinstein Cast the Stone That Strikes the Match?

I never was very good at using a stone flint to start a fire, but by casting a “stone” at Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Feinstein may have thrown the flint that starts the fire that burns down what’s left of our Republic.

As I watched the unfolding of the events last week surrounding the accusation that thirty years ago an allegedly inebriated high school student by the name of Kavanaugh had tried to force himself upon a fellow female student at a party, I couldn’t help but think of two different stories—the burning of Rome, and the story of how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery by the local Pharisees.

Rome’s Burning Aids Nero

We’re probably all familiar with the story that Rome burned while Emperor Nero played his fiddle. Though veracity of his fiddle concert is historically questionable, it is true that Nero was power-hungry and ambitious.

One of his most grandiose plans was to tear down as much as a third of Rome in order to build an elaborate series of palaces to be known as Necropolis. The senate, however, objected ardently to this proposal.

We don’t know if the fire was Nero’s form of “slum” clearance, but we do know the conflagration allowed for the construction within the city of Domus Aurea, Nero’s majestic series of villas and pavilions as part of a landscaped park and a man-made lake.

Feinstein May ‘Burn’ More Than Kavanaugh

Whether Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues intend to torch only Kavanaugh’s confirmation or use this last-minute fireball to burn the structures that form our Republic so they can build a new structure more to their liking, I don’t know.

But I do know that the maintenance of our increasingly fragile Republic depends on good, honorable people being willing to serve in public office. But who, in the years to come, will be willing to serve if any moral failing more than 30 years in the past and, moreover, in the context of one’s youth, will be ushered before the public eye with the candidate’s wife and children in tow?

I ran for office 24 years ago this summer and I remember, even then, before the incredible partisan ugliness of today, having to think through what I may have done or said during the first 36 years of my life that would make running not worth the potential for embarrassment and public shaming.

Thankfully, a few scuffles—“boys being boys,” if such is okay to say anymore, that took place while attending an all-boys school—were the worst of my visible sins. I knew I was clear in regard to drugs, alcohol, and women. But I had to replay my life to that point just to make sure.

But today our politicians are not beyond getting people to fudge the truth or lie outright if it will serve their purposes. Now, I’m not saying such is the case with Kavanaugh’s accuser, and if her allegations are true, then strong consideration should have been given to criminal sanctions against him. But Feinstein’s motivations are sure questionable given the time she’s had to bring up these accusations and have them evaluated.

The Point With the Woman Caught in Adultery

Which brings me to the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman outlined in John 8:1-11. Familiarity with the story has obscured part of its moral force. Jesus was not letting the woman off the hook with regard to being accountable for violations of the moral law, as many today are wont to say, but rather putting the Pharisees on the hook for their own failure to keep the moral law.

That’s why when Jesus told those of the Pharisees who were without sin to cast the first stone, they all walked away. We like to think we’re righteous, and to justify our righteousness, we compare ourselves to others, rather than the real standard—God’s law. Under that standard, we’re all condemned. But the Pharisees, though they knew they stood condemned, left, leaving for the woman mercy and grace they, too, needed.

The grace of God is the hardest thing in the world for sinful, self-righteous people to understand. In fact, they don’t understand it. Only those who, by grace, have come to see just how Holy God is and how far short of that holiness they fall have experienced it.

Ironically, those who haven’t experienced grace are usually the ones who want to throw the stones, though Christians do the same thing when they lose sight of the “breadth and length and height and depth of grace” (Ephesians 3:18) and embrace again the notion that the Christian life means gritting their teeth and making themselves righteous (Galatians 3:3).

Are Any Senatorial Pharisees Casting Stones?

Bringing up a singular act more than 30 years ago that, even if true, clearly does not reflect on the current character of Kavanaugh or the course of his life since that time makes me wonder about all those senators, Democrat and Republican alike, who think this should now disqualify him from service.

I suspect that most, if they are honest, have something in their distant past that, if revealed, such as accuser Senator Corey Booker’s teenage sexual groping escapade, would be at least highly embarrassing if not constitute an outright moral failing. But unlike the biblical Pharisees, these senators are arrogant enough to throw the stone.

But if the stone they are casting at Kavanaugh is flint and it “hits” their mark, it could just cause the spark that burns down the shaky but vital bridge between maintaining our Republic and the willingness of decent, honorable candidates to run for office if they have even one moral failure in their remote past.

If so, we may soon find ourselves left with a choice between two power-hungry candidates who care more about the power they hope to gain than any damage their already damaged character may sustain.


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

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.