Alabama's Judge Roy Moore

Is Alabama’s Senate Race a Harbinger of Things to Come?

It seems to me that our country is becoming increasingly chaotic, violent, and fractured. I think I’m finally beginning to grasp what, at root, is happening, and if I’m right, I think the electoral plight of one politician may give us some insight into where we’re headed.

Last year I read this statement written in 1959 by Roland Van Zandt, “America’s French Revolution has awaited the twentieth century.” 1

Was America Rooted in ‘Enlightened’ Thinking?

The context of his observation was that our studies of American history have largely “ignored” the philosophical battle taking place in the latter 1700s between Christianity and ideas of the Enlightenment. While Christianity emphasized a Creator God and the necessity of revealed truth as the foundation for building up a nation and civilization, the Enlightenment held that God, if He even existed, was really irrelevant to everyday life and that reason alone was a sufficient guide in the building up of a nation and civilization.

Van Zandt asserted that America had escaped enough of the catastrophes of the French Revolution that Thomas Jefferson was able “to reassert his, and America’s, continued faith in the philosophy of the Enlightenment” through his assertion in the Declaration that there are “self-evident truths.”

I’ve always liked that statement in our Declaration, but as Van Zandt suggested, I’d never given much thought to the fact that it might rest upon a belief in the sufficiency of human wisdom to know the truth without revelation, and that such a belief would ultimately lead to the irrelevance of that revelation’s God.

The Heart of the Revolution

Then last Sunday afternoon I was reading a book written in 1847 by Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer. I found this statement very fitting given Van Zandt’s statement and the fact that this month marks the 500th anniversary of what is called the beginning of the Reformation when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg:

The [French] Revolution ought to be viewed in the context of world history. Its significance for Christendom equals that of the Reformation, but then in reverse. The Reformation rescued Europe from superstition; the Revolution has flung the civilized world into an abyss of unbelief.2

Putting these two statements together, I think we would have this proposition, and it’s a conclusion to which I’m increasingly being drawn: While many of our Founders were professing Christians, the seedbeds of the chaos that unbelief and reliance on human wisdom that the French Revolution produced were planted early in our country’s formative years, and our revolutionary chaos was still to come; it was just a matter of time if we allowed them to take root and grow.

If my conclusion is correct, I think Van Zandt was telling us those seeds took root and grew; he just missed his prediction by about 50 years.

Understanding the Struggle and the Solution

Then van Prinsterer said this, which touches on the political sphere in which I’ve spent most of my adult life:

The [French] Revolution doctrine is unbelief applied to politics. A life and death struggle is raging between the Gospel and this practical atheism. To contemplate a rapprochement between the two would be nonsense. It is a battle which embraces everything we cherish and hold sacred and everything that is beneficial and indispensable to church and state.3

The parallel to what I’ve observed in American politics is compelling. The problem in modern American politics is that those who deny the God of the Gospel and His revelation and those Christians who are perhaps very pious but deny God in the realm of politics as a “practical” matter are largely the ones now governing us.

This problem is reflected, at least in my experience, in the fact that too many, if not most, of our Christian politicians (and too many Christian leaders) are consumed with the attitude of “rapprochement” which, according to Webster’s, means the “establishment of or state of having cordial relations.”

I don’t think van Prinsterer meant that incivility in discourse is required. Rather, I think he meant that if cordiality means we will seek solutions to our problems only on the terms and conditions imposed by the purveyors of unbelief and practical atheism, we will never stem the tide of the “French Revolution” that is swelling in our country.

How Would You Vote?

It is for that reason I was captivated by Judge Roy Moore’s public statement the other day:

This is an awful moment for our country. Should I keep back my opinions in such a time as this, I would consider myself guilty of treason toward my country and an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.4

While other politicians in Washington may believe what Moore believes, he was willing to say it—that there is a “majesty of heaven” to be revered and that he will bow before none who would seek to ascend to that high place.

Roy Moore’s politics is the politics of “belief” in the God of heaven and not “unbelief,” whether of the real or practical kind.

Now I ask this question: Would his statement make you more or less likely to vote for him or for a politician in Tennessee like him?

Your answer might just provide a clue as to which side you are on in the “struggle . . . raging between the Gospel and . . . practical atheism.” And if enough Americans say his statement would deter us from voting for him, then maybe we better get ready for the revolution.

NOTES

  1. Roland Van Zandt, The Metaphysical Foundations of American History (Mouton & Co. 1959), p. 72.
  2. Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, Unbelief and Revolution, p. 14.
  3. Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, Unbelief and Revolution, p. 7.
  4. “Alabama’s Roy Moore to Christian Summit: We Need to Make America Good Again,” FOX News, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/10/13/alabama-s-roy-moore-to-christian-summit-need-to-make-america-good-again.html.

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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expecting mother shows ultrasound image

What Makes the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act a Good Law?

I found very interesting some of the arguments made by members of the U.S. House of Representative in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Those arguments reminded me of a debate I had on Amendment 1, the pro-life amendment on the ballot back in 2014. Much is revealed by the different approaches to the issue of life.

Getting to the Fundamental Issue

In 2005, a Jewish women’s political organization came to my legislative office to discuss Amendment 1. They said they appreciated my religious convictions regarding Amendment 1 but didn’t think I should allow my religious views to influence public policy.

I told them that I would be happy to speak with them about the issue without reference to my religious beliefs, so I suggested that if we could come to an understanding of what it was we were aborting, then we could more easily discuss the moral and ethical issues surrounding the medical procedure involved with abortion.

To that end, I asked them, “What is it we are aborting? Is it a human being?” To make a long story short, they said “it” was a “potential human being.”

I then probed the meaning of the word “potential.” I asked if, by potential, they meant there was a point during gestation in which the essential nature of that which had been conceived changed from something other than a human being into a human being. To bring clarity to the question, I then asked, “Although in every known instance of pregnancy a woman has delivered a child, a human being, by ‘potential human being’ did you mean a woman might deliver something else?”

Their answer, “Well, no. Of course not. What we mean is that under the Talmud, until a baby is quickened…” and it was at this point I cut them off. You see, they had turned to their religious beliefs to answer the fundamental question, “What does it mean to be human?”

Is Alleviating Pain Fundamental?

I share that story because, in supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, we must not let the act’s opponents avoid the fundamental issue: Are we talking about a human being? In other words, is the bill good simply because we shouldn’t inflict pain on an unborn child, or is it good because we are talking about the death of an unborn child, whether he or she feels pain or not?

This is critical. If an unborn child could be painlessly given an anesthetic prior to the abortion, would that then make it okay? If pain is the only issue, then the answer is yes.

Why a Biblical View of Life Matters

In our effort to achieve a particularly good result, the pro-life community must not lose sight of its goal, namely, a restoration of a biblical understanding of what it means to be human, a view of humanness that can alone stand at all points in opposition to the various reasons given by abortion proponents for their view.

We cannot win the long war for life if we make our arguments only on the premises or grounds that abortionists get to set ahead of time. If all we can argue is “science,” then we’re not arguing on the only ground that will make a fundamental difference, long-term, in the argument.

I’m reminded of what Abraham Kuyper, a noted theologian and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said in the late 1800s:

There is no doubt then that Christianity is imperilled [sic] by great and serious dangers. Two life systems are wrestling with one another, in mortal combat. Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature; while, on the other hand, all those who reverently bend the knee to Christ and worship Him as the Son of the living God, and God himself, are bent upon saving the “Christian Heritage.”

From the first, therefore, I have always said to myself,—”If the battle is to be fought with honor and with a hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed against principle; then it must be felt that in Modernism the vast energy of an all-embracing life-system assails us, then also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life-system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power.

Similarly, respect for human life and abortion are “wrestling with one another” in what is truly “mortal combat” with respect to the unborn. Abortionists have a view of humanity that they have “constructed” in which they can decide when human dignity attaches. The pro-life community has a view of humanity grounded in the transcendent Creator God and human dignity is grounded in having been made in His image.

Consequently, “if the battle is to be fought with honor and with hope of victory” as Kuyper writes, then we must “take our stand” in a “life system” in which the pro-life’s fundamental principle is made to stand against that of the abortionists. We must never lose sight of that fact.


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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Las Vegas sign and automatic rifle

Diagnosing the Las Vegas Massacre

Twenty-four years ago, I was diagnosed with a physical malady with which I would live the rest of my life. I couldn’t help but think about that as I read about the shooting earlier this week in Las Vegas and some of the reactions to it.

Diagnosing My Condition

It was in April 1993 that I first experienced an itchy scalp. My barber suggested a change in shampoo and turning down the hot water in my shower a bit. Didn’t help; it got worse.

Later that year I went to my first dermatologist. He gave me a topical cortisone cream for the rash. Relief came only temporarily. The condition returned every time once the cream was gone.

I then turned to a new dermatologist in town who had been an internist. It was his background in internal medicine that I believe helped him diagnose what turned out to be an intestinal disorder for which the rash was simply an external manifestation. A change in diet was what I needed; the condition persists, but it’s manageable if I watch certain foods.

I tell that story because I can’t help but wonder if we’re not misdiagnosing the problem manifested by the Las Vegas shooting. I wonder if our malady lies deeper than what appears on the surface.

Diagnosing the Shooting

On the surface, much of what I read in response to the Las Vegas shooting was about gun control. A country music performer who had always opposed gun control now says it’s needed.

But basing a diagnosis or remedy on public opinion is tricky. A few days earlier, a number of people in Nashville were praising the right to carry because a young man had used the gun he retrieved from his car to hold hostage a man who began shooting people in his church.

It could be that the Las Vegas shooter was simply mentally deranged, and had he not had a cache of guns, had there been more control over the sale of certain types of guns, he’d have found some other means by which to kill innocent people.

Three years ago, a different suicidal man here in Tennessee intentionally drove on the wrong side of the freeway looking to kill himself in a head-on collision. He succeeded, and killed a good friend’s wife and daughter in the process.

Unstable people do unstable things, though the number of people they may be able to harm at any one time may be greater or less.

But the worst and perhaps most telling responses came from two members of the U.S. House of Representatives and a Vice President of CBS. The former callously refused to acknowledge a moment of silence for the victims because of the Republican Party’s views on gun control, and the latter said, by text message, “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc [sic] country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”

Diagnosing the Diagnosis

When I read comments like those, spoken at a time when so many are grieving, I can’t help but believe we’ve misdiagnosed our problem.

I believe our problem is rooted in the fact that our culture, on the whole, has lost a sense of the sacredness of human life, resulting in callousness toward it. And how could we not have such a loss when we have made ourselves the measure of all things and deny that there is a Transcendent Sacred in whose image our lives have been created?

I know the three individuals I have cited do not speak for everyone and perhaps only for a small percentage of us, but is their indifference for life reflected in the timing of their heartless comments any different, in principle, from that of the Las Vegas shooter?

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21, 22 NKJV).

We know the answer to my question about how indifferent the two U.S. Representatives are regarding the value of all human life. On Tuesday they both voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, which would ban abortions from being performed 20 weeks or more after fertilization, except when the pregnancy is a result of reported rape or reported incest against a minor, or is necessary to save the life of the mother.

And if we don’t see a text or comment from the CBS executive urging the U.S. Senate to concur in the House’s vote, then how ironic it will be that she prefaced her text about the Las Vegas victims this way, “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered, I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing.”

Silence from her on H.R. 36 will probably mean, as with the two Representatives, that only the murder of innocent children in our schools, not in the womb, matters to her.

Yes, when we’re indifferent to killing innocent children in the womb or killing innocent people in the streets of Las Vegas, I think we’ve misdiagnosed our problem. It’s more than skin deep.


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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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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