wallet and ultrasound of baby

Pro-Life Pocketbooks Speak Louder Than Words

If you vote Republican, then you’ve probably noticed that no Republican runs for office in Tennessee who is not pro-life. So, how might a voter in a Republican primary know which Republicans are pro-life in word or deed? Here are some thoughts when it comes to the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Last week I urged readers to be wary of endorsements by political candidates, particularly those from outside the state, and provided links for those who wanted to verify the veracity of what I said. But what about PAC endorsements?

The Value of PAC Endorsements

Unlike endorsements by politicians, organizations with PACs generally only support those who are true to their particular cause. The candidate an organization endorses may be horrible on every other issue you care about, but that organization believes the candidate to be strong on its issues.

The Shortcoming of PAC Endorsements

One shortcoming with a PAC is it tends to favor an incumbent who has a strong voting record on that PAC’s issues over political newcomers. Newcomers may prove to be good to their word, too, but a “tie” almost always goes to the office holder whose word has been backed up with a strong voting record.

There is a good reason for this. Many newcomers who talk strong on the campaign trail wilt under the spotlight when it’s time to vote on a bill. I’ve seen it so many times.

How That Applies to the Governor’s Race

When it comes to the Republican primary for governor, National Right to Life and Tennessee Right to Life have both endorsed Diane Black. What does that mean if you’re a pro-life voter?

Given my 17-year working relationship with Tennessee Right to Life on the pro-life amendment on Tennessee’s ballot back in 2014 (Senate Joint Resolution 127 that became Amendment 1), its endorsement doesn’t just mean that it believes Diane will do the right thing on pro-life legislation and administrative policies if push comes to shove; it means Diane will be in the foxhole with them when the abortionists start shooting.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Randy Boyd, Beth Harwell, or Bill Lee are not pro-life or that they would not be strong when pro-life legislation is under consideration, but except for Harwell, Lee and Boyd have no track record upon which an endorsement over someone like Diane could be made.

Is there, then, any additional way to evaluate the seriousness of the pro-life claims of Black, Boyd, Harwell, and Lee? Yes.

Show Me the Money

There’s an old saying, “Put your money where your mouth is” and, so, I took the time to review all the financial reports showing contributions in support of the biggest pro-life political issue and campaign in the history of our state—Amendment 1—to see who among the gubernatorial candidates put their money where their pro-life mouths are.

Now, I am mindful of the “widow’s mite,” and I appreciate that a $100 contribution to the Amendment 1 ballot measure campaign may be more sacrificial for some people than $50,000 from another. But when I consider that Randy Boyd and Beth Harwell have so far put over $10 million and $3 million, respectively, in personal funds into their campaigns to be governor, I find it interesting that their names don’t show up on any of those contribution reports. Not one time; not one personal dollar.

Perhaps Boyd didn’t know about the largest pro-life issue and campaign in the history of our state, but that shows a significant level of disconnectedness from the pro-life cause he professes, if you ask me, particularly considering he lives in Knoxville, which has one of the strongest and most active Right to Life chapters in the state. That chapter was extremely active in the push for Amendment 1.

Beth Harwell’s PAC did give $1,000 on October 28, 2013. The Harwell PAC is funded by some individuals, but mostly lobbyists and their PACs, not Harwell personally. The balance in the Harwell PAC at the time of her $1,000 contribution was more than $560,000. Thankfully, the amount given to Amendment 1 was greater than the $873 she spent from her PAC on “flowers/gifts” during that same reporting period.

Oh, it’s the same PAC from which Harwell spent $175,000 back in February bolstering her name recognition for her gubernatorial campaign by touting her service as Speaker.

As to Bill Lee, his company did contribute $1,000, and he personally contributed another $10,000.

Diane Black made a personal contribution of $250,000.

Hopefully, pro-life Republicans now have more information by which to judge the pro-life bona fides of Republican candidates running for governor.


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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endorsing a candidate

Be Wary of Politicians Bearing Endorsements

I just gave some friends advice on deciding whom to vote for. One of my suggestions was not to give too much credence to endorsements by “political personalities.” One of the reasons I don’t give them much weight is demonstrated by the endorsement of Randy Boyd by my friend Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas.

In that recent television advertisement, Huckabee shares a “secret” about what all politicians know—that “politicians” who attack people like Randy Boyd do so for the sake of their own political power—or words to the effect. In other words, don’t believe what a politician says about Boyd. Of course, I guess that admonition could apply to Huckabee’s endorsement, too, since he’s held office and run for president twice!

I’m not here to say that any particular attacks made by a politician are or are not true, but having been in politics myself, I’m going to take a turn at sharing a “secret” about endorsements by politicians, even those made by Huckabee, that voters may want to know.

How Huckabee Came to Endorse Me

In 1994, then Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee, through a series of truly providential contacts, flew to Chattanooga to endorse my candidacy in my primary against a 26-year incumbent state senator. So, of all people, I appreciate his willingness to weigh in on a primary.

But here is what I know about that endorsement. Huckabee supported me because a friend of Huckabee’s friend happened to be my friend! After connecting us, I spoke with Huckabee by phone for about 20 minutes and gained his endorsement. That was that.

I am forever grateful to God for Huckabee’s confidence in those who connected him to me, but here’s the point—politicians may endorse people without knowing much, if anything, about the person or the person’s opponents. And, at times, they may endorse a candidate in order to simply help a friend they trust.

Who Was Huckabee Trying to Help?

Applying this to the present situation, I don’t know how much Huckabee really knew about Randy Boyd; but I do know he is good friends with Boyd’s campaign manager, who was his own campaign manager in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. It’s not the first time Huckabee has endorsed a candidate being managed by his former manager.

How much that friendship weighed in his endorsement is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it was significant because some things that are public knowledge about Boyd seem inconsistent with Huckabee’s values, both as a pastor and a politician.

Did Huckabee Consider Boyd’s Connection to LGBT Advocate Tennessee Thrives?

Boyd’s business, Radio Systems Corporation, was one of the early, if not among the first, members of Tennessee Thrives, an organization that Tim Gill’s Freedom for All Americans, a Washington, D.C.-based LGBT rights advocacy group, helped launch. Its members believe, “Tennesseans must support policies of inclusivity and nondiscrimination.” (emphasis supplied)

That sounds good, but let me translate what it really means: The organization’s members are and have been opposed to any legislation that protects the natural family relationships between (and even definitions of) husbands and wives, and a child and that child’s biological mother and father (i.e., opposing laws that would keep judges from redefining marriage and what constitutes a mother and a father in relation to a child).

The organization’s members oppose the law that protects Christian counselors from losing their license if they make a referral to another counselor when they cannot in good conscience encourage clients in their pursuit of same-sex relationships.

Apparently, Boyd’s business agrees with what Tennessee Thrives says on its website, that commonsense laws like these are discriminatory and make Tennessee a bad place in which to live and work.

Did Huckabee Consider Boyd’s Support for Pride Day?

I also have a feeling that Huckabee didn’t know that last month, LGBT Pride Month, Boyd and his wife used their Knoxville restaurant to “host” (their word, not mine) “Dine out with PRIDE.”

Certainly, Boyd and his wife should serve every customer who enters their restaurant’s door; but allowing one’s business to serve as “host” venue for an event promoting pride in a homosexual lifestyle is quite another thing.

Given that Huckabee championed the pro-marriage values of Chick-fil-A’s owners a few years back, I bet even he would say it’s a bit incongruous to now support someone who uses his business to support the agenda of those who redefined marriage.

So it would appear that Boyd has committed to advancing and supporting the LGBT political agenda through Tennessee Thrives and his Knoxville restaurant.

These are things I doubt Huckabee knew. Maybe they wouldn’t have made a difference in his evaluation; but knowing his values, I think it’s possible.

You can make of them as you wish, but that’s why I advised my friends: Be wary of politicians bearing endorsements. They just may not have all the facts or may be doing a favor for a friend!


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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God's arm trying to touch mankind's arm over an image of the White House and a man praying in the pews

The Cure Humanism and Humanistic Evangelicalism Can’t Provide

This week I end my series on whether America is dying—and it is—and the cure for its death—the Church again proclaiming the sovereignty of God over all things and the depth of humanity’s depravity. Of course, that answer is an anathema to Enlightenment thinkers who espouse human autonomy and the sufficiency of human reason to solve our problems. However, why it’s the solution may also be unintelligible to many evangelicals. So for both camps, let me explain why I believe it’s the cure.

The other week I spoke of the sovereignty of God as applied during the Reformation from the sociological or anthropological side of life, us looking up vertically toward God from the muck.’ But the sovereignty of God over His creation also changes the way we see things horizontally, the world around us.

How Does God ‘Relate’ to Society?

Here is where another break came in Christendom and even among Protestants: Do we relate to God directly or indirectly?

The former came to mean that all spheres of society—the individual, the family, private associations, and civil government—relate to and are directly accountable to God for how they function.

The latter meant those same spheres relate to God indirectly, either through the Church or through a king claiming “divine rights.” This is what gave birth to the struggle over who is in charge on earth—an ecclesiastical establishment or its titular head or the state.1

But when we understand the breadth of God’s sovereignty—that it applies to all things—and we believe that there is only one mediator between God and His creation—the incarnated second Person of the Triune God, Jesus the Messiah—then we don’t bifurcate the world into sacred and secular spheres, and the original and historic tension between “church and state” dissolves.2 Neither is “in charge” of mediating the relationship between God and the rest of the world; only the sovereign God is in charge and both church and state, along with the other spheres, are directly accountable to Him for how they carry out their respective God-given responsibilities.

How God’s Sovereignty Affects Our Interactions With Others

It is in this comprehensive, direct application of the sovereignty of God that we find what I last week called the most democratizing idea in history when it comes to how human beings understand and relate to one another. To me, it is beautiful. Abraham Kuyper, theologian and Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the early 1900s, put it more beautifully than I ever could:

[When] our entire human life [is placed] immediately before God, then it follows that all men or women, rich or poor, weak or strong, dull or talented, as creatures of God, and as lost sinners, have no claim whatsoever to lord over one another, and that we stand as equals before God, and consequently equal as man to man. Hence we cannot recognize any distinction among men, save such as has been imposed by God Himself, in that He gave one authority over the other, or enriched one with more talents than the other, in order that the man of more talents should serve the man with less, and in him serve his God. Hence [it] condemns not merely all open slavery and systems of caste, but also all covert slavery of woman and of the poor; it is opposed to all hierarchy among men; it tolerates no aristocracy save such as is able, either in person or in family, by the grace of God, to exhibit superiority of character or talent, and to show that it does not claim this superiority for self-aggrandizement or ambitious pride, but for the sake of spending it in the service of God. (emphasis mine)

Why We Reject the Harmony God Intended

There are probably few who would denounce such a beautiful picture of human understanding and interaction.

However, it describes a life that finds its focus and meaning in God, not in one’s circumstances, position, or power, and that God, because He is the Creator of and Sovereign over all things, insists for our own good that our lives and everything that our human lives produce—civil laws and policies, educational institutions, arts, entertainments, marriages, families, private associations—be as in accord with His creational and moral laws as possible on this side of eternity in order that this beautiful harmony can come to pass.

That, of course, is the rub. From the beginning, we have not wanted to bow the knee and submit to God in all things. We want to live, individually and corporately, by our own laws, at least in certain areas of our lives. We want the laws that we think will bring about the dignity and harmony for which our hearts long. That’s at the heart of the Enlightenment, but that’s not in accord with the true light of the world.

The true Light has come into the world, and the problem is that “men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). All I can say is “Sovereign God, would You give us a new love, one by which we want to embrace the Light that will get the muck out of our eyes?”3

 


NOTES:

  1. “The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment.” Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833). (emphasis mine)
  2. As I told a new friend of mine the other day, we do not have a church-state issue in America anymore as it was that kind of “establishment” issue to which the First Amendment was directed. Our Founders never intended to prohibit religious beliefs from informing the value judgments by which we would frame our laws, and that’s why we also have the First Amendment’s free exercise clause and the ban on religious tests.
  3. While Jonah Goldberg in Suicide of the West submits that the principles of the Enlightenment led us out of the muck, the growing embrace of identity politics and socialism that he laments comes from the same poisonous root. “Radical egalitarianism,” a product of the individualism that grows out of human autonomy, “necessarily presses us toward collectivism because a powerful state is required to suppress the differences that freedom produces. That raises the sinister and seemingly paradoxical possibility that radical individualism is the handmaiden of collectivist tyranny. This individualism . . . attacks the authority of family, church, and private association. . . . The upshot is that these institutions, which stand between the state and the individual, are progressively weakened and their functions increasingly dictated or taken over by the state. The individual becomes less of a member of powerful private institutions and more a member of an unstructured mass that is vulnerable to the collectivist coercion of the state. Thus does radical individualism prepare the way for its opposite.” Robert H. Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah. That’s another reason why Enlightenment thinking is a dead end—it always vacillated between chaotic individualism and tyranny. (emphasis mine)

Read the series of commentaries responding to Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West:


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.

hands of God and a gleaming cross

Why ‘Returning’ to ‘Christianity’ Isn’t Stupid

Today’s conservative-thinking adherents of the Enlightenment’s emphasis on human autonomy and the sufficiency of human wisdom are trying to figure out how to reverse what they perceive to be America’s slow march toward death, at least as the nation we have known. I’ve suggested that we give up Enlightenment thinking and return to a belief in the sovereignty of God. Here’s what that means and why it’s not ‘stupid’ to return to it.

Enlightenment Principles Are a Dead End

What conservative Enlightenment thinkers have failed to recognize is that political liberals hold to the same fundamental principles as they.

The only difference between the two groups is that conservative Enlightenment thinkers like those applications of human autonomy and reason that lead to outcomes they prefer, while liberal Enlightenment thinkers like the applications that lead to the outcomes they prefer. But they have no reason to think that their outcomes are actually better than those of liberals. The whole point of human autonomy is that each person gets to pick the interpretation of human autonomy that leads to the outcome (values) he or she likes best.

Thus, it’s ironic that humanistic thinkers have a hard time finding common ground, because they stand on the same fundamental ground! But absent an absolute to which all should adhere, social order collapses into millions of “sovereign” selves. Human autonomy is a social-order dead end.

The Only Alternative

The only alternative to human autonomy is the autonomy of God, or what Christians would call the sovereignty of God. But probably most Enlightenment thinkers would think this is simply a call to the kind of Christianity with which they (and many Christians) are most familiar.

However, the Christianity of which I speak was born of the Reformation, which preceded the Enlightenment. It helped produce the core values upon which Enlightenment thinking feasted. At the core of the Reformation was the sovereignty of God.

At that time, the sovereignty of God was asserted in connection with the issue of justification—how one is put back in good standing with God—and it was the line of demarcation in the Christendom of Europe between Catholic and Protestant theology.

Both Catholics and Protestants believed that, as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s rejection of God, their descendants were born with a disposition by which they would exercise their free will only in a manner that was hostile to God. That is what Luther called the bondage of the will. This is the “muck” about which I spoke last week.

The question was how to get out of the muck, be free of that bondage. Luther and then Calvin and the Protestants who followed in their train said there was nothing we could do to “save” ourselves and that God alone could set our wills free so that we would actually desire and choose the things of God.

That God would actually choose to provide a means of salvation even though such was not incumbent on Him or deserved by us was the gospel, the “evangelon” from which we get our word “evangelical.” As I’ll explain next week, these twin pillars of Protestantism also constitute the most democratizing idea in the history of the world.

Which Christianity?

Unfortunately, many modern evangelical churches don’t seem to say much anymore about these Reformation-articulated doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s “depravity.” It makes too much of God and not enough of man for people steeped in Enlightenment thinking, and when that happens, the gospel’s good news succumbs to the humanistic thinking of the Enlightenment.

One evidence of this is that many church leaders, if they are honest, are concerned that someone might not get “saved” if the quality or style of the music isn’t in keeping with what people want to hear or the experience they want to have. Preachers’ sermons need to have a sufficient amount of charisma or polish if they are going to “work.” While those things aren’t bad, per se, it’s humanistic to the core if it creeps into our minds that salvation depends on something other than God—the right “environment.”

One popular mega-church preacher was pretty straightforward about it: “When they come to my church, or our meetings, I want them to be lifted up. I want them to know that God’s good, that they can move forward, that they can break an addiction, that they can become who God’s created them to be.”1 Perhaps his words were just poorly chosen, but it sure sounds like what God wants and lifting up Christ is secondary. It sure sounds like, to be changed, you just have to get “pumped up” on Sunday.

But such deviations from the Christianity of the Reformation explain why it’s not “stupid” to return to Christianity, because, I’m not talking about a Christianity that’s just humanism wrapped in Bible words and that I think is seen for what it is by both conservative and liberal Enlightenment thinkers.

Don’t Christianity’s ‘Warts’ Militate Against it?

The answer to that question is no.

Christianity, like all other belief systems, had to mature and develop as Christians came to better understand the Scriptures on which they rely for their understanding of the world and the human condition. Then they had to mature in their understanding of the implications of that worldview and how it applies to the constantly changing world in which we live. I, for one, still have a long way to go in this department.

No doubt, Christians have zigged and zagged during this process of maturation, as I believe we’ve now done with our modern versions of the “Christian” humanism with which the Church has always struggled. We’ve even made some horrible mistakes.

However, in this regard, we are no different from Enlightenment thinkers as they have tried to work out and apply their belief system. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that belief in human autonomy and human reason has a history, too. Enlightenment principles produced Stalin and Mao Zedong, both of whom did some pretty awful things working out and applying their god-less philosophies.

So, Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and often corrupted. So many just gave up on it. And many Christians, not seeing the results they envisioned in a timeframe suitable to them, like the Israelites waiting on Moses to come down from the mountain, tried to help God along a bit, this time by trying to tone down the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man to appeal to “enlightened” thinker. But that doesn’t mean that those doctrines—that understanding of Christianity—isn’t the answer. Next week I’ll speak to how that is so.

NOTES:

  1. https://www.christianpost.com/news/joel-osteen-talks-preaching-sin-materialism-and-coming-out-in-support-of-gay-marriage-111212/

Read the series of commentaries responding to Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West:


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.

hands of those from different cultures on the backdrop of the American flag with the Mexican flag fingerprint

The Intersection of Family and Immigration Enforcement

Last week I was commended by someone because my commentaries stuck to the Family Action Council of Tennessee’s focus on state laws and policies directly affecting the nature of marriage, the integrity of the family unit, the sanctity of life, and religious liberty. I was also chastised by someone for not speaking to federal “asylum” policies that separate “infants and children” from their parents. Today, I will speak to a federal issue—immigration—while trying to stay in my lane.

As it turns out, my critic wasn’t interested in asylum but in the enforcement of our immigration laws, a wholly different issue. What he was really interested in were my views on how President Trump is handling the prosecution of an adult who is here illegally when that adult’s child is also here.

The Problem of Intersecting Jurisdictional Claims

While that is still a federal issue, I will go outside my lane of state policy because this federal issue provides an opportunity to speak to a broader issue with which I do have to work—the intersection of different legitimate jurisdictional authorities and competing justice claims.

I believe it is within a nation’s God-given jurisdictional authority to protect its borders. I also believe it is within the God-given jurisdictional authority of parents to raise and nurture their child according to their value system.

Of course, there can be situations that militate against an unlimited exercise of that authority by either jurisdictional authority, and as in the case of immigration policy, those two jurisdictions can collide.

The Issue Not Debated

There is probably much I don’t know about our immigration policy and its enforcement, but here is what I’ve not seen debated: What’s the difference between separating a parent and child when it is the result of enforcing one type of law—immigration law—and separating them when it’s the result of enforcing other types of laws, such as those against murder, theft, or assault?

Is it any less heart-breaking or any less of an injustice to the child in the case of the latter than the former?

So, how do we, or even can we, distinguish between border laws and these other types of criminal laws so that we would be correct to say that an injustice is done to the child when separated by criminal laws regarding borders but no injustice is done to the child when separated by these other types of criminal laws? The adult, however, is not being done an injustice in either situation; in both situations, the adult has broken the law.

But in answering this question, we also have to realize that all laws establish a kind of border, a border that protects the law-abiding from the non-law abiding.

We do an injustice to the law-abiding citizen when those who do not abide by the law are allowed to do so with impunity. So why is it an injustice to an innocent victim of assault if the violation of assault laws are ignored, but not an injustice to those who abide by the rigor of the immigration laws if violators of those laws are not prosecuted?

These are hard questions on which few want to engage. I suspect it is because no one wants to be viewed as hard-hearted or against the family and the integrity of the family unit. But sometimes we fail to see that our choices in these hard matters are not just about whether to enforce the law or disregard existing law.

Possible Solutions?

As I understand it, the separation complained of here is caused by the fact that federal law does not allow minors to be incarcerated with adults pending the outcome of the adult’s prosecution, and for good reason. But those reasons can give way if there are other ways of handling the situation that allow for just distinctions.

For example, we allow some people to be paroled but require monitoring bracelets that allow them to be tracked and reapprehended if necessary. Could that not work here pending trial so that the adult could stay with his or her child?

We also incarcerate DUI offenders in very low security group-type facilities (not differentiated cells), which most likely segregate minor offenders from adults. Given the number of immigration enforcement actions, could not the facilities be outfitted to hold only adults with their minor children pending trial? We already have facilities that separate different types of adult offenders, so why could this not be one more type?

Both of these solutions do no injustice to the incarcerated adult who has no child here vis-à-vis the adult who does have a child here. The freedom of the adults in all these situations is in some manner restricted, but the presence of the child provides a justifiable basis for distinguishing between the ways in which those restrictions are handled.

The Bottom Line

The issue is probably more complicated than I’ve pictured it, and maybe my suggestions won’t work. After all, this isn’t my area of expertise. But here is my point: When either/or thinking leads only to outcomes that appear to produce an injustice—disparate treatment without identifiable distinctions between those in similarly situated circumstances—then it just may mean we need to think (and pray) more.

Neither party in Congress has done enough thinking on this issue for way too long, other than to think how its non-resolution can be used to score political points against the other.


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.