political roller coaster

My Emotional Roller-Coaster Journey to Election Day

Judgment Day came for a number of political candidates yesterday. Having served in the Legislature for 12 years, I truly appreciate all those who offered themselves for our consideration, and I congratulate the winners. But, I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready for a primary season at the state level to be over. It was an emotional roller coaster for me.

In the final days before the primary election, I began telling people I didn’t know which was worse—being Joe Citizen and having to make decisions based strictly on television and radio ads and campaign mailers or knowing from my 24 years in state politics/government how much of what was being said was over-the-top, misleading, and sometimes downright false. Some of what I saw in the gubernatorial and legislative primaries was despicable, and it angered me, particularly given the Christian profession of some of the candidates involved and that of their campaign advisors.

Avoiding a Political ‘Risk’

On the other hand, it was disappointing, though not surprising, to see how few candidates at the legislative level were willing to answer basic questions regarding LGBT issues. At the gubernatorial level, The Tennessean ran a story on Monday that said, “The candidates [for governor] have largely remained quiet on matters surrounding same-sex marriage, policies affecting transgender people and how they would govern when it comes to legislation impacting the LGBTQ community.”

A long-time political advisor to many of Tennessee’s most prominent politicians said, “It’s a ‘political calculation about the risk involved’ that the Republican candidates have to make when deciding whether to address the issue” of the LGBT policy agenda.

Is Talking About LGBT Issues That ‘Risky’ in Tennessee?

When I read that, I had to ask: Why, in Tennessee, home of so many churches labeled “evangelical” and home to the national and even international headquarters of two prominent evangelical denominations, is it “risky” to talk about these issues?

Is our state really one in which it is “risky” for candidates who profess to be Christians to say to a population that overwhelmingly professes to be Christian at some level that:

  • liberty in our private relations is a foundational value that a government of free people should jealously guard and that behavior—in this case, who one has sex with—is not among the type of things the government should make a “civil right” and thereby give one private citizen the right to sue another private citizen for monetary damages?
  • there are real differences between men and women, and that acknowledging them in our law in regard to matters of privacy and child rearing does not demean either men or women, and it does not do so precisely because of their complementariness and interdependence on each other?
  • marriage is a real thing, though immaterial, not something “invented” by government laws; it is tied to objective biological realities regarding men and women, and it is not therefore discriminatory to say that marital relationships are different in kind from all other types of relationships, no matter how important or meaningful those other relationships might be?

Apparently so, based on the silence of so many and the trepidation of others.

What Campaign Tactics and Silence Tells Me

What the campaign tactics and silence on LGBT policy issues tells me is that we have serious problems within evangelicalism and more broadly within Christianity. The problems are complex and interwoven, but I believe that at their root is an increasingly inadequate doctrine of God among God’s people.

As I’ve written before, evangelical churches are increasingly moving away from doctrinal teaching about God and His sovereign prerogatives as God to a doctrinal approach that exalts personal feeling and experience.

When we don’t know at a truly fundamental, life-changing level what it means to say that God is sovereign, it shows up in practical ways. It shows up in campaigns that rely on emotional manipulation, which is rooted in deception. It shows up in silence and avoidance when it comes to issues of human sexuality and marriage, as my friend John Stonestreet so ably explained on BreakPoint this week.

In other words, this growing doctrinal weakness in evangelical thinking is not just a personal and private matter; it has public consequences.

The Unsettling Conclusion

Abraham Kuyper, an ordained minister and former Prime Minister in the Netherlands at the turn of the 19th century, wrote:

If a people is serious, its government cannot be light-hearted. A people that seeks God cannot be governed unless the [ruler] allows himself to be governed by God’s Word. The spirit of a nation and the spirit of its government may be distinct, but they are not hermetically sealed from one another. They interpenetrate. Thus if a government knows that enacting laws according to the demands of God’s Word will meet with reluctance and resistance, it will be tempted to go astray itself and burn incense before the idols of the day. (emphasis supplied)

If Kuyper’s assessment is true, and I believe it is, then what we’ve experienced this campaign season exposes a form of idolatry that seems widespread among us. And that breaks my heart.

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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7 replies
  1. Jim Buchanan
    Jim Buchanan says:

    It is high time for those who claim to be Christians to step up & say “Thus sayest the Lord”. Many of the people I know didn’t even vote in the last election. I campaigned for a local candidate and stood holding a sign on Germantown Road, in Germantown, TN last Thursday for 3 hours where according to some statistics that say that some 60,000 vehicles travel every day and only 7 cars pulled into the parking lot to vote. The apathy of many is alarming. I am a veteran and my son served in the Marines in Iraq for two tours. What did we fight for? There is very little little urgency coming from the pulpits today. II Chronicles 7: 14 is a KEY verse that must be prayed earnestly for this country to survive. It is time for those who profess Christianity to act like it & get involved!

  2. Juanita Johnson
    Juanita Johnson says:

    David you are so right. I thank you for all the information that you gave us before the election, and I am so sorry that more people did not seek you information so that they could be an educated voter. So many people rely only what the tells news media tells them. Again thank you for all your hard work

  3. David
    David says:

    I was glad to see there was one candidate that did not shriek away from the LGBTQXYZ?! question. In the end that is the candidate that won and won big! It was a shame to see so many false ad’s taken against Mr. Lee and his company, and the majority of those attacks came from my former Senator Diane Black. I am really excited to see the direction this state may go under a true conservative.

  4. James
    James says:

    Personally I believe most of the people worship life more than GOD.
    I agree we need to hold all our Leaders to the word of GOD who was the reason this country exists now.
    I also believe we need to do away with the surpreme court . They are making laws that go directly against the word of GOD. If we don;t we will have no freedom left and be servants to our government which is where we almost are now.
    Do you feel you own your home or car. well you don;t look at your taxes, car tags diver license etc etc.
    Ever wonder why this country was started, maybe you need to read our history. Some of the people gave every thing they had for the freedom we have now.( don;t take my word look for yourself)
    Now thank GOOD for your even being here for with out him you would not even exist.

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