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Bill Lee makes an announcement via video

Governor Lee Calls for Day of Prayer and Fasting

On Wednesday evening, Governor Bill Lee released a video on his Facebook page telling of the number of people who say to him and to his wife, Maria, that they are in their prayers and relaying the fact that, as believers in the power of prayer, he and Maria draw encouragement and strength from that. As a consequence, Gov. Lee said that he was calling all Tennesseans to a Day of Prayer and Fasting on October 10th. Watch Gov. Lee’s announcement. (You don’ t have to be logged on to Facebook to watch the announcement.)

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Gov. Lee Announces October 10 Day of Prayer and Fasting
Gov. Bill Lee’s Facebook page

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Sexton Wins Nomination for TN House Speaker

The Tennessee House Republican Caucus met Wednesday morning and chose Rep. Cameron Sexton as their nominee for Speaker to replace current Speaker Glen Casada, who will resign on August 2.

On the fourth round of ballots, Sexton garnered 41 votes out of the 70 Republican members present. Caucus rules provided that the candidate receiving the fewest votes would be eliminated from the next round until one candidate received a majority of the votes. We congratulate Rep. Sexton on his nomination.

On Friday, August 23, the full House will gather as part of a special session called by Gov. Lee to elect a new Speaker. Because the Republicans hold a super majority in the House, Sexton is virtually assured of being elected.

Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Dunn will handle the duties of Speaker until that time.

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Nomination for Next TN House Speaker Coming Later This Month

Please be praying for our House leadership.

On Wednesday, July 24, the Tennessee House Republican Caucus is meeting to select a Republican nominee for Speaker of the House to replace Rep. Glen Casada, who will resign from his position as Speaker on August 2. Upon his resignation, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) will serve as acting Speaker until Friday, August 23, when Gov. Bill Lee has called for a special session of the Legislature at which time the full House will elect a new Speaker.

Because the Republicans hold a super majority in the House, their nominee is virtually assured of being elected.

Currently running for Speaker are the following state representatives, listed alphabetically: Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), Deputy Speaker Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Rep. Jay Reedy (R-Erin), and Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville).

Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) is still considering running.

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Who will be the next TN House Speaker?

Picking the Next House Speaker

With the impending resignation of state Representative Glen Casada as Speaker, the question turns to “Who’s next?” As someone who has either served in the legislature or observed it from up close for 25 years, unless some particular things and attitudes change, nothing much may change other than the name on the Speaker’s office door. Here’s why.

My reason for saying so is this: As troublesome as some of the things were that came out, there was not much, if anything, that has not been true of the House for decades. So, if change is going to come, the same old same old will produce the same old result. It’s time to ask some hard questions.

The Two Questions That Need to Be Asked

The first question that I think needs to be asked and answered by House Republicans (only because there are too few Democrats to influence the outcome of the Speaker election) is this: Why does the House have recurring problems with corruption, sexual trysts, and authoritarianism regardless of who is Speaker?

And a second, related question is this: Is there something about the way the House (really, virtually all political bodies) goes about choosing a Speaker that contributes to these recurring problems?

To me, these two questions go together, and if we get the answer to the first question right, it might just serve to change the way the Republicans go about electing the next Speaker.

My Answer to the First Question—Worldview

The answer to the first question, in my opinion, is an out-of-favor word, “sin.” But don’t let that word put you off. In this context, I refer to the most basic sin of all, not particularities.

The most fundamental sin that lies at the root of all other particular sins is that which ensnared Adam and Eve—they lost sight of God’s authority over all things, and by eschewing an incredible delegated authority, they grasped for their own authority that, as creatures, it was impossible for them to have.

For the biblical perspective, because God is God and all else is creaturely, all authority on earth—at all levels and in all positions—is a delegated authority, and therefore a person with authority must understand that he or she is first under authority.

So, like Adam and Eve, the House Speaker holds only delegated authority, in this case, the efficient cause (as Aristotle would have put it) or we might say, direct or immediate cause, of which is a delegation (vote) by the whole body of the House.

But also like Adam and Eve, most Speakers aren’t content, at least for long, with only delegated authority. They begin to want to exercise authority over the members of the House.

So, I would advise the Christians in the Republican Caucus to look for someone who understands that having authority means being under authority. Any candidate who even smells like he or she wants to be in authority needs to be moved off the list.

But there is more. The ultimate cause, or what Aristotle would call the final cause, of the Speaker’s authority is God.

So, I would commend to the Christians in the Republican Caucus that they take off the list any candidate who does not readily recognize that he or she is foremost and in the ultimate analysis under the authority of God and, moreover, does so because it is evident from the person’s life (words are cheap) that he or she has somewhere along the line been humbled by the authority of God.

If the next Speaker doesn’t understand these two things, then that Speaker will be prone to abusing power. And abuse of power will lead to all kinds of particular evils.

However, if what is needed is a person who understands these things, then the Christians in the Republican Caucus may need to think about changing the process by which a Speaker is elected.

My First Answer to the Second Question—A New Process

Typically, people decide to run for Speaker, and there is nothing wrong with offering to serve.

But think about this: David of Israel was out in the field tending sheep while his brothers were being paraded before the prophet Samuel for his consideration as the next king of Israel, and Moses was a fallen-from-power nobody tending his father-in-law’s sheep. They were “drafted” by God to be leaders.

In other words, it just may be that the Christians in the Republican Caucus need to draft a person to serve, because the right person just may not be looking or clamoring to be Speaker.

However, the right person will have demonstrated the worldview and character qualities described above in fulfilling more “menial” responsibilities as a Representative. Like the shepherd David, who had learned how to slay the bear and the lion while guarding the sheep, this person may just be fitted to kill Goliath.

My Second Answer to the Second Question—A New Approach to the Usual Process

The problem, of course, is not in offering to serve vis-à-vis being drafted to serve, and my comments should not be interpreted to imply anything about those who have said they would like to serve or are thinking about offering to serve.

But, having been through caucus elections, I know the typical process of running means candidates getting on the phone, trying to line up votes. That’s when wheeling and dealing tends to kick in.

Too many candidates call and intimate if not outright say, “If you vote for me, I’ll do this” or the person being called asks, “If I vote for you, would you do this?” In my view, only a candidate who tells a solicitor of some favor “nothing” should be Speaker.

So, what if any Republican members who really believe they are being called by God to offer themselves for service as Speaker simply wrote a letter or sent an email to every member of the caucus stating why they are running, how they understand the responsibilities of that office, and how they would seek to fulfill them, and what qualifications and experiences, if any, they offer?

Then those “candidates” leave it at that. Make no phone calls (only answer a call). Offer to serve, but leave the matter in God’s hands, and then pray that His will be done.

After all, if a person is called by God to do something, does it really matter how many votes can be lined up ahead of time? I think not.

Will that put the candidate at a disadvantage to the candidate willing to make calls? Will it put the candidate at a disadvantage to the candidate making deals?

Worldly eyes would say yes. But is not this new approach a demonstration of the person’s belief that God is the ultimate cause by which His authority is delegated, and He can be trusted in how He works through the efficient or direct causes to bring about the delegation that will best accomplish His purposes?

To me, at least as a Christian, that would speak volumes about that person. It would tell me that God is central and fundamental to that person’s thinking process. That would be a real change.

But, says a Caucus member, I can’t make a “candidate” do that.

Really? What if a member or a group of members told the candidates that no phone calls from the candidate are needed or wanted but an email or letter like the one I mentioned will be appreciated. Be a cause for change!

Conclusion

If past sins of the House associated with a misunderstanding of the nature and source of authority continue, along with the ways in which the members decide how and for whom to vote, then don’t be surprised if the same old same old continues.

As former Lt. Governor John Wilder might have said, “A break from the past won’t come without a break from the past.”


Related Articles:

Casada, Cothren, Politicians, and Christians

Will the House Republican Caucus Avoiding Riding the Moral High Horse on Monday?

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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Will the House Republican Caucus Avoid Riding the Moral High Horse on Monday?

As I continue to contemplate on the one hand the lascivious nature of the texts exchanged between the House Speaker and his Chief of Staff two years ago and accompanying issues of racism in the state House and, on the other hand, the moral outrage expressed by leaders on the Democratic side of the aisle, the image of the moral high horse comes to mind. I have ridden that horse myself, and here’s how I think it applies to the present situation, particularly the House Republican Caucus meeting set for Monday.

Dehumanization by Other Means Provides Democrats No Moral High Horse

No doubt, the way in which women and those with greater concentrations of melanin in their skin were spoken of in various text messages was dehumanizing. But I have to ask the Democratic leadership that has spoken so strongly to this scandal, What is more dehumanizing than calling a pre-born human being nonhuman in order to justify a unilateral decision by one human being to kill another?

Do those who allow the literal killing of another human being by saying he or she has no ethical or moral status at all really sit on a moral high horse from which they can righteously throw moral judgments at those who figuratively kill the image of God by dehumanizing words? I think not.

But, to me, the bigger question is whether the House Republicans will ride their own moral high horse out of their upcoming caucus meeting concerning this scandal.

Is the Moral High Horse Syndrome Avoidable?

A moral high horse is easy to mount and to ride. I’ve ridden one many times. I hope those who think I’m doing so now will read to the end before they judge.

The fact is we all get on our moral high horse at times, and perhaps we ride most high when we are commending ourselves for not being like those “other people” who seem to always be on their moral high horse.

The fact is we can’t escape making moral and ethical claims and judgments. And those who tell us not to judge others are, in fact, judging others in violation of their own standard.

So how, when circumstances require us to judge, as happens with public “scandals,” can we do so rightly without coming across as being on a moral high horse?

In my view, at least two things are required if one is to avoid riding the moral high horse.

A Right Standard of Judgment

The first is that there must be a true standard by which all judgments are made, one that applies to all of us, and that none of us get to make up and impose on others.

If we don’t have that kind of objective standard from outside of ourselves, then all we have is a collection of opinions that some among us, by a variety of means, will impose on others. That solves nothing. Those on whom that standard is imposed can always ask by what standard we are to judge whether the standard has been rightly imposed.

But that kind of standard necessarily brings God into the picture, and more people may dread that than they do those who are always riding on their moral high horse. God is, after all—and if you’ll pardon any seeming irreverence—THE Moral High Horse of all moral high horses.

Applying the Right Standard Is Counterintuitive

However, excluding God is actually the problem. That seems counterintuitive, but the God of the Bible is the answer to avoiding the moral high horse. After growing up in the evangelical church, I’m learning just how counterintuitive the true gospel really is.

A right view of God can do nothing but humble us, and humble us to the point that we feel like it would just kill us to admit, even to ourselves or to others, let alone when in politics to the public, some of the ways in which we fall short of the True Standard. But that’s exactly what we all need.

What’s counterintuitive about the gospel is that each time we are willing to experience one more of those deaths, we find a new life. We find that our appreciation for and understanding of the height and depth and width and length of God’s love and of His grace is in direct correlation to our level of humility. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. And grace is the second requirement for avoiding a ride on the moral high horse.

Applying the Gospel Tenor

Grace doesn’t change the standard by which a Christian is to judge, which is what some non-Christians now demand and what some Christians, understandably running from the legalistic moral high horses who may be in their church1, now espouse. Instead, grace should change the tenor of the way in which we express that judgment, because we understand that every day we fall short of the standard we profess and hold out to others. It is in falling short here that I’ve most often mounted my own moral high horse.

How Will the Republican Caucus Respond?

The Republican Caucus will formally meet next Monday to judge or begin the process of judging whether Glen Casada is the person they want serving as Speaker, even if there may be no legal means by which he can now be removed. They are not judging whether he should retain his elected position as a representative nor whether he should be excommunicated from the Christian faith.

In my view, judgment as to whether he should remain as Speaker must begin by each of the non-freshmen Republicans searching himself or herself for the sins of commission or omission by which he or she may have supported a leadership team that over the recent years overlooked, allowed, or accepted not only the activities by staff that have now been exposed, but also such activities among one of its leaders.

Among the freshmen, they need to ask if they knew or consciously or subconsciously avoided knowing about the sex scandals of recent years and who the public figures involved were and make inquiries about the character of those persons in the present.2

Then, each needs to judge whether the existing Republican leadership in the House, from the Speaker on down, has demonstrated the marks of true gospel grace, forged from brokenness and humility before God, that will garner from the members a respect for the kind of moral and ethical authority that will be needed if the culture in the House is to ever change.

Absent a conviction among them that such has been demonstrated, it is my view that changes need to be made, but the members dare not ride out of that meeting on some moral high horse when they should be sorrowful and broken that changes would be needed in the first place.


NOTES

  1. Here I’m reminded of my own failure for most of my life to understand the true gospel, thinking I had to “do” something to improve what Christ had done, even as the Christians in Galatia began to think they had to do something more—be circumcised or adhere to practices associated with the ceremonial laws of Moses. To such thinking, the Apostle Paul responded, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4).
  2. When I was elected to the Senate, I’d never even met a senator other than the one I ran against and hadn’t been to the Capitol since a field trip in elementary school. But, over time, it became apparent to me that one of the members of the Senate was profligate, though I don’t know that I ever heard of the female staff member, lobbyist, and interns being preyed upon by him, though it may have happened. Perhaps I was naïve not to consider that possibility. Within my own Senate Caucus, though, I don’t think such predatory behavior went on. Not being the same person now as I was then, I can’t honestly say what I would have done had I known of such behavior, but in Ben Atchley and in Ron Ramsey I had leaders who I think would have addressed it had I gone to them.

Related Article: Casada, Cothren, Politicians, and Christians

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.