This Week’s Power Play and Political Intrigue

This week was filled with so much political intrigue, behind the scenes political maneuvering, political spin, misrepresentations made to the masses by those in power, and politicians covering their tracks that I couldn’t wait to write about it in this week’s commentary.

If you’re reading this paragraph, you must be really curious. All that which I just described did happen this week at the state legislature (it really happens every week). But that’s not what I’m referring to this week. Rather, I’m referring to what happened this week back in 33 A.D.

Human beings have always loved and even coveted power and have always been willing to do what was necessary to preserve their power. Many who hold power in this world do not like the thought that there is a Higher Power to which their powers are subject and to whom they must give an account. And then there are those who do believe there is accountability but temporarily forget and get swept along by those who don’t.

That is what happens in the halls of government everywhere, in our workplaces and, yes, even in our homes and churches, and it is what happened in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago.

Jesus was put to death at the hands of those with earthly power who sought to preserve their power and position, but His resurrection is the triumph of the power of God over all other powers!

For me, one of the greatest exchanges in Scripture is the one between Pilate and Jesus found in John 19:10-11:

Pilate: “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”

Jesus: “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”

I once heard a prominent politician reference that exchange as Jesus blowing off Pilate and demonstrating His lack of real concern about political issues. What a tragic misunderstanding of that exchange; Jesus was putting the politician Pilate in his place by explaining that the very authority that Pilate used to crucify Jesus was given to him by God!

When that thought settles into our heads and our hearts, we come to see how great the lovingkindness of God is toward us. Who among us would allow the power we might hold to be used to bring about our own death for the sake of the very persons who had turned against us?

When I consider this, I can’t help but think of the words I’ve so often sung:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

I concur with the words of the Psalmist (107:43 NKJV): “Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.”

God, give us a heart of wisdom this Easter that we might learn and experience the height and depth and width of Your lovingkindness.

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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Is John Boehner Speaker Material?

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to make Rep. John Boehner its Speaker. Many evaluated his qualifications based on whether, in their opinion, he took the right tact in responding to the White House’s agenda. Others considered the “conservative bona fides” of his position on certain public policies. But I’d like to suggest that, for Christians, there is another consideration that may be more important in the long run.

And that consideration is whether the person really understands the issue of authority. While those who don’t profess to make Scripture their rule of faith and practice will likely disagree, biblically speaking, only those with a right understanding of authority are truly fit to hold positions of authority.

So what can we learn about authority from Scripture that might give us insight into whether Rep. Boehner, or any other person for that matter, should be entrusted with authority in the realm of civil government?

Let’s study King David. Samuel described him as one whom God wanted as ruler because he was a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). I believe David was a man after God’s own heart because he understood the issue of authority.

David understood that all rightful authority came from God. He understood that Scripture teaches that all authority belongs to God, that God is the one who bestows authority on men, that those who must strive with men to attain authority are not yet broken enough to exercise it well, and that those in authority who exercise it well understand, as Jesus said explicitly, that it is not to be used to lord it over others, but to serve.

David was far from perfect, but in both the way he respected the authority of his predecessor, Saul, and in the way he responded to the challenge to his kingly authority by his own son, Absalom, we see a man who understood authority was God’s.

When given the opportunity to take Saul’s life and assert himself into the position of kingly authority to which he had already been anointed and called by Samuel, David refrained. Even when Saul was killed in battle, David waited in Hebron for God’s timing instead of “marching” into Jerusalem to assert the authority he’d been promised. And when Absalom asserted himself to the throne, and David’s servants said they stood “ready to do whatever my lord the king chooses,” David chose not to fight to keep his position of authority, but fled the palace. David gave God the prerogative of choosing whether to depose him or restore him.

Watchman Nee, in his book Spiritual Authority, said, “The controversy of the universe is centered on who shall have the authority… .” And so it is. Is authority God’s to give and bestow, or is it man’s to grasp and then to fight with others to keep?

Though David modeled well the truth that authority “belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11), he is not our ultimate model. Rather it is Jesus, of whom it was said in Philippians 2:6-8:

“Although He existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a think to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant … and he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Yes, sometimes when you lead like Jesus, the world will crucify you, and the world of politics is no exception.

But, thankfully, the cross is not the end of the story, for the passage in Philippians continues:

“Therefore, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (v. 9).

And now “all authority, both in heaven and earth” is his (Matthew 28:18).

So when I find a politician who seems to want a position of authority just a little too much, whose practice is to “scratch-my-back-if-I’ll-scratch-his, and who will punish competent people who support someone else, I’m inclined to find someone else for that position. He’s liable to be the tyrant of tomorrow.

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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Are Today’s Politicians up to the Task?

This week the Navy announced that it was designing a new kind of ship to replace the existing class of amphibious vessels that are nearing the end of their useful life. As I read the article, I couldn’t help but wonder if our “existing class” of political leaders” isn’t “nearing the end of their useful life” as well.

What prompted this thought was a military official’s statement that the amphibious vessels we use today won’t meet the coming need “due to the concept of operations we are under today.” In other words, what worked before isn’t going to continue to work now, because the nature of warfare and the landscape of the battlefield have changed.

And the same is true of our political landscape. It’s changed from what it was in 1776 and even as recently as the 1950s. Those who don’t understand that will wonder what happened when they get run over. But the change is not just a result of technology and political methodologies, which is what most political parties, politicians, and political organizations think. It’s more than that. The whole nature of the political “conflict” has changed.

In the past, American politics operated more or less on the basis of a shared set of fundamental beliefs. The political conflict or divide rested in how to apply those beliefs to a particular problem. Today conflict over application still exists, but the nature of the conflict or divide is different because the conflict manifests at the level of a core fundamental belief.

By “fundamental” I’m not referring to something as superficial as a belief in whether a strong economy is a “good” thing. And by what “divides” I’m not referring to a belief that more government or less government regulation or taxation is what will bring about a strong economy. I’m taking about something even more fundamental than that.

The dividing line today—the new “battleground,” if you will—is our view of the universe itself, namely, is there a God who intervenes in time and space to hold men and the governments accountable for righteousness and justice according to immutable standards of the same? That is the dividing line.

There are some politicians today who would give lip service to that belief, but many of them betray themselves by the way in which they govern. For example, many of those politicians, Democrat and Republican, believe that the “right” tax and regulatory policies by civil government will produce a strong economy, even if on the cultural front we flaunt God’s design for marriage rooted in His very nature, kill our children in the womb, and worship the creation rather than the Creator.

Too many of today’s politicians either embrace these cultural views or run away from talking about them like they were running away from a devil who has set their hair on fire.

For those who believe that this “kind” of politician is fundamentally wrong and not up to the task that lies ahead, we have to ask ourselves: are we going to do what we have to do to train up a new kind of politician, one who is prepared to challenge the prevailing God-is-dead-or-irrelevant view of the universe and who will talk about the issues the current crop won’t talk about?

If we’re not ready to do that, then like warships no longer fit for battle, our ship of state may be sunk.

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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Does a Politician’s Christianity Really Matter?

Because I have been a state senator and now lead a state organization dedicated to promoting public policies that respect God’s design for marriage and family, life, and religious liberty, I talk to a lot of state politicians and political candidates, particularly at election time. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most who talk to me this time of year are professing Christians. But a conversation I had the other day raised a question about the extent to which one’s Christianity matters.

Many who know me would be surprised to hear such a statement coming from my lips. I don’t say it because a person’s character or the basis for his or her understanding of right and wrong doesn’t matter to me. It matters a lot. But that’s not enough.

I say this because being a Christian doesn’t mean that the candidate for office understands anything about how our form of government is supposed to work. We would not hire a person to handle our finances, run our businesses, treat our illnesses, or do much of anything else simply because they said they were a Christian, even one we might call “devout.”

As a case in point, I spoke with a candidate for office the other day that, based on what I know, I would fully expect to see in the eternal presence of God. But the first thing out of the person’s mouth set off alarm bells for me and required a quick tutorial in the doctrine of separation of powers.

This person, whom I respect, mentioned that when it came to abortion I probably had more trust in the legislature to handle the issue correctly, the implication being that maybe the judiciary was either more trustworthy or better able to balance this sensitive issue. I quickly assured this person that I didn’t trust the legislature either and that, in my case, my distrust was based on real-life experience.

Then I explained that the issue wasn’t about the branch of government in which we should put more trust to make abortion policy, but to which branch of government the enactment of public policy had been entrusted under our state and federal constitutions.

There is only one real, right answer to that question: the legislature. And we’re in the mess we’re in today because, in part, both our politicians and a solid majority of Americans have apparently forgotten that. We only care about whether we get the result—the policy—we want.

That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why Congress and voters aren’t throwing out members of Congress right and left for not impeaching a President (and any President) who essentially keeps enacting or changing the law through executive orders and impeaching activist judges who violate the Constitution by twisting its words and by encroaching upon the legislature’s constitutional prerogatives.

Fortunately, at least for this one candidate, I think my little “refresher course” on constitutional government set things rights. But my point is that candidates who don’t understand our form of government and their responsibilities under that form of government aren’t the type I’m looking for, no matter how often they are in church or how personally holy they are.

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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The Cure for ‘Cantor’

Many folks have heard the term “cantor.” It is defined as “a person who sings solo verses or passages to which the choir or congregation responds.” However, there is another type of “Cantor,” about which many were unaware prior to this week. It is a localized condition that has been found to exist in certain “beltway areas” around political capitols. Hopefully, some Tennessee politicians learned that the condition can be deadly and will avail themselves of the only known cure.

Much like any malignancy, a “Cantor” arises when a political official allows the “belt” that surrounds all political capitols to get too tight around his or her neck. The “tightening” of the belt results in the politician’s brain not getting enough “constituent air,” and a “Cantor” begins to grow on the brain. Eventually, the “Cantor” produces political amnesia, which is what eventually really kills the politician’s career.

That seems to have been the cause of the political demise this week of soon-to-be former U.S. Representative Eric Cantor. By all accounts, Rep. Cantor began his political career in the Virginia legislature and in D.C. as a solid social and fiscal conservative.

And while Rep. Cantor remained conservative on some issues, it became clear to a significant majority of his constituents that on some important issues he stopped breathing in the oxygen expelled by their voices clamoring to be heard, particularly on the issue of immigration.

I don’t know to what extent Rep. Cantor’s thinking on immigration changed, but I have little doubt that the constituent oxygen his brain needed began to be polluted by the deadly fumes given off by large piles of money available to and provided to politicians by the large corporate special interests known to inhabit beltways.

I speak of this condition because in 1994 I happened to win a state Senate election that some say was caused by a “Cantor” that had begun to attack the incumbent politician against whom I ran. During the twelve years I was in the state Senate, I saw a few other politicians with whom I served succumb to a “Cantor.” And I see some “Cantors” beginning to attack some of our state legislators.

One of the telltale signs of a growing “Cantor” is the expressed belief by politicians that their colleagues in important positions are the ones who make them effective. This belief leads to giving those people their allegiance instead of those back home. That reduces the necessary flow of constituent oxygen.

Another sign is an increasing tendency to exhibit a “government-is-the-answer-to-our-problems” mentality. A sure sign of a growing “Cantor” is the politician who responds to such an accusation by essentially saying nothing other than “our government solution is better than the other guy’s solution” or “we can do government better than the other guy.” And further evidence of this “government-is-the-answer” mentality is an increasing unwillingness or reluctance to provide leadership in standing up for timeless moral values that undergird individual responsibility, marriage, and families and opposing policies that tend to undermine those values.

Thankfully, in remarking upon the “platform” he used to campaign against Rep. Cantor, David Brat articulated a “cure” for those in elected office with early onset Cantorism. Here is the tonic, in the order of importance in which he articulated it.

1.    “First of all, I attribute it to God. I’m really humbled and thankful – I’m a Believer and so I’m humbled that God gave us this win.”

2.    “I ran on Republican principles. . . . The first one is commitment to free markets. We don’t have any free markets in this country any more. Then equal treatment under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional adherence, peace through strong defense, and faith in God and strong moral fiber. That’s what I ran on.”

Let’s hope that what happened this week will encourage some of our state’s politicians to do a check-up during this election season to make sure they are getting enough constituent oxygen to avoid “Cantor”-related death.

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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