A Great Place For Random Iowa Facts

January 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

The Iowa Legislative website is improving quite a bit lately.  When I started working at the Capitol the website was horrible (you can still click the link to the old website).

Since then, the redesign and added content is much more user friendly.  I get emails from the LSA occasionally called “Pieces of Iowa’s Past.”  I really enjoy the history lesson.  You can see these and other Iowa tidbits by clicking here.

I AM looking for a good website on Iowa’s history. Anyone have a suggestion?  I’m specifically looking for unique stories like the conflict known as the “Honey War” between Iowa and Missouri.  Let me know if you have any good links with great stories.

Christians In Politics

January 12th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

The following article was originally posted on Caffeinated Thoughts.  I have only edited grammatical errors:

Few would dispute that power corrupts.  The kind of power wielded by elected and appointed officials, activists, special interests, and bureaucrats often results in a special kind of corruption called “politics.”  In America, the People are empowered by its founding documents in a way unique in history.  Our power as citizens can corrupt us as well if we aren’t vigilant.  How do we take the power of the citizen and the power of the Scriptures and engage the political scene without a corrupt spirit?  It isn’t easy and takes tremendous diligence.

I have worked in or around the public policy scene since 1995 and have frequently struggled with the role Christians play in the political process.  There is, unfortunately, a growing divide within the Christian community on the roles of pragmatism and purism.  Schisms within the Church on such issues highlight the heart-issues involved in public policy.  We must learn to maintain unity as a Body even as we approach public policy diversely. I still have much to learn but here are some things I’ve taken away from the process so far:

  1. Too often, there is very little difference between “Christians” in politics and everyone else.  The fact is, every true Christ-follower still has a human nature to wrestle with (Romans 7:13-25, Gen. 3).  It’s easy to get cynical about people who claim to have a relationship with God but don’t walk in it.  It’s even easier to get cynical about non-believers in the political class.  But I’ve learned that the way to effectiveness is to be realistic about what to expect from people and care about them unconditionally.  Like any work environment, I can speak Truth to them without crossing professional lines of appropriateness.  I’m not going to argue anyone into the Kingdom or out-anger or out-hate someone into the Kingdom.  Don’t let other people’s base human nature ruin you.  We must appeal to them as Christ-followers first, and fellow citizens second.
  2. Those Christians who are often the most respected as “Culture Warriors” and truth tellers are often a cancer in the Body of Christ.  Many believers measure value in other’s rhetoric by how passionate, angry, and aggressive he/she is on issues.  The degree to which you can be righteously indignant is now somehow the spiritual gold standard.  I have learned over the last number of years that being more angry or aggressive than the opposition, even if you are right on the issue, is worthless.  Romans 13 begins by telling us to submit to government authority, goes on to discuss love for our neighbor and respect for each other’s liberty, and wraps up in chapter 14 verse 10 by asking why we judge and show contempt for our brother.  It’s one example of many in the Scriptures that we are to respect authority, each other’s liberty, and love each other in spite of a different tack on an issues of policy and daily living.  Too often Christians cannibalize each other for disagreeing on issues and condemn themselves in the process by violating the command to love the Brethren.  They are living examples of I Corinthians, verses one through three: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
  3. Love and meekness is not weakness.  Sounds cliché but it is a Biblical Truth.  Too often Christians lack self control.  We do a great job of pretending to be innocent as doves but we are often inept at practicing wisdom (Matt 10:16).  After a while you can sense very quickly when someone has just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  They are usually loud but lack the wisdom to know how to harness their zeal with wisdom, prudence, and persuasiveness.  Their proclamation of Truth is made worthless by a lack of love.  The worst damage comes in that it seduces people who are equally frustrated (and rightfully so!) with the political class and want to follow the lead of someone who articulates their frustration.  Someone can tell you they tell the Truth, fear God, and point to their influence or success as proof of God’s blessing and still be doing a tremendous disservice to the Kingdom.  Lots of talk and action without love and meekness is antithetical to God’s plan for His Church.
  4. Politics is different than Church.  The Scriptures outline concrete ways to resolve conflict (Matt. 18), handle Church discipline, and treat those who claim to be believers but do the Kingdom harm.  The Scriptures’ treatment of government isn’t the same.  It addresses it in principle (often telling us to submit to authority) but leaves room for Christ-followers’ varied perspectives on the State.  This should lead us to respect fellow Christ-followers who seem to have a sincere faith but don’t engage the political scene the way we do.  There are times when I disagree with the strategy or policy positions of my fellow believers at the capitol.  The important thing is how I respond.  I believe the Scriptures make it clear that the “Fruits of the Spirit” are far more important than scoring political points (Galatians 5:22-26).  Although I struggle with this every legislative session, I try hard to keep in mind the following: How does vitriol or slander of other believers align with the fruit of the Spirit?  How does strife over political strategy benefit the Kingdom?
  5. It is our duty to engage in American politics as American Believers.  The American system of government demands participation to work and the Scriptures encourage us to obey the same laws that prompt our particiaption. Our Founding Fathers implemented a system that respects the Judeo-Christian worldview and our Republic requires the participation of its citizens to function.  Without our participation, our rights and freedoms given to us by God and affirmed by our founding documents are in danger.  We must exercise this stewardship, however, within the framework of the Spirit and not our base human nature.
  6. Christians have a responsibility to find vehicles for advocacy that respect a Biblical worldview.  As we seek to align ourselves with individuals, make donations, or advocate with an interest group; we must ask ourselves if they have a reputation for love and wisdom or vitriol and foolishness. There is no shortage of “faith-based” organizations and individuals just as secular and humanistic in their approach to public policy as the ones they oppose.  Watch an organization or a pundit for a time before you lend them your resources and support.  Pray for discernment.

I’m NOT suggesting that the Christian citizen/activist/lobbyist needs to be a smiley square that comes to the capitol with baked goods every day and says things like, “Gee whiz, Senator, that bigoted affront to religious liberty you’re sponsoring sounds swell!  I love you!”  I’m simply saying we agree to disagree as believers on nuance so that our enemies can know us by our love for one another.  I’m saying we focus on the non-believer’s story more than on his/her outward behavior.  I’m saying we work hard to develop a reputation as people who care, not as a people who condescend.  I’ll aggressively do my job as well as I can in subcommittee meetings and in the rotunda of the capitol as a lobbyist, but I may buy my opposition lunch and listen to their concerns afterward.  They are, after all, as lost and hurting as we once were and maybe still are.  I’m ultimately suggesting that we check our hearts.

In summary, what good is speaking Truth to principalities if the King is not honored?  What good is espousing a “Biblical worldview” if we don’t love our neighbor or our brother?  What good is demanding a voice in the public square if we seek it without humility and meekness?  What good is dogma and rhetoric if it lacks prudence and wisdom?

We need to speak Truth without apology, in love.  We need to participate in the Republic we have been blessed with, wisely.  And we must avoid and pray for those who claim to serve the King but slander and cannibalize His people.

Christ-followers must engage in the Republic with quiet strength and an upright reputation.  Although counter-intuitive and juxtaposed with our sinful nature, our achieving this type of advocacy as true ambassadors of Christ would quickly rebuild a culture that respects life, liberty, and the pursuit of God; the Author of happiness.

A Day In The Life…

January 10th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

What a day.

I started the day at the Capitol watching the Occupy Iowa, CCI, and Labor Unions obnoxiously protest during before and after the Governor’s Condition of the State Address.  It’s one thing to show up, have a rally in the rotunda, and be seen.  It’s another to name-call, form a gauntlet, try to be physically intimidating, and boo the Governor, Lt. Governor, their families, and legislators as they enter and leave the House Chamber.  It was tacky and reflected very poorly on all of them as individuals.  The left always calls for tolerance and civility…until it’s their ox being gored.  In the case of most of the Occupy protestors, they simply have an outlet to express their chronic discontent with life and choose to protest instead of being productive.

Later in the day I found out I lost my largest client.  I’ll be looking for clients to replace that income.  Let me know if you have any leads!  🙂

Now I am sitting at my computer way past my bedtime because every time I lay down I can’t stop coughing.  Tried water, honey…so I’m just waiting until I’m tired enough to fall asleep in between coughs.

How was your day?  Let me know if it was extraordinary so I can live vicariously through you this week.  I’m living for the weekend at this point.  What I do find comforting today is knowing my wife is supportive, my kids are healthy, and that God makes it clear in James 1 that if I lack wisdom and ask for it, He’ll give it liberally.  I have faith He will.  I need it more than ever.

January Antlerless Season in Iowa

January 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Doe in the snow.

Does it get any more majestic than observing wildlife in solitude?

I’m going to miss January Antlerless season in Iowa this year for the first time since it was instituted.  I’ll miss crunching on the snow (Maybe!  What a warm year!) and freezing my tail off hoping to get one more chance at filling the freezer this year.

There is something about being alone in the woods.  At times, I hunt in groups during the January season and I love that too but you can’t beat the alone time while hunting deer.  The first day I’m out hunting, I hate myself.  Alone.  With my thoughts.  It’s frightening.  I spend half the day shaking my head that my brain is so full of garbage and base-ness and the rest of the day praying, asking God to clear my mind.  The next day or two or three are beautiful.  I love the serenity, the listening for that “still small Voice.”  I love the wildlife, the possum that walks over your feet as you sit so still it never knows you were there.  I love the turkeys as they noisily leave their roost.  I love the occasional rare treat of having a coyote or bobcat pass by so close you feel as though you could almost reach out and touch them with your shotgun or rifle.

It is in these times that I am truly amazed at how beautiful and how intricate Creation is.  How such a tight web of interdependent relationships and ecosystems can evolve is beyond me besides being mathematically impossible.  Our Creator is amazing.  Imagine how much more amazing it will be when the earth is restored to what it could have been without sin.  Imagine our new physical bodies being able to lift more and run faster than ever though possible.  Imagine racing the mountain lion for fun instead of carrying a firearm in the woods to protect yourself from one.  I can’t wait.

Although we probably won’t have hunting on the New Earth, I relish every chance to sit out in the woods and dream dreams, listen to His voice, and observe without words.

How Do You Respect Authority In A Constitutional Republic?

January 5th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

1 Samuel 12:14 is an interesting verse:

“If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God.”

There are some realities about the context. They had a king, the verse had a story that surrounds it, etc. But let’s consider it in light of these other verses:
“Woe to you, O land, when your kingis a child, And your princes feast in the morning!17 Blessed areyou, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, And your princes feast at the proper time For strength and not for drunkenness!” – Eccl 10:16-17
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” – Romans 13:1
“…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chron. 7:14

There seems to be an obvious theme throughout the Scriptures that God allows men to exercise authority. Consider David’s fear of harming God’s anointed (Saul) even after he himself had been anointed by God to replace him. Consider Jesus’ own command to “give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.” Jesus was not denying Ceasar his title but was making a firm distinction between civil government and His own.

One thing that always intrigues me about Biblical discussion on citizenship and government is the simple fact that all Scripture specifically on the subject relates to authoritarian governments. Nowhere at the time of Biblical writings and few times in history has a large or powerful nation have a government “Of the People, by the People, and for the People.” A Constitutional Republic with our Bill of Rights has never been seen before. I believe we must keep in mind that 1 Samuel 12:14 is a great reminder that God is Sovereign over civil authority and looks at the collective actions of societies but it is also important to note that, in the United States, we are the government. We are responsible to keep our elected public servants in check. Our government demands that accountability to us to the point of revolution. How does this fit with Scriptural discussions of submitting to the king? I think our Founding Fathers flattened the leadership structure and put us all in the role of king. If we don’t honor the King by engaging a government that demands our participation and if we don’t defend a Constitution and Bill of Rights that respects God’s Natural Law from all enemies, foreign or domestic, I’m not sure we are doing our “kings” or our King any service… Your thoughts?

My Thoughts On The 2012 Iowa Caucus

January 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Photo of 2012 Iowa Republican Candidates for PresidentEvery four years Iowa becomes the center of the political universe for a short time as Iowans, along with the citizens of New Hampshire and South Carolina, get to vet the candidates for President in a way the rest of the nation doesn’t.  We get to see them in person, shake their hands, and ask tough questions.  Any Iowan can meet any candidate, often many times, as they criss-cross the state.  Iowa is uniquely qualified to retain its important role as the first in the nation caucus State for two main reasons: Iowa voters are smart, informed, and skeptical.  If you can win over enough Iowans to generate significant momentum, you are ready to campaign in larger States.  It’s a true test of the candidate’s ability to demonstrate their readiness face-to-face and it is a test of the campaign’s organizational strength to mobilize people to show up for 2-3 hours on a cold January night to support a candidate.  In addition, Iowa is small enough that potential candidates don’t have to have Mitt Romney’s deep pockets to come here and be competitive.  Rick Santorum proved this year that working on a relatively tiny budget can get you success if you work hard, capture volunteers, and resonate with the base.  If any State larger than Iowa or New Hampshire were to get the kind of important early role we have, it would severely limit those able to test the waters of a Presidential race (the establishment in the Beltway would love this!).

I’ve had time to process last night’s Caucus and thought I’d share a few of my thoughts here:

1. Chairing a precinct caucus is the best way to ensure you get home at a reasonable time.  Although our precinct has never been one to get out of control or waste terrible amounts of time, I thought we could be more efficient.  Four years ago I was asked to be temporary caucus chair and convinced my caucus to elect me permanent chair (the first order of business is electing the person who will run the rest of the meeting) after I promised “fairness and a record short caucus.”  I had a few older ladies hug me afterward for getting us out by 8:25PM.  This year I was re-elected caucus chair and got us out of there by 8:30PM.  I didn’t beat the record we established last time but we can awfully close.  I also had the unique opportunity to have Frank Luntz (Fox News pollster), the Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and a few others storm into the room before the event started and grill me on the campaigns, the caucus process, and my thoughts on Iowa’s role.  It was very interesting.

2. Same-day voter registration is unwise and needs to be changed.  It was very clear to my wife (who checked everyone in) and me that many disaffected Democrats and Independents showed up and switched party affiliation simply so they could cast a protest vote for Ron Paul or participate for Romney simply because they could.  I’m grateful more people are getting involved in the Caucus process, but it has become increasingly clear as the morning news rolls out that there were plenty of spoilers out there trying to distort the outcome.  It is also clear that Mitt Romney would not have won by 8 votes if we didn’t have same-day registration.  Mitt Romney and Ron Paul rode to impressive finishes in Iowa because Democrats and Independents were able to crash an official Republican Party event…not because they resonate with the the party faithful.  I suggest doing away with same-day registration and closing the window on registration changes one month (or however long it takes to create and print new lists for use on Caucus night) prior to Caucus night.  This still allows anyone remotely engaged in the process to think a few weeks ahead and get registered.  Campaigns can still identify potential supporters ahead of time and get them registered.  But it eliminates one political Party from spoiling the results of the other and keeps the process honest.  I’m sorry, people, but if you can’t decide you are going to exercise your civic responsibility a few weeks out from Caucus, you don’t need to be there.  Eliminating the same-day registration may not make a huge statistical difference, but it would add piece of mind and a sense of decorum and control as well as give outsiders the sense that this really is Iowa Republicans choosing their candidate.  We must stay way above board if we are going to keep our role intact.

3. The big winners: Santorum and Ron Paul.  Ron Paul has made it clear over the last 12 hours that he won the youth vote.   It is also painfully clear that he won the same-day voter registration vote too.  So basically Ron Paul was successful on the backs of the inexperienced, the noncommittal, the Democratic spoilers, and  the chronically disaffected protest voters.  There is no doubt he resonates with the Libertarians and Republicans with Libertarian leanings.  I also think he has some good ideas on domestic policy and love the idea of eliminating many Federal departments.  He is, however, the candidate that attracts the tinfoil hats, liberal spoilers, peaceniks, and the youth vote (which are generally poorly educated on what it is to be an American and are protesting a system they have no confidence in).  Santorum, however, proved that if you work Iowa correctly through hard work and retail politics, you can be successful!  Congratulations to him and his campaign.  Very impressive.

4. Bachmann goes all in and loses.  I was undecided about Bachmann other than questioning some of her personnel choices and the fact that she can come across a bit shrill as late as last Summer (She did hire Drew Kline, however, which I think was a great move as he is a great guy who I hear did great work for her).  As I participated with the American Principles Project on the Iowa Tea Party Bus Tour, I was able to see the Bachmann campaign in action the first part of July at a rally in Des Moines she participated in with us.  Her national campaign staff was haughty, unaware of what each other was doing leading us to feel lied to about a number of things, and she was allowed to be seen as a rock star too good to interact with supporters or other organizations there.  Her failure to engage in retail politics until late in the primary cycle was a big mistake and cost her dearly.  Her failure to capitalize on the Straw Poll win and mitigate the excitement about Perry when he jumped in the race further hurt her campaign.  They did the right thing in hiring Eric Woolson late in the game (he’s the best in the business) but it was too late.  She announced she’s done today and Santorum and Perry will probably divide up most of her supporters.

5. The race is still wide open.  Like Huckabee and Robertson (among others) before them, Santorum and Romney could be yesterday’s news at any time.  Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and even Rick Perry still have a shot at an upset.  Let’s hope New Hampshire chooses someone other than Romney (or makes it close like Iowa).  If Romney fails to break away and South Caroline and Florida fail to anoint the establishment’s heir-apparent, there is hope for Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry.

6. I have my phone back.  I have a landline at home for Rachel’s business.  After weeks of 20-35 political calls per day, I’m happy to hear the phone ring and think it might actually be someone we want to talk to.  I think the “Do Not Call” registry should be expanded so we can have the option to opt out of political and charitable calls.  I’m especially annoyed if the call does not originate from the actual campaign headquarters by a human being or from the physical location of the charity by a human being.  These massive call centers and robo-call services are offensive.  I’m ready to donate to any cause that puts an end to the abuse of my home phone line should I choose to opt out.

What are your thoughts and takeaways?