Some Post-Election Thoughts

November 9th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Since I work in politics and public policy, I’ve had some people ask me for some post-election thoughts.

Regarding the Federal election results: I feel the same way I did a month ago.  We’re screwed, at least in the short term.  Neither party will be able to accomplish much in Congress and the President will bypass them any chance he gets with Executive Orders.

My feelings on the State election results: I feel the same way I did a month ago.  Not much changed.  Some good legislators are gone or lost their races, some new legislators were elected, and the school choice coalition I work with made some good inroads relationally with candidates and legislators from both parties.  That’s my optimistic and smiley spin on it.

Were you looking for something more specific?  Sorry.

Coming up on this blog:  “How Then Should We Advocate?”

The Big Election Day Decision

November 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Vote PedroThe big election day decision everyone has to make is whether to vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or write-in or vote for a candidate with zero chance of winning.  Although I sympathaze with Evangelicals who do not want to support Mitt Romney, I believe I’m called to make wise decisions and be the best steward of the influence and resources God has given me.  I don’t believe a general election vote equates to an endorsement.  I don’t believe general elections are the appropriate vehicles for protesting our failure to get an adequate candidate on the ballot.

That being said, I am prayerful that whoever wins the election has a real meeting with God.  God made good men Kings in the days of Israel.  He anointed David, Asa, Hezekiah, and others who honored their King to rule over Israel.  He put up godly Judges like Debra and others to rule over Israel.  Good leaders can make a HUGE difference.

God also, however, placed in leadership evil men.  Saul was half-hearted.  Manasseh was an evil King.  Ahab was “more evil than all kings before him.”  Read through first and second Kings, Chronicles, etc. for the sometimes nasty details.

I respect men and women who, in their own consciences and within their own understanding of the Scriptures, can’t vote for Romney or Obama.  Don’t let anyone tell you, however, who to vote for.  Pray.  Show Up.  Vote.  Trust God with a clear conscience.  He was sovereign when he anointed good and evil men.  He’s sovereign this week as we vote.  He’ll be sovereign for eternity.  The Curse we live under makes men governing themselves futile.  It’s supposed to be that way.  It’s supposed to point us to our Creator King!

The biggest threat to the Church as it relates to public policy and politics is that some believers get so emotionally caught up in the political game that it becomes an idol.  They begin to think that politics holds answers.  They begin to believe that we are responsible for the outcome of elections and the direction the culture goes.  We are called to do two things: love God and love our neighbor.  I believe it is very difficult to love our neighbor if we lead them to believe that their party affiliation, voting record, or candidate preference is more important than the pursuit of their Creator.

I am not a fatalist in that I believe God will honor our participation as we vote with Him on our hearts.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be active and using our gifts in the public square doing public service in any number of capacities.  I’m saying we need to keep this whole election in perspective.

Vote.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  He takes care of the rest and will show us how government is supposed to work soon enough.

An Open Blog Post To Republicans From An Average Guy

August 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Everyone knows the Republican Party is in the midst of a Civil War.

On one side you have those who would go the same direction the rest of the world is going, but in a much more “pragmatic” and “realistic” way.  They figured out most of the world’s problems between the 13th and 18th hole on Friday.  Libertarians and Social Conservatives call them RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

The other side of the GOP is a coalition are the “Evangelicrats” aligned, strangely enough, with the Ron Paul crowd (aka: Paul-bots).  Evangelicrats would have you believe that every Founding Father was a born-again evangelical and that, regardless of the polling, “We The People” always and overwhelmingly agree with them.  The Ron Paul segment of this strange coalition is itself a diverse group consisting of constituencies ranging from Ayn Rand atheists to true Libertarians to chronic discontents and crazies who love the cult-like atmosphere surrounding Ron Paul.

I paint with a broad brush and the variables for individuals within these two major armies within the GOP are too numerous to stereotype down to the individual RINO or Right-Winger.  We basically, however, have “Democrat-light” on the left side of the Party and the always principled and angry hyper-right on the other side  with very few in the middle where wisdom and principled leadership usually reside.  (For what it’s worth, I believe base human nature is always liberal so the burden is on those with Judeo-Christian or Libertarian values to be accessible and relevant instead of chronically angry and weird if they want to be taken seriously.)

So what do people like me who doesn’t identify at all with either camp need to hear from the 2012 Republican National Convention?  What does does the average blue-dog Democrat (do they exist anymore?) or the moderate to conservative Independent voters need to hear this week from the Republicans to consider kicking Obama out of office?  How can a Party at war with itself present a message of unity that inspires a nation to support it? » Read the rest of this entry «

SBA List Bus Tour Stops in Iowa

August 21st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I attended the Susan B. Anthony List’s bus tour yesterday on the West Terrace of the Iowa State Capitol.  The name of the bus tour is “Women Speak Out: Abortion is Not Healthcare” and the Iowa stops were sponsored by SBA List, Iowa Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, the Iowa Eagle Forum, Family Leader, and others.

I believe it may have been one of the most powerful line-ups of pro-life women ever put together.  The women had a combination of legislative experience, personal stories of survival, experience inside the abortion industry, and enough street cred. to make the most hardened pro-choicer question where he/she is at on the issue.

You can see great coverage of the Des Moines stop on Shane and Craig’s websites below:

Abortion survivor: Scalding a child in the womb is not healthcare

Pro-life Women Praise Steve King, Shred Vilsack, Obama

If you want to make an impact in the battle to change our culture to one that respects life, I highly suggest you visit Iowa Right to Life and SBA List‘s websites and open your wallet.

Why Politics And History Do Not Mix

July 18th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.  She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city She speaks her words:  “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?  For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.” – Proverbs 1:20-22 (NKJV)

Ever notice that one political party in the U.S. seems to never pay attention to what has worked or failed throughout history when it comes to the basic philosophies of governing while the other major political party never learns from history when it comes to strategy and messaging?  Ever wonder why we keep repeating the same mistakes of the past over and over again, departing from what works to what feels better?

Have people fundamentally changed over the last ten millennia?  No.  Do people still want all the same things from government they have wanted throughout history?  Yes.

There will always be a dangerously large part of every population that hears what it wants to hear.  They see what they want to see.  Combine this with the fact that most people find it in their base human nature to want to be in power or be on the side of lopsided power and you have what we’ve always had – beloved governments that last a very short time until moral depravity, debt, or both does them in.

As long as we have one party fighting against Judeo-Christian values at every opportunity, spending and taxing its people into oblivion and another party so motivated by fear of the next election that they can’t speak the truth that a majority of active American voters will resonate with; we are screwed.

Until we decide as a nation that empowering bad behavior, subsidizing sub-standard living situations, catering to entitlement mentalities, and punishing productivity is not a good idea…we are screwed.

Until we recognize that a hand-up by charitable people is superior to a hand-out by administrations that benefit from their dependence…we are screwed.

Until we recognize that perceived “rights” at the expense of another’s inalienable rights are merely misguided preferences…we are screwed.

Just my observation for the day…

Some Things I Believe

March 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Although no one has asked, I feel compelled (perhaps for my own benefit and reference) to write out some of the things I believe to be true.  Comments are welcome:

I believe that I’m probably an evangelical by definition but I hope I never act like one.

I believe that the Church is the Elect and is not an institution or location.

I believe in an inerrant Scripture (we can argue about translations and church tradition) that is capable of speaking for itself, interpreting itself, and speaking to every issue.

I believe there is no timeline in the Scriptures for spiritual gifts.  I believe that all the gifts are for today.  I believe, however, human nature tends to swing too charismatic or too stoic (the “frozen chosen”) and the burden is on us to find the appropriate balance.

I believe that if the Church stopped building multi-million dollar buildings, paying mega-church pastors mega-sized salaries, combatted relativism, and invested our money in meeting the practical needs of others instead of bolstering what we call our “ministries;” we’d win over the hearts of the unchurched.   Because our time and resources would be vested in our communities; we’d become so passionate about them that our love for our neighbors would win far more souls than any church service, outreach program, multi-media presentation, or under-sized missions budget ever could.

I believe the Church has been hijacked by pastor/teachers, we’ve ignored (in large part) the role of the other gifts (Eph 4:11) in Church leadership, and have made the mistake of setting up our churches like corporations (thanks to the 501 (c) 3 and our Roman statist heritage) instead of being communities living out “Kingdom spirituality.”

I believe the assembling of ourselves together as believers is primarily for the encouraging and equipping of each other – not for “gettin’ people saved.”  In many cases, bringing new believers to church is a sure-fire way to ruin their potential as ambassadors for Christ.

I believe the Church is capable and responsible for the welfare of its community – not government.  Government should supplement the Church’s benevolence, not supplant its role as caregiver to the broken, poor, and needy.  Our ability to turn into pansies when the IRS threatens us for proclaiming truth, discussing issues, or teaching on the intersection of faith and public policy is one of our greatest areas of shame.

I believe that, since the Scriptures teach us to obey the laws of man, that a Republic like ours in America that is dependent on our engagement to function well turns out civic engagement into a spiritual necessity.

I believe one God-fearing man or woman can change the world, change culture, change public policy, or even a church.  You never know if it’s you until you live your whole life pursuing the opportunity and never grow weary in the work.

I believe most doctrinal differences, although important, are far less important than choosing to work together to practice pure and undefiled religion (James 1).

I believe I spent too much time in Western Christendom and therefore stink at living a missional and relevant spiritual life.  I am, however, working on it.

Updates on Two Critical Issues

February 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

There are two critical issues facing America that capture my attention and which I’m passionate about.  Both have had significant news and coverage lately so I figured I’d list some links below if you are interested about one or both of these issues.

Education Reform / Federal Takeover of Education:

Ed Week: Special Ed Vouchers May Open Doors For Choice

Arne Duncan Loses Temper: Deviates from Backroom Strategy

New Study Shows Higher Graduation, Achievement Rates for Milwaukee Voucher Students!

Special Choices: Do voucher programs help students with special needs?

U.S. Department of Education Gets Defensive on National Standards

Obama’s Education Takeover

Religious Liberty:

The Truth Should Not Be A Secret: Myth #1

Catholic Advocate: “Consultation”

Obama Urges Churches to Get Political…as long as they are supporting him…

Just a sampling.  Let me know if you have other good stories on these subjects!

Loving Your Enemy

February 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I said something to a colleague a couple of weeks ago and it has been haunting me ever since. It isn’t a new concept but I’ve never articulated it the way I did this time and it has been rattling around my head ever since.

I told this colleague: “…My goal is that those I work with at the Statehouse who are not ‘believers’ would know that I care more about them than any issue I’m working on.”

When you consider Jesus’ call to love God AND love your neighbor (the sum of the law), this seems obvious, doesn’t it? It’s much harder than it sounds.

Most of us who work at the Capitol, on “social issues” especially, are very cause-oriented people who are extremely devoted to the issues we work on. For example, I believe meaningful Ed reform can’t happen without universal school choice and a dramatic diminishing of public school interest groups’ influence. I also believe with my whole heart one of our greatest weaknesses as a nation is our willingness to kill 50+ million babies in the womb in the name of convenience, some fabricated “right,” or pain avoidance. I work for two clients that share my passion for these issues.

What I’ve observed over the years is that it is too easy to get so emotionally engaged on the issues and advocating for them that you forget about the lobbyist, citizen, or legislator that may be opposing you with an equal amount of passion. We frequently either demonize them in our minds or dismiss them as “the opposition.” we allow ourselves to believe the lie that they deserve something other than love. How can we fulfill Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor and even our enemies if we allow anything – even our passion for a good cause – overshadow our role to love the person who may be advocating against us?

We must be aggressive in our jobs and effective in our advocacy for justice. We must, first and foremost, love our neighbor. If a lobbyist or legislator doesn’t think I care about them, how can I effectively advocate and why would I expect God to bless my efforts? How will they see Him if I don’t reflect Him in my interactions with them? Can I not reflect my anger at injustice and also make it clear I love them?

If those who work in public policy or politics can love their enemies, so can you.

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.