I was recently reading an email from a friend of mine who was warning about the threat of Islam in America. It caught my attention because for many years I too warned folks about the threat of radical Islam. In fact, following an attack by a deranged Muslim in Chattanooga a few years ago, I personally organized an event that featured a prominent international expert on Islam. That event drew over 400 individuals, garnered plenty of media attention and as you can imagine, created a fair amount of controversy as well.
My friend’s email went on to warn that “the hand writing is on the wall” with regard to the Islamist incursion into America’s government. While I don’t disagree with the assessment in general, the “hand writing on the wall” took my mind to a verse I read a few days ago. Jesus was speaking with His disciples when He shared this truth:
“…You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.” Luke 12:56
It’s likely many Americans are well versed in interpreting the dozens of warning signs that have been apparent for decades now in our nation. We see the threat of radical Islam, the pending repercussions of an exploding debt, the impact of a crumbling moral decline, the results of a failing educational system, along with the too many other obvious threats to mention here. And these threats are all real, without question.
But these threats, are merely signs of a much greater storm that is brewing — an eternal one. While the aforementioned threats pose great danger to the future of a nation, and they have no doubt awakened the passion and activism of many to expose and defeat them, I question whether there are some greater signs, of eternal consequence, that we are missing or perhaps ignoring?
I don’t assume that everyone who might read these thoughts will embrace the Bible, but I would venture to guess that many do. So if this is true, I’m also reminded of the verse that asserts, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?” Perhaps an amplification of this verse (which I believe is true based on numerous other passages) could be “What does it profit a man if he gains a nation, but loses the souls of his fellow citizens?”
As real as the threat of radical Islam is to our nation, the truth is that each Muslim has a soul. God loves every one of them. And God’s Son Jesus died for each Muslim. For that matter, He died for each of us. So as we may warn about the ideology of radical Islam, and its questionable history, (of which I am quite familiar), there is a greater sign that I believe Jesus was referencing when He warned His disciples. (By the way, I’m reminded of a radical Jew who went about persecuting and killing Christians, until Jesus transformed his life and he became one of the most widely read authors in the New Testament, who we know as the Apostle Paul.)
There is nothing bad about being informed about today’s highs and tonight’s lows when it comes to our weather. But the greatest value of forecasts is when a tornado or hurricane is bearing down on your home. At that point, having the most relevant info to protect against such a storm, is of great value.
Likewise, there is a spiritual storm brewing. The eternal implications vastly exceed the temporal impact of the myriad of issues, many of them good, that can distract us from one day to the next. But the truth is that the battle that is raging is for “all the marbles” and those “marbles” are the souls of men and women, not merely the future of a nation.
I do not share these thoughts to judge or convict anyone who might read this, as they are written to me as much as to anyone else. These are thoughts I have been thinking through for some time.
Someday each of us will stand before our Creator to answer for the use of our time, treasure and talent. Personally I must confess I’ve misused all three of these over the years. So I have wondered if attempts to save a nation, will be impressive to God, or will He ask me and you, a different set of questions?
What about your neighbor? Did you love him/her? Did you share My truths with him? Did you reach out to that one that you disagree with, but I died for? Did you show him the love My Son expressed towards Him? Did you love your enemies (as I instructed you to)? Did you forgive your enemies, as Stephen did when he was being stoned to death by his enemies?
Only you can weigh whether these questions are valid. Only you can evaluate what you believe to be the pressing “signs of the times” to which Jesus alluded. But as you consider these thoughts, and evaluate the signs, I would encourage you to read the entire chapter of Luke 12 so as to gain the context within which Jesus warned His disciples about the “signs of the times.” For me it was instructive to better understand just what Jesus was discussing.
I look forward to any thoughts you might share as you consider my thoughts and this verse. And may we all be like the sons of Issachar who we are told were men who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (I Chronicles 12:32)
The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast.
But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.
God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between.
So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel:
“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17
The Instruction Manual
The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.
As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God). In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him.
God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government
This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand. Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating. It’s not the voters. It’s Him. Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.
But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you. Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.
God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship. That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility. You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty.
God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride)
In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day. But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud. We read in Daniel 4:30 these words:
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” (Daniel 4:30)
If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man. Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.)
It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride. Power and pride seem to go hand and hand. So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position. A politician can easily look at himself as important. As special. As above others. As privileged. As deserving.
But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes. But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told:
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride? If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives. So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power. If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle.
Pride Leads to Bad Stuff
I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official. The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God. Note Daniel’s warning:
“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.” (Daniel 4:25, 27)
Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel:
“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced! From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life.
It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives:
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
So be sure of this elected official. Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son.
Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say:
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37)
We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle. It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities. But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials:
“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.” The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians. And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.”
So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role? Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words.
There are at least two reasons to do so. The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God? But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards:
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual
We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual. This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.
God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this:
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty. The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives. But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him.
So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character. Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes. So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:
“Why did God elevate me? What does He want to achieve through me? How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”
All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier: Humility.
In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.
Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death:
“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response:
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.” But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?)
For over a decade, my life revolved around politics. I ate, drank and slept all things political. Throughout those years, I often saw the worst of men and women which led me to suspect our government’s involvement in a host conspiracies. And invariably the suspicions that I developed led to fears: Who would win elections? Who would govern? What would the opposition do if they gained control? What about our nation’s future? What about my family’s future?
I found over those years though that I was not alone. In fact millions of Americans shared these same questions which led them to fear these same “what if” scenarios as well.
But as I began to extricate my life from all things political, and to focus my time and attention away from short-term issues, with a hunger instead for the eternal, I began to realize that when I feared something, it meant I had given up trusting God.
But recently, I ran across the following verse, that encapsulates the sentiments I’ve attempted to describe. Note what the prophet Isaiah had to say:
💡 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.” (Isaiah8:12-13)
And it hit me. It’s natural to fear that which we don’t control — particularly when those in control are not honorable people. But a follower of Christ should literally have “No Fear” when it comes to man, and the myriad of institutions that man creates. When we fall under the spell of fearing man-made agencies and ideologies, we are simply affirming our lack of trust in God Almighty. We are failing to realize that the Sovereign God over all, is in control of all. There is nothing that catches Him by surprise.
Isaiah instructed us to fear nothing or no one, except God. And he also advised us to make God holy in our lives. Holiness and fear are closely related, and they are truths I’m still struggling to consistently affirm in my life. But if we can begin to gain a glimpse of God’s holiness, it will lead us to fear Him. And yes, I’m talking about fear, the kind that makes us “tremble” as Isaiah cautioned. Too many in our pulpits interpret the word “fear” as simply respect. But I believe that is an inaccurate or incomplete interpretation of the word, as a thorough reading of the Bible from cover to cover amply affirms.
More often than not, we fear everything but God. Our actions reflect such. We vote out of fear. We fear the same things that unbelievers fear. We dread the stuff that others dread. We see conspiracies in everything. And those conspiracies simply deepen our fears. And the cycle continues.
And while we’re busy fearing all these things, our behavior affirms that we do not fear the One we should fear: the Holy God. We don’t pursue Him. We don’t seek to please Him. We consistently ignore His commands. We seldom open the Book He gave us to teach us what He values. But we have plenty of time for everything else.
So let’s begin to heed Isaiah’s admonition: Have No Fear… except the Fear of God. If we will truly follow this course, our behavior will change, worry will diminish, and peace will consume us.
The book of Daniel in the Bible contains many examples of how a follower of God should comport himself in the midst of a culture or nation that is at odds with God’s values. Here are a few lessons we can learn.
Of course there’s the familiar story of the three young Hebrew men, who were also government officials. When they were commanded to bow to a statue of the king, they refused to do so, even though it would result in a fiery furnace, from which they were miraculously rescued.
Speak Truth Always
And then there’s the story of Daniel who, as one of the highest government officials in the land, was asked to interpret a dream for the king. Recall that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed the king’s haughty and prideful spirit and predicted his downfall. Although there was tremendous risk on the part of Daniel in rebuking the king, Daniel did not falter in speaking truth to power, and Daniel challenged King Nebuchadnezzar to change his ways (which the king ignored).
God’s Laws Trump Man’s
Several years later, various government officials sought to persecute Daniel, who reported directly to the king. Daniel was equivalent to the Prime Minister of the nation. The only way these scoundrels could achieve Daniel’s demise was to attack his religion directly. Note what they concluded:
“Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” (Daniel6:5)
And so they made sure that laws were passed that would be in direct violation to the religious values by which they knew Daniel lived. Sound familiar?
So they outlawed prayer, to any god except the king.
But notice how Daniel responded:
“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10
Daniel not only ignored the law, but he did so publicly, with his window open so that there would be no doubt about whom Daniel would obey. You’ll recall that the rest of this story involved a lions den, God’s miraculous deliverance, the defeat and death of Daniel’s adversaries, and a proclamation from the king affirming Daniel’s God as the one true living and eternal God.
So, you may say, “Yeah, I know all those stories but what do they have to do with me?”
And I say, “A lot!”
The book of Daniel is not just full of a lot of cute bed time stories. Rather it is a book with deep, powerful truths, with principles that apply to the very era in which we a living.
Our culture and government is no longer friendly to Biblical values. In fact, whether it’s a school board, or a city, state or federal government, or agency, the antagonism and animosity towards Christians and the values taught by Jesus are under vicious attack… and it will only grow worse.
If you are a government official or employee who claims to follow Jesus, you have been or will be called to make a choice, when man’s laws and regulations conflict with God’s laws and values. (Remember Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses?)
But most of you are private citizens so you may say, “I’m exempt” from having to make such a choice. But don’t be deceived. Your day is coming… or is already here.
If you own a business, and attempt to abide by biblical values, there is a bullseye on you and your business. (Remember the cake maker, photographer and florist who were singled out and attacked for their Biblical beliefs?)
If you’re not a business owner, you have been (or will be) confronted with a myriad of choices, whether it’s your kids’ education, how your tax dollars are used, your selection of political candidates that may not affirm biblical values, and a host of other choices. (Remember the coach who was recently attacked for his decision to pray with his team?)
But first, will you and I even recognize it when we are confronted with these choices? And secondly, will we cave under pressure, or will we follow the examples from Daniel?
In the final moments of the life of Joshua, we see this great warrior for God and hero of our faith presenting his nation and fellow citizens with this choice:
“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua24:15
Who will you and I choose? The god of our culture or our government? Or the God of the Ages, whose values and truths never change?
What do all the above men have in common? They were all elected rulers of their nations. And the citizens of their nations (Turkey, Iraq, USA) all went to the polls to cast their votes for their choice for their highest leader.
But, there are several deep truths that are often lost when we think about elections for any public office, particularly in America. So with Election Day around the corner, let’s explore these truths and why your vote counts… but for very different reasons than you think.
Your Vote Does NOT Ultimately Decide the Election
Sometimes a negative example can help us illustrate a positive truth. So let me try to do so.
Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq, seemed to always win, regardless of his devious nature and evil pursuits. His citizens voted, but their vote did not ultimately decide the election. Saddam Hussein always determined the outcome. This same reality could be said for many evil dictators.
While there is no comparing Saddam Hussein with God, there is a lesson to learn here. God allows you and me to vote freely, but ultimately it is His sovereign, just, and perfect will that determines the outcome. This truth is affirmed throughout Scripture, but here is just one verse that teaches this truth:
“He (God) removes kings and sets up other kings…” (Daniel 2:21)
So if you’ve thought your vote for or against a particular candidate was the reason he or she won or lost, think again… unless you think you can outvote God.
Voting is Your Obligation
So if God choses our rulers, is there really any reason to vote? If His will is going to prevail, what’s the use in my even going to the polls?
We have been given not only a right to vote in America, but more importantly an obligation has been entrusted to us by God. So when it comes to voting, I’m reminded of the verse, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)
In Matthew 25, there is a story told by Jesus about three servants to whom their master gave varying resources to manage. They were each rewarded, or punished, based on how they stewarded the resources they were given. Likewise, God has granted to us the obligation to select those who would seek to rule over us. Failing to vote is shirking an obligation that God has provided to you. Just as the servants received a reward or punishment based on their choices, likewise our vote will carry with it a similar response from God.
Do You Pass the Test?
So far we have established that 1) God, for His own particular reasons, has already determined the outcome of each election, and 2) We should still vote to fulfill our obligation. So if these are both true, does it matter who I vote for?
Absolutely. And here’s why.
Each time you cast a vote for anyone, you are revealing what is in your heart. Your vote for a politician is just like a politician’s vote for a piece of legislation. His vote and yours, reveal what you both value and prioritize.
When we vote, we have the opportunity to affirm good and reject or expose evil as we see in Ephesians 5:10-11:
“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”
If a would be elected official is known by his “worthless deeds of evil or darkness,” then our vote will either reject or affirm such.
So every time we vote, we are actually being tested by God Himself. We either pass or fail, and there’s no grading on a curve.
When we enter the voting booth, we reveal our priorities. But are our priorities God’s priorities? Are our values His values? Do we honestly seek to align what we are prioritizing with what Scripture instructs us to affirm or reject?
I can personally attest to the fact that as one spends more and more time seeking God’s instruction and direction, many of the issues that seemed to be priorities, as a Republican, Independent, Conservative, or even Liberal, will begin to crumble under the scrutiny of Scripture.
Voting for the “Lesser of Two Evils”
Over the years, I, and many others, sadly defaulted to voting for a candidate we had serious issues with, simply because we disliked his opponent even more. So we succumb to selecting the “lesser of two evils.” But when we do so, we invariably reveal that we do not believe God when He said that “He removes kings and raises up kings.” Or we question God when He affirms that,
“The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)
Invariably, when we vote for the “lesser of two evils” we sacrifice values that we claim are important to us. In so doing we attempt to play “god” with our “lesser evil” choice, even though such candidate likely has positions or values that are at odds with God’s values.
Such approach demonstrates a lack of trust in God, in His ability to elevate, or put down a king, and direct the heart of the ruler. But a vote for a “lesser evil” also reveals that we are willing to prefer the temporal (winning an election to advance some political agenda) over the eternal of affirming God’s principles.
So at the end of the day, it’s critical that you vote. But hopefully you’ve been challenged to reconsider why, how, and for whom you vote. The ultimate Judge is keeping score. You and I can pass the test if we seek His ways versus our own.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” I Corinthians 13:11
If you have a child you can clearly identify childish behavior. It’s not pretty. But you understand and tolerate such behavior because you know that as that child matures, and he learns from instruction, his tantrums, pettiness, selfishness, and other childish behavior will become less and less prominent. And as he grows into adulthood, he will likely become well adjusted. He will respect others. He will learn that to achieve his goals, he must often help others achieve theirs. And ultimately, he puts away childish behavior.
I was present at the inception of the tea party movement, having founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in April 2009. It wasn’t my first rodeo, but the challenge of organizing and leading a grassroots movement was new. So I came of age so to speak with this movement. And I met a lot of wonderful people. Many of those people are dear friends today. Those who joined the movement were ordinary Americans who simply loved their communities and nation, and were worried that their future was gray and bleak. And the facts and stats affirmed their concerns.
The tea party movement accomplished a lot in its early years, when enthusiasm was high and strategy was limited. But as the years wore on, it became obvious that strategy and thoughtful deliberation would become more important. No longer could the movement sustain itself on raw emotion, anger, or passion. Rather, to succeed, it would require that we learn from our mistakes and failures. Sadly though, nearly ten years later, the movement continues to struggle with the same blunders.
As is the case with most elections, there are often several candidates who could be split into various tiers. The first tier is the “perfect” candidate who might have a near unblemished track record, and his/her fidelity to tea party values is unquestioned.
The second tier includes candidates who, while their voting record may not align perfectly with tea party values, and there may be other “complaints” some in the movement will lodge, they do have redeeming qualities. Ultimately, if elected, they would advance many values the movement supports.
Then there are the third tier candidates. These are the ones who are so offensive or wrong in their policies, affiliations or track records, that most tea party members would likely never support them. What we find though is that the candidates in Tier 1 are typically underfunded and thus not electable, while Tier 2 & 3 often have sufficient funds to mount a credible campaign.
These three tiers expose one of the greatest flaws of the tea party movement: its unwillingness to coalesce together. Independent elements, personalities, and egos are rampant in the movement, and unwillingness to tolerate the slightest variance from “perfection” is the norm.
Sadly, many tea party members are unwilling to consider anyone outside of Tier 1. Because of this reality, what invariably happens is that other credible and acceptable candidates in Tier 2 are maligned and rejected. Additionally, because Tier 3 candidates not only have sufficient funds, but they typically garner the establishment Republican voters, Tier 1 & 2 voters split all the other remaining votes. Consequently the Tier 3 candidate often wins. In every case this has been the worst case scenario for the movement, our state and nation. We saw it with Romney in 2012. And in Tennessee, we saw it with Governor Bill Haslam. And Lamar Alexander. And Bob Corker. And others.
Now again in 2017-18, tea party members in Tennessee are repeating the same old mistake. The fidelity by many to their “perfect” but unelectable candidate is blinding them from the reality that there may be another “acceptable” candidate who is both credible and electable.
Let me digress for a moment to state that there are times when one may not, for conscience sake, be able to vote for anyone in Tier 2 or Tier 3. If that is the case, I would never attempt to judge someone else’s conscience. At that point, it’s a deeply personal decision and no one should ever question someone’s deep rooted beliefs when they enter the voting booth.
But in the absence of a moral reservation, the movement is missing another opportunity to help influence, and ultimately select, the next Governor in Tennessee. It may require some to select what they consider to be a Tier 2 candidate. But if they do, they will be selecting a candidate who can actually win, and they would be revealing a maturity that heretofore has been missing in the movement.
Growing up requires that we oftentimes sacrifice perfection for good. Maturity understands that we don’t always get what we want. Honesty enables us to look into the future and predict what will likely occur and use our best efforts to influence that future. Conversely, dishonesty keeps us glued to our own narrow-mindedness, trapped in our own little echo-chambers.
Sadly though, if a movement never grows up, it ceases to be relevant. And once it’s no longer relevant, it doesn’t have long to live.
The tea party movement in Tennessee is at a crossroads. It can stay on its present course and drive over the cliff, never to influence again. Or it can take a right turn, and begin to coalesce around principled pragmatism, which is simply recognizing reality and attempting to win as many battles as possible by remaining as true as possible to one’s principles.
Losing elections never advances one’s principles. Winning elections with imperfect candidates can advance some of our principles.
So will the tea party movement put away childish attitudes and grow up, or simply fade away?