“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?
Cause and effect. Words and deeds. Ideas and Consequences.
Most would readily acknowledge that for every deed or action there is a corresponding force, idea or motivator behind it. But all too often biases and subjectivity cloud the facts and the understanding of them, even when the clues are abundantly clear. This week was a case study of these truths.
On Wednesday, a 66 year old political activist picked up a rifle and handgun, with deliberate premediatated intent, and hatred in his heart, and drove to a baseball field where Republican Congressmen were preparing for the annual baseball charity benefit game. These Congressmen hailed from the party that pushes grannies over cliffs. They were men whose mission in life was to steal money from the poor and give to their rich friends. They were polluters whose chief aim was to destroy the globe they lived on. They were men who were racists, bigots, and homophobes. These men, in baseball cleats and uniforms, were the worst of the worst America has to offer, or so news reports, media, pundits, late night show hosts, Hollywood elites, millions of Americans, and particularly their Democratic colleagues across the aisle, would have you believe all these obvious lies and slander.
And so Mr. Hodgkinson, a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter, and avowed left-wing activist, following months and years of hearing his ideological leaders malign and defame Republicans and conservatives, made the horrific decision to do what seemed the logical thing to do, given the “crimes” of these Republicans. He would grab his weapons and descend upon these “vile” GOP Congressmen, becoming their judge, jury, and executioner. He would do what others could only bring themselves to verbalize, whether through innuendo, jest, theatrical drama, or outright threats. He would carry through. He would extinguish their lives, and in so doing, he would finally mete out the only justice these “immoral” Republicans were worthy of… destruction and death.
Thankfully, Hodgkinson’s murderous plan was foiled due primarily to the grace of God, and secondly to the heroic actions of the Capitol Police, who just “happened to be there” because Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican House Majority Whip, had his assigned security detail with him. Rather than a mass shooting with numbers of lives lost, there were a handful of Republicans (including Scalise) and Capitol police who were shot up, but are expected to recover. In a move of swift justice, the would be executioner met his Maker that very day, receiving the ultimate judgment reserved for unrepentant murderers.
But, is that the end of the story? Are there others, beyond Mr. Hodgkinson, who played a role in the tragic events of this week? If for every effect there is a cause; and if words drive actions; and if movement is preceded by force; and if ideas have consequences, then there is a mountain full of blame to spread behind the left-wing ideological lines, as I wrote about a couple months ago in this post.
Recent Calls for Political Assassinations
Whether it’s Kathy Griffin’s recent graphic beheading stunt of President Trump, or the Julius Caesar play in New York this week that depicted the main character, a Donald Trump look-alike, being assassinated, these are just two whose ideological DNA are at the scene of the crime. To call for or fantasize about the death of anyone, but particularly a member of an opposing party because you find him objectionable, or even reprehensible, should be intolerable and be met with the swiftest condemnation. Those participating in such despicable behavior should pay a heavy price. Tragically, when those toying with such hideous fantasies are nationally recognized, they water a soil that is already sown with seeds of hatred and thoughts of violence. To be clear, Mr. Hodgkinson was completely responsible for his actions. But before his fateful day, those calling for Trump’s assassination lent credence to such crimes and played a part in fanning into flames the embers of Hodgkinson’s hate.
The Media & Entertainment
It’s long been established that the overwhelming slant of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, nearly every major newspaper, and the vast majority of entertainment (Hollywood elite and musicians) in our nation participate in the unholy alliance that seeks to portray those on the right side of the political spectrum as all that is wrong with America. Every kind of disparaging remark is hurled at those of us whose “guilt” is simply embracing an ideology that, while at odds with their alliance, is most in tune with the philosophy of our founders and our Constitution. If it’s any consolation for conservatives, were our founders alive today, they would undoubtedly be targets of the left’s smears, vilification and even assassination attempts by their most radical elements.
Since Trump’s election, the barrage from the left has only increased and intensified. And so Hodgkinson’s mission to “Destroy Trump & Co.” as posted on his Facebook page, was affirmed time and time again by Hillary, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer and their partners across this nation with their latest message of RESISTANCE and disruption. This article from American Thinker identifies a partial list of the threats against the GOP and Trump by Hollywood celebrities.
Purveyors of Hate
One cannot discuss this subject without highlighting the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that speaks in unison with the agenda of the progressive left. Like a rabid animal, SPLC’s fangs can be extremely destructive and even potentially lethal. SPLC targets many of the leaders in the Republican and conservative mainstream, listing them either as “hate groups” or affiliating with the “hate groups” they singularly pronounce. So was the case with Rep. Scalise, the Republican Congressman shot this week by Mr. Hodgkinson. SPLC had asserted that Scalise had associated with groups it deemed hate groups. And it should be noted that Hodgkinson had “Liked” SPLC’s Facebook Page.
SPLC’s ties to violence were furthered portrayed when they labeled Family Research Council as a hate group several years ago. Note that FRC is a mainstream political and policy organization that affirms both conservative and biblical values. In 2012 another left-wing gunman attacked FRC, seeking to kill dozens. Thankfully the security officer at FRC was armed and neutralized the would be murderer. Later, when interviewed by the police, the gunman acknowledged that he had gone to the SPLC “hate group” website to gain info on FRC before his attack. Shamefully, while SPLC boasts that it calls out those who hate, they have become purveyors of hate and violence themselves, and share some part in the climate that led to Hodkinson attack yesterday.
Are all liberals to blame?
It’s tempting to use a broad brush when opining about political matters but to do so would be wrong. Many Americans who voted for Hillary were appalled by the Griffin stunt and other such vile deeds. But while hatred doesn’t drive all liberals, many of them are certainly influenced unduly by the biases of their deceptive sources. And so the mouthpieces of the left, too numerous to list, carry a high level of responsibility for sowing the seeds that eventually sprout into full blown violence by some against their fellow Americans, whose sole “crime” is believing differently.
At the end of the day, this whole matter reminds me of a couple of truths from God Himself. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus stated, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”
And in 1 John 3:15, we see that hatred is merely murder in one’s heart: “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.”
These are weighty thoughts and should cause all of us to look inside to test our own attitudes. If hate is equal to murder, it’s no light matter.
The question many ask themselves today is whether America can be saved from herself? Is she too far gone? Is the tenor and level of our disagreement in America between the predominant political and spiritual ideologies too far split to see a patching of our nation together again? Time will tell. But if the machine of the left continues on its unrelenting agenda to vilify and slander all views contrary to theirs, then what we witnessed this week at a baseball field in our nation’s capitol, will spill over into your city and mine next.
Plant a thought and reap a word;
Plant a word and reap an action;
Plant an action and reap a habit;
Plant a habit and reap a character;
Plant a character and reap a destiny.
Tennessee Republicans, from the party that boasts it is for lower taxes, just raised taxes in the Volunteer state as they wound down this year’s legislative session. The party which enjoys a dominant super majority, controlling the House, Senate and Governorship, raised the Gas Tax on every Tennessean. Note that even if you don’t drive, the gas tax will apply to you since prices on anything delivered by trucks will most definitely increase. And those increased transportation costs will be passed on to you, the consumer. It’s as if legislators just pick-pocketed Tennessee taxpayers.
But here’s what’s even more astonishing about the haste by legislators to raise the gas tax. Tennessee enjoyed a $2 Billion surplus this last budget year. And this coming year, the state of Tennessee projects another $1 billion surplus, as well as in subsequent years.
Because a government’s primary source of receipts is through taxes and fees, a surplus suggests that citizens are being overtaxed. But rather than reduce the state’s tax rate, Governor Haslam and dozens of other Republicans chose to keep taxes at their current levels, thus continuing the state’s surplus. So not only were Republicans content with overtaxing Tennesseans, but they compounded the matter by increasing the Gas Tax as well.
I have held cordial and pleasant relationships with most of my local area Republican representatives. But being friends on a political or even social level, does not mean that one should turn a blind eye, or censor one’s comments. The fact is that when those professing to be fiscal conservatives while campaigning, violate fiscal conservatism when elected, it’s incumbent in our form of government to call these individuals to account. The full list of legislators who voted for and against the Gas Tax is here.
Sadly, every single legislator in Hamilton & Bradley County, TN voted FOR the Gas Tax. And out of the list below, only one is a Democrat:
Gerald McCormick-R, 26
Patsy Hazlewood-R, 27
JoAnne Favors-D, 28
Mike Carter-R, 29
Marc Gravitt-R, 30
Dan Howell-R, 22
Kevin Brooks-R, 24
Mike Bell-R, 9
Todd Gardenhire-R, 10
Bo Watson-R, 11
I acknowledge that many of Tennessee’s roads and bridges are in need of repair. And to be clear, those of us who opposed the gas tax are NOT against increasing the amount that our state allocates towards our road budget. Rather, our opposition has always been that the default answer by most Republicans was to raise taxes when there are multi-billion dollar surpluses that are available to fund every penny of the Governor’s proposed road budget increase.
What is inexplicable about the whole gas tax matter though, is that every initiative that was proposed that sought to avoid tax increases in favor of using surpluses to fund road repairs was met with intense opposition by the governor and Republican legislators. It was clear they would not take NO for an answer to their gas tax increase. And why they were stuck on a gas tax increase is something we may never know.
During the course of the debate over the gas tax increase, many pro-tax Tennessee Republicans were quick to embrace the following quote from Ronald Reagan:
“The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”
But here’s the problem with “tax & spend” legislators using this quote. In every relationship there are negotiables and non-negotiables. Consider the most fundamental relationship: marriage.
If a husband picks up his clothes 80% of the time, but fails to do so every so often, he is not a traitor, deserving of a firing squad. Rather, he just needs some grace from his wife, and she will likely agree he is “a friend and an ally.”
But if that same husband is faithful to his wife 80% of the time and carouses around “just” 20% of the time, he is a 100% traitor to his wife and vows, and he shouldn’t be surprised when an attorney delivers the divorce papers.
Obviously, all matters are not equal. So when a Republican legislator professes that he/she is a fiscal conservative, then a non-negotiable should be the matter of raising taxes when there are better alternatives. Utilizing a multi-billion dollar surplus would seem to be a better alternative than raising taxes.
So don’t buy this distortion of Reagan’s quote. The very legislators who rush to Reagan for cover are the same ones who are unfaithful to the values that Reagan espoused and lived, at least in the area of raising taxes in 2017 in Tennessee.
So I wonder what’s next from these legislators? Your guess is as good as mine, but betting on the fact that they’ll stand firm against tax increases is no longer a given.
This last year has been a year in which the term #FakeNews gained prominence in America. It seems that everywhere you turn, false reports are regularly popping up as fact. Amazingly, Wikipedia even defines #FakeNews as this:
Fake News is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation, be it via the traditional news media or social media, with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically. It often employs eye-catching headlines or entirely fabricated news-stories. They have no basis in fact, but are presented as and believed to be factually accurate…
Pathetically though, Republican politicians are now getting in on the #FakeNews trend in Tennessee and here’s the background.
Republican Governor Bill Haslam proffered a bill he entitled the IMPROVE act (Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy). The bill, as modified, would increase gas taxes in Tennessee over $300 million per year to fund road repairs across the state. However, in order to “offset” the tax increase that Tennesseans will see at the pump and feel in their wallets, the bill would also reduce taxes on groceries, but not by an equivalent amount. In fact, less than half of the increase is offset by the grocery tax decrease.
To make up the difference, Haslam, bolstered by Republican “yes-men” legislators, cobbled together a tax decrease via two other taxes. The first decrease is in the Franchise & Excise Tax, exclusively a business tax. The second decrease is in the Hall Income Tax, a tax on certain investment income, that only a very small percentage of individuals in Tennessee pay. Furthermore, legislation was passed last year, before Haslam’s 2017 Gas Tax proposal, that agreed to phase out the Hall Tax over several years, with a full repeal by 2022.
So, if you consider the details of Haslam’s proposal, it’s clear that the vast majority of hard-working Tennesseans will never benefit from the F&E Tax decrease or the Hall Income tax phase out. And the marginal decrease in their grocery tax will not even come close to offsetting the increase they will see when they fill-up each week at the pump. So the truth is most Tennesseans will see a drop in their disposable income if Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE “Gas Tax” bill is passed by the Tennessee legislature.
As a backdrop to the whole debate over Governor Haslam’s Gas Tax is the fact that Tennessee has enjoyed a record $2 billion budget surplus this last year. Additionally, the surpluses are projected to continue for the next several years. Consider though that the source of government receipts is predominantly from taxes.
So, in simple terms, Tennessee overtaxed its citizens $2 billion last year, and it projects to continue overtaxing them for the foreseeable future, upwards of at least another billion dollars. But worse, rather than use those surpluses, Governor Haslam and many Republican legislators want to raise taxes even further via Haslam’s Gas Tax bill.
As a result of these surpluses, a number of alternate proposals have been offered to simply divert for road repairs a portion of the surpluses in a similar amount to what Governor Haslam is requesting. This would not only replace Governor Haslam’s proposal but it would also eliminate any need for a tax increase.
But here’s where things cross the line from just a bad policy decision to a purposeful act of deception. Governor Haslam’s “yes-men” in the legislature have been pulling out all the stops to push the Governor’s IMPROVE bill through, by hook or crook. But because of the constant efforts by grassroots activists to expose the truth that the flawed bill will raise taxes on most Tennesseans, according to the Tennessee Star, Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Barry Doss (R-Leoma) and Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) led the effort to rename the IMPROVE act to the “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”
Yes, you read that correctly. By falsely applying tax cuts that 1) apply solely to businesses (F&E Tax), and 2) were agreed to in a prior year and do not apply to the majority of Tennesseans (Hall Income Tax), Rep. Doss, Rep. McCormick and a host of other Republican Representatives are deceptively pronouncing that a bill that increases taxes on hard-working Tennesseans, will actually cut taxes on them.
Can someone say #FakeTaxCut?
So is this #FakeTaxCut a foregone conclusion? Not hardly. If there is a lesson in Trump’s victory in November, it is that the People can still determine the outcome of their government. But Trump only won because people showed up and let their voices be heard. And that’s the only way that Haslam’s #FakeTaxCut will be defeated — if Tennessee voters pick up their cell phones, and take 60 seconds to let their voices be heard. If you’re willing to do so, then the price of gas at the pump may not go up. But if you won’t invest a minute of your time, then you can count on Republicans, the party of “lower taxes,” to raise your taxes.
The choice is YOURS.
Click here to contact your Tennessee State Representative and Senator
It was March 23, 2010. One of the most contentious political battles in recent American history was over. President Obama had just signed into law his signature legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. House Republicans immediately introduced legislation to repeal Obamacare, and over the next six years, Republicans would introduce more than 60 different bills to repeal all or parts of Obamacare.
In 2015, the House and Senate, both under Republican control, passed HR 3762, a bill that repealed the most significant parts of Obamacare. (President Obama would veto the Repeal bill.) It’s noteworthy to highlight that support for the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare was near unanimous by Republicans with only 7 House Republicans and 2 Senate Republicans voting Nay, or against it. (239 Republican Representatives and 52 Republican Senators voted Aye, in favor.) As a side note, my Congressman Chuck Fleischmann and both of my Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, all voted for the Repeal Bill.
During the three election cycles (2012, 2014, 2016) following the passage of Obamacare, Republican House and Senate candidates, challengers and incumbents alike, would nearly unanimously, and repeatedly, promise that if voters would elect, or reelect, them, they would Repeal Obamacare. And based on those promises, Republican, moderate, conservative, tea party, and independent voters entrusted their vote to these elected officials.
Then the 2016 Presidential cycle happened. While the Republican Primary was one of the most crowded field of candidates in memory, with each of them offering their own ideas and promises, there was one issue on which all the candidates agreed: Their unanimous commitment to the Repeal of Obamacare.
Following the Primary, and with the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for Presidency, the GOP’s nominee promised to Repeal Obamacare. And the 2016 GOP Platform further reiterated the Party’s commitment to a full Repeal of Obamacare. Note this quote from the Republican Platform (page 36):
“Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare. It weighs like the dead hand of the past upon American medicine. It imposed a Euro-style bureaucracy to manage its unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions. It has driven up prices for all consumers. Their insurance premiums have dramatically increased while their deductibles have risen about eight times faster than wages in the last ten years… We agree with the four dissenting judges of the Supreme Court: ‘In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.’
“To that end, a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.”
Let that last sentence sink in.
Is there any question that the full Repeal of Obamacare was promised, ad infinitum, by the Party and all of its candidates?
But if there’s one thing that seems to be synonymous with politicians, it is broken promises. There is nigh a profession that has a lower credibility rating than that of a politician. I have met many politicians including local, state and federal ones. And one thing I’ve noticed about most of them is that they are fond to commit to the voter in order to gain their vote. But once they are elected, there is something that flips in the politician’s mind; something that quickly turns the page on those campaign promises, as they jet off to Washington or their state capitol. Whether it’s a character flaw in the type of individuals that are attracted to the profession of governing, or whether it’s that as they leave voters behind, they can also leave promises behind, it’s a rare instance when politicians are willing to fulfill the promises they make.
Sadly that’s what American voters once again witnessed this last week. When the Republican health care plan known as RyanCare, TrumpCare, or the American Health Care Act, was put forward, a promise was broken. And it wasn’t just one promise. The Repeal of Obamacare was promised by:
President Donald Trump,
each Republican Senator,
each Republican Representative,
Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, and
the Republican Party in its 2016 Platform.
And as already noted, nearly every Republican Representative and Senator voted in favor of the 2015 Repeal of Obamacare as well.
I once heard someone ask the question,
“How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: When their lips are moving.”
Of course, this is a very cynical, over-generalization of an entire profession. But when the overriding theme of a political party and their nearly 300 elected officials is the Repeal Obamacare, for six long years, and when they are ultimately entrusted with the power and authority to do so, what should voters conclude when such a material promise is broken?
What is also commonplace amongst politicians is to deflect blame when they’re under pressure, rather than simply owning up when they break their promise. Once again, this week we saw the blame game, from Trump to Ryan, and from House Representatives to the Republican Party. That blame was heaped on 40 or so Representatives who, unlike Ryan, Trump and an entire party, resolved to keep the promise they made. This group, known as the Freedom Caucus, had a simple message: “Let’s keep our promise. Let’s Repeal Obamacare. Let’s simply vote as we did in 2015.”
But they became the villains. The scapegoats. And many voters are falling for Trump and the Republican Party’s blame game, forgetting that those doing the blaming are the ones breaking the promise.
The 2015 Repeal bill, supported by nearly every Republican member, was actually introduced by Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan last month. But Ryan and Trump and a couple hundred other elected officials, effectively affirmed Obamacare and all of its destructive regulations, by refusing to honor their promise. Had they simply taken up the Repeal Bill that was passed by each of these Congressional members in 2015, Obamacare would be history, with a two year phase out period. This time frame would have been ample time to pass common sense healthcare reform.
Beyond keeping a promise, the reality is that only a full repeal of Obamacare will insure that the virus that has infected our government will be extricated from our healthcare system. Anything less will simply insure that the destructive nature of Obamacare will be allowed to remain.
So what’s next? My guess is that politicians will be politicians, and do what they do best: Promise the world but deliver a sack of IOU’s. And their credibility will sink even lower than Trump’s favorability ratings. But my hope is that for once, these men and women will honor their promise, and just do the right thing.
Our nation’s future, and your healthcare, hang in the balance.
“Let your Yea be Yea and your Nay be Nay…” (Matthew 5:37)
As a people, Americans are accustomed to solving most any problem that confronts us. Whether it was leading a world coalition to defeat the Nazis or responding to Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, as a nation we have consistently risen to the occasion when we were faced with an existential threat. And, by the grace of God, over our 240+ year history, our nation has weathered even the worst of those threats.
A few days ago, Donald Trump held a press conference in which he described what he inherited from Barack Obama as a “mess.” Specifically, he had this to say:
“As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess! It’s a mess! At home and abroad. A mess!”
He went on to describe some of that mess in his comments. And he spoke of these problems frequently during his campaign:
Loss of jobs
A weakening military
A broken healthcare system
Spiraling, unsustainable debt
A broken immigration & refugee system
President Trump is right that our nation is in an absolute mess. Many have been saying this for a long time. But with the election of Trump, and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the power to address the “mess” has shifted to the GOP. They now possess the authority and ability to implement whatever solutions they deem appropriate to deal with the many crises America faces.
Granted, it’s possible and likely that Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress will implement some sound political approaches and pass worthy legislation that will attempt to address these problems. If this battle was being played out on a football field, Republican efforts might advance the ball a few yards towards the goal line of greater prosperity, security, efficiency, lower taxes and more.
But lest we get too excited, the root of our nation’s problems does not stem from a dysfunctional Congress, an activist judicial branch, or even an unorthodox or confrontational President. Their behavior is merely a symptom of a much deeper struggle in our nation.
There is an old adage that goes: “Never bring a knife to a gun fight.” Fighting spiritual battles with political weapons will never offer a permanent solution. If fans attend a football game and they grow excited by their team moving the ball a few yards, but that team doesn’t possess the plays to score a touchdown, then those fans will be continuously frustrated, despite the brief exhilaration if a first down is achieved.
Likewise, using a knife to carve out a political strategy simply offers the exhilaration of a few short term victories. And while I would not diminish the importance of such wins, from a grander perspective of the battle our nation is embroiled in, these “wins” will be akin to a solitary first down, only to see the ball fumbled to the other team.
The fight our nation is embroiled in is a much deeper fight; one that has spiritual and eternal implications. The Bible speaks of this battle in Ephesians 6:12 — “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
While I acknowledge it is not the role of government to solve spiritual problems, it is possible for rulers or elected officials to compound those problems. And we have seen this occurring for many decades now, through legislation, regulation and policy.
In years past, there was a list of transgressions known as the “7 Deadly Sins” which originated shortly after the time of Christ. That ancient list, drawn from the Bible itself, is a modern day indictment of our own nation:
Think through this list and see how they perfectly describe many of the ills our nation is facing.
Lust is front and center nearly everywhere you look: TV, movies, magazines, billboards, internet. It’s nearly impossible to escape.
Gluttony is epidemic in America with more than 1/3 of our citizens obese. And by 2020, it’s estimated that nearly 3/4 of Americans will be either overweight or obese.
Greed is typically associated with Wall Street, business owners, and multi-millionaires. But truthfully, greed is rampant at all socio-economic levels. The entire American culture has been organized around our insatiable desire to accumulate more and more.
Sloth or laziness is synonymous with millions of Americans. While certainly there are many who are unemployed who desire to work, there are literally tens of millions who would prefer to live off the welfare state.
Wrath is seen from DC to small town America. There is no shortage of anger in our nation today. While Donald Trump tapped into a lot of anger, we are seeing different types of anger displayed now that he is our President, and some of that anger is turning violent.
Envy is what drives many in our nation. We lack contentment because we desire what others have. And that desire is not limited to material things but can include status, abilities, and even desiring the characteristics of others.
Pride is seen by some as the worst of the seven deadly sins. By reciting such phrases as “if you believe it, you can achieve it” and other similar concepts, we remove God from the equation, exalting self to the position that only God should occupy.
If you’re like me, I can look through the list above and feel like I’m looking in the mirror for many of these. Sure, none of us are perfect. But how many of us can honestly acknowledge our shortcomings and say we are actively engaged in addressing those shortcomings, through God’s help, on a routine basis?
You see, our nation is a composite of its 330 million citizens. It only reflects what is in the hearts of its people. While we may bemoan the actions of our elected officials, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that they merely reflect what is in our hearts. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So, if we want to solve the many political solutions America is facing, it starts at the most fundamental level — looking in the mirror and beginning to address the spiritual problems in our own individual lives. As we do that, and only when we do that, can we ever hope to solve the seemingly insurmountable political problems facing our nation.
So what say you? Are you ready to start? If so, then get up, walk to the nearest mirror, and join me in saying: “Let’s change America… starting with me!”