Another critical election looms. With each new round of presidential elections, I tend to be astounded by the way people vote—usually without any solid foundational thinking. So I decided to publish how I approach this very serious responsibility.

Here, therefore, is my attempt at a personal manifesto.

I believe in Christian principled constitutional conservatism. Let me now explain what that means to me.

Christian

Jesus Christ is Lord of all aspects of life. My own life would have no meaning without His love, His forgiveness, and His direction for me. Politics and government fall under His Lordship. Consequently, whenever I think on those issues, I do so with a desire to ensure that His truth is the cornerstone for all governmental policies.

Biblical WorldviewI want to see all of the vital questions before us through the lens of Biblical faith and solid doctrine. I want a Biblical approach to the way government is organized and I want, as much as possible, people serving in that government who are dedicated Christians. Where that is not the case, I at least want to support those who are not hostile to Christian faith, but have respect for liberty of conscience.

I seek to help put into practice a Christian worldview on all manner of legislation, whether that be right to life/abortion, religious liberty, marriage, taxes, education, welfare, immigration—well, that’s the short list. I believe that no matter what the issue, there is a Biblical way to understand that issue.

Principled

PrinciplesI shouldn’t have to make this a separate section. Christians ought to be, simply by the nature of their relationship to God and truth, naturally principled. However, I am dismayed by how often those who profess the name of Christ make disastrously unprincipled decisions. They allow emotions or self-interest to set aside what they claim to believe.

What principles mean the most to me?

  • The inherent value of human life—we are all created in the image of God.
  • The concept of self-government—God has so designed us to grow into maturity and make most decisions ourselves without the oversight of civil government. Not only individuals, but families, churches, voluntary organizations, etc., should be free of undue government influence.
  • The sanctity of private property—government has no mandate from God to be our overlord on economic matters; He instead, as part of our maturity, seeks to teach us how to be His stewards of all types of property: money, material goods, our minds, and the free will He has given us.
  • Voluntary association without the force of government coming down on us—people only unite when they are united, and that unity is internal, not provided by government coercion.
  • Christian character—God intended us to carry out our lives as reflections of Him; the world only works correctly when we do things His way.
  • Sowing and reaping—man is accountable for his actions, and he will receive back what he has sown: if obedience to God, blessings; if disobedience, dire consequences; we can’t blame society and claim victimhood status in God’s eyes because He will always hold us personally responsible for our choices, whether right or wrong.

Constitutional

I believe in the concept of the rule of law, meaning no man, regardless of high rank in society, is above the law. We all are to be judged by the same standard.

Constitutional ConventionI believe in the system set up in this nation through the Constitution that gave us a solid basis for the rule of law.

I believe we need to hold firm to the original meaning of those words in our Constitution and not allow judges, legislators, or presidents to stray from the limited authority granted in that document.

Changes to the authority given to our federal government must go through the proper constitutional channel: the amendment process as outlined in the Constitution. A judge’s gavel is not a magic wand.

Anyone running for the presidency or for Congress, and anyone nominated for a federal judgeship, at whatever level, all the way to the Supreme Court, must pass muster as constitutionalists. No one who denigrates the rule of law should ever be supported for public office.

Conservative

Nash BookThis is a relative term. In a totalitarian system, a conservative would be one who wants to conserve totalitarianism. But in our system, a true conservative is someone who seeks to conserve what the Founders established. Often that can happen only by acting to overturn or reverse what has been done to destroy the Founders’ ideals. If a revolution has occurred, a real conservative might have to take on the nature of a counterrevolutionary in order to reestablish the foundations.

Conservatism does not merely conserve the status quo—if that status quo is a deviation from the constitutional system bequeathed to us.

Conservatism is not “reactionary”; it is a positive movement to secure the blessings of liberty to us and to future generations.

Application

As I survey the political field in this upcoming election cycle, and as I think through everything I wrote above, this is where I come out.

First, I can never support the Democrat party. Its very tenets are antithetical to my basic Christian beliefs; its principles are the opposite of mine; its radical anti-constitutionalism is in the process of destroying the rule of law; and rather than seeking to conserve the Founders’ ideals, it instead foments a secular, Marxist revolution against those ideals.

On the Republican side, I find that the current frontrunner, Donald Trump, has no real grasp of Christian faith and only pays lip service to its tenets, as far as he may understand them—which is not very far. I also don’t trust him to protect religious liberty.

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has a Christian testimony that I believe stands the test. I don’t see lip service only, but a commitment to the truths of the faith.

Trump-Cruz

Trump, with respect to principles, falls far short. In fact, it seems to me the only principle he follows is whatever promotes himself. Does he really believe in the sanctity of life when he defends Planned Parenthood? Can we trust him on religious liberty? Will he use the government to strongarm people who disagree with him, or perhaps prosecute them for their disagreements? I have no confidence in him on any of those issues.

Cruz, though, is about as principled a politician as I can find at the presidential level. When I look at those principles that I listed above, I see him as solid on them all. Why? He has proven to be faithful to them in public office thus far.

Does Donald Trump even know we have a Constitution that set up a limited government? He never talks about it. It’s obviously not a priority for him as he seeks the highest office in the land. He has even hinted—well, more than hinted—that maybe there should be some curtailment of political expression, that maybe there should be more lawsuits against the press.

Now, as much as I may criticize the American press—in print, on television, and on the Internet—any curtailment of political opinions sends a chill up my spine. Under a Trump administration, would this blog be considered a target if I should deign to criticize our fearless leader?

Ted Cruz is a staunch defender of the Constitution as intended by the Founders. How do I know? Again, look at his record. Restoring constitutional thinking and practice has been his life’s work.

Donald Trump is no conservative, at least as defined in the American context. He has not been schooled in conservative thought and has a record of supporting key Democrats throughout his career. When you give a lot of money to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, etc., etc., you are not only not conservative, but you are helping the enemies of constitutional conservatism propagate their radical revolution.

Ted Cruz, meanwhile, is the most consistent conservative left in the Republican presidential field. I am entirely comfortable with his understanding of how conservatism should play out in our constitutional system.

This, then, is how I approach thinking about politics and government. This determines how I vote.

I only hope these few thoughts will prove helpful to those who are trying to make sense of the decision before us.

Whittaker Chambers: Conservatism or Counterrevolution?

Chambers at DeskThe year: 1938. The occasion: a meeting between Whittaker Chambers, who had, at great peril, left the American communist underground, and General Walter Krivitsky, a defector from Stalin’s secret police. This meeting was instrumental in helping Chambers decide to inform on his former underground associates, and eventually led to the front-page drama of the Chambers-Hiss controversy from 1948-1950.

Chambers was hesitant to talk with Krivitsky. He knew it might lead to that fateful decision that would change the rest of his life, bringing untold misery and anguish to his family and destroying his budding career as a writer for Time magazine. He reluctantly agreed to the meeting, and it became a pivotal event in his life.

Krivitsky challenged Chambers to take a stand against the forces of the communist revolution. As Chambers relates in his classic autobiography Witness, “Krivitsky said one or two things that were to take root in my mind and deeply to influence my conduct, for they seemed to correspond to the reality of my position.” Chambers focuses on one in particular—Krivitsky’s contention that, in the struggle taking place between totalitarianism and liberty, there are only revolutionists and counterrevolutionists.

Victory against the communists/fascists/totalitarians, Chambers concluded, will only come via an active counterrevolution, not through a passive conservatism. Here’s how he phrased it:

WitnessCounterrevolution and conservatism have little in common. In the struggle against Communism the conservative is all but helpless. For that struggle cannot be fought, much less won, or even understood, except in terms of total sacrifice. And the conservative is suspicious of sacrifice; he wishes first to conserve, above all what he is and what he has. You cannot fight against revolutions so.

There is much wisdom in those comments. “Conservative” is a fluid term. I can say I am a conservative because I want to maintain the original spirit and letter of the Constitution and America’s founding principles. A Russian conservative, on the other hand, would want to conserve the old Soviet ways.

Chambers’s words still apply today. We may not be faced with an external Soviet Union, but the totalitarian spirit remains. “Fascism,” Chambers explained, “is inherent in every collectivist form.” Modern liberalism/progressivism is a form of fascism due to its inherent desire to make everyone conform to its tenets.

This is why Christians are told they must accept the cultural revolution that heralds abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, and the withdrawal of Christian faith to within the walls of an external structure that the world calls “the church.”

But the church is not an external structure. It is the aggregate of all true believers who have been told by their Lord to take the faith into all areas of society. If we are passive, if we allow the society to lurch toward moral depravity without a counterbalancing message and the courage to proclaim that message, we are no more than timid conservatives who seek to retain what we have.

God has called us to more than that. We are the new counterrevolutionaries. We are the ones with the message of life. We are accountable for how we spread that message to our society.

Whittaker Chambers 1Whittaker Chambers did what he had to do in his day, and he suffered for it. Yet what he did was essential to the preservation of liberty and the recognition of Western civilization’s debt to the Christian faith.

Chambers instructs us that this battle “can be fought only by the force of an intelligence, a faith, a courage, a self-sacrifice, which must equal the revolutionary spirit” of the enemies of Christian faith and liberty.

Will we go forward in our day with the same courage Chambers exhibited? If we do, be assured there will be suffering. Yet action on our part is absolutely essential if we hope to turn the tide.

Salt, Light, & Truth

I’ve spent the past two days writing about the drift of our culture into acceptance of a type of sex God forbade. For many people, this whole issue is simply a matter of “democracy”—let the people decide what they want. When you introduce the moral element, they tell you that’s irrelevant. All that matters is that we are devoted to popular sovereignty. As a historian, I know that term well. The last time it was front and center in the political debate was prior to the Civil War. Popular sovereignty was supposed to solve the quandary of slavery. Let the people of the new territories decide for themselves if they want slavery or not. Stephen Douglas, the Illinois senator who championed this approach, infamously said slavery was not a moral issue.

Well, I can’t help but frame it morally. At its foundation, the push for same-sex marriage is a clear indication of our rebellion against the righteousness of God and His law. It is a perversion—and I use that word advisedly and with forethought—of the gift of sex. Only a people firmly rooted in Biblical truth can prevail against this headwind. Are we no longer that people?

Liberals/progressives, whose outlook is primarily secular, think opposition to homosexuality is foolish. Unfortunately, they are joined in this view by a growing number of those who continue to call themselves Christians. They adopt most of the progressive political agenda and attempt to stamp it with God’s favor. They are doing a disservice to the gospel, and the God, they claim to represent.

Then there are some conservatives who are abandoning the field of battle. Most often, that’s because they are little different than their erstwhile foes at the other end of the political spectrum. How can that be? They are basically secular also; their conservatism is not based on solid Biblical principles. So when the culture shifts, they have no anchor to hold them to their position. They attempt to mix political conservatism with moral relativism. It’s not a good mixture.

One particular strand in the conservative movement is more libertarian than conservative. That group has never been wedded to Biblical morality anyway. They don’t want the government telling anyone what to do in the moral realm. Many of them support the mislabeled pro-choice position on abortion and have no problem at all with homosexuality. Their presence in the conservative coalition waters down its moral foundations.

The only saving grace in modern American conservatism, and in our politics in general, is the part of our populace that brings its Christianity to bear on our culture and government. They are the ones Jesus was referring to when He said,

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Salt preserves; light shows the way. Those in the church who have succumbed to the spirit of the age are the tasteless salt; they are no good for anything in this struggle. The responsibility therefore falls on those who still understand that truth is truth in all ages, and that it never changes. We need to preserve whatever remains of goodness in this land, and we need to be the ones who shine a light on the right path to take. Are we up to the challenge?

Media Distortion & the Christian Response

Last week I wrote about the main problems I see in the church today, and why Christians aren’t making as much of an impact on the culture as we should be. I wanted to be sure we understand that’s where the greatest blame lies. We must always examine ourselves before pointing fingers elsewhere.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, but there are other times when deliberate distortion of Biblical positions and those who espouse them takes center stage. Unfortunately, that is happening quite often now in the media, both the entertainment variety and the supposedly unbiased news media.

When 90% of those involved in the major networks and newspapers rarely go to church, let alone actually believe the Christian faith, what can one expect but bias? Those in our society who believe in nothing more than themselves or who have no clear belief system will be heavily influenced by the distorted presentation of Christians and Christian beliefs in the news. This has come into focus, in particular, on the “gay rights” issue where anyone who holds to Biblical morality is deemed hateful.

This approach carries over to all conservatism in America. Nearly every conservative stance is questioned in a way liberal positions never are—with the exception of Fox News—and it’s a double treat for the media if the conservative who is being attacked is also an evangelical. The over-the-top bias during the last election cycle was worse than ever. Stories that should have been extremely significant were relegated to irrelevance if they could in any way be a detriment to Obama’s reelection.

In fact, one might say, without too much critique even from the Left, that the media was pulling for an Obama victory:

Now, we can bemoan this unfair treatment and complain about the bias—which I am doing and will continue to do—but that can never be the last word. Christians—and conservatives overall, to the extent conservatism retains its Christian moorings—have to expect to be portrayed unfairly. We are bringing the light of God’s truth to a sinful world; people steeped in their sinfulness don’t like to be told they are wrong. Do we need this reminder directly from Jesus?

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We also have this “promise” from the apostle Paul:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Some promises are not as welcome as others. Yet Paul didn’t stop there. After informing his disciple Timothy what to expect, he proceeded to give him instructions on what he should do about this state of affairs:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Paul didn’t leave Timothy with a negative. He encouraged him to move forward with what he knew to be the truth, to keep teaching, reproving, correcting, and training his hearers. I plan to follow the same sage advice, and I hope my readers will be edified by my continuing efforts.

Presidents, Polls, Professors, & the Public

Young America’s Foundation is an organization devoted to conservative principles in culture and government. While it doesn’t claim to be openly Christian—other conservatives are welcome—the concepts it promotes are consistent with Biblical principles. In the last few years, it has established the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, where it holds a number of significant seminars and conferences. The organization also bought the Reagan Ranch in the mountains outside Santa Barbara, and is keeping it as Ronald Reagan had it when he lived there. I’ve visited with some of the leaders, both in Virginia and Santa Barbara, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to go to Reagan’s ranch. The last time I was there, I was told to just let them know ahead of time, and on my next trip, they would arrange a visit. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since; not sure when I’ll be able to go again.

Recently, the Foundation commissioned a poll of college and university professors. They took the opinions of 284 professors on the ranking of presidents. Which presidents did they consider to be the most influential and/or most effective? What grade would they give each president? The answers may not surprise you.

Not one of these professors considered Reagan as his/her top choice. Sixty percent didn’t even put him in the top ten of all presidents. Overall, they gave him a C+ for his achievements, apparently overlooking the tremendous economic resurgence during the 1980s, his pivotal meetings with Gorbachev, and the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union, stemming from the combined efforts of Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. In fact, when they were asked to state what they considered to be Reagan’s greatest accomplishment, nearly 1/5 of them could come up with nothing.

Here are some other indicators of how college professors view American presidents:

  • When asked to list their picks for the three greatest presidents, they mentioned FDR more times than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison.
  • They mentioned FDR four times as often as Reagan.
  • FDR ranked in the top three presidents for 54% of these professors.
  • Overall, Bill Clinton received six times as many favorable mentions as James Madison, the Father of the Constitution.

From where does this stem? Well, three times as many professors identified themselves as liberal than as conservative. The review of this poll that I read doesn’t break down the professors by discipline, but I would suspect that most of them were history or political science professors, and the fact that there were three times as many liberals as conservatives only surprises me in the sense that I thought the divergence might be even greater, given the stance taken by national leadership for these disciplines.

Now for a counterpoint. In February of 2011, the Gallup organization polled Americans nationwide to determine their idea of who should be considered the greatest presidents. In that poll, Reagan came in first, 5 points ahead of Lincoln. Reagan also topped the list in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and ranked first or second in eight of the ten “Greatest President” polls conducted by Gallup since 1999.

I have my own critique of public opinion polls, and how they seem to fluctuate based on the public’s feelings rather than facts. I don’t always consider the majority viewpoint to be the most accurate. Yet I find this poll fascinating. What it indicates is that as time has gone by, people are looking back at the Reagan years with increasing fondness. I think they remember them, when compared to today, as solid, strong, and patriotic. They believe that America came back from the brink in the 1980s, after the disastrous events of the 1960s and 1970s. Reagan was the antidote to LBJ, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He called us back to our roots, and that led to revitalization.

I believe America can be called back again, and I believe we can overcome the national disgrace of the Obama years. The only question is: will we do so this November? The future is not fixed; our decisions can redirect the ship of state as well as the drift of the culture. One more thing: Christians need to take the lead in this redirection. Now is the time to call us back to a humble dependence on the One who will bless if we come to Him in genuine repentance and a sincere desire to do His will.

The Etch-A-Sketch Candidate?

If you haven’t yet heard about the Etch-A-Sketch flap, you’ve probably been hibernating somewhere. It’s worth reviewing, however, as it provides a glimpse into the mindset of those who are running the Romney campaign. On Wednesday, the day after the Illinois primary, which Romney won, one of his senior aides, Eric Fehrnstrom, was asked on CNN if the primary had dragged Romney “so far to the right, it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election.”

Quick observation: I challenge anyone to find any interview anywhere on the mainstream media that includes a question to a Democratic candidate about being dragged “too far to the left.” Your search will be in vain. Such questions are reserved for Republicans only; the media is already so far to the left that anything mainstream appears to them to be extreme right.

Back to the question at hand.

Fehrnstrom caused a mini-firestorm with his response. He soothed the questioner’s fears by stating that this was a primary, and once it was over, Romney’s positions would change. Or at least that’s the way it came across. Specifically, Fehrnstrom said, “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

So is that how the Romney team wants to operate? Can its candidate simply change gears and become something else? The old concern resurfaces: what is this man’s core? What does he really believe?

The Washington Examiner‘s Phil Klein accurately expressed the feelings of many conservatives when he wrote:

This is an incredible admission and a window into the way Romney views politics. Romney ran two races in Massachusetts as a moderate, and even a self-described “progressive,” before changing his positions in the run up to his first campaign for president. Just last month, he described himself as “severely conservative” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But as Fehrnstrom’s statement suggests, Romney’s appeals to the right are simply a matter of positioning rather than principle, something that can easily be changed once the target audience changes. If Romney’s fiercest critics wanted to come up with a way to describe Romney’s approach to politics, I don’t think they could have come up with a better analogy than Etch-A-Sketch. The fact that it is coming from one of Romney’s longtime aides is stunning. An even scarier thought for conservatives: if the Romney campaign is willing to take them for granted before even clinching the nomination, imagine how quickly Romney would abandon conservatives if he ever made it to the White House.

Romney supporters are quick to say that this is only prudence, that any candidate would have to switch gears to win the general election because the moderates need to be won over. That’s conventional wisdom, to be sure. But what about the base? Will the candidate win if he alienates those who form the foundational support for his candidacy? If Romney is a conservative, he’s always had a strange way of showing it. The Etch-A-Sketch controversy only adds to the consternation of conservatives.

I will continue to entertain my doubts as to Romney’s genuineness. He has not won me over, and I’m sure I can speak for a significant segment of the Republican base.

A Rising Tide?

The latest poll of Republican voters shows that Rick Santorum is now tied with Mitt Romney with 30% each. It’s a stunning shift as Santorum has risen thirteen points very rapidly while Romney has dropped a couple. Newt Gingrich appears to be fading. The big question is whether Santorum can sustain this momentum.

Critics say that this is no different than what we’ve seen throughout this primary season. Rick Perry rocketed into first place when he entered the race. His fall was followed by Herman Cain’s meteoric rise, and then when he ran into his troubles, Gingrich was the beneficiary. So, in all, this makes Santorum the fourth candidate to equal or surpass Romney at one point or another.

My response is that while this also could be transitory, Santorum would only fall back due to some major misstep. Unlike Perry, he has come across as knowledgeable in the debates, with many believing he was the outright winner of the second one in Florida. Unlike Cain, he is more tested and has political leadership experience. And unlike Gingrich, he has no real personal baggage or history of constantly changing positions. He is who he is, and he’s been pretty consistent over the years.

I wasn’t at CPAC, but all the accounts of his appearance there indicate there is a rising tide. So many showed up for his speech that not everyone could get into the room. The accounts I’ve read say he got a standing ovation for his comments. Earlier in the week, when he showed up at Oral Roberts University, they had to change the location to the large arena because they expected perhaps 2000 would be attending. Instead, 3500 came to hear him.

Romney, meanwhile, in his speech at CPAC, seemed determined to convince the audience that he was a true conservative. He used the term “conservative” or its derivations twenty-six times in a speech with the same number of minutes. He even called himself the “severely” conservative governor of Massachusetts. Severely? How does that adjective fit? It’s oddly out of place to use that word in that context. It’s as if he is almost desperate to showcase his conservatism. But when you are that desperate, you have to understand why some might question your authenticity.

The real test of the trajectory of this race this month will come down to Michigan and Arizona on the 28th. Maybe those contests will clear the air. If not, March’s Super Tuesday will be the one to watch.