Maintaining Integrity in an Era of Conspiracies

I would rather write about weighty thoughts in Scripture, C. S. Lewis, or Whittaker Chambers. Yet the stupid antics of everyday politics always seem to intervene, and since I put myself out here as a commentator on all things cultural and political, I feel a certain necessity to offer what I hope are informed opinions on current events.

As I’ve noted previously, I’m trying very hard to be balanced in my perspective on President Trump. Although I warned against his nomination vigorously and detailed my reasons for opposition to him throughout the last campaign, I have determined to support him when I can now that he is our president.

I also will continue to point out the problems he causes. And that’s where I am today.

Last weekend, Trump used his infamous Twitter account to claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him prior to the election. I’ve waited a week to see if he has any evidence to back up the claim, but nothing has come forth.

By remaining silent on evidence, he has lost the confidence even of those in his own party. The House Intelligence Committee, controlled by Republicans, has called for him to put up or shut up by today.

What has he really gained by making the accusation?

Now, let me be clear that I would never put it past our former president to have done something like this. Obama’s absence of integrity is legendary, and his denials of wrongdoing lack, shall we say, credibility.

Yet Obama’s lack of integrity doesn’t lead me to believe that Trump therefore must be acting with integrity. Apparently, most Republicans agree:

My concern about Trump’s character goes back to the campaign. He constantly insulted all Republican contenders for the nomination and, in Ted Cruz’s case, made up all sorts of crazy accusations:

  • Cruz is not a natural-born citizen
  • Cruz had a flurry of affairs (unlike Mr. Trump, of course)
  • Cruz’s wife has dark secrets that will be exposed (and she’s ugly)
  • Cruz’s dad is somehow implicated in the JFK assassination

Need I go on?

We’re witnessing a new level of conspiracy charges on both sides of the political divide.

Rational thought seems to be plummeting into a sinkhole of political lunacy:

Christians are supposed to be the salt and light in a nation. Whenever we fall into this pattern of wild charges of conspiracy, we are abandoning our calling. My political conservatism stems from my Biblical faith, but I must never reverse the order. Politics must not determine my faith; my faith must inform my politics.

Christians, maintain your integrity.

Samuel, Daniel, & Character in Public Office

On this election day, a few thoughts from Scripture.

samuelSamuel, the prophet and judge in Israel, upon his retirement from his post, did what most politicians today would call an uncharacteristic—and politically dangerous—thing. He gathered the leaders of the people together and made this announcement:

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”

What a dangerous proposition, asking everyone if they could point out anything in his life that was dishonest during his entire time in public service. Can you imagine anyone doing that now? The accusations, true or false, would fly. Yet here is how the people responded:

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said.

How wonderful to come to the end of a high position in society and be able to walk away with a clear conscience, to have lived a life that testifies to integrity in all matters. How wonderful . . . and how rare.

The prophet Daniel lived in exile in Babylon and in the Persian kingdom after Babylon fell. He gained high government positions through his talent and integrity. The new Persian king recognized what a treasure he had in Daniel. The book that bears his name records,

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

His integrity so angered them that they had to set a trap and find him guilty of continuing to worship the Lord after they tricked the king into making a law that no one was to petition any god but the king for thirty days.

The penalty for breaking that law was to be thrown into the lions’ den.

daniel-in-lions-den

We all know the end of that story, as God protected Daniel and brought judgment on his persecutors instead.

The examples of Samuel and Daniel show us what it can be like when people are devoted to God and won’t allow their integrity to be compromised. There can be such people in public office. Our task is to put those kind there as much as humanly possible.

These examples tell us that character does matter in government and that it should matter to those of us who choose government officials at all levels.

That’s all I have to say about that. I think that is sufficient on this election day.

Integrity

I talk a lot about principles. After all, look at the title of this blog. The word means a lot to me. It’s the same with a related word: integrity.

integrityHow is integrity defined? I like this definition:

Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

I like that it incorporates principle in the definition and that honesty, morality, and ethical conduct are all included.

This is what God looks for in men and women, especially those who seek to be placed in a position of trust, whether in a marriage, a business, a ministry, or a political office.

book-cover-1When I wrote my book about Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, it was a joy to do so because my two subjects were men of integrity.

As I point out in the book, their visions of the future differed. Reagan was the eternal optimist, believing that freedom was the wave of the future because men would listen to the promptings of God’s spirit and respond accordingly. Chambers, however, didn’t have much faith in the soundness of character in the general public. He was much more pessimistic about the future.

Yet even though they maintained different expectations, they nevertheless were men who could be trusted. Those who knew them knew they could count on them to be faithful to what they believed and that their word was their bond.

So my book is not primarily a book about politics, but about character. I encourage you to get a copy if you haven’t already and read about men of genuine integrity.

I decided to investigate what the Scriptures have to say about integrity. Some references stand out. Here are some examples:

proverbs-10-9

proverbs-11-3

proverbs-28-6

Shouldn’t this be our guide whenever we are faced with a choice for placing a person in a position of trust? If those who are put forward as our primary choices in a political season are both lacking in this quality, is it integrity on our part to go ahead and vote for one of them anyway?

David, in Psalm 26, makes a plea to the Lord in these words:

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.

Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.

May that be our prayer also. May integrity be paramount for us as we go forward in our lives, and may we never stray from that path.

My doctoral dissertation was on Noah Webster, widely considered America’s first schoolmaster. His Speller taught generations how to read; his 1828 Dictionary was unique, not only in its being the first produced by an American, but in its Biblical basis. Webster’s illustrations for words included Biblical citations and short homilies on the significance of some key words. His influence in early America was great.

Noah Webster Books

I’m highlighting him today because he offered insight to his generation when it came to choosing political leaders. His words are timeless; they apply to our current situation.

“In selecting men for office,” Webster urged, “let principles be your guide. . . . Look to his character as a man of known principle, of tried integrity, and undoubted ability for the office.”

To ignore lack of principle and integrity in a candidate is to violate the sacred trust given to us as citizens:

When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.

Webster continued: “If rulers are bad men, it is generally the fault of the people.” After all, who puts men of depraved character in office? We can too often be deceived by them, he notes, but often we vote them in simply because they belong to “our” party. Here’s how he framed it:

Noah WebsterThey choose men, not because they are just men, men of religion and integrity, but solely for the sake of supporting a party [emphasis mine]. This is a fruitful source of public evils.

But as surely as there is a God in heaven, who exercises a moral government over the affairs of this world, so certainly will the neglect of the divine command, in the choice of rulers, be followed by bad laws and as bad administration.

I trust you know why I chose to emphasize that one phrase in the quote above.

By 1837, Webster was becoming distraught by what he was seeing in the culture and politics of his nation. He wrote to a friend,

Principles, sir, are becoming corrupt, deeply corrupt; & unless the progress of corruption, & perversion of truth can be arrested, neither liberty nor property will long be secure in this country.

And a great evil is, that men of the first distinction seem, to a great extent, to be ignorant of the real, original causes of our public distresses. Many of our greatest men are making vigorous efforts to remove present evils, but not an effort is made to correct the radical cause of our political calamities.

Webster’s concern in 1837 should be our concern today. Our principles have been corrupted; integrity is discounted; truth is being perverted. Yet we don’t address those fundamental issues. Instead, we rally to someone who either promises free stuff or who pledges to build a wall.

Webster’s prescription for the ills in our society is a return to Biblical principles and integrity of character. I agree with that prescription. That’s why I will never vote for anyone who lacks the very rudiments of those qualities. That’s why I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump.

WebsterNoah Webster was a man of his time, but the ideas he fostered are based on the Book that applies to all men at all times. If you wish to know more about Webster, his views, and his influence during his lifetime, my book, Defining Noah Webster: A Spiritual Biography, is available. You can find it on Amazon right here.

We are faced with virtually no good choice in this coming presidential election, so let’s keep in mind that government is not our savior. There is only one Savior. Our responsibility is to be faithful to Him and maintain our integrity. Stand for righteousness, then stand back and see what God will do.

Why I Support Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz at KS CaucusIn this heated Republican nomination battle, I wholeheartedly support Ted Cruz. My support is not, as others have indicated, a choice between two flawed candidates; rather, I firmly believe Cruz is a committed Christian constitutional conservative who seeks to reverse the course of the last seven years.

My first knowledge of Cruz was in 2012 when he ran for the nomination for the Senate in his home state of Texas. His Republican opponent was the sitting lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst. Cruz startled the political world with his upset victory. Today, Dewhurst has endorsed his once-rival for the Republican presidential nomination, stating, “I want to make sure that we have a good conservative in the White House next January.”

Although a first-term senator, Cruz has taken a leadership role against the Obama agenda, much to the chagrin of the Republican leadership in that legislative body. I’m not sure his tactics have always been the best, but I can excuse failed tactics when I perceive that someone’s principles are solid; at least he, unlike most of his Republican colleagues, attempted to roll back Obamacare.

Cruz also once stood in the Senate and accused Mitch McConnell of lying to his fellow Republican senators, saying that McConnell had gone back on a promise not to make a certain deal with Obama. That earned Cruz McConnell’s enmity but showed he was willing to challenge his own leadership on the issue of integrity.

When he was the first Republican to announce his candidacy, and he did so at Liberty University, I admit I wondered if that was a political stunt designed to hoodwink conservative Christians. Now I believe it was a sincere effort to let that voting bloc know just who he is and what he wants to do as president. I also believe it was a wise move, as it provided a jumpstart to a campaign few saw as ready for prime time.

As Cruz stood on the stage in the debates that followed, surrounded by sixteen other candidates, it took a while for him to carve out his message—too many voices. At first, my pick was Scott Walker because I appreciated how effective he has been as governor of Wisconsin. When he chose to withdraw from the race, it came down, for me, to a choice between Cruz and Rubio. Although I liked Rubio, Cruz came across as much more consistent and, frankly, as more effective in debate.

That’s when I listened more closely to Cruz’s words and policy positions, and concentrated on his character. As I learned more about him, I became convinced his Christian testimony was genuine, a factor reinforced when I also listened to his wife, Heidi. If she is simply putting on a Christian “show,” she is one of the best actresses in the country. Her faith is the real thing as well.

Cruz is well-spoken, fully knowledgeable on the issues, and projects the kind of seriousness and lack of circus atmosphere that I want in a president. Neither has he descended into the gutter with Donald Trump, no matter how outrageous the latter has become in his personal attacks.

Ted Cruz 4I know that candidates can promise a lot and not be able to deliver, but when Cruz says he wants to repeal every word of Obamacare, he has a track record of attempting to do that very thing. When he declares that he will reverse every single unconstitutional executive order Obama has put into effect, I believe he will do precisely that. Why? He is devoted to constitutional authority and the limits placed on the federal government in that document. He understands that our liberty depends on the rule of law, the federal system, and the separation of powers.

Cruz’s Christian faith makes him a staunch advocate for the pre-born. When he says he will defund Planned Parenthood, he speaks from personal conviction, not political expediency. His Biblical morality is necessary in a time when we are a gender-confused and sex-crazed nation. He knows what real marriage is and what it is not; he knows which bathroom people ought to use.

Doesn’t that last statement reveal the depth of deception rising in our nation right now? Whoever thought anyone would have to affirm that?

Ted CruzTed Cruz will not be a progressive ideologue like the man who currently resides in the White House. He will not be a tinpot dictator who has used the system all his life to get what he wants at everyone else’s expense. Yes, I’m talking about the so-called “frontrunner” for the Republican nomination. A Trump nomination will doom the Republican party to defeat in November.

Hillary Clinton has to be the worst candidate the Democrats have ever put forward. Never has anyone been so eminently beatable. Cruz is the man who can carry Republicans to victory over Clinton. All Republicans have to do now is give him the chance to prove it.

Reject the phony candidate; choose Ted Cruz, the real Christian conservative constitutionalist.

Lewis: On Bandwagons & Integrity

C. S. Lewis 11In Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis takes aim at people who jump on bandwagons for their own personal benefit. In a chapter he titled “Connivance,” he writes of those in ancient Judea “who fleeced their fellow-countrymen to get money for the occupying power in return for a fat percentage” of the take.

He was, frankly, astounded by the attitude he witnessed in one young man who had studied at Oxford. The man had been an avowed socialist during his student days: “Everything ought to be run by the State; private enterprise and independent professions were for him the great evil.”

A decade after graduating, he returned to speak with Lewis, who was surprised by the change in the man’s philosophy:

He said his political views had been wholly reversed. You never heard a fuller recantation. He now saw that State interference was fatal. What had converted him was his experience as a schoolmaster of the Ministry of Education—a set of ignorant meddlers armed with insufferable powers to pester, hamper and interrupt the work of real, practical teachers who knew the subjects they taught, who knew boys, parents, and all the real conditions of their work.

So what did this conversion yield? Did the young man, who had now seen the error of his ways and had witnessed the corruption of the system up close, firsthand, seek a way to change the system or to work outside of it? Wouldn’t that have been a natural response? Instead, Lewis recounts,

The real point . . . of his visit, when it came, nearly took my breath away. Thinking thus, he had come to see whether I had any influence which might help him to get a job in the Ministry of Education.

Rather than stand tall on his presumed principles and do something about this vile system, he sought instead to find a way into it. Lewis concludes,

Here is the perfect band-wagoner. Immediately on the decision “This is a revolting tyranny,” follows the question “How can I as quickly as possible cease to be one of the victims and become one of the tyrants?” . . . This is an instance of band-wagoning so crude and unabashed as to be farcical.

Motive of the HeartWhat’s the lesson here? Could it be that we need to examine our own lives and see if there be any ways—more subtle than this man’s—where we compromise our principles and seek to ingratiate ourselves into a system or way of life we say we deplore? Are we being consistent with our profession of faith and with what we tell others we believe?

If so, our next step should be to abandon any such bandwagon and regain our integrity.

John Adams & Integrity: The Boston Massacre

Boston, on 5 March 1770, was the scene of an ugly incident. Having the King’s troops stationed in the city to ensure Bostonians followed Parliament’s edicts created a constant tension. The presence of those troops made citizens feel as if they were being treated like traitors to the Crown.

Some of those troops, poorly paid, were looking for part-time work, which only increased the tension, as they would take jobs away from the locals. Clashes between soldiers and citizens were becoming more common.

On this night, a single sentry was set upon by an angry crowd. That brought out more soldiers to face the crowd. Snowballs, sticks, and stones were thrown at the soldiers. In the confusion, some of the soldiers thought they heard their captain shouting to shoot; in fact, he was saying just the opposite.

Thinking they had heard the “fire” order, they shot into the crowd, resulting in five deaths.

All of Boston was in an uproar over this incident. Paul Revere quickly published what has become a famous engraving.

Boston Massacre

The problem with this depiction is that it made it seem like an orchestrated action by the soldiers. It only made the situation worse.

Those soldiers had to go on trial, but who among the Boston lawyers would take on their case? Who was willing to face the storm of criticism by defending them?

Two lawyers undertook the task: John Adams and Josiah Quincy. Adams took the lead and, although he was a patriot who objected to the Parliament’s actions, he knew the soldiers deserved a fair trial.

Adams worked hard for his clients. He successfully got the captain acquitted of all wrongdoing; only two of the soldiers were convicted, but not for willful murder. They were punished and sent back to England, but their lives were spared.

John AdamsJohn Adams knew that the truth had to come out, regardless of the position he took on political matters. One of his comments from these trials has come down to us today, used by many people in all kinds of situations, mainly because it is applicable across the board. Adams said,

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

What was exhibited here? Integrity. John Adams had that quality, and he proved that fairness could be achieved even in an emotional and tension-packed situation.

Later in life, Adams pointed to his defense of those soldiers as his most honorable act. I would have to agree. May we learn from his example.