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.

Tearing Away the Veil

Sometimes the veil is torn away and we can see the deep and wide chasm that exists in our society. A comment Santorum made the other day has served as the catalyst for showcasing the dichotomous thinking that dominates our culture. The media are in an absolute apoplectic fit over his all-too-true statement that Obama’s theology masquerades as Biblical theology, and that the president’s worldview is decidedly other than Christian.

From both the Right and the Left, Santorum is being taken to the verbal woodshed for breathing such heresy, and for introducing a theological element into the presidential race. Apparently, they don’t believe there is any connection between ultimate reality and politics. I beg to differ.

In fact, he was correct. Obama’s worldview is in direct opposition to a Biblical worldview. Now, Santorum came out later and said that he didn’t mean to imply Obama wasn’t a Christian personally, merely that his worldview was inconsistent with standard, orthodox Christian theology. The only criticism I have of anything Santorum said was that later statement. Of course, as a presidential candidate, one must be careful not to alienate everyone by declaring your opponent a non-Christian, particularly when the “One” is touting his Christianity as often as he has been recently.

However, I’m not running for president, and I will say what Santorum cannot: Obama’s so-called Christianity is not the real thing. His view of Christ and salvation are not Biblical. He is caught up in a spiritual deception, but he’s not a victim—it is of his own making, by his own free will.

Naturally, this will be an ongoing point of attack from Santorum’s challengers. Ron Paul is already saying that social issues should be off the table. Mitt Romney has nothing to run on besides being a businessman, so he doesn’t want anything to do with moral values. Gingrich has so much baggage that he will probably avoid the same, except for disparaging Santorum for standing up for Biblical foundations in society.

In the current field, only Santorum has the lifestyle that reflects a Biblical worldview. For that, I respect him, and I pray for his success.

By the way, new polls show he has a commanding lead in both Texas and Oklahoma. These go along with a big lead in Ohio and a consistent lead in Michigan. That last one is still in play because Romney will be pulling out all the stops there. If Romney loses one of his “home” states, he’s in big trouble.

Romney should be running away with the nomination: he has the money, the organization, the backing of the Republican establishment. But he doesn’t have the hearts of Republican voters. Santorum is filling that vacuum.

Santorum: Big-Government Guy?

Romney won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. It was another blow to Gingrich’s hopes. Paul’s libertarian message played fairly well there, which is to be expected in a state where even prostitution is legal. That’s also the reason why Santorum didn’t do well. His solid Christian message apparently is out of sync with Nevadans’ worldview. He’s going into friendlier territory now, though. Polls show he currently leads the field in Missouri, Minnesota, and Ohio, which are all coming up very soon.

One of the attacks on Santorum from those with whom I normally agree is that he is a big-government conservative. It is true he has voted, on occasion, for some things I wouldn’t have, such as No Child Left Behind. To his credit, he now says that vote was wrong, and he wouldn’t do so today. At least he can admit when he voted wrongly. Are you listening, Mr. Romneycare?

What exactly is Santorum’s view of the role of the federal government? He answers specifically in his book It Takes a Family:

Conservatives see “the village” as, well, the village: the local community, with the family at the center of it. We believe that only strong families can improve the lives of individuals, especially children, and make for healthy communities. In our view, the real village elders are the parents, the ministers, the Girl or Boy Scout leaders, the grandmothers who sit on their porch watching the neighborhood kids at play, the youth baseball coaches. It is these village leaders who are really generating social capital, first in the family, and then in the community. The liberals have it exactly the wrong way around.

The villages elders [of the liberal stripe] believe in top-down because they believe in the supposed goodness of the central government and the Bigs—and, I think, because they distrust families and local communities. They think the federal government is fairer, more just, more trustworthy, even more moral, than families and local community groups with their “parochial” and “provincial” concerns. I believe in bottom-up, however, because I believe in the power of the natural family and the mediating organizations that support it.

He then explains the concept of subsidiarity, a word more common in Catholic circles than Protestant, but one that should be more widely known and understood:

Only when a “lower”—i.e., smaller—level of society is manifestly incapable of handling a problem may a “higher” level legitimately intervene. And even then, the “higher” level may only intervene to supplement, not displace, the function of a lower level. When you want the Bigs, led by the federal bureaucracy, to run the village—as liberals do—you have completely inverted the principle of subsidiarity.

The Constitution established subsidiarity; it’s called federalism. His overall philosophy of governing is consistent with both the Constitution and the Biblical basis for how a society should operate. The only ones who could conceivably be upset over it are liberals and libertarians, albeit for different reasons. Since I am neither, I am comfortable with Santorum’s position.

My Quandary

I’ve traveled a circuitous route to get to the place where I am today in deciding whom to support in the Republican primary. I began with an interest in Bachmann, but soon concluded she didn’t have the experience for the job. I then turned to Perry for a brief while, hoping he would be the political “savior,” but that soured for me pretty quickly, particularly after a few debates. Herman Cain came on my personal radar after I was his table companion at a Republican event. I liked his attempt to get us to a fair tax. When he imploded over what I still think may have been false accusations, I toyed for a while with the idea that Gingrich could be the man. But then I took a fresh look at Santorum and came away impressed with his foundational understanding of principles of government and society based on a Christian worldview. That’s where I am today, and next Tuesday, I will cast my vote for him in Florida’s Republican primary.

Some may ask why I cannot go for Ron Paul, since he mirrors my constant calls for a return to constitutionalism. The reasons are many, but they boil down to two: his doctrinaire libertarianism and his foreign policy. Paul would have no problem with a state allowing abortion and same-sex marriage; I want an amendment to the Constitution protecting innocent human life and one clearly defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Those are God’s standards for society, and I argue they should be national in scope. On foreign policy, he really doesn’t grasp the threat of Islamic radicalism. I don’t believe we would be safe on his watch.

That leaves the two frontrunners, Romney and Gingrich. What’s my beef with them? Let me be as specific as I can for each one.

Romney

  • A new book, Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics, written by a fellow Mormon, tells how Romney followed the advice of a pollster who said he could never win elective office in Massachusetts as a pro-life candidate. So he abruptly switched to pro-choice in his run for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. Both in that race and in the later gubernatorial race, he did his best to go to the left of his Democrat opponent. There is a viral video making the rounds of Romney pledging to uphold Roe v. Wade and a woman’s “right to choose.” Another video shows him saying that a minor seeking an abortion without her parents’ consent can go to the courts to get permission. It’s not that he has made a conversion to pro-life; in fact, he started out that way and changed to pro-choice for purely political reasons. Now he’s pro-life again, and I believe the reason is once again political.
  • When the Massachusetts Supreme Court simply declared it was irrational not to allow same-sex marriage and told the legislature it needed to rectify the situation, Romney didn’t even wait to see what the legislature would do but took the lead in personally granting 189 marriage certificates to same-sex couples. He didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t mandated. So now when he says he’s opposed to same-sex marriage, why should we trust him?
  • He still has the albatross of Romneycare hanging on him. Only Santorum has had the courage to take him head-on on this issue. His plan was a precursor for Obamacare. It has the identical individual mandate. It rests on the same philosophy. As I’ve said before, how can he credibly attack Obamacare when he refuses to acknowledge the wrongness of his own plan? And just in the past few days, comments from one of his advisers indicate he really doesn’t expect to repeal the entire Obamacare monstrosity after all, no matter what he has promised on the campaign trail. Can he really be trusted to keep his word?

Gingrich

  • While he can talk a good talk, I have serious doubts that he is willing to walk his talk. Why? The many reports about how he carried out his speakership in the 1990s—from those who were with him in Congress—gives one pause. Testimony from reputable legislators such as Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Santorum himself paint a picture of a man with an outsized ego who was more than willing to break the pledges in the Contract with America for political gain.
  • He lost the confidence of his fellow Republicans in the House, and thereby lost his speakership. He resigned from the post [and from Congress itself] when he realized he wouldn’t be reelected their leader.
  • Like Romney, Gingrich supported the individual mandate in healthcare, advocated policies to fight man-made global warming [when its existence is doubtful], and toyed with cap-and-trade legislation. And, like Romney, he supported the TARP bailout.
  • His tactics in attacking Romney have come from the Left, using the same arguments Obama will undoubtedly use about greed, “vulture” capitalism, and now even accusing Romney of being anti-immigration. These smack of political opportunism and deliberate misrepresentation. Of course, Romney is not innocent on this point either.
  • His moral failings are an open book. Yes, I believe in redemption. I hope he has experienced it. But it becomes difficult to defend a man and promote him for the highest office in the land when he has that kind of background.
  • He is a superb speaker, but also one who may doom himself one day with his unrestrained commentary. As Santorum noted, do we want a nominee who may embarrass himself and the entire party with his loose tongue?

This is my quandary: what to do if Santorum cannot win—and his chances are slim at this point. I will have no option but to vote for whoever wins this race because Obama is far worse than either Romney or Gingrich, and his party stands for ideas repugnant to a Biblical worldview.

Some Republicans are hoping for a stalemated primary season where no one receives the majority needed to clinch the nomination. That would mean the convention would later make the choice. While this would be a potential problem for party unity and might project to the electorate an image of a party in disarray, it could be worth it in the end. If a brokered convention can provide a nominee with a minimum of baggage and an ability to communicate the conservative message effectively, we will all be better off. It worked in 1880 when James Garfield got the nod and won the general election. Could it work again?

Foolish Reasoning?

New Hampshire went for Mitt Romney last night. Not exactly a surprise. He owns a home there; he’s pretty much been campaigning there since the 2008 election. And New Hampshire is not Iowa. Approximately 26% of New Hampshire residents have no religious affiliation whatsoever, which is above the national average. Further, the primary process allowed anyone to participate as a Republican, even if just for a day. That’s why Romney could rack up a substantial score, as a number of moderate Democrats undoubtedly crossed the line this time. That also explains Paul’s second-place finish, as he, because of his foreign policy stance, attracted what I call the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic party to his banner.

My concerns about Romney have not been assuaged over time. What concerns?

What is also bothersome is the spin the media places on the win. Due to his razor-thin “win” in Iowa [it more accurately could be called a tie with Santorum] and now his victory in New Hampshire, some are concluding the race is over. I do understand the psychology of that, but it doesn’t necessarily comport with reality. New Hampshire sends a whole twelve delegates to the Republican convention. Twelve. Out of more than two thousand.

Additionally, South Carolina, the site of the next primary, is not New Hampshire. In some ways, it comes closer to resembling Iowa in its perspective. New Hampshire should not, by any stretch of logic, be considered the final say on the nominee.

I continue to believe that Romney could lead the Republican party in an entirely wrong direction should he become the standard-bearer. They’ve tried his type of candidate before—anyone remember President Dole or President McCain? What the party really needs is a stalwart on conservative principles who also can reach out to what have been termed “Reagan Democrats.” I personally believe that person is Rick Santorum.

But the odds are that Republicans will mess it up again by their erroneous assumption that only a moderate can beat Obama. To me, such reasoning is foolishness, and it will hurt them in the long run more than they realize.

Having said all that, I now find myself in the somewhat strange position of defending Romney from some of his critics, namely Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry. The tack they’ve taken lately—accusing Romney of destroying lives through the company he ran previously—comes right from the Democrat playbook. In fact, some of the rhetoric being used against him aligns more with the Occupy Wall Street Movement/Fiasco than with sound economic principles. This smacks merely of political opportunism, pushing a populist message that they hope will reverse the course of the nomination process in their favor. For Gingrich, there’s also the flavor of revenge for what Romney’s minions did to him in Iowa.

The two candidates who did not pile on with this discreditable ploy were Paul and Santorum. They maintained integrity in this matter.

What’s it going to come down to?

Ultimately, regime change is the goal. I just want it to occur with solid principles and with someone I can trust.

The Santorum Surprise

Eight votes. That’s all that separated Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum once the Iowa caucuses ended. Technically, Romney was the winner, but one has to excuse Santorum for feeling as if he took the prize. Two weeks ago, no one saw this in the making; one week ago, though polls showed a Santorum surge, few could have guessed it would turn out this way.

Even the speeches given by both at the end of a long night marked the contrast: Santorum’s was, as many have commented, inspiring and from the heart, while Romney’s was a rehash of campaign rhetoric. Another factor that impressed me was the way Santorum identified with blue-collar workers because that was his family’s background. The story of his grandfather was Reaganesque, and while nearly every candidate has taken it upon himself or herself to embrace the Reagan mantle, Santorum has come closest to the actual spirit of the 40th president. One of the keys to Reagan’s success was his ability to relate to the so-called “common man.” If Santorum can do the same, he may continue to surprise.

What does this mean for him going forward? The climb to the nomination will be steep regardless of the Iowa infusion of adrenaline. New Hampshire, the first primary state, is Romney territory. Can Santorum build on his momentum and carve out a niche there large enough to keep the buzz alive? It’s then on to South Carolina, whose primary voters are more like Iowa’s than New Hampshire’s. Can he pull out a clear-cut victory in the Palmetto State?

One positive factor for him is the withdrawal of Michele Bachmann from the race. The most conservative candidates—Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry—have split the conservative vote. Now that she is no longer on the ballot, that could help Santorum. Although her numbers were not high in either New Hampshire or South Carolina, even a few more percentage points could make the difference. If Santorum had Bachmann’s 5% in Iowa, he would have run away with the top spot.

It looked like Perry was going to drop out as well, only to surprise even his own team by deciding to move on to South Carolina. That’s too bad. I like Perry, but he has no real chance at getting the nomination. His only contribution now will be to draw votes from Santorum, thereby giving Romney a greater opportunity to stay at the top.

The case with Gingrich is somewhat more complex. He is angry, and that anger is directed at Romney. He already has a full-page ad running in New Hampshire newspapers contrasting his conservatism with Romney’s moderate stance. He’s fighting back. That could re-energize his campaign, which might lower Romney’s numbers, yet it also could detract from Santorum’s, thereby creating a wash and maintaining the status quo.

Ron Paul, meanwhile, by coming in third, will put the best face on the result, but has to be disappointed. So many of the polls had him number one; perhaps his foreign policy views finally caught up with him. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t feel safe with Paul as commander-in-chief. He doesn’t really grasp the dangers we face from radical Islam. Let’s be honest: he’s more of a libertarian than a Republican. Iowa was his best shot; it will be downhill from this point for him. It’s time to pack it in and reject calls for a third-party candidacy that can only end in the reelection of Obama.

No matter what happens in New Hampshire, the race will not be decided there. Neither do I think South Carolina will serve that purpose. As a Floridian, I’m glad I will be able to participate in a primary with significance later this month. The media may want to call this for Romney at every point along the way, but that will be premature. Keep watching for surprises. I have this feeling there are more in the offing.

The Current Crop of Contenders

As a historian, I believe I’m somewhat prepared for less than perfection. I mean, in studying history, one realizes that the really principled people are fewer than they should be, and that we have to settle, more often than not, for less than the ideal. That applies to policies and people.

As I ponder the lineup of contenders for the Republican nomination this year, I’m reminded of that historical lesson. The two top prospects that I had counted on running opted out, leaving a field of potential nominees that are more flawed than usual, in my view. Now that doesn’t mean all are flawed in character, but there’s something in each one that makes him/her far less suited to the presidential role than others I would have chosen.

The one man who keeps bobbing to the surface is Mitt Romney. Conservatives are highly suspect of him, and rightly so. The apologist for Romneycare can hardly be expected to take it to Obama for his dramatic overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system. Any arguments Romney uses against Obama on that front won’t carry much conviction. In fact, it’s in the area of conviction that he’s questioned the most. Is he really pro-life? Is he squishy on homosexual marriage, based on his experience in Massachusetts? Those are important to me, and quite frankly, I don’t trust him. This is why he has a hard time staying on top of the polls. There are simply too many issues about his “core”:

Meanwhile, the conservatives can’t find one candidate around which to rally. Santorum is appealing to some, and he just got the endorsement of a key family issues organization as well as one of the leaders of social conservatives in Iowa. Will that make a difference? How does he overcome the image of a loser after his overwhelming defeat to retain his Senate seat? Bachmann is forceful, but seems too opportunistic. She will attack with relish anyone who is rising above her, even those she used to praise. A little self-serving, perhaps? Perry may have good perspectives and fine ideas, but will he ever be able to communicate them effectively? Paul is a doctrinaire libertarian, not a conservative. On foreign policy, he is little different than the most radical leftist who blames America for everything. Gingrich is a big question mark. He might be a great president, or he might be a disaster. I sense there will be no middle ground with him if he gets the office.

Where does this leave us?

As I said at the beginning, I don’t expect perfection, and sometimes politicians develop into real leaders unexpectedly. This may happen with someone in the current crop of contenders. But are we sure it’s too late for someone else to jump in and shake things up? I would welcome it.