In Praise of Courage & Integrity

I haven’t written much about politics this year. The reasons are as follows: first, my primary goal is to focus on the teaching I’ve been doing on Scripture, C. S. Lewis, and church history—that, in my view, is of greater importance; second, frankly, I’m rather sick and tired of all the phoniness, egos, and power plays. Politicians have always been prone to those sins, but they seem to be more prominent now than in any time in my life.

This has been difficult because my teaching over the years has been mostly devoted to helping Christians understand history and government from a Biblical perspective. I would like to continue doing so; however, I’m seeing far too many of my Christian brothers and sisters reversing what ought to be: many are now allowing politics to drive whatever they may believe about the faith rather than the faith being the cornerstone for how one should approach politics.

In this transition over the past five years, I’ve spoken often about the wrongness of that reversal and have critiqued those who somehow concluded that following Donald Trump was the clarion call of God. By doing so, some have intimated that I’ve discarded my conservative political credentials and have joined the “enemy.” But I’ve done nothing of the sort. I’ve remained firm in what I’ve always believed about the application of Biblical principles to government and policy. In fact, it’s those principles that keep me from adopting the aims of the Biden administration. What my critics don’t understand is that those same principles are what have also kept me from adhering to a kind of strange adoration of a Republican president who was anything but a conservative or Christian in his lifetime of financial cons, outright lies, and promotion of conspiracy theories.

I’ve watched as the Republican party, of which I was a part for most of my adult lifetime, has degenerated into a cult of personality—without principles, without backbone, without any acknowledgement of its own hypocrisy.

That came to the forefront this past week as Liz Cheney lost her leadership post in the party. Why? She was forthright and honest about the continuation of the lie perpetrated by Trump and the majority of Republicans that the election was stolen. What I see in Cheney, though, is what I had seen formerly in many Republicans: a commitment to the Constitution, the rule of law, and personal integrity as a politician.

Her 6-minute speech to a nearly empty House chamber the day before she was demoted is a short course on those traits I just mentioned: constitutionalism, the rule of law, and personal integrity. I invite you to watch and listen. It won’t take long.

I’m reminded of James Rogan, a Republican member of the House who served as one of the House Managers in the impeachment trial for Bill Clinton. Rogan represented a California district that was only marginally Republican; he knew that his stance that Clinton should be removed from office might cost him his re-election. In his final statement to the senators sitting in judgment on Clinton, he commented on what might happen to his political future.

“The pundits keep telling me that my stand on this issue puts my political fortunes in jeopardy,” Rogan noted. Yet, he continued, “So be it. That revelation produces from me no flinching.” Why was he so stalwart?

“There is a simple reason why: I know that in life dreams come and dreams go. But conscience is forever. I can live with the concept of not serving in Congress. I cannot live with the idea of remaining in Congress at the expense of doing what I believe to be right.” He then concluded with these words: “Always put principle above politics; put honor above incumbency.”

James Rogan lost his bid for re-election, but his life didn’t end. As a dedicated Christian man, he went on to other avenues of service. Liz Cheney may lose her congressional seat as well, and if that happens, some will gloat that she is a “loser.” I will differ from that assessment if she does suffer that fate. Rather, I will say that she stood tall for constitutionalism, the rule of law, and personal integrity. Anyone who does that is a winner, not a loser.

Losers are those who sacrifice their consciences for political power. Losers are those who think that holding political power is the most important thing in their lives. Sadly, the majority in both parties probably fit that description. That’s why I’m discouraged by the politics of our day.

Yet in the gathering gloom of political hypocrisy, those who hold to principle and integrity are beacons of light. Today, I honor Liz Cheney for being one of those beacons of light. May her example spread to others who are wavering, and may there arise a chorus of citizens, both in Congress and in the electorate, who will draw from her courage and become courageous also.

Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong. Do everything in love.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14