STINKIN’ THINKIN’. I have a confession to make. This will shock regular readers who know how passionate I am about voting and about being involved in the political life of our communities and our nation. Last November was the first time I ever voted. My wonderful wife had nagged me about this, in her sweet gentle way, for years. But Election 2000 was the first time I realized how important it was for ME to vote.
"Then why are you so vocal about everyone being involved, and every vote counting?" Have you ever met a reformed smoker? You know how obnoxious they can be, talking constantly to everyone who will listen (and some who don’t want to!) about the evils of smoking. I wasted precious years because of "Stinkin’ Thinkin’." I sat back and said, "Let someone else get their hands dirty. I don’t want to get involved." Now that I realize how wrong I was, I want to make up for it.
"Why weren’t you involved long before last November? And why are you making this shocking confession now?" I’m glad you asked. I didn’t get involved because I believed a set of faulty premises, which I refer to collectively as Stinkin’ Thinkin’. I have decided to address this issue because of an email I received recently.
The email was a request from a lady to "Unsubscribe" her from this newsletter. I have received a few similar emails in the past, but this one epitomized the kind of thinking that kept my head in the sand for so many years. She wrote, "I believe in the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and they are sufficient reading for me." Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sort of...holy. I grew up in a church where one member refused to read anything but the Bible. No books, no newspapers- just the Bible. As the saying goes, this good man was so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good.
I love to read the Bible. It is the one dependable source of truth for all generations. But God never intended us to isolate ourselves from the world the way the man in my church did. Believers are supposed to influence the world they live in. We are not supposed to be passive observers.
My response to the lady’s email: "I am an ordained minister, and have read through the Bible numerous times. Nowhere is it stated that the Bible is all we are supposed to read. In fact, the Word teaches that we are to be involved in our communities and government. If Christians don’t get involved, then the people who hate God will be in charge. That’s why I write Conservative Truth."
Here are the basic premises of Stinkin’ Thinkin’. Premise #1: "Religion and politics don’t mix." How many times have you heard that one? The people who hate God and religion have spouted it so much that they have Christians repeating it! What is religion? The way we relate to God. What is politics? The way we relate to our society. If our religion, our relationship with God, is as important to us as we say it is, then we will want to involve God in our other relationships, including our relationship to society. The God-haters don’t want us involved, because they want to make all the decisions. So prayer and moral teaching are removed from the schools and replaced with secular humanism. Marriage, which used to be protected under the law is now as disposable as Kleenex. Laws against sodomy are ignored, and homosexuals sue religious organizations for not hiring them.
Premise #2: "Politics is a dirty business, and I don’t want to be associated with it." Politics certainly can be dirty business. So can running a restaurant, teaching school, raising money for charity, and just about any other activity you can mention. The difference is the people who participate. If only liars and self-servers run for office, then politics will indeed be a very dirty business. Believers are told that we are to be salt in this world. Salt kept in its shaker cannot affect the taste of food. President Bush is a good example of how we should involve ourselves in the processes that determine how all of us live. This born-again believer could have said, "I don’t want to get my hands dirty." Instead, he said, "I want to be salt. I want to make a difference." He doesn’t quote the Bible constantly in his speeches (in fact, he does so far less than did Joe Lieberman in his campaign). But he champions Biblical principles in the actions he takes.
Premise #3: "We need to be about our Father’s business." In quoting Jesus in this manner, the implication is that we should only be involved in issues that can be labeled as exclusively religious. But Jesus didn’t live His life that way. Sure, He preached about purely spiritual matters. But He also had lots to say about money, about our relationships with one another, and about how we relate to government. All of these things are spiritual, too. A proper interpretation of, "Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s," includes not only paying taxes, but also doing such other things that government requires of us, as long as they do not violate the Word of God. Our form of government, in order to function in a righteous manner, requires the involvement of every citizen in the process of choosing the people who represent us.
Premise #4: "I am not a citizen of this earth. I am a citizen of heaven, and as such, I owe no allegiance to earthly government." Like all untruths, there is enough truth in this to make it seem plausible on the surface. Our eternal life is certainly far more important than anything that happens on earth. But that doesn’t mean that life on earth is unimportant. If it is, why are we here? The Apostle Paul, in the Book of Romans, makes it very clear that we do owe allegiance to our government, and that when we resist it, we resist God. He says that the powers over us are ordained by God. To put it another way, no king or government can have authority unless God allows it. We could get into all kinds of theological discussions about good and bad governments, and the good or bad decisions they make, but the Bible is very clear that God ordains governments. He even says, through Paul, that God puts government officials in our lives to be "..ministers of God to you for good." Read Romans 13:1-7.
Premise #5: (My personal favorite, because I believed it for years.) "Ministers should not make their political views public because they will sway those to whom they minister." Well, first of all, if a minister does not use his words to sway the thinking and actions of people, why say anything? Secondly, how can you possibly separate your political views from your moral views? I believe abortion of an unborn creation of God is murder, but I shouldn’t express that view because it is a political issue? Ridiculous! The Bible is crystal clear that homosexual sex is sin, but I shouldn’t talk about that because it’s not politically correct? Rubbish! A politician lies under oath and has sex with half the women in the nation’s capitol, but I shouldn’t discuss that because someone might not vote for him? I certainly hope that would be the case! The real reason a certain segment of the political arena has worked so hard to ridicule and silence religious leaders is that they know that true men of God will shine the light of the Word on their actions. "Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil."
One other rather specious argument used against individuals connected with churches and other non-profit organizations is that they might lose their tax-exempt status if they speak out on "political" issues. Jesse Jackson and the labor unions, among many others, have been using tax-exempt money for overtly political purposes for years, with nary an I.R.S. audit. But let a minister speak out on his own time (preachers are not paid by their churches to be on duty 24 hours a day) and people scream, "Take away the church’s tax-exempt status." (I don’t believe ministers should endorse political candidates from the pulpit, but they should be allowed the same free speech as everyone else at other times.) Of course, this double standard is unfair. But I don’t really care. Take away every church’s tax-exempt status for all I care. People should give to churches or charities because they’re supposed to, not because of a tax break. Tax-exemption is just one more way to control free speech. The truth is far more important than a tax break.
So there you have it. I, who once had his head in the sand, have pulled it out. I have found that I can speak much more clearly without sand in my mouth, and I seldom miss an opportunity to do so. I appeal to those of you whose heads are still buried for religious reasons to go read the Bible again. You won’t find justification for sitting on the sidelines and complaining about how terrible things are. You will find a challenge to get involved and make a difference.
WOW!! OUR ARTICLE LAST WEEK ("WHY TEACHERS CAN’T TEACH") GENERATED A LOT OF RESPONSES. Here is a sampling of comments, with an emphasis on responses from those who know best- teachers and school administrators. Let me reiterate that I feel most teachers care and work hard to teach their students. As you will see from the comments below, they are hampered by the terrible system in which they must work.
"Tom, I have been a public school educator for 15 years. Of course home schoolers learn more and better. They have parents who are not abdicating their responsibilities as their children’s educators. The amount of time and effort spent on conflict resolution, self-esteem, drug prevention, tobacco prevention, bullying, fundraising, problem solving, discipline, stranger-danger, school safety, 504 plans, Academic Improvement Plans, parent conferences during teaching time, behavior improvement plans, etc., ad nauseum (and I won’t even get into special education paperwork), is killing the teaching profession. And how are science scores ever going to improve if teachers and schools are judged solely on nationally normed reference achievement tests? There are fantastic teachers out there being buried in accountability paperwork and non-academic demands who are just as frustrated as the statistic mongers who quote the sad state of affairs of our educational system. If only teachers could just teach and parents would just parent...Ron Wilber, Florida."
"Two years I took a full-time teaching position at a State College. I went through a Masters program in the 70’s and never cared for Edu-babble back then but at least with some thought we could understand it. You are absolutely right. Today it is impossible to understand the language they speak. ’We’ see the comedy yet ’they’ continue their Edu-babble stone faced and wonder why we are laughing. However, the joke is on the students and taxpayers. They are paying for it without a bat of the eye. Dennis Lisonbee, Utah."
"I have a comment regarding teacher salary. I don’t agree that higher salaries attract better teachers. I’ve lived in two districts that embraced that belief, only to realize that it doesn’t work. My present and third district just increased teacher’s salaries by $10,000 per year. That brought the starting salary to $43,000 per year. The teacher’s enjoyed the raise, but the quality in education, which is below par, remained unchanged. The problem is, as you succinctly put it, in the preparation of the teacher. My daughter’s math teacher holds a degree in history. She attended a six month math program for teachers. Four years for history and six months for mathematics. I agree that teacher’s should receive a worthy salary. To receive it, they should meet a (national) certification, and work 12 months a year. Frank D. Flemming, California."
"As a former high school teacher who quit in disgust and frustration after six years, it was with more than casual interest that I read your item today. Teachers cannot teach because they have no subject knowledge to teach. There is something wrong when someone with a teaching degree has a major in humanities and a minor in the arts but is assigned to teach science or math. Schools are also part of the problem. Reporting to my first teaching job in the Milwaukee schools, I abruptly left and returned to Minnesota under threats of the school system ’blackballing’ me. The reason I left was that I had a BS degree in Industrial Education with a minor in Art and Technical illustration, but I was assigned to Roosevelt Jr. high where I was supposed to teach Social Studies. When I protested, they said that my freshman college course in social studies was good enough. Richard Becker, Colorado."
"Thank you for your recent article entitled, ’Why Teachers Can’t Teach.’ I have been aware of this major problem for over 20 years now. That’s one of the reasons why I won’t EVER go back to classroom teaching or take a job as a school principal or as a district school superintendent. I have been in education over 30 years and have read many of the articles and books on the ’values clarification,’ ’situational ethics,’ etc., used in our schools today. The public school system is NOT for me, nor, I believe, for ANY child of school age. Dr. Geneva Cornwell, Victory Christian School, Sarasota, Florida."
I WILL CLOSE THIS ISSUE WITH A QUOTE FROM "A NATION AT RISK," The National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war...We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament."