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The Richmond, VA GOP was gracious enough to ask me to speak at their meeting on Tuesday, May 26th. Copied below is the text of the speech.*
Obviously, I am a Christian. My faith drives everything I do. I do believe the Bible is the Word of God given directly to us.
But I’m not a pastor. So don’t worry, I won’t be giving you a sermon tonight or trying to baptize you.
What I will be doing is giving you a horribly oversimplified view of what the Bible has to say about government and then talk a little about my view of the political landscape in America today.
You may not all be Christians, and that’s okay. Even if you’re not, it would be helpful to hear the biblical case for small government — which is a rather easy case to make — so you can refute those who try to use the Bible to advance some sort of Big-Government control of your lives.
If you remember nothing else from this talk, let it be this. The Bible has over 2,500 references to the words “king,” “kings,” and “kingdom” alone. It has a lot to say about government. And nowhere — not in a single verse — does the Bible justify some sort of gargantuan super-state that wields power over every aspect of your lives, as we’re progressing toward in America today. In fact, it’s the opposite. Much of the Bible catalogs the oppression that typically occurs when power is consolidated among the few. Or the one, in the case of kings.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites lived as a self-regulated society for a long time. They were free under God’s care. But eventually they wanted to be like other nations and clamored for a king. God warned them that kings would oppress them. They said they wanted to be ruled by a king anyway. So God gave them a series of kings, and, surprise, surprise, they oppressed the Israelites in exactly every way God said they would. Even the kings that were considered good oppressed their people. They overworked them, overtaxed them, stole their property, committed murder, and on and on.
When power is consolidated, it typically leads to abuse. This is because the human heart is easily corrupted. The Bible clearly shows this. But you don’t even need the Bible to know this. Just a cursory glance at human history proves that granting great power to one group over another ultimately will lead to abuse and oppression.
The Founders knew this, which is why they instituted a limited federal government with checks and balances. A system that has held back the waters of oppression for hundreds of years. I do believe, though, that at some point the dam will break and tyranny will be ushered in. I don’t know when that might happen, but I do believe we’re progressing ever more rapidly toward it every day. Which is why we need to get back to a system of limited government.
Now, one of the most common questions I get when advocating small government from a biblical perspective is on the idea of charity. People will say, “Jesus said to take care of the poor.” Which he did. In fact, the entire Bible is very clear on that point.
But not one verse justifies the idea of government-sponsored charity. The command to care for the needy is always directed at individuals or groups of God’s people. Every example bears this out. Nowhere can you find justification to outsource caring for the needy to a corrupt, third-party government.
In one of the most famous passages — in Mathew 25 — Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers sisters of mine, you did for me.” He didn’t say, “Whatever you did for a corrupt, power-hungry government, you did for me.”
Furthermore, the Bible says not to give out of compulsion. But that’s, of course, how government charity is funded. Government’s role simply is not charity. That’s the church’s role, and the role of decent human beings. We all should be caring for the needy as much as we possibly can.
But even with the charitable roles that the government has tried to take on, they don’t do a very good job anyway. They typically just end up creating dependency, giving them even more control over people’s lives. They make threats, like if you don’t vote the right way, you will lose your fill in the blank. That’s not a good position for us to be in. The Bible actually speaks to this as well, telling us to avoid being dependent on anyone. Except, of course, God.
This idea of government ineffectiveness isn’t limited to charity, though. Is there anything at all that the government does well or better than the private sector? I think most people instinctively know that the answer is no. That’s why the DMV is the butt of many good jokes. Polls bear this out, that people think government is poorly managed and involved in too much of our lives. Yet government continues to grow at an increasingly rapid rate, regardless of which party is in power.
Now think about another poll, which you may be familiar with. Every year Gallup releases a survey of Americans’ ideological affiliations. And every year the results are roughly the same. 40% of Americans consider themselves conservative, 20% consider themselves liberal, and the rest are somewhere in between.
If that’s true — and I believe it is — how in the world did Barack Obama lose to Mitt Romney? Especially considering that his approval numbers were terrible, he presided over a dismal economy, none of his policies were popular, including his crowning achievement, Obamacare, which is as unpopular today as it was when he passed it.
And beyond Romney, how did Republicans get clobbered up and down the ticket and across the entire country? I’m sure there are many complex reasons that I can’t begin to dissect. But two stand out to me that I want to focus on in this talk.
First, Romney, and the Republican party in general, didn’t and aren’t offering a viable small-government alternative to the Big-Government Democrats. I like Romney, but he simply didn’t seize the opening to push for small government. You may disagree, but as I see it, Republicans are merely offering a milder flavor of Big Government than what the Democrats offer. They’re just arguing over the details.
I will use Paul Ryan’s budget as an illustration. I like Paul Ryan, too. He’s considered to be a fiscal conservative, and I think in his heart he is. But his budget isn’t fiscally conservative. It balances in ten years, despite our looming massive debt crisis. And you know what? A simple balanced budget — regardless of how long it takes to get there — isn’t even fiscal conservatism. That’s living at the very edge of your means. Paycheck to paycheck for you and me. That would be considered fiscally reckless in my household or yours. True fiscal conservatism would be to live below our means. But I’m a realist and understand that that’s never going to happen in America, so I’d be thrilled just to get a balanced budget at some point.
Rand Paul has offered one that balances in five years. And it goes as far as eliminating entire departments, like the Department of Education. It also simplifies the tax code and privatizes the TSA. These are the kinds of small-government policies Republicans need to support if they want to start winning again. If instead they continue to push a milder flavor of Big Government, they will continue to lose elections.
I, of course, could be wrong. I’m not a political prophet. But even if I am wrong, and Republicans win by advancing Big Government, the country still loses because it continues to advance toward that oppressive super-state my Scriptures warn about.
But the good news is that there are some true freedom-loving Republicans out there, like Rand Paul, who need our support. Fortunately in Virginia, we have one running for the top spot this year. Ken Cuccinelli. With the feds grabbing so much power, it’s up to the states to stand up to them help get us out of this mess now.
The Founders set up a system in which the Federal Government was weak and the power would be with the state and local governments. But the feds have flipped that over time so that they are the more powerful. Ken is a true advocate for freedom, though, and is exactly the kind of person we need to stand against the federal power-grabs. And because it’s an off-year election, turnout should be lower, making it easier to win if we’re committed.
Ken is one of people who can carry the message of freedom in a compelling way. He’s very intelligent and well spoken on the issues. And freedom through small government is the winning message that will unite people from all demographics across America. Ideas like simplifying the tax code, eliminating entire departments, reducing regulation, giving power back to the states, privatization, term limits — these are all commonsense policies the American people will support in large majorities. Polls support this.
But the message has to get out. Which brings me to the other reason I believe Republicans lost so badly.
Obama was able to win reelection with a terrible record and conservatives outnumbering liberals two-to-one partly because he was an American Idol president. He was a pop culture icon who connected with people, especially the youth. This is powerful. Often, the results of elections are determined far in advance because of the cultural messages being advanced. Truth has little to do with it.
And the Left owns the culture. All of it. Entertainment, media, education, pop culture. Conservatives have not been engaged in advancing the message of small government through the arts in a serious way.
That is changing, though, which is great. But we need more small-government-minded people to jump in the game. That’s why I’ve dedicated much of my free time — which is never really free when you’re a dad — to writing not just non-fiction, but novels. Saving America was a straightforward presentation of freedom from a Christian perspective, which is important. But stories can be very powerful. That’s why one of Jesus’ primary methods of teaching was through fiction, or parables.
My novel, Fatal Reality, is about a reality show taken hostage where the contestants are forced to run a race for survival. So on the surface it’s an action-packed thriller, but at its core is a staunchly pro-life message. It’s not done in a preachy way or through the characters’ words, but through the story itself.
This is the kind of thing we need to be doing to advance the message of small government and a respect for human life in the culture. We have to help shape minds through books, movies, music, paintings, or any other art form. You don’t all have to be artists yourself, but support those conservatives you know who are trying to help spread the message through their work. I’ll be more than happy to sell you a copy of either of my books after my talk.
Seriously, find those artists advancing the cause of small government and support them. But their books, see their movies, listen to their music. They’re out there, even in Hollywood. Vince Vaughn is an example. Give them to your friends as gifts. Ask them what they thought. Show Hollywood you’re willing to pay for these types of works.
Another thing you can do is notice themes in movies and on TV and then talk to people about them. That’s a non-threatening way to start a conversation about important issues. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already run your friends over too much with talking about current issues so that they flee when they see you coming. But talking about movies is a great way to start a conversation that won’t immediately scare people off.
Anyone see The Hunger Games? Great movie. I wrote a review about it. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between that and Fatal Reality. I promise, though, I wrote Fatal Reality long before I ever even heard of The Hunger Games.
Anyway, it’s a perfect movie to talk about with friends. It was very popular and it shows just how far a powerful government can go in abusing its people. It shows the oppression possible when power is given to the few over the many. It’s an extreme example, of course, but it makes the point better than any non-fiction book could.
So we need to be talking to our friends about these issues and use our circles of influence to shift the narrative. This sounds cliché, but I believe it to be true. If we don’t speak out now, it’ll soon be too late. There is a point of no return on government power and abuse. I don’t think we’ve passed it yet, but I believe we’re getting very close.
But be encouraged that we can win this argument, if we’re willing to do what it takes. Because small government is the right and righteous approach and it will appeal to a large enough segment of the public that we can shift the tide in this nation, prevent us from passing that point of no return on government abuse, and get us back on the path to prosperity, businesses creating jobs, and the overall flourishing of freedom, to the benefit and joy of all Americans.
*I engaged in some ad-libbing as well, so what I ended up saying doesn’t match exactly what’s written above, but I tried to replicate it as best my memory would allow.