Tag Archives: Capitol Hill experience

Remedy for A Killer Disease

They call it Potomac Fever. Named after the river that borders half of Washington, like a moat around a castle, this disease is prevalent: affecting both political parties, many (though not all) lobbyists, and even faith-based groups headquartered in our nation’s capital. A lack of consistent physical symptoms make it difficult to diagnose, as all indicators are moral and ethical: Deception, manipulation, hidden agendas.

It’s a cancer that eats away at the soul, a hunger for power, control, money and recognition that decays one’s character and decision-making ability. Its spread is rampant, its damage deep … and the Cure little-known.

Reality looks bleak. “What can men do against such reckless hate?” as King Theoden mourned in The Lord of the Rings. Is there no place for people of conviction and courage in the halls of power?

Unbeknownst to them, a group of Washingtonians were recently introduced to Potomac Fever’s antidote by a former White House staffer named Tim Goeglein. Though advertised as a premiere for his book The Man in the Middle, they were in for much more. Tim spent his half-hour in front of these experts and government officials (plus a few stragglers like me) sharing what few had ever heard in a public speech: A confession without excuses.

Tim had worked for eight years in the White House, serving at the pleasure of President George W. Bush. Those years teemed with God’s work in and through his life. Tim saw firsthand a friendship develop between the President and Pope John Paul II, directly influencing our nation’s shunning of embryonic stem cell research and partial-birth abortion. When two Supreme Court vacancies came up, Tim had a hand in ensuring these two new justices would be leaders who upheld the original intent of our Constitution.

And in America’s darkest hour, the president called on Tim to plan a remembrance service at National Cathedral. On Sept. 14, 2001, a truly red-letter day, Rev. Billy Graham consoled the grieving with God’s Word and preached the Gospel to hundreds of millions worldwide via every major TV news network.

Yet a decade later here was Tim, speaking not of these great deeds but revealing his own dark night of the soul.

In 2008, during the heightened political tension of an election year, a reporter sent Tim a simple e-mail on a Friday. He asked about a column Tim wrote for his hometown newspaper: had he taken the work of other writers and passed it off as his own? Yes, he had. Tim knew his own pride and self-interest had caught up to him. He knelt at his desk and prayed. His life was about to change.

Tim resigned from the White House after nearly eight years of working for President Bush, a tenure stretching back to campaign days in Austin, Texas, and the election recount debacle in Florida. Now the media sharks smelled blood in the water. Evidence of their feeding frenzy can still be seen on Google.

That weekend he grieved, both the shame he caused the president and his loss — as he expected the plagiarism scandal meant an end to any connection with the Bush family. But that’s not what happened.

Going back to his old office to retrieve personal items the next Monday, Tim was stopped by the Chief of Staff: “Could you come to my office in the West Wing?” Surely this would be the woodshed moment.

Not long after, Tim found himself standing once again before President Bush in the Oval Office.

“Mr. President, I owe you a …” he began.

The president stopped him. “Tim, I want you to know I forgive you.”

He pressed on: “But, Mr. President, you should take me by the lapels and toss me into Pennsylvania Avenue. I embarrassed you and the team; I am so sorry.”

“Tim, you are forgiven,” President Bush said again, “and mercy is real. Now we can talk about this, or we can spend some time together talking about the last eight years.” They did. And before his former staffer left, the president had only one request: For Tim to come back with his wife and sons, so they could hear personally how he felt about Tim’s years of service.

A hush fell over the Washington crowd as Tim recounted his story of forgiveness. It wasn’t political maneuvering, clever marketing or anything he did that gave him that glorious moment of redemption. It was undeserved, only received in a place of humility. Once again, the Gospel was preached by an unlikely mouthpiece in unexpected circumstances.

No one is immune from Potomac Fever. Thankfully, God gives us forerunners who’ve gone ahead to tell their stories, make us aware when we’re susceptible to the disease and identify certain mindsets as “quarantine” for His sons and daughters.

Salvation is the only Cure. And it’s a process, not an event.

Cross-posted at Crosswalk.com

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The Religious Right Grows Up

Two weekends ago, over 3,100 Americans from 49 states descended on Washington, DC for the sixth annual Values Voter Summit. As expected, the media conjured up controversy from the event—centered around the seven presidential candidates who addressed the summit—yet a larger narrative was at play.

All the major presidential candidates addressed the 2011 Values Voter Summit

While summit attendees came from all walks of life and a cross-section of generations, they held certain core values in common. Marriage and family are to be protected. Each human life is sacred. Families (and nations) should live within their means. Religious freedom and the ideas of the Constitution are to be upheld.

These truths animate life everyday for values voters. But how do these values illuminate a vision for public policy and government?

We saw it in how Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, wisely addressed the controversy surrounding Mormonism. When a Dallas-area pastor commented on Governor Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, reporters took it out of context to show a “split” among values voters.

“We clearly recognize the fact that Mormon theology includes doctrines that are distinct from Evangelical theology and Catholic theology. At the same time, the goal of the values voter movement is not to build a ‘National Church,’” Perkins wrote after the event.

“Our goal is to build a national coalition based on shared values… And when we successfully work together with those who share our values, we are preserving and strengthening our religious liberty, so that we can freely share the truth of the gospel with everyone.”

Perkins’ vision for coming together around common ideals borrows from coalition-builder Grover Norquist. Longtime head of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist authored a book tellingly titled Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives.

Drawing on his decades of experience rallying diverse groups to a common cause, Norquist contrasts America’s coalitions of the right and left.

Conservative ideology is driven by liberty. Home-schooling families desire to teach their children without interference. Small business owners need freedom from excessive regulation to create wealth. Hunters want to exercise their right to bear arms. Churches and religious organizations pray they can freely hire God-fearing people, without Uncle Sam (in the name of “employment non-discrimination”) mandating church staff consist of people who do not share their values.

All these parties are not asking for a piece of the pie, for a special handout from the government. Their driving interest is freedom from Washington control.

The right’s hands-off stance to government contrasts starkly with the left, which delights in trying to “correct” the problems of society and free markets with social engineering. Their “takings coalition” has been on full display in recent years.

Environmental activists want your tax money for windmills and solar subsidies (see: Solyndra). Powerful labor unions can only solidify their influence with public funding (see: UAW bailout). And Planned Parenthood, which has snuffed out over 5 million lives since it began practicing abortion the day it became legal in 1970 in New York, can only keep its murderous mission going with taxpayer support.

Values voters are waking up. Clearly our national budget is tightly linked to the expression of our values in public policy. Why does the left constantly advocate for taxes, even when it’s unpopular as during an election season? Because they must dole out public funding to an ever-increasing cast of shady characters.

I only know of three effective ways to combat this dominant coalition. First, sunlight is a powerful disinfectant. Fearless, truth-telling reporters do a world of good in exposing corruption. Many now work at state think tanks and local watchdog blogs as some newspapers close up shop. Second, we can starve the beast by lowering taxes where possible.

A third vital strategy is encapsulated by Benjamin Franklin: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” In the world of policy and activism, I have met people—even leaders—whose personality, political emphasis and theology are different than my own. While I may not look up to them in every respect, I choose to stay focused on the goals we have in common: life, liberty, limited government and the freedom to pursue happiness.

Politics is rough sport. The key to getting things done is building a solid team, and many candidates will be vying for your support in the coming months. By no means should you get on-board without discernment: examining past votes, knowing present positions, considering future policies.

I would encourage you not to swear off the good guys due to a secondary or tertiary issue. Your voice in the process matters. Your vote matters. Don’t let small differences keep you from making a real impact.

Cross-posted at The Oracle

Give Politics a Chance

“The people are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

Interior design isn’t my thing. I enjoy a nice home, sure, but start talking about spackle, crown molding – or colors spelled with more than six letters – and I’m out of my depth.

The extent of my furniture buying is to venture into Ikea every four years or so, flanked by friends or family as backup. Overall, except for rooms with little visual jazz, this lack of interest results in no harm done. It’s livable.

How I treat interior design is how many treat politics. The problem with that is, public policy isn’t a boring room you can just ignore.

Even here in Washington, where people breathe this stuff, some friends cynically brush off discussion of the debt ceiling, energy depletion or defense strategy. “It’s all just theater… partisan bickering… a worldly pursuit.” In the right company, the rant will likely end with, “Throw the bums out!”

Every four years many of these folks “hold their nose” and vote—which is a good thing. The truth is, battles are raging every day in the halls of power, deciding where your tax dollars are spent – and how much. It’s worth your time and attention to follow what’s going on and make your voice heard. If people of faith, energy and creativity stayed involved, America would right itself.

I was a cynic about all this not long ago. Sometime during the ’08 election cycle while listening to talk radio and laughing at their put-downs of the other side, a question began to nag at me: What’s really going on? And if it is important, could I contribute in some way? The truth of the matter had to be more complex than these entertainers made it seem.

The journey towards that truth led me to leave a job in Colorado Springs, facing 14 months of internships and unemployment in the DC area. It’s a story too long to tell here. Suffice to say, God provided and guided my steps. Through mistakes, false starts and lost debates, a few guideposts have helped me make better sense of politics.

Sources Matter

Everyone has a reason for believing what he or she does. Yet what passes for solid conventional wisdom (say, ending foreign aid would solve America’s budget problem) is often flat wrong. And our personal experiences often supersede the bigger picture revealed by trends.

To arrive at anything near truth, take in a lot of reliable information from many sources. That’s the heart of writing research and intelligence: the ability to collect diverse facts, reams of data, wildly different perspectives – and fairly synthesize that information into summary points. Otherwise, it’s just your opinion.

It’s why I make an effort to tune in to NPR as well as Dennis Prager, subscribing to The Hill and The Morning Bell e-newsletters, and watching for updates at both census.gov and the Fortune 500. As Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”

Tone Matters

Let’s assume you successfully discover some new reality from multiple sources, on an issue you believe matters. Time for the talk. (No, not the one about the birds and bees.)

It’s easier to discuss the weather and your health instead of politics and religion. Agreeing to disagree is common even among allies. As a friend told me recently: “She knows what I think, and I know her side – we just don’t bring up those issues where we disagree.”

But then no one learns anything. I talk politics with friends (and strangers) to gain from their perspective. When we differ on the big questions, I try to listen and be persuasive. This is sadly a rare thing in political circles. TV and radio airwaves are blasting with people talking over each other rather than to each other.

Back to that same chapter in Proverbs, verse 15 states: “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” Conceding a point, being empathetic, and refusing to call names all help bring people around to your point of view. Where it gets tricky is when a kind tone collides with core moral priorities.

Priorities Matter

Voices like Jim Wallis regularly call for Christians involved in politics to “broaden their agenda” and stop focusing so much on issues like abortion and traditional marriage. True enough, the Gospel has a lot to say about poverty, the rule of law, stewardship, education and even transportation.

From where I stand, we also cannot kid ourselves. There is a true hierarchy of issues when we consider the world in moral terms. How oil drilling affects the environment, and what’s economically feasible to be a good steward, has a moral angle to it. But the violent killing of over 14 million babies worldwide every year by sucking their brains out is a horrific injustice.

On this, I don’t come across as very nice to some in Washington. The goal is to be truthful, not spineless.

We will never live in a perfect world this side of eternity. Each of us have different roles to play to make our nations, our cities, and our families better, more alive, and more reflective of God’s Kingdom. As a new school year begins, I pray you will discover more of that calling. Sometimes it’s a process of elimination; interior design is not in my future, I’m fairly certain.

No matter your major, I hope you realize the value of understanding and staying involved in politics. Yes, the issues are complex. Yes, my eyes glaze over too after looking at one page of our national budget. Still: this stuff matters.

A former ORU student and University of Colorado graduate, Josh M. Shepherd works at a think tank in Washington, DC.

Cross-posted at ORU Oracle

Capitol Hill Staffer Aaron Welty Faces Life Head-On


This week Emmy Award-winning TV show Facing Life Head-On features the inspiring story of Aaron Welty, a Congressional staffer whose belief in the value of life stems from his own remarkable story. Born with cerebral palsy, Welty has proven that a negative medical prognosis can be proven flat wrong – and quality of life can be limitless in a land of opportunity that respects life.

“I was born in America,” Welty answers when asked how he first felt the pull to work in Congress. “I could’ve been born somewhere else in the early 80′s where I would not have been safe and life wouldn’t necessarily have been as secure as it is. I had to find a way to give back, and friends of mine suggested, ‘Why don’t you go to Washington?’ I grabbed that idea and ran with it.”

Since 2006, Welty has worked for Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), currently as a legislative assistant. Prior to that, he served as an intern at The Heritage Foundation as part of the Young Leaders Program. The FENX, an experimental electric vehicle built for Welty by his father (a carpenter involved in aircraft design), provides him a high degree of mobility in the nation’s busy capital despite his physical challenges. Welty chronicles the origins of his electric vehicle at the FENX Project blog .

Now in its fifth season on air Facing Life Head-On provokes thought and promotes awareness of life issues, from adoption to disabilities to end-of-life care. Watch the complete two-part episode “Turning Disability into Opportunity” at the show’s website.

Cross-posted at The Foundry

Get Up 40 Minutes Early on a Tuesday

Originally published by New Man eMagazine

As Americans, we are blessed to be living in the richest country in the history of the world. Undeniably, one of the key reasons for our prosperity is our many freedoms – notably, the liberty to vote for our leaders.

And in my experience, all it takes to exercise this freedom is to get up 40 minutes early on a Tuesday morning, get to a local polling place, maybe stand in a line for a bit*… and make a decision that will directly impact the budget, policies and personalities who will direct government for at least two years. What a country! Our representative democracy is a unique and powerful system, the first of its kind you could say – only existing today thanks to the blood and sacrifice of America’s finest.

In light of this, it always shocks me when I run into people who proclaim, even proudly: “I don’t vote.” Really? So you’re part of those 40% of American citizens who banter and complain about political leaders or parties or “the system” like everyone else, but can’t take 40 minutes to do the one thing you can do constructively to make a difference? Unbelievable.

Now I know cynicism stops many people from voting. I’ve felt that too. Having moved from Texas to Washington, DC in the past year, it’s actually been heartening to find many talented, visionary people working in politics… but even more discouraging to see their good ideas trampled by the Big Government parade.

True, both political parties are responsible for those spending increases, those new programs, those supposedly “good” things that only serve to part you with more of your hard-earned money. Now that I’m more aware of who’s calling the shots here in DC, I know that I know that I know we are all better off if you choose where your money is spent** – including what charities, places of worship, and good causes to support.

Putting a politician in charge of spending your money presents a scenario which has compromised the best of intentions. It means that some CEO came to Mr. Congressman and made a convincing case as to how to best send your money “back to our hometown.” Unfortunately, that CEO’s small-business competitor did not have the funds to come to Washington.

So the smaller company lost, it missed getting the advantage, and perhaps even shut its doors. Maybe a few dozen jobs were lost… which adds up when you think about 9,499 back room deals (earmarks) that were made in Congress just last year. What happens in Washington, DC really does impact America’s heartland.

This culture of earmarks, or “corporate welfare” as some call it, is not easy to change. But it’s possible. The current political climate has led some of America’s brightest minds in business, community outreach, medicine, the clergy, and even rocket science to seek voters’ support to represent them in Washington. These men and women know how to read a profit-and-loss statement, how to balance a checkbook… how to innovate when an organization has lost it way. Most of our current lawmakers don’t have the first clue about these basics.

I am inspired by many new leaders seeking office. It’s why I am spending my Saturdays lately walking door-to-door, talking to Virginians about who will be on the ballot. It’s why I am listening closely to what candidates are saying about the big issues of our time, from the national debt to the rise of China.

And it’s why I will get up 40 minutes early on Tuesday, November 2. What a great privilege paid for by the bravery of past generations – that in itself makes my vote count.

*Of course, American citizens must be registered to vote. Not sure if you’re registered? Go to the helpful website CanIVote.org for state-specific info.

**There is a small, Constitutionally-limited role for government to play. George Washington was perhaps the first patriot to realize that taxes are necessary for our freedoms to exist. Yet currently government is bloated beyond anything resembling the Constitution.

Question [Glenn Beck] With Boldness

This is not a post about all talk-radio hosts, nor about the left’s entertainer/newsman Jon Stewart (an interesting comparison to our subject), nor about the theology of Mormonism, nor on how many people attended the Restoring Honor rally, nor about the proper separation of church and state, nor even about how to use the tools of modern media to fullest advantage – as our subject certainly does.

It is about media personality Glenn Beck: where his culture war is taking him, and whether or not we should be along for the ride. More than simply one of many news sources, Beck has quickly gained an intensely devoted audience. Respected, God-fearing friends of mine have a “shrine of Glenn” at their home, full of his books and materials. To his credit, Beck tells his audience continually to question with boldness – so, I am.

I once was part of this crowd. “Here’s a guy who gets it and knows how to speak to today’s audiences,” I thought, never missing his radio show for months. Upon closer observation, Beck’s subtle flaws became clear.

The buzz around Beck has gotten so big, let me address a larger audience. As I am committed to both evangelical Christianity and political conservatism, you may question whether my views are dangerous or wrongly balanced. Perhaps they are sometimes.

Here’s the thing: for many Americans, Christians among them, politics and public policy is a habit picked up every four years or so. Others of us study and think about these ideas everyday because it’s part of our job or calling. If you’re in the former group, especially if you lean more to the left, God bless you. We trusting in the same Father matters more than sharing political ideology.

You may not like this blog though. Ask me sometime why I see politics from the lens of conservatism. For now, “Just smile and wave, boys, just smile and wave.”

Back to where we started… What Beck wants is for you, Mr. or Ms. Conservative, to watch his show; my case is why you should do so with a very critical eye, or not at all.

Conservatives must learn to reason and debate well, which won’t happen if we play it loose with reality (political or otherwise), if we never question simplistic arguments, and if we marry spiritual and political activism in a passionate, emotional fling.

But before the crit, a word on Why is Beck so incredibly successful?

My theory: he is a very talented entertainer, and he is the ultimate coalition-builder.

The entertainment factor gets people in the door – the funny voices he does, witty banter with his producers, soaking a guest with gasoline, and a hundred other things. Beck started as a radio DJ, bicycle horn on-air and all. Today, he still plays the part, though it’s a tongue-in-cheek humor sensitive to not offending his increasingly faith-based audience. As writers tell me humor is the hardest thing to do well, Beck talking four hours on-air daily is no small feat.

In terms of rallying folks to his cause, look no further than those involved in the Restoring Honor rally. From James Dobson to Bishop Harry Jackson, from Rabbi Daniel Lapin to Jerry Falwell Jr., conservative religious leaders are lining up behind Beck like he’s the second coming of Billy Graham. In short: Beck out-Palins Palin. Unlike her, his fun-to-watch programs also bring in edgy libertarians, economy-minded centrists, and right-leaning politicos motivated by many diverse issues.

Influential leaders are among Beck’s fans not only due to his magnetic personality; Beck truly enjoys people and believes each person has unlimited potential.

How could such a funny, outgoing guy – seemingly doing a world of good – create trouble?

1. Glenn Beck Plays it Loose with Reality

Working in a Congressman’s office gives you a new perspective. Today, more so than Limbaugh, Levin, Hannity or Dobson, it’s good ol’ Glenn Beck who generates the highest number of calls to Capitol Hill… usually on bogus issues.

A prime example of this is HR 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010. Now, the issue of Puerto Rico’s past and future status is quite complex; dig into this 54-page CRS report if you’re curious. This latest bipartisan bill was designed to give the citizens of Puerto Rico a path of self-determination, laying out a long process of possibilities.

Beck boils it all down to the caption of this video: “Call your Congressman or get ready to sew another star on the flag”:

Politics is, by nature, boring and complicated. It’s easier if you color every political issue with red and blue crayons then tell people, “OK, blue is the bad guy.” As long as he’s getting top ratings, Beck has no qualms about miseducating his audience on conservative ideals… not to mention breaking every basic principle of journalism.

To understand how this came to be, look back at how Fox News started with a journalist on a culture war. Like him or not, Bill O’Reilly spent years as a reporter at ABC News. Sure, he has an ego, but O’Reilly is fair and he understands the big ideas of our time. Then Fox ups the ante. To capitalize on anti-media sentiment, why not give a prime-time slot to an “average Joe”? Enter Glenn Beck.

Whereas the purpose of journalism is to inform, Beck’s is to entertain. In this case, a real news outlet would follow-up: “HR 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, passed the House, here’s where it stands now…” After working his audience into a frenzy over this issue, Beck went right past explaining the bill’s next steps; he just pulled another rabbit out of his hat.

One rabbit Beck keeps tugging on is the need to “go back to simpler times,” to return to the virtuous and untainted past of America’s yesteryear. The problem is, such a time never existed in real life:

WATCH: Best segment ever produced on the ‘Nostalgia’ argument of the right

And the rewriting of history leads us to a related problem…

2. Beck Marries Spiritual and Political Activism – in a Fling of Emotion

I was surprised by what I found at Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. It wasn’t a political event: no signs, no chanting, no get-out-the-vote closing directive. Social issues like abortion were mentioned only in the margins, primarily by Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; trying to censor her remarks would have been disrespectful of the day.

Yet the overall tone of the event was not just reverent: it was downright evangelistic. As I looked out across over 300,000 people (that’s according to a friend I spoke with days later at the National Park Service) gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, anyone could tell: Glenn Beck owns the Christian right. These were church-going, family-raising folks who saw something in this heavyset shock-jock that inspired them to drive across the country and be counted in his crusade.

What did they hear? Stirring music, the soothing voice of Glenn Beck, mixed with some interesting proclamations: “Our hope is based on our founders” … “We can either look at our scars, or let our scars redeem us” … “It is up to us”… and a lot of statements that began with, “There was a time when…”

For Glenn Beck, emotion (laughter, tears, anger, fear, nostalgia) trumps reason and facts every time. He reaches similar conclusions to orthodox Christianity, but how Beck gets there is not in keeping with the words of Christ: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). God cares about us using our minds fully for Him. Beck is so good at playing an emotional trump card, you don’t even realize it’s happening.

I can’t deny Beck and those he champions say much that is true. Not only politically, but also about the intersection of faith and government, about family as a central social institution, about respecting our fellow man, about natural law undergirding legislative powers. In fact, they get so much right that Beck is now accorded the status of a prophet in many circles.

Which is where many well-meaning people get derailed. “That Glenn Beck, we need to pray for his protection everyday, the enemy is out to destroy his prophetic voice,” the head of an international ministry told me privately.

Do pray for Glenn Beck, seriously. Just recognize this man is an entertainer who makes no secret of that fact.

3. Beck Trips Up on His Own Ego

My life journey has, for whatever reason, placed me very close to large, influential organizations who grew to critical mass proclaiming our role on the “frontlines of defending truth and right”: Oral Roberts University, New Life Church in Colorado Springs, the Republican Party… I could go on.

Each organization has recently faced far-reaching scandals. Most have regained balance in their mission and learned something in the process (jury is still out on the latter).

Why am I telling you this? In each case, we were so caught up in the bubble – the internal culture and excitement of being part of something “good” and bigger than ourselves – that we missed warning signs our leaders’ words and actions were telegraphing to us. Implicit trust in these leaders, without thought of accountability, created a stage upon which their ego had free reign.

Ironically, the one commentator who applied this most purely to Beck said it directly to him on-air. On the Glenn Beck Prayer Podcast (yeah, that really exists), James Robison spoke a message from Isaiah 50 – urging America to “Begin to walk in God’s light, instead of our own light.”

James Robison (Life Outreach International) on Glenn Beck Prayer Podcast – Aug. 25, 2010

Listen carefully to Beck. Even with his move from newsertainment to “inspirational” programming, count how many times in an hour he tells his audience to sign up for his subscribers-only service. Consider how much e-newsletter space is devoted to mocking anyone who criticizes him. And, in his three-hour patriotic love letter to his vast conservative faith-driven audience, where does Beck draw a line between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God? Erasing those lines, muddling theology for millions of Americans, does not line up with the Gospel.

If we platform Glenn Beck as a religious leader, we are setting up new Christians to be sorely disappointed by their patron saint. Result: even more people bitter at Jesus Christ and His followers. Though only in my twenties, I’ve seen this movie many times – the ending is a real downer.

In conclusion

Not only have I been part of Beck’s audience, sometimes I still am. I love a good laugh, and I always get it with Glenn Beck: often at his jokes, sometimes at his inconsistencies.

He's not really a Professor - Beck just plays one on TV

We could all learn something from this singular entertainer about the importance of sharp humor, being transparent about past problems, and taking bold actions based on your beliefs. Not to mention how to master technology and multiple media platforms.

But if it’s cogent political analysis, cultural commentary, or (good heavens) anything coming close to Bible teaching, thankfully, we have so many better sources to turn to.

Channel Your Anger

Never before have I heard my brother so worked up about politics. The week of the health care vote, he’d just gotten back from Haiti—where he’d seen how billions in government aid made only a small difference (but that’s another story… or is it?)

All 2,409 pages of the final health reform bill

Now, returning home, he was mad. Every conversation led back to this 2,409-page health bill. “They really pulled one over on us,” my brother said of the powerful politicos who ignored Americans’ opinions about this bill. “I just feel helpless.”

I know the feeling. This monstrosity has hounded me since I arrived in Washington last year. As an intern in Congress, I scanned thousands of constituent letters on health care. When pro-life concerns began boiling up among both Republicans and Democrats, a letter of protest was drafted and I walked it around to get Representatives’ signatures.

The process was a disaster. The heroes were the “party of no” villains – men and women who fought tirelessly against a

Tom Coburn Nikki Haley Allen West Paul Ryan

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., Governor Nikki Haley, Rep. Allen West, Rep. Paul Ryan

powerful majority. Still the bill passed. Some of us despise how new programs will take our freedoms with new government mandates; some care most about the theft of more personal income via taxes; some rightfully fear how time and courtesy will be lost to greater bureaucracy; and, having dealt with Medicare, health care providers detest the bill for all of the above.

But we’re not helpless. Truth is, our nation has a grand tradition of changing and even repealing laws that do not work. We have a clear, Constitutionally-mandated ability to take away political power from irresponsible leaders: it’s called election day.

Some folks (like my brother) have been politically active for years. If Washington has motivated you to make a difference, here’s some ideas on how to be effective…

1. Vote Every Time. The value of your vote cannot be overstated. Considering all the money spent on election campaigns, lobbying and the costs of running Congress, your vote is easily worth hundreds of dollars. Casting your ballot is not only part of your wealth as an American citizen – it’s the right thing to do, every time. And never forget: the 2000 Presidential election was decided by just 537 votes in Florida.

2. Dialogue with Your Friends. It’s easier to talk about the weather and your health instead of politics and religion. Trust me, I know. Agreeing to disagree is common even among conservative allies, as a friend told me recently: “She knows what I think, and I know her side – we just don’t bring up those issues where we disagree.”

I find the best teachers are people I trust. Whether or not we agree, it’s revealing to ask: what do you believe on these big issues… and why? Through this practice, including plenty of lost debates among friends, mostly I’ve learned how much I have to learn. Which is good.

3. Support Candidates You Believe In. Traditional media is shocked at the effect Tea Partiers are already having on primary elections. Polls, conventional wisdom and even fundraising figures cannot explain how some candidates are coming “out of nowhere” to win races.

That “nowhere” is a place called the heartland of America. We need hard- working average Joes to hold power in Congress, just as we need some current leaders to stay. Rather than complicate your voting decision, here’s a simple suggestion: examine the candidates’ positions and voting records carefully. Then vote for the one who is most consistent with your values. If you want to multiply your impact, volunteer for the campaign. You will not regret it.

On that final health care vote weekend, Washington became a circus of everyday Americans who descended on DC to raise their voices. I waited in a line of hundreds for the opportunity to sit in the House gallery and watch the debate firsthand. During a lull, I learned the folks seated next to me were activists from New Orleans.

“My first rally was outside the ACORN offices,” the man said. “A thousand people showed up to protest them. And I read the paper the next day, not a single mention of it! I knew something was up because even a few animal-rights protesters get front-page coverage. I’m from Nicaragua originally, so freedom is not something I take for granted. I saw how socialism starts small – then it takes over.”

If politics is making you steamed, join the party. Take action to truly make a difference.