Tag Archives: family

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

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

Excellence in All We Do

I can’t claim the honor of being an alumnus of TwentyFourSeven Leadership Academy, a full-time New Life Church missions/discipleship program celebrating its 10th year.

But when I first came out to Colorado Springs in Fall 2003, a brother of mine joined 24/7 and I felt a part of it as he shared about 24/7’s drills, classes (for the mission field, the program insists students learn economics as well as the Bible), early-morning workouts, trips to hostile countries, etc.

I stayed at New Life, getting more involved — he moved on to being a 24/7 team leader, then graduated from two years in June 05. Lo and behold, another younger brother joined TwentyFourSeven in Fall 05, became a leader in Fall 06, and will graduate this June.

All that to say: it’s been a privilege being a small part of this family.

Which I why the recent news of the transition facing 24/7 — founding director Christopher Beard leaving — has been in my prayers often these past weeks. The word came immediately before watching a performance of Wonderland, a Christmas musical that 24/7 plays a massive part in. Amidst all the spectacle, sets and elaborate production, I watched the 1st year, 2nd year, and 3rd year students — whose world had been turned upside-down in the past 24 hours.

Still they looked joyful, full of God’s life, and passionate for displaying His truth to those watching… by being a stand-out part of something bigger. I was teary-eyed at their strength. Following the “show,” all I could say to any 24/7 student I saw was, “You guys are amazing, you inspire me.”

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TwentyFourSeven really is a family, and Christopher Beard’s intensity has fathered it from day one. He’s irreplaceable, no question. The program will look and feel different under Aaron Stern, pastor of theMILL – not a bad thing, just different.

Some grieving should be expected (out of necessity, most current students are past that stage). The loss is felt not only by parents, host homes — generous New Life families who give up a spare room for 10 months to a 1st year student — but also by the other 24/7s.

Indeed, alumni of Colorado Springs’ twentyfourseven have gone on to start similar training programs in other cities:
– 24/7 Birmingham, Alabama
– 24/7 Conway, Arkansas
– 24/7 Mexico City, Mexico

When one thinks of the alumni who are pastoring, who are missionaries overseas, or studying to be a doctor (like my bro)… this vision really is making a global impact. The media, of course, has made this story something it clearly isn’t. I’d encourage anyone to carefully read the New Life statement and understand how different this is from what happened in November.

After a past year’s TwentyFourSeven banquet, I had this to write; hope it gives some context for the continuing strength of this family…

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Tonight I witnessed something so rare in today’s world that it’s nothing short of shocking. A few dozen college-age students celebrated. Actually, that part could be seen in lots of places on a summer Saturday night: bars, college dorms, the back seats of cars… it was what this group was toasting that ought to make headlines. These students had just spent one (or two) years being TwentyFourSeven Worldwide.

24/7 is a little like the military, maybe a lot like Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. This year’s class had its own set of images and moments — not to mention intense personalities — that set it apart…

– “With all your heart, take one step at a time.” Tonight John Bolin outlined some of the steps taken by 24/7 students: risk, discipline, servanthood. It occurs to me that these young adults couldn’t make up their process as they went along. Each one had to take ownership of each step, exactly in the order and at the time they received it. That’s gutsy.

– My brother was awarded the title of “Most Likely to be on The Bachelor.” In a leadership academy where dating is not allowed, go figure. : j

– With any graduation ceremony comes the requisite video montage. Only these videos were wilder than what you’d see at other such formal occasions, with clips from perhaps eight  nations covering their past 10 months of journeys.
A certain training recap video had me perplexed, even after I understood what the images were. In waves, the twenty-somethings were rolling down sand dunes. Many of them shirtless on their bellies, 24/7 students pushed themselves down the white-hot hill. Most amazing to me–they saw the point of what this was accomplishing.

– 2:47pm. We learned that every student takes that one minute, everyday, to reflect (which ties into a curious slogan they all know: “Leaders reflect.”)

– Almost as telling as what we did see and hear is what we didn’t. 15 minutes after the banquet ended, Christopher got on the mic and asked all the students to gather immediately for a picture. Some slowly meandered there way there; most just kept talking and taking their own private snapshots.
Now, these are students who’ve had to sometimes do 6,500 push-ups because of this man. But, in this late-night party atmosphere, they did what all other college kids would do. TwentyFourSeven doesn’t create pandering, order-obsessed robots. Just solid leaders.

– I think I’ve got the motto down now: “God first, Others before self, Honor, Character, Discipline, Excellence in all we do.” That last bit, “all we do,” is perhaps a case of reverse syntax that should read “we do all.” Because when it comes down it, twentyfourseven gives its students 100% of the tools they need to succeed. God must love these crazies.

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Last remarks… having known the past four TwentyFourSeven classes to some extent, clearly there’s something special about the 2006-07 group. They were chosen from a larger group of applicants. But more telling, only a handful dropped out during the “boot camp” that is the first two weeks (compared with the usual 10-15).
Even more revealing: every single student returned from Christmas break. God only knows what this time of character-building will mean later in their lives.

Psalm 119:31-32 says, “I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame.

Some Christians walk in God’s ways, but TwentyFourSeven? They run, as an example to us all.