Tag Archives: Focus on the Family

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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Interview with author Joel Vaughan

Joel Vaughan, author of The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition, served with the Christian Coalition for ten years in addition to his experience in political campaigns and organizations. He currently is Special Assistant to the President of Focus on the Family. [Full disclosure: he’s also a good friend, and his wife was my manager when I worked at Focus.]

Josh Shepherd & Joel Vaughan at Values Voter Summit 2009

The Civil Roar: Your book has a provocative title. But you start out saying that you disapprove of “tell-all” exposés. So why did you write The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition?
Joel Vaughan: Well, this isn’t a “tell all” book. It’s a “tell most” book. It’s PG-13 rated at worst. But a history of that great organization deserved to exist, so I wrote one.

TCR: Today the Christian Right finds its voice at Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, as well as other organizations not as religiously motivated (The Heritage Foundation, etc.) Is the message getting out to the culture as effectively as in the glory days of Christian Coalition?
Vaughan: The difference, the gap we face now, is that no one is working in the trenches, to identify voters and organize precincts. That’s what set Christian Coalition apart.

TCR: What do you think of Ralph Reed’s new organization, Faith & Freedom Coalition?
Vaughan: I think it’s much needed, although faces an uphill battle. But if anyone can make it happen, Ralph can, provided he doesn’t get distracted with other things, such as another run for office.

TCR: Who are the current voices in the conservative movement you listen to closely – in media, politics or elsewhere?
Vaughan: Well, you can’t avoid Rush. He’s everywhere – at lunchtime in the car. But he’s as much entertainment for me than informational. I also like Hannity. Glenn Beck is a little scary to me. He’s so convinced that the nation will crash – and maybe it will – but it’s a little much to hear every day. Jim Daly at Focus is a fresh voice who believes in reaching out to those we disagree with in order to present a Christian approach, rather than opening fire on every opponent.

Jim Daly, Juli Slattery, John Fuller

TCR: There are many parallels between present-day politics and the 1994 conservative Republican victory – which Christian Coalition played a big role in winning. How can everyday conservatives help achieve that goal again?

Vaughan: There really needs to be a national organization to motivate, train and activate the workers. I hope Faith & Freedom Coalition can do that, but it remains to be seen. But the parallels are there, no question. November ’94 would have happened even without the CC, I believe, so likely it will again. But after being elected, the conservatives must also govern, which the Republicans who won in ’94 failed miserably at.

TCR: What is the TEA Party movement doing well (or not) as they rally for change?
Vaughan: I really don’t know much about it. But they resent what’s happening to the country, for certain. They need to organize and focus on precincts and voter identification. That’s the key.

TCR: Can economic and social conservatives work together effectively?
Vaughan: If James Carville and Mary Matalin can live together, anything can happen. The econs have to accept the socials as bonafide Republicans, not treat them like unwanted guests at the party, and the socials have to stop ruling out another Republican simply because he’s wrong on one or two issues. It’s a big tent and we all have to work together against a common enemy: liberalism. Having said that, we can fight it out within the party, but be unified in November.

The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition: The Inside Story is available from Amazon and direct from the publisherOnce you’ve read the review here, see more over at the book’s blog. You can become a fan of the book or a friend of Joel’s on Facebook.

A review of Prince Caspian

I have had the good fortune to work with some folks at Disney, to help promote the new film Prince Caspian. It was especially cool to attend a special screening of the movie in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, a few days before the theatrical release.

My contact at Disney asked if I could send any thoughts about the movie the next day. Here’s the gist of  my notes, a review from a few different perspectives:

As a moviegoer who loves fantasy and great stories—

** Incredible! The screenplay, directing, and landscapes were much richer and more interesting than the first Narnia film. Prince Caspian is a film I will watch many times.

** Except: It was strange plotting that Peter’s pride was never dealt with. His castle raid led to the deaths of many Narnians, and I was surprised that neither Aslan nor anyone “reprimanded” him for his selfish strategy. Perhaps a scene was cut that would’ve addressed this better?

As a member of Focus on the Family’s Narnia campaign team—

** Many true messages and moments of spiritual insight. A powerful metaphor for where modern culture is, and calling for return to the good that once characterized it.

** Except: The level of violence concerned me. It really pushed the PG rating, in my opinion. I expect Focus may get backlash from some parents, who take their 5, 6 or 7 year-olds and find it too intense (if families read the Plugged In review, they will be warned). I’m not sure my mom will like the film for this reason, though she loved the first Narnia film.

As a fan of C.S. Lewis—

** Wow, Reepicheep was awesome. The characters were accurate to Lewis’ vision, the Narnian creatures richly detailed, and the visuals stunning. It was wonderful to see his story come alive.

** Except: The film is a significant departure from the novel. The story structure, with its added set pieces, gives you a different impression than the novel—like Narnia is a warring culture, which is debatable. Peter and Caspian’s rivalry was interesting, though the Caspian/Susan relationship is something (as Edmund said) I don’t understand.  : j

There you have it. Ultimately, a very fun time at the movies for me, and families with older kids.

Two links to leave you with:

ChristianityToday.com Interview >> Star Ben Barnes says the Telmarine accent he created is inspired by the Spainard Intigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

LookingCloser.org >> Film critic Jeffrey Overstreet is collecting reviews and articles that show how the movie Prince Caspian “botches the meaning” of C.S. Lewis’ novel

Your thoughts on the film?

-Josh

p.s. the marketer in me forces me to mention… if you want to enjoy a version of Prince Caspian that’s much closer to C.S. Lewis’ novel, check out Radio Theatre’s Prince Caspian audio drama. ok, the commercial’s over.