Tag Archives: media

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

Advertisements

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

How 9/11 Changed Our World Forever

I was late. In only my third week as a freshman at ORU, here I was in a mad rush from my dorm room on Michael 12 to make it to American History. A strange sight in the fishbowl commons area slowed my speed-walking: a dozen students gathered around the big-screen TV watching images of a burning New York skyscraper.

My frame of reference led me to one thought: Why is everyone watching Armageddon so early in the morning? Arriving at class, I learned the images on TV were real. Classes were called off, the Chapel hosted an intense prayer and worship service a few hours later… and by day’s end, that American history textbook we discussed on September 11, 2001 was outdated.

Be Alert, not Afraid

A homemaker I met recently introduced me to her “9/11 TV” as she called it. “Oh, after 9/11 happened, I realized I knew almost nothing about what was happening in the world. So I installed a large TV in my bathroom – my 9/11 TV – and watch the news every morning as I put on my face.”

She reflects a much larger trend: we’ve become more aware of how complex and interconnected our world is. In the process, we’ve become more fearful at times. 24/7 media is complicit; thanks to much larger potential audiences following 9/11, cable news networks ratchet up the drama—with Red Alerts often interrupted by sirens-blazing Breaking News.

In the wake of 9/11, the clips on repeat were indeed scary. These terrorists could legitimately be feared. Their methods flipped Washington’s accepted security doctrines on their head: a group not acting officially under a state government launched a suicide mission that killed three thousand Americans. Even with overwhelming military might, that’s a difficult threat to overcome.

Discretion and Debate

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,” states Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. While it provides Congress an important role in approving all funds spent in military action, our nation’s guiding charter gives the President discretion in waging war to ensure our nation’s safety.

How President George W. Bush and his administration exercised this discretion following that fateful day remains a topic of intense debate. Launching an aggressive attack against Afghanistan, where the terrorists were trained and organized, as well as later Iraq, continues to involve trillions in U.S. taxpayer dollars, overwhelming amounts of data gathered by intelligence agents, millions of foreign nationals affected overseas, and the personal sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of military families.

Then there’s the results. Reasonable evidence exists on both sides; some friends of mine point to how average wages in Iraq have actually decreased since before the conflict, while others emphasize Iraq and Afghanistan’s unprecendented free elections and human rights improvements. “Unmitigated disaster” or “The liberation of oppressed peoples”: the truth likely lies somewhere between these two extremes.

What’s indisputable is the Bush administration’s good sense to reorganize our intelligence programs to stop another large-scale strike from happening. This effort has been a great success. Over 40 attempted terrorist attacks have been thwarted since 9/11. Opening secure channels between CIA, FBI, NSA, OSD and other acronym agencies surely involved a lot of boring internal politics. Yet it’s exactly what was needed to save lives.

United We Stand… Divided We Fall

Of the movies and TV specials produced to date, United 93 gets closest to the heart of 9/11. Telling one story well, it becomes a microcosm of our national decade-long struggle.

Confusion reigns as stewardess and control tower alike have no idea what’s happening. Then shock when we realize what is happening. Followed by impatience when we hatch our own plan but cannot take action right away.

Ultimately, the pivotal moment comes when Todd Beamer rallies other passengers to storm the cockpit and stop United Flight 93 from reaching the U.S. Capitol. Race, income, religious background, occupation: none of this mattered. Pulling together is how these everyday heroes stopped the madness.

America learned from their courage. According to The Economist reporting on a string of recent in-air incidents, “After 9/11, the vast majority of airline passengers are now inclined to resist any attempts to hijack a plane.”

Their example carries through to the larger struggle. Those serving in the US Armed Forces have learned and sacrificed most in this fight. (Full disclosure: my brother Tim, also a former ORU student, is currently deployed to Afghanistan.) Early on in the war, Defense and State Departments alike faced a steep learning curve. Where do we engage this unknown enemy? How do we ensure safety and sanity of people on both sides? And when the fighting stops, how do we spark a national culture shift?

Maybe answers are not so far from our grasp. Imagine a future business graduate in dialogue with social workers, crafting a plan for all to benefit from oil discoveries. Engineering and psych experts have safety and sanity questions to tackle. Teaching children drama and music opens up new directions in their culture. Yes, we even need philosophy majors: Just War Theory may once again be at the forefront of discussion.

This strategy of synergy—pardon the marketing buzzwords—isn’t fantasy. A friend of mine here in DC, who happens to have a theology degree, embeds Old Testament history in his briefing reports to top-ranking officers at the Pentagon. (Like all theologians, he says his greatest struggle is keeping his insights to the standard one page.) Thank God he didn’t dismiss it as a useless degree.

Everyone was late in grasping the enormity of 9/11. How we think and interact must continue to change. Rather than fear and lethargy getting the better of us, let’s roll.

Originally published in The Oracle, Sept. 9 2011 edition

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

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.

Out of the FOXhole, Into the Battle of Ideas

When it comes to getting the news, we live in an incredible time. Americans in the 1800s had to rely solely on what stories came down the telegraph wire. Or fast forward to the 1960s, when three news networks reported the same events in the same way. Today, we are overwhelmed by options: satellite radio, hundreds of TV channels, millions of blogs and entire books that can be sent to an iPad in seconds.

To quote Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. We in the conservative movement have unfortunately given one network the power to begin every conversation, to set the tone and essentially draft the agenda on what matters to us.

Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel (FNC)

I respect the media empire Fox News Channel (FNC) has become. Roger Ailes, president of FNC since its start in 1996, says his guiding values are “God, country, family.” No wonder his network appeals to hard-working, everyday Americans.

However, it’s a dangerous thing to end your news-gathering at one media source.

After seven months on Capitol Hill, I see the love-hate relationship Congress has with Fox News—even a strongly conservative office like the one I served as an intern. The network is helping more than anyone to rally the right together. But to what end?

Fox News, like most TV networks, depends on revenue from advertisers to exist. Advertisers pay more if your audience is larger. Which means that, apart from any noble goal of truth-telling, FNC producers care most about increasing their audience. As Roger Ailes said recently on ABC News: “I’m not in politics, I’m in ratings.”

And Fox has figured out better than any other news/entertainment operation how to bring in more viewers: create an emotional connection with TV hosts, tell stories with clear-cut heroes and villains (when reality has more gray), always keep the drama high.

Bigger issues are also at stake. Every dialogue with your liberal friends (I hope you have many) is an opportunity to give new insight. Since they get news from the mainstream media, that’s your “in.”

For instance: if I started discussing President Obama’s connections to Mao, my Democrat friends would tune me out. But if I engage them with respect, talking up the stories they follow—mentioning relevant facts they perhaps missed—they’ll listen.

“It’s easier for me to watch Fox News,” a busy working mom recently told me. “At least they don’t have a liberal bias.” No need to abandon FNC entirely; even the New York Times assigned a reporter to watch Fox so the paper would not miss stories like why Van Jones resigned.

One thing we can all do is change the channel more often to hear what other credible voices are saying. Some places you can start:

TELEVISION

C-SPAN. It’s boring at first, I admit. But after a few dozen hours watching Congress in-session, you’ll begin to recognize Congressional leaders and how they discuss current events. I’d say at least 20% of current legislators are standing for conservative values; C-SPAN is the #1 source for getting to know them firsthand.

Morning Joe. A former Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough hosts a casual panel of liberals and conservatives every weekday morning on MSNBC. Morning Joe provides a different sort of “fair and balanced”—where the right isn’t always guaranteed to win the debate. That’s a good thing.

RADIO

NPR. Without question NPR leans to the left. (Of the infamous exchange between Terry Gross and Bill O’Reilly, an NPR spokesman said: “…the interview only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR’s liberal media bias.”) But no one does radio news better than NPR. No one.

Dennis Prager and Michael Medved. These two conservative Jewish hosts break the mold of talk radio, giving religion and culture as much airtime as the political battles of the day.

WEBSITES

The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com). With its accurate reporting and “big tent” of conservative opinion, WSJ has recently become the most-read newspaper in the nation. Be wary, though, of a corporate bent that can get out-of-hand; in late 2008, the paper was flush with pro-bailout editorials and not a single opposing viewpoint.

The Hill (thehill.com). Congressional staff read The Hill everyday, in print or e-newsletters. Despite a left-leaning perspective, it’s a valuable source for news on Congressional legislation, election fundraising and political stories that matter.

WORLD Magazine (worldmag.com). Some faith-based voices subtly assert that their worldview perfectly matches that of God Himself. Talk about dangerous. Thankfully, the journalists at WORLD Magazine cover politics, culture and international news with professionalism – recognizing the Bible is neither Democrat nor Republican.

PODCASTING

So how do I make time for all this media and still get on with life? The secret is podcasting. All the media sources listed above have an audio or video podcast – a program you can download for free onto your computer or portable device. Learn more about how to enjoy podcasts at www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts.

A few other programs not to miss if you get into podcasting:

Cato Daily Podcast (cato.org). For advocates of limited government, there is no more reliable or thorough source than The Cato Institute.

Sunday talk shows (search iTunes). It’s like watching presidential debates, only better. Each of these shows—Face the Nation, Meet the Press, etc.—feature guests from both left and right every Sunday morning. Thanks to podcasting, you can subscribe  online and enjoy the shows after whatever weekend worship service you attend.

Like a soldier leaving his safe foxhole, enter the battle of ideas. Have you found other news media with solid reporting and centrist analysis? Share them below.