The Presidential Campaign: Side Show or Main Event?

The Presidential Campaign: Side Show or Main Event?
By Mike Winther, President of Institute for Principle Studies

In each four-year presidential cycle, much of America becomes completely enamored with the drama of the presidential election. We follow the media as they follow the presidential candidates—we become the paparazzi following the paparazzi. For many Americans, the presidential race is a hybridization of entertainment, drama, sport, and ultimately distraction. Although the presidential election is certainly important, I believe that our current perspective on the President and the presidential election is harmful to our efforts to produce positive change in America.

While we are enticed into being presidential paparazzi, our attention is being diverted away from dozens of more important issues. Here are five things that we need to consider:

1. Election outcomes are a measurement of how well we are discipling the nations.

If our elections don’t turn out the way we want, it is because we have not captured the hearts and minds of our countrymen. We want to elect a “good” president without producing a “good” population. We want a president who supports the Constitution without a citizenry that supports the Constitution. We want the fruit without first plowing, planting, weeding and watering.

2. The Presidential campaign can distract us from other, more immediate, issues.

As I write this, we have important and urgent issues that need attention. Abortion, forced immunizations, the Trans Pacific Partnership, Obama-care, and unconstitutional government surveillance of our citizens are just a few of the urgent issues that should be receiving our attention. Some of these issues come with immediate opportunities that will be missed without immediate action. And yet some of those who should be soldiers in these battles are hypnotically engrossed in daily doses of Presidential campaign theater that takes place on their radios, TV’s, and news magazines.

It is always easier to be a spectator than it is to be a participant. Yet, Christians must be players and activists not just spectators with a remote control in our hands.

3. The presidency is the least important federal office.

This is true both constitutionally and practically. Constitutionalists and advocates of limited government understand that modern presidents are exercising illegitimate and unconstitutional powers. Unfortunately, we contribute to this error when we place too much importance on the office and the person who holds it. The real way to counter the imperial presidency is to elect congressmen who will hold the Chief Executive accountable. Unfortunately, we place all of our attention on the race for the White House and ignore the races for the House and Senate.

4) Actions speak louder than words.

Have you ever heard someone say, “If candidate X would just say Y, then I could support him”.

We spend too much time listening to the words of the candidates and precious little time looking at their actions. Remember that the “words” of the campaign are carefully chosen as part of a strategy. These campaign “positions” almost always evolve during the course of a campaign. Republicans move “right” in the primary and “left” in the general election. Not surprisingly, Democrats tend to do the opposite. And who can deny that a candidate’s campaign statements have often been poor predictors of their actual policies.

Instead of saying, “if he would just take a stronger stand on this or that issue, I would support him”, we should say, “if only he had taken the right action 3 years ago, I would have supported him”. Unfortunately, our media don’t want to talk much about how any candidate voted when they were governors, senators or congressmen. To do so would make the next 12 months of pre-election coverage unnecessary. That’s not good for ratings, but it would sure make our job as voters easier.

5) We want to believe.

Every con man selling a bogus investment scheme knows that his best tool for emptying your pocket is “hope”. As human beings, we need hope and we want it so badly that we will believe the unbelievable to have it. “A risk-free 25% annual return on my investment?” “I hope it is true.” “I want it to be true.”

The problem, however, is not “hope”, but misplaced hope. We should place our financial hope in savings and sound investments that grow gradually and steadily—not in a get rich quick scheme. There is a great parallel here to politics, government and the culture wars. Instead of being drawn into a get-rich-quick scheme, we are often sucked into a get-righteous-quick scheme. We want to believe that electing the right president will fix our political and social problems. Although most of know, intellectually, that one president cannot “fix” America, we frequently think and act differently. Perhaps there is a sub-conscious belief that electing the “right” president will somehow free us of our personal obligation to change the culture. Maybe we hope that the right person in the White House will save us from the necessity of using our time and money to disciple the nation.

Let me be clear that this “hope” problem is not unique to any single candidate. Just because “hope” was a theme for Barak Obama’s campaigns, does not mean that this problem is unique to a single candidate or a single party. This problem is equally true in both major political parties.

Much of the modern church has failed to provide Christians with a plan for social and political change. This is real hope. Using the investment example, we could say that the church does not have a gradual and steady plan for societal transformation. Without a gradual and steady plan, many concerned believers will desperately follow any con man who offers them hope—even unreasonable hope.

IPS exists to teach the principles of good government and to offer this gradual and steady plan for positive change. The complete outline of this strategy is beyond the scope of this article, but this is the real hope that our world needs.

Conclusion:

Yes the presidency matters, but not as much as you think. Real social and political change will not come from any presidential campaign. It can only come from changing hearts and minds. America (and the world) is in trouble because people with bad philosophy had a gradual and steady strategy for advancing their beliefs. For over a century, these groups of people have committed their time and money to relentlessly advance their cause.

We need a strategy and we need to make sure that we are not entertained or diverted away from our most important work by the side-show of presidential campaign theater.

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Relativism and Gay Marriage

Relativism and “Gay Marriage”
By Mike Winther, President of Institute for Principle Studies

The Obergefell decision and the proper role of civil government
In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision on “gay marriage”, there is ample reason to criticize the Court, but there is also ample reason to criticize the criticizers. In the political, moral and academic debates of our time, it is important that we take the correct stand, but it is equally important that we support our position with the correct argument.

All the wrong arguments
I hear critique after critique of the Supreme Court that blames the court for overreaching its authority because this decision should be made by the people. Yes, I believe that the court did overreach its authority, but not because it usurped the democratic process.

By now you have heard dozens of voices decry the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. “A decision against democracy”, “Ignoring the will of the people” they say. But these are the wrong arguments.

Several decades ago, a well-known Christian leader, whom I greatly respect, was participating in a well-publicized and well watched debate about legalizing homosexual marriage in a large state. A public opinion poll in the state had revealed that the majority of the state’s citizens opposed homosexual marriage. This Christian leader made frequent reference to this poll in the debate. In fact, the whole foundation of his argument against the “gay marriage” bill was that this bill did not represent the will of the citizens. “It was undemocratic” he said, arguing that the legislature should reject the bill because the voters didn’t want it.

The fallacy of this Christian leader’s argument should have been obvious, but to most Christians, it was anything but. If our argument against homosexual marriage is based on public opinion, then we must concede to, and even accept, these marriages when 51% of Americans support them. This is the fallacy of democracy.

Relativism
Any philosophy that makes its determinations of right and wrong based on the opinion of the majority is a philosophy of relativism. Relativism, the philosophical view that there are no absolutes, is the dry rot of modern civilization. Its damage is not obvious at first, but when ignored, it soon weakens an entire structure. A society without some absolutes is a miserable place to live.

Ask a friend who supports homosexual marriage if he or she supports polygamy. Would they support a marriage between one man and three women? What about one woman and several men? If they love each other, shouldn’t they have equal treatment under the law? If your friend opposes polygamous marriage, you may want to inquire as to the basis for their opinion. What moral code supports their opinion?

If the ethical basis for societal laws is democracy, then everything is up for grabs. Murder, theft, vandalism, fraud and even polygamy could be up for a vote. Once something is democratically endorsed, there would be no basis upon which to challenge these policies. Of course there will always be some standard for the law, but the question is, “whose standard?” Do we trust majorities to define these standards?

The marriage debate is just one of many ways that modern Christendom has been seduced into embracing relativism because we are fighting relativism with relativism.

Feelings
The problem here is that most Christians and traditionalists do not have a framework for determining the proper role of government. Instead of studying and understanding the biblical principles for the civil state, most modern Christians base their views on their feelings. We “feel” that a particular government action should or should not happen and we grasp for straws (or strawmen) to support our position. When we oppose a policy that is unpopular, we invoke democracy as the foundation of our argument. But when we oppose a policy that is popular, we invoke the Constitution to support our opposition to that action. And when we oppose a policy that is neither unconstitutional nor unpopular… well… we often don’t know how to justify our position. Our feelings might be correct, but if we don’t know why they are correct we won’t be able to defend our position much less persuade others.

The proper role of government
The solution to the problems of “feelings” and “relativism” goes to the foundations of the IPS message. First, there are both proper and improper actions for a civil government. Some tasks are within legitimate civil government authority and other actions are outside of that authority.

Second, all authority has an “author”. This is to say that there must be a source or an origin of government authority. So we ask the question, “Where does government get its legitimate authority?” If the source of government authority is the majority, as in a democracy, then that majority grants authority to civil government. In this model, any government action that is consistent with the opinion of the majority is properly authorized and therefore legitimate. This of course is a relative standard of right and wrong because majorities frequently change their minds.

Third, the only reliable standard of right and wrong for mankind or mankind’s institutions is found in scripture. If God is the author of all legitimate authority and if scripture is our reliable source for knowing God’s will, then we should search scripture to guide our policies–not public opinion. Much to the surprise of most moderns, the Bible has quite a bit to say about the proper operation of the civil state. A complete exposition of this subject is beyond the scope of this article, but the relevant point here is this: God is not inconsistent and He does not direct contradictory actions.

If God is the source of all legitimate authority, we can conclude that properly functioning civil government can never legitimately advocate or encourage anything that God forbids. God would never forbid something and then authorize the civil government to encourage it.

Based on scripture’s prohibitions of homosexuality, no government institution (family government, church government or civil government) is ever authorized to encourage or promote the behavior. The same would be true of any number of sins. It would be wrong for the civil state to recognize adulterous relationships and legitimize them. Likewise it would be wrong for government to issue licenses in recognition of burglary or any other sinful activity.

The problem, of course, is that fewer and fewer Americans see homosexuality as sinful. This is because fewer and fewer Americans understand or trust the Bible. Why has this happened? Certainly, the church bears much responsibility here. Christians have failed to study and have often retreated from the important academic debates of our time. When Christians do engage, we often make the wrong arguments.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add that much of the blame for the shifting opinions in America rests with the teaching in our government education system. This raises another question, “Is education one of the proper roles of civil government?” Unfortunately, many Christians are relativists on this issue as well.

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Obamacare: A Constitutional Analysis

In 2012 IPS commented on the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in which the Affordable Care Act was upheld. Those words of the past are eerily relevant to today’s decision that once again upholds socialized medicine in America. Below is our article from 2012 on the previous Court decision.

Supreme Court decision: What did we expect?
When did we lose this battle? We lost it 44 years ago when we allowed government to force us to purchase health care in the Medicare Act. We lost the battle when George Bush passed the prescription drug program in 2003. We lost the battle when we turned our children over to government schools to be taught relativism, socialism and statism. We lost the battle when “social studies” replaced government and civics as classroom subjects.
We lost the battle when America’s churches and pastors ceased to teach and preach the biblical standards for civil government. We lost the battle when we began to accept the idea that we must vote for the lesser of evils on Election Day.
We are reaping what we have sown. What can save us from dictatorial government? Not the Supreme Court, not presidential candidates, not “conservative” lobbyists, and not relativist conservative think-tanks. The only thing that can save us from oppressive government is to return to principled thinking and to change the hearts and minds of American citizens and American institutions.

The battle we fight today against socialized medicine and government control will not be won easily through a Supreme Court decision. This fight will only be won by changing the hearts and minds of your fellow Americans. We have said it before and we will say it again folks. What did we expect?

Read our entire in depth analysis by clicking the link below:

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