By Contributing Writer, Carmon Friedrich
Puff, puff, puff … just one more step, just one more house! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
I felt like the Little Engine that Could as I trudged up and down my neighborhood streets with five children in tow, pushing the baby in the stroller. It was 1992, and George Bush, Sr. was running for re-election against Democrat Bill Clinton and his vice presidential candidate Al Gore.
I was armed with campaign literature and my intrepid little army of helpers, and we were going to do our best to make sure the GOP held on to the White House as we distributed our flyers to our California Bay Area neighbors. This was the “most important election ever”!
I didn’t want to think about what our country would be like if Clinton and his feminist wife Hillary got hold of the reins of government.
Dark days would be ahead for sure.
Expanding Our Vision
We had first become interested in politics because of homeschooling and concerns about defending our rights as parents. Then we began to realize that just as God had something to say about how we educated our children, He also cared about every area of life, even about areas we once had pietistically deemed “secular” and outside His direct oversight.
The words of Abraham Kuyper, theologian and former prime minister of the Netherlands, resonated with us:
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
Not a square inch!
That realization energized us to expand our vision for our family and to care about not just homeschooling, but politics, too, as we became concerned about the future of our children and our grandchildren. Posterity began to matter more to us.
How could we neglect the affairs of government after reading about the sacrifices of our founding fathers and teaching our children to honor their memories and cherish the ideals of a nation established on godly principles?
So I focused more on teaching my children about current events and giving them context with stories from history so they would have a desire to carry the torch of liberty into the future. And we became idealistic grassroots participants in the political process.
In that 1992 election, not only was the presidential race on our radar, but we had two Senate seats up for grabs, and we actively opposed the two Democrat candidates, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, women who were (and are) notorious for their liberal, feminist, and pro-abortion agendas.
The night of the election in November, I had to go to the grocery store, and I turned on the radio to listen to the returns. I was so hopeful that the right would prevail. We had campaigned and prayed and knew that our cause was just.
When the elections began to be called fairly early in the evening – one of the frustrating things about being on the “left coast” – my hopes were dashed with each concession, I cried and pounded the steering wheel in anger and frustration. Those dark days were coming soon, I just knew it.
As our children grew, the older boys began to take on political causes on their own steam. They did pro-life activism at local high schools and colleges, and one son organized the biggest youth pro-life rally ever at our state capitol on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He also started a Young Republicans club in the rural county where we now lived.
His club was very popular with the local GOP groups as the young people were available to help with everything from campaigning to serving at fundraising dinners. During the next hotly contested election for governor, the most conservative candidate spent some time in our county and got to know our sons on a first-name basis; he lost his bid in a close race, and in the general election the Democrat was the victor.
We were proud of our sons as they participated in civil affairs with the enthusiasm of their youth. The cynicism that comes with age and experience, however, caused us to have some concerns as we observed some of the manipulative shenanigans that are a staple of party politics, even from those we thought of as the “good guys.”
At one fundraiser we were dismayed to hear the head of the state’s Republican party encourage a big tent solution to the decline in conservative influence. In other words, welcoming social and political liberals into their midst would save their skins, since their conservatism was only skin deep. If power is the primary goal, then pragmatism wins over principle every time.
Our rose-colored glasses were further cracked when our oldest son was invited to go to the state Republican convention, impressing a large audience with his extemporaneous speech. When he got home, his account of the wild parties and drunkenness as the evening wore on were disappointing, to say the least. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to hang out with political party animals.
The last straw for one son, though, came during the next election for governor. It was an exciting primary since a wonderful, truly conservative, pro-life candidate was running against a guy with lots of name recognition: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their debates were televised nationally, and our guy trounced the Terminator every time.
The polls were neck-and-neck. We were hopeful that there would be a victory to celebrate instead of another defeat to mourn. Then just before the election, several of the state’s top, pro-life conservatives threw their support behind pro-abortion Arnold, including the guy our boys had campaigned for in the previous race for governor, claiming the actor was more winnable than the proven man of character.
Crash! There went the idealism of a young man who had worked hard for what he considered a righteous cause. He wrote an email to the man whom he had previously helped and who had now so profoundly disappointed him. Surprisingly, he received a response that same day. The hero with feet of clay wanted to talk on the phone and explain himself.
He was very busy, being interviewed by the media all that day because of his last-minute endorsement of the liberal Republican, but he wanted to take time to justify himself to a young man who was disillusioned. He called and tried to win over our son, but it was useless. His good opinion was lost forever.
We soon realized, though, that we all had been given a gift in spite of our loss of confidence in political remedies to society’s sickness.
Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah!
The gift we were given was learning where to place our trust. Our disappointments as we placed our hopes in political solutions revealed that we had been worshipping at the altar of statism rather than putting our trust in God for the outcome of elections and solutions to political and cultural problems. R.C. Sproul writes:
About thirty years ago, I shared a taxi cab in St. Louis with Francis Schaeffer. I had known Dr. Schaeffer for many years, and he had been instrumental in helping us begin our ministry in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in 1971. Since our time together in St. Louis was during the twilight of Schaeffer’s career, I posed this question to him: “Dr. Schaeffer, what is your biggest concern for the future of the church in America?” Without hesitation, Dr. Schaeffer turned to me and spoke one word: “Statism.” Schaeffer’s biggest concern at that point in his life was that the citizens of the United States were beginning to invest their country with supreme authority, such that the free nation of America would become one that would be dominated by a philosophy of the supremacy of the state.
You don’t have to be a liberal to be a statist, we realized. If “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), we need to stop looking at the political climate for our comfort and stop wringing our hands when it looks bleak.
Does that mean we pick up our marbles and go home, and passively wait for things to get better…or a whole lot worse? No way! Our options aren’t limited to being either political party animals or political pacifists. We keep fighting, but with the right perspective and the right means. Here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t fall for false dichotomies
Demagoguery is a word that has come to mean manipulation through fear in order to gain power. If you watch a political debate, no matter which party is represented, it is a common technique to win support. Often the demagogue will present two options for the voter to choose – usually between him and the other guy – and if you choose poorly, he warns of dire catastrophe.
Remember my stroller-pushing days of campaigning, because it was the “most important election ever”? That was 20 years ago, and every four years since then I have heard the same thing! Don’t be forced into voting for the “lesser of two evils” out of fear.
The false dichotomy leaves out what should be obvious: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). We must always remember that God controls the affairs of men. Pray first, then campaign and vote to please God, trusting Him for the outcome.
2. Small, dedicated minorities can do great things
There isn’t space here to tell the entire story of Athanasius and Arius, but in the early church a crisis was impending, the outcome of which would determine whether the church was a bastion of orthodoxy or a promoter of heresies which would keep Gospel truth in darkness and imperil most of Christendom.
Arch-heretic Arius was winning. He had the spiritual and political leaders in his pocket, he was a popular figure and the masses were swallowing his lies. Athanasius was not telegenic like his opponent (well, if they had had TV, it wouldn’t be his visage you would want to gaze upon). He wasn’t as skilled a speechmaker.
One day, someone told him that the whole world was against him. Athanasius responded, “If the world is against Athanasius, then Athanasius is against the world (contra mundum in Latin).”
Guess who won? Not the good-looking, popular, smooth-tongued devil.
History is replete with stories of small, faithful bands who achieve great things when they persevere. Watch Marshall Foster’s video series From Terror to Triumph for many similar encouraging stories.
3. The Slow-Fast Way has the longest-lasting results
We are in the process of building a house. Many times I have anxiously waited for the “fun” parts of the project to be completed, things like painting, fixtures, trim, and window coverings. It is usually a LONG wait! That is because my husband is very careful to lay a good foundation long before we get to the pretty parts that show. He gets excited over floor joists, insulation, wiring, and ducting.
He says that he wants this house to be standing in 100 years, so he is building it the right way from the ground up. That’s his philosophy about all he does, and I am proud of him for his maturity and insight in operating by what he calls “The Slow-Fast Way.”
Applied to culture and politics, this idea can release you from fear and give you patience and hope even though the present may seem bleak. Being faithful where God has called you, having more children than the enemies of God while discipling them in every area of life, and beseeching God for His mercy and favor on our land are all political strategies much more effective than winning the next election, especially when your candidate may forget his wonderful campaign promises as soon as he gets into office!
Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,O my soul, Jehovah praise;I will sing the glorious praisesOf my God through all my days.Put no confidence in princes,Nor for help on man depend;He shall die, to dust returning,And his purposes shall end.