CitizenLink | Two members of Congress buck the political status quo to do what is right....by Catherine O. Snow
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9. This powerful Old Testament verse relates to the Lord’s command and promise to Joshua and the children of Israel; however, it also speaks to many Christian men and women working in the nation’s capital.
Tea Party icon Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is just one example of a Christian opting to stand on principle — and his faith — and paying the price in doing so.
While his fiscal conservatism is widely reported, his strong social values and Christian beliefs have proffered him not only perspective, but also courage and perseverance — rare commodities inside the Beltway.
Though named the “2010 Conservative of the Year” by Human Events, it’s a bittersweet recognition for the junior senator from South Carolina.
After years of trying to initiate social and economic reforms within the so-called Republican Establishment in Washington, D.C., DeMint abandoned Party orthodoxy, and embraced the Tea Party movement early on.
DeMint admits that the cost of standing for conservative values and breaking from the Washington status quo were most high in terms of friendships. Not to mention retaliatory comments aimed at him — in the press and behind closed doors. It would be enough to shake anyone’s faith.
“It has been a very painful process for me,” he told Citizen. “Going outside friendships. Working on things that I thought were very important for our country. We are trying to repair some of those (friendships) right now. There are a lot of people who didn’t want to change at all, and they blame me for some of the changes that have been made.
“Fortunately, once I get outside of Washington, people are pretty supportive.”
DeMint says that he knows that it wasn’t all about him, and that there was more — much more — at stake than his personal comfort or being liked by his colleagues and the hostile media.
“Few politicians will have the courage to lead the way. … They will wait to see how the media and the public respond,” DeMint wrote in Saving Freedom. “I will lead, as will a few others in Congress; but, we will need thousands of leaders outside of Washington to stand with us. We need Americans who understand freedom and are willing to speak out for the values, principles and policies that will allow freedom to work.”
So, how did this “Conservative of the Year” get to this point? What drove him to take such a stand?
In his book, Saving Freedom, DeMint shared, “I wasn’t interested in politics, but it was increasingly apparent that politics was interested in me. Government wanted more of my money and more control over my business, my family, my community — my life.”
Elected at the age of 47 to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998, DeMint quickly learned that there was a cost involved in trying to change Washington’s status quo.
“It is easy to come in, get in the flow of things, and try to work within the establishment, and then hope you can change it. I just found that to be impossible,” said the self-identified recovering “ear-marker.”
“There are committees that I wanted to be on when I was in the House. I really wanted to be on Ways and Means and work on tax policy and Social Security. Those are the issues that I came here to work on, but they told me that I could never work on [that committee], unless I reneged on my term-limit pledge, which was six years. So, I gave up on being on Ways and Means. Here in the Senate, a lot of those same issues are true.”
While in the House, DeMint teamed up with like-minded believers to push for reforms. In an interview with Human Events, one Christian congressman said, “Senator Jim DeMint is a force of nature in the conservative movement. His steadfast and consistent stand in defense of fiscal discipline, a strong national defense and traditional moral values is unparalleled in Washington, D.C., and should give hope to millions of conservatives across the country as they look for conservative leadership in our nation’s capital.”
As President George W. Bush swept into office for a second term in 2004, DeMint won his bid for the U.S. Senate. However, the Republican celebration was all too brief. Despite achieving a Republican trifecta — capturing the presidency and majorities in the House and Senate — the Republican Establishment continued to push bigger government legislation.
“In 2006, we lost the majority in both houses,” DeMint said. “At that point, I thought Republicans might huddle and decide, ‘What did we do wrong? What can we do better?’
When that did not happen, DeMint became concerned and began to work differently. It was not until after the devastating 2008 election that he realized there was not much to lose. Concerned that the country faced bankruptcy and, quite possibly, economic and cultural chaos, he decided to do everything he could to get real conservatives elected — regardless of the cost.
DeMint’s courageous step of faith paid off, and he raised millions of dollars for Tea Party candidates — primarily from grassroots donations.
“We found a lot of good candidates,” he said. “Most of them won. A few of them did not. I picked underdogs in every race, so I did not expect them all to win. But, I did see, with the help of the American people, that we can change things. And, that a conservative can be elected anywhere.”
Joining DeMint as Senate colleagues are several Tea Party candidates he endorsed and helped financially: Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
The backlash was swift and fierce to DeMint’s apparent forsaking of the establishment by joining forces with the Tea Party movement.
One Republican aide told a reporter, “If on Nov. 3 there are two or three seats in Democratic control that otherwise would have been Republican victories, then that anger will come back up to the surface and there will be consequences.”
“We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,” former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., turned D.C. lobbyist, said in an interview. “As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.”
In response to the backlash, DeMint penned an open letter to incoming senators, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal. He outlined five ways to stay true to conservative values and cautioned his new Senate colleagues that “someone can’t be bribed if they aren’t for sale.”
By publishing the open letter, he not only tried to caution freshman Republicans, but he also tried to educate the American public on the Senate’s quid pro quo process.
Political pundits and operatives have long attempted to convince the American public that social conservatism is passé, and that the Tea Party movement is made of Libertarians and fiscal conservatives.
Not so, said DeMint.
“I think, increasingly, while some are calling for a separation of the social and fiscal issues, more and more people realize that [many] of our fiscal problems in this country are related to the breakdown of families, unwed births, as well as other problems, such as school dropout, drug use, juvenile delinquency,” he said. “You cannot really ignore it if you are a fiscal conservative. We need to recognize that good social policy is really important to the fabric of our country.”
While there are Libertarians in the movement who do not see social issues as important, DeMint remains convinced that a majority of Tea Party participants are social conservatives.
“I have been to a lot [of the rallies],” he said. “I have waded into the crowd. I know there is a strong faith component there because I always hear three things: ‘Thanks for fighting, we are praying for you and what can I do?’ I hear that everywhere.
“American believers know that their rights come from God, and they sense that our government is trying to displace God as the rights giver. People are not coming to ask the government to become more religious — or even to promote morality — but to stop promoting immorality and to stop purging faith from the private sector.”
DeMint said the country is ready for someone to tell the truth and provide a balanced view of who we are as a nation — one with a Judeo-Christian underpinning.
“If we continue to erode that,” DeMint said, “then the things like free enterprise and individual responsibility no longer work, if you do not have people with that internal gyroscope, where they are looking to God and biblical principles. Most of the values and principles that make this country work derive from biblical faith.”
DeMint said that as Americans — and as believers — it is our responsibility to shape our government and to force it to act within the terms of the agreement — the Constitution — between the people and the government.
“We cannot allow the government to shape our beliefs, our children, our economy, or our future. We must decide for ourselves whether to live as passive spectators or as active participants in the fight to save freedom,” DeMint said. “Our government has never been further from the principles of freedom, but we can begin to change the direction of our country if a vocal minority of Americans speak out and fight for the cause of freedom.
“The Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all people are ‘endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.’ This governmental philosophy is uniquely American and is based on the Judeo-Christian belief that people are creations of God and ultimately accountable only to Him.”
DeMint said during an interview that his book, Saving Freedom, was a clarion call to the American public.
“It’s my cry for help, in a way, because I can’t change the Senate. I am outnumbered there unless Americans stand up and speak out all across the country,” he said.
“…It’s so important to our whole system that we have a people that have strong religious convictions that focus on the accountability of the individual to God. When that happens, you don’t need the force of government to restrain you. That is why the Christian faith has proven to work so differently than any other religion around the world, particularly in secular societies, because it focuses on that individual’s relationship with God and our accountability to Him. That’s what compels us to live a life that’s worthy of the kingdom of God, but also improves our countries and our communities. It has always made America different.”
DeMint said there’s always a sacrifice involved when people begin to stand for their convictions, but he said one must have courage.
“I’m afraid Christians have been intimidated with this idea of separation of church and state — which is not in our Constitution at all — and that maybe their views aren’t welcomed in the public square; that maybe expressing a value judgment about right or wrong is no longer welcomed,” he said.
“We can’t have that anymore. If a society can’t speak out about what’s right or wrong according to their religious convictions, the culture will continue to decline and those who want lower and lower standards will continue to prevail. Biblical standards have preserved our country to this point.
“People of faith are going to have to stand back up. They’re afraid to go out in the community and say what’s right and wrong and challenge the culture. When I speak to pastors today, I challenge them and say, ‘Don’t let this government make you hide within the walls of your church.’ We need leaders. If we didn’t have pastors to lead this country in the revolution, America would never be free.”
Article printed from CitizenLink: http://www.citizenlink.com
URL to article: http://www.citizenlink.com/2011/02/the-cost-of-discipleship/
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