Gary Bauer, today a leading spokesman for pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel values and standards, remembers the first time he heard one of those great leaders, Ronald Reagan, give a speech. It was 1964 and Barry Goldwater was running against Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
Eighteen-year-old Bauer turned to his father and said, “That Goldwater will never win, but this Ronald Reagan will be President some day, and I am going to serve in his Administration.” Bauer remembers his father, who had as yet heard neither of Focus on the Family nor of raising your children with encouragement, said, “You’re nuts!”
But that speaker did become President, and that young man did achieve his “dream job” in the Reagan Administration, first as Under Secretary of Education and then as Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. Gary tells the story as evidence of the kind of country that the USA used to be – where the son of an uneducated janitor could grow up to advise the most powerful man in the world.
Reagan always sought advice from those around him, but always made his decisions based on enduring principle rather than on the changing whims of public opinion. Bauer well remembers sitting in the Roosevelt Room as a young staffer and trying to bring some recent and impressive polling data into a presentation to the President. Reagan’s face got red and he stated, “I will not govern by polls – tell me what is best for the American people!” Bauer was given an important lesson that day by a man who knew how to lead from the front.
America has come a long way from that kind of principled leadership. Neither party, these days, seems to have a vision for a great, strong, and free America. It is becoming harder and harder for those of us who remember better days to see how moral standards or ethical leadership will ever be restored.
Bauer thinks that “history goes in cycles” and that at the end of the day “our side will prevail,” but he admits that it is not easy to watch the country we love drift from any kind of absolute standards. Bauer believes that even the eternal optimism of Ronald Reagan would be challenged these days, and that he would be deeply disappointed in the directions the country is taking – not just toward European-style socialism, but toward ever-increasing secularism.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision to gut DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, which Bauer and his group were key in getting passed in 1996) is troubling. Bauer agrees that the minority position of the Court was “outrageous and unacceptable” and points out that at the very least the opinion could have been written without insulting half of the US population.
But what will be our response to such actions in high government? Helplessness or hopefulness? To cower into silence? Or to band together to DO something about government?
Bauer is doing something. He is currently the Chairman of the Campaign for Working Families PAC, which helps elect conservative candidates into key offices around the country. He is also President of American Values, an educational non-profit organization. Bauer will be speaking on issues he cares about in Grand Rapids on July 26 at locally-grown American Decency Association’s summer conference. (See box after article for how to register for this free evening conference.)
In traveling the country, Bauer keeps warning against any complacency on our part. He says, “Liberty is always under challenge” and that there may soon be increasing legal pressures against those who hold conservative values. He claims it is foolish to rest on past laurels and be silent, trusting that we’ll retain our religious liberties.
What we need, he says, is even greater diligence. Elections matter, and “judicial philosophy does matter.” The recent Supreme Court shocker (issuing an opinion calling those who will not accept homosexual marriage enemies of the human race *) reminds us of both those truths. We have every reason to carefully scrutinize presidential and senatorial candidates before we elect them. For one thing, they will be appointing and confirming our future high Justices.
We also need a greater presence at important events and decisions. There were many pro-homosexual-union demonstrators outside the Supreme Court last month, but few Christian demonstrators speaking out the truth from the other side. We as values-driven people need a more consistent public and visible presence.
Part of the problem, Bauer contends, is that the conservative side is divided. For victory in 2016, for instance, we should already be communicating with one another and arriving at firm support of just one truly conservative candidate before the next election cycle even begins. Right now we stand in exactly the same position as we did four years ago – six or seven conservative candidates and one “mainline” choice, with no clear leader. We have all seen where that pattern has gotten us the past two elections!
Oh for true leadership. The country pines for real leaders; but instead sees Iran keep arming itself (any day there could be nuclear tests) while our President wastes time “reaching out” to Ahmadinejad and forcing some Palestinian/Israeli agreement that will prove as useless as the last, all while ignoring very real problems in Egypt and Syria.
However, real leadership requires vision as well as a willingness to be unliked while making tough decisions; to be reviled while making difficult choices. One danger to those daring to “stick their neck out” is the vitriol that will be heaped upon them. The other side is very good at whacking off at the knees anyone who stands up for truth.
Yet this is not really a new problem. Gary remembers the nasty, hateful phone calls his Family Research Council used to get, way back in the 1980’s. He saw his secretaries run crying to the ladies’ room because of the vile messages they had to screen each Monday morning. Some eventually resigned.
And he reminds us that Reagan was not universally loved while he was in office. We may remember him fondly, but while he was in office even conservative “leaders” and commentators doubted Reagan’s policies, his intelligence, and his likelihood of success. The other side heaped names and abuse upon him liberally. Bauer assures us that no one can be involved in politics today, either, without some “thick skin.”
Even Bauer, who has been aware of such opposition for decades, is surprised at the viciousness of a political crowd that thinks itself so “tolerant.” Nevertheless, here we are. These are the times in which we live. Bauer’s advice to West Michigan Christians?
- Support your pastor in speaking out on all “biblically based issues,” as Bauer calls them. Life, marriage, morality, liberty -- all are rooted in the Bible, and we should not be silenced from speaking the truth in love.
- Educate yourself, and pay attention to local issues and elections as well as national ones. Be informed. Do you know whether your school is following the horrid “Common Core” curriculum that is taking over the country? Do you know what your town’s mayor’s stand is on homosexual unions? Do you know the major positions of those running for a Senate seat from your state? Educate your friends and family as well, and gently bring them along with you. There is still power in numbers.
- Vote. The last election was said to be won by Democrats because conservative Republicans stayed home. What a tragic result of feeling helpless.
Bauer’s final word? “Be stout of heart. Continue to pray and hope for a rediscovery of the fact that our liberty is not given to us by any government, but comes to us from God!”
Darker days ahead? Possibly. But we as Christians are called to hopeful activity, not helpless inactivity.
'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo [in JRR Tolkein’s The Fellowship of the Ring]. 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'
American Decency Association Summer Conference
Friday, July 26 -- 6:30-9:30 pm
Sunshine Community Church
3300 East Beltline Ave. NE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49525
Contact: American Decency Association – 888-733-2326
* See “Supreme Court: Defenders of Traditional Marriage are Enemies of the Human Race” by Andrew M. Greenwell, 6/28/2013 on Catholic Online at http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=51499