Former White House Public Liaison, Tim Goeglein on what it will take to have “American Restoration”
FAITH-BASED AND COMMUNITY INITIATIVE, AMERICAN RESTORATION
During the Bush administration, one of my central roles was to make sure that the faith-based community—all of my fellow Christians—really had a seat at the table and participated in shaping policy. President Bush called this the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. It’s especially important for Christians to have a seat at the table with the federal government, because our government does such an extraordinary job of spending taxpayer money, but it does not always do an equitable job of saying, “How are those funds spent? And are there people of faith, who are really making a major difference in many lives out beyond the Beltway?” And so, one of my primary jobs was to make sure that people who were doing very important ministry, at the local level, had a direct pipeline to the White House. It was a remarkable and a wonderful time working for George W. Bush. My book, “American Restoration” came after the administration came to a close. I was very honored to come to Focus on the Family as one of our vice presidents and to work here and Washington. There are many long term fruits of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative.
When George W. Bush articulated what he called compassionate conservatism, what he meant is, not the federal government, but at the most local level, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our churches, in our network of circles centrics, of friends and allies, how can we serve other people? It’s born of our faith, and of course, George W. Bush was and is a very serious Christian. But he wanted to emphasize that it should never be a top down approach. You know, that was the way of the Great Society, the way of Lyndon Johnson, the way of the 1960s that Washington arrogated to itself this idea that it had all the answers. Once the elites in Washington had decided what the answers were to all of our national problems, they would essentially impose it and incentivize it on the country. What we got, of course, was the decline and breakdown of the American family, of marriage, of parenting, of the concept of a neighborhood or community that people could know and recognize and can nourish within. This became one of the great challenges in the period between the Great Society of the 1960s and George W. Bush coming to office.
When he came to office, he had read a very powerful book by Marvin Alaskey, called ‘The Tragedy of American Compassion’. The tragedy of American compassion was that the government would dole out money, but it would not seek to make a better citizen. It would not seek to instill those virtues and values that helped to make a person self-reliant, that helped to build the strength of family, that looks to those in prisons or jails, those who are hungry and homeless, those who are hopelessly drug and alcohol addicted, with the ability to say, “Here’s how we can help? So here’s the way that we can empower ministry at a local organic level to be of help.
Here in Washington, where I have lived and work for over 30 years, is, of course, the most powerful city in the world. There are extraordinary people here who are motivated, I think, very often by very good values and by the right motives. The problem is that, too often, there are folks who don’t show or don’t share that worldview. They don’t share that idea of how we can empower the American people, especially the least, the last, and the lost to do better and to be better. That’s the great challenge of our time. It is expressly the reason that Craig Osten and I wrote ‘American Restoration’. Because we believe that, if we are to restore and to regenerate and to renew this exceptional and really extraordinary country, that it will not begin in Silicon Valley, it will not begin in Wall Street, it will not begin in Hollywood, and it certainly will not begin inside the beltway in Washington. If we’re serious about American restoration, it will begin in families, it will begin by being rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ, and of course, it will take a lot of personal sacrifice. This was the motivation and culmination of really thinking about this idea of national greatness, national restoration and how we can help to bring it about as Christians in the 21st century.
THE KEY FOR CHRISTIANS ENGAGING WITHIN OUR CULTURE
My friend Russell Moore says, “In the Christian life, we’re not running toward any victory, we’re running from one; Christ is risen.” And so, there is great hope. There is great hope indeed for America.This book is a blueprint of how we can restore the most fundamental institutions in our land.
THERE IS HOPE INDEED FOR AMERICA.
RETURNING TO OUR JUDEO-CHRISTIAN VALUES
After reading ‘American Restoration’ you will have a very clear eyed, but hopeful guide to the restoration of our country. Because our goal here is to explain how Americans, with God’s help, can renew, restore and regenerate 15 very critical components of our culture. You will learn that the government will not provide the solutions that we desperately need. The solutions do not lie in government, in Wall Street, in Hollywood, in Silicon Valley. You’ll learn that the solutions for America lie in our churches, in our communities, and in our homes. You’ll learn that the light for our path is the light of faith in Jesus Christ. That, as the light pierces the darkness, so America will experience what we pray for in this book—a reawakening, regeneration, and renewal.
It’s so tempting to be discouraged and to be despairing. You turn on the television, pop open social media, drive through areas of America and you scratch your head and say, “I don’t recognize that.” The immediate question is, “Maybe I should just disengage? Maybe I should step back?” We make very clear in ‘American Restoration’ that this is exactly the opposite time to disengage. This is time to re engage as never before. If we are to be salt and light, the light in the darkness, now is the time to move forward as we seek to heal our nation and to restore what Abraham Lincoln rightfully referred to in America when he called us the last best hope of man. Lincoln was right then, he’s right now. As a hopefulist, in this book, we are offering a vision for the way forward.
PASTORS & POLITICS
As of right now, I’m reading the book of Jeremiah. I had just written a larger piece about the book of Micah. Whether it’s the Old or the New Testaments, when you read the Bible closely, you realize that this idea of the left hand kingdom and the right hand kingdom, the City of God and the city of man, this side of eternity and heaven, that our Lord and Savior, that his disciples, that many of the ancient prophets, they all stepped forward into the public square. I know those electric, remarkable verses and passages where you have to remember this is St. Paul. He goes to the most powerful city in the world, Athens— the 5th century equivalent of Washington DC. Where does St. Paul go? He goes into the marketplaces and meets all of the people there. He goes into the synagogues, he debates and has dialogue with the most learned religious men of his era. He ends up in the Areopagus, on Mars Hill, the very place where the great philosopher, Socrates, debated the question of, “Is there objective truth?” We are, as men and women of faith, pastors and those in the pews, we are absolutely honor bound as Christian citizens to be fully and completely engaged in the public square. Our nation, our hurting nation, our country, our culture, our civilization, it needs men and women of faith more than ever engaging in the public square to help those people that I referred to earlier in our conversation as the least, the last, and the lost. We’re honor bound to do it. We are to follow the model of our Lord and Savior.
VOTING VALUES, NOT AFFIRMING ABHORRENT PRACTICES
It’s very important, because as a Christian, I have spent my entire professional life with the political class. I worked for 10 years in the United States Senate. I worked for over 10 years here at Focus on the Family, all of them in Washington, DC; and as an interlude, when we were discussing my time at the White House through 2 Presidential administrations. So, I live around, work with and socialize with the political class. One of the things that you learn very quickly is that we are all sinners, that we all fall short of the glory of God. In the American experience, we are not a parliamentary democracy. For every national election for the Head of State, by virtually every other democracy in the world, we do not have 5 or 6 parties who are actively competing for the person who could be the head of state. It’s not France, it’s not Germany, It’s not Italy, it’s not Canada. In the American experience, it’s a binary choice, typically between 1 party and the other. You have to make choices as Christians, to realize and become comfortable with the fact that faith and reason go together. If we are ever seeking to find the perfect man or the perfect woman, we will always be disappointed. Which is not to say… (and this is very important) that virtue, character, integrity, civility, magnanimity matter—they matter very much.
We look to the father of our country, George Washington. We look to Abraham Lincoln. We look to other extraordinary Presidents across American history, and we say that virtue, which is moral excellence (moral excellence in the leaders, moral excellence in the citizens) is very important. Our Founding Fathers and our Founding Mothers believed that you could not have freedom and liberty over time without moral excellence in the people. So, it’s very important as Christians that we continue to articulate the centrality of virtue and moral excellence. It’s also important that we articulate that in Christian citizenship, that the first duty is voting, not voting for a perfect candidate, but making choices by the reason that God has given to us as a gift. Where are the policies? Where are the personnel? Let’s remember that every President who’s elected shapes the Supreme Court and the Federal Courts, makes choices about human life and its policies, religious liberty and conscience rights. So, I think we can never let the perfect be the enemy of good and choose the good in public policy.
WILL ANYTHING GET DONE FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE?
We wrote a chapter in ‘American Restoration’ called Restoring Civility, because we put such a centrality on the importance of our national leaders in business, in government, in law, in academia. We put an absolute premium on the importance of magnanimity, good grace, dialogue, conversation in the public square. You know, it is true that our country was founded via compromise. Our Founding Fathers had very big differences. “Should there be a permanent army or should we go by State-based militias? Should we have a Federal Bank and 1 currency? Or should we have 13 currencies?” it goes on and on. These were major differences. The only way that our founders were able to work their way through those important differences was to write The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution,and The Bill of Rights. It was not to say that any 1 person has the final decision, but that if we were to have a constitutional republic (which they achieved), that it would come about by many people inputting and finding a good way forward. That was the barometer for the founding of America.
The largest historic question is, “Can we restore civility in our country?” I believe that we can. I believe that we have remarkable men and women of faith serving in the house, serving in the Senate, serving in the federal courts, serving as you say, at the White House and in the executive cabinet agencies, serving in the Pentagon, serving in the armed forces. I believe that these people of goodwill want a way forward, and they want to have a dialogue even with those who most disagree. I remember reading the great speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and I’ll never forget reading one of my all-time favorite observations from Dr. King. He said, “I think I have discovered the highest good, it is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos.” For those of us who are Christians, we know that love has a name. He’s Jesus Christ. So, I think it’s very important that that kind of civility, goodwill and good grace help to inform our public square.
In closing, I keep it very simple, the largest question that we are facing in 21st century America is, “Will we lose our country? Or will we have the possibility of restoring our great land?” I believe with all of the fiber of my being that restoration is possible, but it will not just come into being. We have to reconnect religion and faith in the public square. Too often, religion and faith—the things that created America—have been pushed aside. We have to find a way to reconnect the Judeo-Christian tradition inside of all of our great institutions. I believe that there are millions of people who want that to be done. And so, the way to do that, the way forward, the way to regenerate a nation is a large question, because we’re a large and complex continental nation of 330 million souls. I think it is possible and it has to begin with each one of us investing in at least 1 other life. In ‘American Restoration’, we show how that’s possible.
To get your copy of “American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal Our Nation” by Tim Goeglein & Craig Osten, visit Amazon.com.