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Governor Greg Abbott: Politically Right, Biblically Wrong and the Collateral Damage of Christian Hypocrisy
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
There is an African Proverb that says when the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Meaning, the weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful. And many hard-working men and women, struggling to make ends meet, are being hurt today because of power struggles between the right and the left as true public service has taken a backseat to raw partisanship. Many of us are feeling that pain.
Others are left wondering just what the hell are they there for? Some are bewildered, feeling the sting of betrayal as fellow Americans with joy, stick their finger in the eye of those who differ politically and racially. These are riding high on a political wave that sooner or later will crash against the hard rock of reality. It always does.
Politicians high on power and drunk on arrogance seemed to have forgotten a very real lesson many of us learned in politics 101 way back in the day. It’s raw but real - the one who holds the whip hand today can get their ass whipped at the polls tomorrow. Politics is like that. In politics, the pendulum always swings back. And for many in office wielding the heavy hand just because they can, are blissfully unaware that the pendulum is swinging their way.
Full disclosure, lest I be tagged and labeled a "whatever" because that’s just what people do today. They label you a leftist or a right-wing crazy or whatever… And let me say this as a sidebar – don’t let people label you. If you allow people to label you, you give people power over you.
Whatever we name or label a thing, we control how we choose to relate to whatever it is we name or label. So, if I label you a left-wing progressive socialist, it doesn’t matter if that's not who you are. I have labeled you that and that’s how I am going to relate to you, refer to you, and treat you if I am a 2020 right-wing conservative.
That’s the problem throughout politics today. It’s not who people really are, it’s who we label them to be. If you allow someone to label you a whatever, that is how they are going to relate to you and treat you. Not me. I reject every human's label. And by rejecting their labels, I reject their ability to relate to me according to their identification of who I am. Remember this and don’t give people that kind of power.
Moreover, I am beholding to no one but God. As a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, my worldview is rooted in scripture. Politically, up until a year ago, I had been a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican for over 45 years.
A native Texan, black and female, former member of the NRA I was and am still an anomaly. Why? Because although Texas is red Blacks are blue. Always have been. I’m not. And likely never will be.
I voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, John McCain over Barack Obama; and, as a native Texan, I believe that Texas truly is a whole ‘nother country and God’s favorite state in the Union!
As far as our governors go, I voted for Greg Abbott, Rick Perry before him, George "Dubya" before him, skipped Ann Richards and Mark White but voted for Republican governors all the way back to, and including, Bill Clements. I felt this was important to say given the nature of this post. I am not a left-wing anything, in fact, just the opposite.
I voted for Governor Abbott. I voted for Attorney General Ken Paxton. I voted for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Governor Abbott is a graduate of Duncanville High School. I am the first African American elected to the Duncanville City Council where I served four terms. So this is not to rag on him, certainly not to brag on him, but to do what other conservative Christians refuse to do, though what he did was blatantly wrong and totally against the teachings of Christ whom we all claim to follow. And as a sister in Christ, voter, citizen, homeowner, business owner, taxpayer and supporter, I can't help but speak out on the blatant and bizarre reversal of his Executive Order to favor Ms. Luther in order to curry favor with party bosses and extremists.
Even more distasteful, to cave to political pressure that was diametrically opposed to once-storied and revered Republican Party principles.
While I am still conservative in my political views, I am a former Republican only because my party left me I didn’t leave it. I no longer recognize the party of Reagan. I thought for sure life would take me down a sure-fire path in Republican politics, but God had a different plan.
I’m not an advocate for any party neither am I an enemy of either party, but I am an advocate for integrity in public service; especially among those professing to be Christians because this is who God has called me to serve and teach.
For us, it’s not only a political party we represent and a political agenda to carry out, but overriding all of that is our witness for the Kingdom of God. And people are watching us. Sadly what many see are politicians and public servants who claim to be Christians but whose actions speak otherwise. And what they are seeing is no or little difference between Christians and non-Christians. So what would make them want to be like us? What would make them want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? This is a big part of why God has placed us where He has – to be a witness for Him and to, by the unique way we lead and serve, draw others to Him.
As leaders people watch what we do. Many leaders fail to realize that we lead with our life, not with our lips. And what people are seeing today is more lip service than life witness. Case in point and the impetus for this blog, the Shelley Luther case.
Even though Ms. Luther is the star of the show, she is not germane to this. So, I won't be going down any rabbit trails in relation to her and her actions. I will say though that she, in my opinion, is no "hero" (as many claim) but rather simply a pawn in a high stakes political game, with high drama, involving the highest elected officials in the state. This is the focus of this blog (and the podcast)- what we as leaders and Christians can take away from this event. I won't be going down any rabbit trails relating to the nuances of this drama.
The saga of Shelley Luther will fade, but the damage done by Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton will long be case studies in ethics and government courses for years to come on how not to govern.
For us, it’s not only a political party we represent and a political agenda to carry out, but overriding all of that is our witness for the Kingdom of God. And people are watching us.
Governor Abbott touts his Christianity and I have no reason to doubt that he isn’t a Christian. The same for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton – all publicly professing Christian men, but with every respect in the world because of the offices they hold, all wrong professing Christian men in their actions relating to this case.
I have no idea if Democratic Judge Eric Moye' is a Christian or not which is not relevant, but what is relevant is that he did what the three Christian leaders didn’t do. He didn’t bend the rule of law to accommodate one person. He upheld it.
As made clear, I am not a Democrat, am not defending Judge Moye', but I am defending the rule of law. That principle which once was the heart, soul, and mantra of the Republican Party. The actions of these three, however, struck a severe blow to what that now means in Texas. And flaunted by Texas Senator Ted Cruz as he spiked the ball by flying into Dallas, with photographers in tow for a photo op hair cut at Ms. Luther’s now storied salon.
Why risk such a sacred and time-honored thing to score cheap political points? Even more, why risk your witness on the world stage? People are desperate for truth and desperate for authenticity and without faithful, ethical, courageous, and consistent leadership, particularly from Christian leaders, people wander and become despondent.
We lead with our life, not with our lips.
America is deeply divided and many like lost sheep are left wandering for lack of such leadership. Many would not dare go here in challenging these leaders this way but if we don’t challenge ourselves and our own, what good are we? And if we can’t learn from others, and our own mistakes, how can we teach others?
This is by no means meant as a personal attack at all, especially against leaders for whom I voted, but a warning to those of us who lead on the public stage, in the political arena, and carry the banner of Christianity. Many Christian leaders, exhibiting no different tactics than non-Christians in the political arena, by their actions believe that prosperity and success come from having power, influential contacts, and the “open up America” storm the capitol ways to get ahead and get our way.
But the strategy for gaining prosperity and success hasn’t changed since Joshua led the Hebrews into the Promised Land - the same as what God taught Joshua; 1) be strong and courageous... in today’s vernacular - withstand political pressure and personal attacks and 2) meditate on His word day and night being careful to obey it. Or as Dr. Charles Stanley would say, "obey God and leave all the consequences to him."
I expect the personal attacks from this blog and podcast, especially from fellow Christians who would tell me to stop being so “high and mighty.” As a black female speaking truth, I’ve been told that a bunch. I have been unfriended on Facebook because I refuse to put politics ahead of biblical principles. And I am not shy about speaking out on biblical principles as they relate to our political climate.
Our organization, Christians in Public Service, is built on this foundation so I cannot say and not do what God has purposed me to do --- and that is to teach and speak the truth in love when it comes to public servant leadership.
So to wrap this up what are we to learn as we watched this whole thing unfold? I believe God would have us learn three things as Christian leaders. Again, I am not going down the Shelley Luther rabbit trail because she will be yesterday’s news tomorrow, but the actions of these leaders are stunning and as leaders, as people of God who want to lead and serve well, there are lessons we all can learn and from which we can benefit in our personal and professional life.
Three things we can learn from this and I pray that the Governor and his team learn the same:
1. Keep your word even when it hurts because what hurts worse is damaged credibility and integrity
Simply let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no,' 'no.' Anything more comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:37
Integrity and what I once read DTS Chancellor Chuck Swindoll refer to as the credibility gap. The credibility gap. To say that something is "credible" is to say it is "capable of being believed, trustworthy." To refer to a "gap" in such suggests a "breach or a reason for doubt."
Governor Abbott by caving to political pressure to make an exception to and rescind His own order has given district court judges and a good number of citizens around the state reason to now doubt his credibility when it comes to his executive orders. Many now joke, are they really orders or suggestions? Never give anyone cause to doubt your credibility or your integrity.
2. Make no distinction between those you lead simply because they haven't the clout or influence to be of any help politically to you
He who mocks the poor taunts his maker.
Two impoverished Hispanic women were arrested for violating Stay at Home Orders two weeks before Shelley Luther was arrested. These women had nothing, while Ms. Luther received stimulus funding from the government under the Paycheck Protection Program and $500,000 (and growing) in a Go Fund Me Account set up by a political group. She was bankrolled and backed by many, even made out by some to be a modern-day version of their Rosa Parks. But this is one of those rabbit trails I won’t go down.
The two Hispanic women, one providing eyelash services and the other nail services, did not tear up any orders in front of the judge’s face, they did not tear up the County and city’s order nor did they defy the governor’s order. Yet Governor Abbott made no exception for them. Politically, they could do nothing for him so he did nothing for them.
James, Jesus’ brother asks rhetorically in James 2:1 “How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? God views all people equally. And if Jesus would have favored either, it would have been the poor and the powerless, not the affluent and powerful.
As Christian leaders, we must follow His example. If the order was changed for either of these, the two impoverished women or the affluent woman – which do you think Jesus would have more likely changed it to help? With intentionality, make no distinction between the rich and the poor or the haves and have nots. That’s the world’s way, not God’s. And He never blesses what isn't of Him.
3. Be authentic or don't be at all
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
My Pastor, Dr. Tony Evans tells the story of a husband and wife, driving along the highway at night and they were involved in a wreck. The husband pulls his wife from the wreckage, carries her as he walks along the road, and comes upon a house with a weathered sign out front that says, Dr. Smith, M.D.
The husband, so happy to have found the doctor’s house, knocked anxiously on the door. A man came to the door and the husband with glee said, "Dr. I noticed your sign! We were in a car wreck down the road and my wife here is badly injured. The man looked at the husband and said, "I’m sorry sir, but I don’t practice anymore." The husband was so angry he bellowed, “then take down the sign!”
Some of us presenting ourselves as Christian leaders need to take down the sign because we're perpetrating. So many in the world are desperate for authentic leaders, not ones who just wear the title.
If you’re not going to practice what you preach, then take down the sign and don’t put yourself out there as one who represents God – giving false hope to people who so desperately are in need of real hope.
Never give anyone reason to doubt your credibility and integrity
Make no distinction between those who have and those who have not
Be authentic. Be light in this increasingly dark world and give people reason to hope again.
Our goal should be to walk in the reality of who we claim to be especially when the stakes are high. Why? The greater the challenge to overcome, the more powerful our witness for the Kingdom. And in the end, when it's all said and done, that's all that will matter. It's all God will hold us accountable for.
When given the choice between keeping God's word and keeping campaign promises, anything short of choosing the former is not only hypocrisy but sin with eternal consequences. Jesus asked his disciples and the crowd in Mark 8:36, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
None of us can condemn another, only God can do that because we all sin and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). But as Christians, we are required to let our light shine in such a way that people see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven.
As leaders, as Christians, whether on the world stage, in our office, in the grocery line, or at home with our family, we are leading with our life, not with our lips.
When, as political leaders, we profess and proclaim so loudly our faith, our actions must speak louder than words. If not, the collateral damage of our hypocrisy will be irreversible.
Published on Monday, May 18, 2020 @ 6:37 AM CDT