I really thought this tweet on Monday had to be exaggerating something:
Did everyone get a memo to get ready for President Pence or something? pic.twitter.com/Y41RPU5l2A
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) October 14, 2019
“Did everyone get a memo to get ready for President Pence or something?” journalist Chris Geidner asks. Attached are two images. One is a screenshot of the home page of the State Department website, which reads “Being a Christian Leader” and announces “Secretary Pompeo’s speech at the 2019 American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference.” The other a screenshot from the Department of Justice website featuring an announcement of a speech on religious freedom by Attorney General Bill Barr.
Here’s a larger screenshot of the State Department webpage, which has since been updated:
What of Pompeo’s speech? The State Department website has a transcript, complete with notations of when the audience cheered or applauded (does that seem weird to anyone else?).
I know some people in the media will break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction in my work. (Applause.) But you should know, as much as I’d like to claim originality, it is not a new idea. (Laughter.) I love this quote from President Lincoln. He said that he – he said, quote, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” (Laughter.)
And so with that in mind, I want to use my time today to think about what it means to be a Christian leader…
Does being a Christian leader include looking the other way while the President of the United States fires well-respected ambassadors because he credulously believes right-wing conspiracy theories created by corrupt businessmen trying to obtain lucrative Ukrainian natural gas contracts? One wonders.
Also, when do we get the State Department speech on being a Muslim leader? Or a Jewish leader? Or a Sikh leader? Because absent such speeches, I have questions. And no—it’s not Pompeo praying over decisions that I have an issue with. It’s the State Department fawning all over official speeches on being a “Christian” leader.
And my focus too, to be quite candid, is not just on being a leader. I learned how to lead at whatever level I’m blessed with during my time at West Point and other experiences, but I want to talk today about being a Christian leader. I learned that through a very different experience, an experience with God and my own personal faith in Christ.
If Pompeo wanted to give this speech as a private citizen, fine. I don’t have a problem with that. But that’s not this. This is blown up all over the State Department website. It sure doesn’t look like a speech given as a private citizen.
What of Barr’s speech on religious freedom? That speech was a delivered to the law school at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. It wasn’t some generic speech on how Constitutional law relates to ongoing and future religious liberty cases. No. It was about how bad, bad, bad secularism is.
Modern secularists dismiss this idea of morality as otherworldly superstition imposed by a kill-joy clergy. In fact, Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct.
They reflect the rules that are best for man, not in the by and by, but in the here and now. They are like God’s instruction manual for the best running of man and human society.
By the same token, violations of these moral laws have bad, real-world consequences for man and society. We many not pay the price immediately, but over time the harm is real.
Barr also leaves an Edmond Burke quote in tatters, taking out crucial bits and changing several words. He begins by arguing that the Founding generation’s view of human nature was drawn from the Classical Christian tradition” and then quotes Burke ass follows:
“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their appetites….Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
I looked up Burke’s full quote. Here it is:
Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their appetites, in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundnesss and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere, and the less there is of it within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
Gee, I wonder why Barr took all that out. It’s almost as though the quote both reads as less Christian than he wanted his listeners to think it, and also reads as though it is targeted directly at the president. Imagine that!
You may notice that in addition to bolding the material Barr edited out, I also bolded a random “is” later in the quote. That’s because Barr got that part of the quote wrong. He subbed in “must be” for Burke’s “is.” I’ll leave the import of that to you.
This misconstrued quote is the least of the issues with Barr’s speech, though. Barr’s speech is filled with bits that feel like they were pulled from a Focus on the Family article:
On the one hand, we have seen the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square.
On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.
By any honest assessment, the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.
Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground.
In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, when I was last Attorney General, it was 25 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. In many of our large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.
Along with the wreckage of the family, we are see record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.
As you all know, over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. That is more casualities in a year than we experienced during the entire Vietnam War.
I will not dwell on all the bitter results of new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought with it immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.
As I said, there is no presence of impartiality here. This is a screed against secularism, and an official endorsement of “Judeo-Christian” religion, which let’s be honest, really just means Christianity. Again, if Barr wanted to give a speech as a private citizen, fine. But this isn’t that. It’s published on the Department of Justice website.
An ousted President Trump wouldn’t necessarily mean a President Pence, though, because Pence is implicated in the very scandal threatening to take Trump down. If you follow the line of succession back, past legal challenges and others implicated in the same scandal, you end up not with a President Pence but a President Steve Mnuchin.
Who’s that? Now might be a good time to find out.
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