In the Old Testament, Joshua commanded a man from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to place a commemorative stone in a pile along the west bank of the Jordan River in order to create a public and lasting testimony. With that understanding, I will continue on from Part 1 to relate 12 lessons from the past 12+ years of my life serving in the Kentucky State Legislature that stand as a memorial to what God has shown me.
4) There are selfless servant-leaders in every sphere and at every level. Some of the greatest experiences I had as a legislator were observing staff members who served with quiet dignity for years. They did not receive the accolades that were heaped on the elected officials, yet without them the function of state government would cease. That is not to say that we should not cull down bloated bureaucracies, but many in the bureaucracy do strive every day with little fanfare to make our lives better.
In the legislature itself, we had show horses and workhorses. The show horses had an uncanny ability to position themselves in every photo opportunity while the workhorses quietly but consistently got things done. Jesus severely rebuked those who like to position themselves in the best seats and seek the public’s adulation (Matthew 23:1-12). That kind of adoration is hollow and fleeting. A greater reward awaits those who do not seek the praise of men but labor as unto the Lord Himself.
5) What is said in public does not necessarily reflect what is done in private. Too many politicians have become quite adept at telling people what they want to hear. Instead of stating their position clearly, deceitful politicians purposely muddy the waters and deflect attention from what is really happening. I served alongside one legislator who proclaimed his pro-life position at home every election, but then chastised his fellow Democratic members for daring to support pro-life bills. His own voters were taken in by his misleading claims for years. Eventually, his hypocrisy became so apparent that he was voted out of office.
This tendency to tickle people’s ears is not limited to the political realm. Speaking of the Church, Paul told Timothy that “the time will come when [people] will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3). Too many preachers of the Word of God water down their message lest it offend. Some entire denominations are succumbing to this truth-barren approach to preaching.
6) Respect for biblical truth is waning. There was a time when American politicians universally respected the Word of God. But today, citing Scripture as a source of Truth in any public dialogue is frowned upon or simply scoffed at outright. Even our prayers are cursory.
In Kentucky, as in most state legislatures and the US Congress itself, each legislative day opens with prayer. While not all of those prayers ascended to heaven, what became more apparent during my time was the callous disregard for prayer itself. Some members avoided entering the chamber during the prayer, preferring instead to stand outside making snide remarks.
The great falling away from Christian faith in our society is well-documented. Suffice it to say that the elected representatives of the people reflect that sad trend. Accordingly, many politicians claim faith at home but seldom reflect it in their role. I’m reminded of a meeting I had with a group of constituents from one legislator’s district who spoke of his membership in a very conservative denomination. They were shocked when they were told that no one had ever seen any evidence of his faith in the legislature. His foul language, his attitudes and his voting record bore no evidence of his allegiance to biblical truth.
7) The great divide in America is growing deeper and wider. Once again, this trend is apparent to anyone with eyes to see or ears to hear. Every realm of our society is being politicized and is embracing the social and sexual revolution. Evidence of this is rampant in the political realm.
Just consider the issue of life. There was a time when national political figures within the Democratic party were unashamedly pro-life. Today, every contender for the Democratic nomination for President has vowed to promote unimpeded abortion on demand. That same dynamic has trickled down to the state level. In 2007 there were a few strong pro-life Democrats in our House of Representatives. Today, they are all gone. Even though there are some who lean toward pro-life, they quickly put aside their pro-life views if they decide to run for statewide or national office.
The partisan divide is evidenced by our populace as a whole. The entire nation is hyper-politicized. Political scientists who track such trends tell us that every single state legislature has become more polarized every year for the past 50 years. They also tell us that the nation has not been so divided since 1861 — right before the Civil War.
8) Christians already are a minority, and will continue to lose collective influence. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows a 12 percent decline over just 10 years in the number of Americans who identify as Christians. Based on surveys from 2018 and 2019, only 45% of Americans now say they attend religious services at least monthly. Even that number is thought to be inflated.
Heralding significant generational decline, 84% of the Silent Generation (1927-1944) claimed to be Christian, but only 76% of Baby Boomers (1945-1964) and 49% of Millennials (1981- 1996). What the numbers tell us is that the social pressure to even identify with a Christian worldview or belief system is waning quickly.
That trend is also evident in the legislative realm. When I got to Frankfort (Kentucky’s state capitol), I could only discern a handful of committed Christians in the House. Few consistently stood on Christian principles — and fewer did so when they came under pressure.
Think of any arena and you will recognize that Christians are a dwindling minority. Once again, in business, government, the military, academia, entertainment and even some churches, the number of people who put serving the Lord Jesus Christ first and consistently operate from a biblical worldview is shrinking year after year. And, in some of those realms, Christians are already feeling the sting of persecution in ways that would have been unthinkable a generation or two ago.
In the third and final part of this series reflecting on the 12 lessons I learned while serving in the Kentucky State Legislature, I will cover the remaining lessons and take a look forward.