An interview with TalkGOP on making a difference

TalkGOPLogo2My thanks go to Lynn Sebourn and TalkGOP for the opportunity to join the podcast this week. You can find the TalkGOP podcast on iTunes and follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

You can see and hear TalkGOP Episode 20, Civic Leadership with Mick Wright at TalkGOP.com/20.

TalkGOP’s invitation was prompted by this post from April of last year: What is your political impact? (75 ways to get involved politically). There you will find some ideas for making a difference in your community. You should also check out TalkGOP’s episode from around this time last year, Episode 14: 20 Ways to Make a Difference in 2014. I couldn’t agree more with suggestion #9, “become an expert in a particular political issue.”

Lynn has certainly done that himself, and I appreciate how he’s making a difference for grassroots conservatives and Republicans through the podcast, a medium growing in popularity thanks in part to Serial, a program produced by the folks from This American Life.

In addition to those podcasts, I recommend The Glenn Beck Program from TheBlaze Radio Network, NPR’s Planet Money, Gimlet Media’s Startup Podcast and The National Constitution Center’s We the People Podcasts.

I also listen to two podcasts by Ravi Zacharias, Let My People Think and Just Thinking, and two others produced by ministers of my church: The Andy Savage Show and Highpoint Church – Memphis.

The Treasure Principle

The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving (LifeChange Books)The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I applaud the author’s radical approach to charitable giving and would recommend this book as a conversation starter.

I’m not sure I completely agree with Randy Alcorn’s interpretation of Biblical passages where he suggests a person’s reward in Heaven increases or decreases depending on his level of giving here and now. Alcorn believes a dollar donated in life equals a dollar saved in the afterlife — that’s essentially the “treasure principle,” and the chief reason why someone should give. I felt he was stretching the meaning of some verses to fit the model, while others he quotes seemed to bolster his argument significantly. His theory has certainly prompted me to reconsider several passages, particularly Matthew 6:19-21.

But the “why” aside, we do need to be more mindful of what and how much we give, and where we choose to invest. It often takes someone with an extreme viewpoint to wake people up and get them thinking. If this book inspires Christians to become “giving warriors” (p. 88) and to dedicate themselves to funding effective and efficient ministries and non-profit organizations, Alcorn has succeeded, to the benefit of many.

Orthodoxy

OrthodoxyOrthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Orthodoxy is listed as the favorite book of the late Christian recording artist Rich Mullins in a collection of his essays titled The World as I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin.

On the strength of Mullins’ recommendation, I downloaded the free Kindle edition and read it sporadically over many months.

Though few would categorize G.K. Chesterton’s work as a page-turner, the quality of his writing and thought is so powerful and delightful that I feel obliged to defend my failure to finish it more quickly.

I’ve arrived at these two explanations: 1. I never knew where Chesterton was going, but I loved the journey and didn’t want it to end. 2. His casual tone, twinkling charm and sharp wit give a smooth coating to profound observations that deserve slow digestion.

Now having finished, writing a worthy review seems a challenge equally demanding of greater contemplation, and I don’t feel prepared for the task.

So rather than attempt to summarize the arguments, cite compelling examples of its genius, or provide defensible reasons for my enthusiasm, I’ve decided to let my 5-star rating essentially stand on its own.

This is a book I recommend to anyone and look forward to reading again.

The Gospel according to Family Guy

Family Guy Jesus

In the latest episode of Family Guy, a cartoon series on Fox, creator Seth MacFarlane uses a Christmas theme as his launching point to mock Christians.

The Jesus presented in “The 2000-Year-Old Virgin” is an adulterer and a liar who convinces Peter Griffin to let him sleep with his wife, Lois.

A committed promoter of athiesm, MacFarlane is no doubt pleased by the negative reaction of many Christian groups and commentators denouncing it as blasphemous and sacrilegious. In the episode itself, Peter labels the actions of Jesus “outrageous,” especially to “the 10 million Christians watching.”

An interesting thing about Family Guy, though, is that deviance is the main source of the show’s humor, and the gags are only funny because the characters and their actions are so morally objectionable.

For instance, why is Quagmire funny? He only draws laughs because he’s sexually perverted; his behavior is reprehensible and goes against everything people believe is right. If people thought his behavior was acceptable, it wouldn’t be funny.

To a large degree, then, MacFarlane’s comedy works against itself; he inadvertently affirms moral values in the process of lampooning them.

A similar phenomenon is at work in this episode. Despite attempting to take down Jesus, MacFarlane succeeds mainly in spreading the Gospel.

If a group of people watching this episode had never heard of Jesus and could rely on no other reference point, they would come away with a fairly accurate and Biblical account.

Here are 23 things we learn about Jesus from the episode:

  • He is a significant person.
  • At least “half the world” is familiar with Him.
  • He’s “not into material possessions.”
  • He’s the Son of God.
  • His dad, God, has a “bigger plan” for people and knows how long they will live.
  • His birthday is celebrated at Christmas.
  • He likes all types of people.
  • He is a virgin.
  • His best friend was a prostitute.
  • He died.
  • He was born about 2,000 years ago.
  • He lives “everywhere, all places, hopefully inside you.”
  • He “wanders the desert lecturing people on how to act.”
  • Something of importance happened to Him on “Good Friday.”
  • His blood is wine.
  • He’s from Israel and is Jewish.
  • He “died for our sins.”
  • He “ascended into Heaven.”
  • He is good and his word is good (“If it wasn’t okay, [He] wouldn’t suggest it.”).
  • He has the power to give people anything they want.
  • He’s “not just any man, he’s a savior.”
  • He’s “the one guy” athiests don’t believe in.
  • He is “the messiah.”

In addition to these facts about Jesus, we also learn the Bible says not to covet your neighbor’s wife and that it would be funny to say the Bible “is just a bunch of general guidelines,” and that “none of the commandments are written in stone.”

Of course, the episode also reveals Christ as an adulterer and a liar.

But why did MacFarlane believe this would be funny?

He thought it would work as comedy because he knew the audience would recognize it as completely out of character for Jesus. If it were an accurate portrayal, nobody would find it humorous.

So why get worked up about a stupid cartoon? Even MacFarlane knows it isn’t true.

Bonus question: why get worked up about a savior in whom you allegedly don’t believe?

Why I’m stepping down from Republican Party leadership

I believe elected office is a public trust. It is a temporary status conferred upon individuals who have a duty to serve and to represent others for a defined term.

No political leadership role is permanent. That’s why one vital task of a political leader is replacing yourself. People who do not recruit and mentor replacements are mere office-holders, not leaders.

Office-holders will cling to a position for the privilege, the status or the power. They can’t tell you what they accomplished in the previous term. They are unable to articulate any clear goals they hope to achieve in the next. And they aren’t out recruiting and preparing anyone new, because they don’t intend to step down.

Leaders attract a following. Leaders are always recruiting others, not only to help them do the work set out for today, but also because they realize it’s their job to prepare leaders for tomorrow. They inspire others to take up the flag behind them. They step down when they’ve reached their goals, and they hand over the reins.

I support term limits because while not every office-holder is a good leader, the power of incumbency protects and insulates them just the same. But many political positions aren’t subject to term limits. In those cases, it’s up to the leaders themselves to know when they’ve accomplished their goals, and when to exit the stage.

After three terms of service on the Shelby County Republican Party’s steering committee, the time is coming for me to step down and let others take my place.

When Lang Wiseman recruited me to serve in an at-large position on the steering committee in 2009, I simply wanted to get more involved. I was able to learn many things from Chairman Wiseman and his team, and I had the pleasure of serving on the technology and communications committees and contributing to the Republican sweep of every countywide office in 2010.

Wiseman stepped down after a single term and was replaced by Justin Joy

In 2012, presenting Chairman Justin Joy with a donation as President of the Northeast Shelby Republican Club

In 2012, presenting Chairman Justin Joy with a donation as President of the Northeast Shelby Republican Club

Although Joy ran unopposed in the 2011 chairman election, every at-large position was contested by a slate of other activists. That challenge gave me the opportunity to address the convention with a speech encouraging unity and continued participation, a message that handed me the largest vote total of the day. In those years, I helped stabilize a steering committee divided in factions and suffering from turnover in the executive director’s role. Although we were disappointed by the 2012 Presidential election, we celebrated the victory of Amy Weirich as District Attorney General.

At the end of the term, I was promoted to the 4th Vice Chairman seat and was challenged for reelection to the position in 2013, with nearly-identical results. That time, I used the convention speech to take a stand against the chairman of the Shelby County Commission, Mike Ritz, a ringleader of the consolidation movement. And this year I contributed to another Republican rout of countywide offices, and a big win for our Republican-endorsed judicial candidates, as chairman of the party’s candidate recruitment committee.

I had to laugh this past week reading the news. The Memphis Flyer, the Memphis Daily News and the Commercial Appeal each responded to the election with in-depth articles about the Shelby County Democrats and what they need to do in order to reclaim power. Scarcely a word has been written about Chairman Joy, one of the most humble and modest leaders I have ever worked with. And it’s very fitting, because he doesn’t seek the spotlight; his results speak loud enough.

It has been a great honor serving under Chairman Wiseman and Chairman Joy and working alongside many fine members of the steering committee, several of whom I recruited and are now finishing their first terms. All of them are capable of filling my seat as 4th Vice Chair. I have completed all that I set out to do. Not everything I did was completely successful, but I gave my best through three general election cycles and a series of special elections in-between. Now it’s time for some of these new leaders to emerge and to build upon what we have accomplished, so I will not be running for a fourth term next year.

It has been a busy period. While on the steering committee, I also served three terms as an executive officer of the Northeast Shelby Republican Club, as President, Vice President and Treasurer. Simultaneously, I put together a grassroots organization to fight school consolidation and led two referendum campaigns in favor of Bartlett City Schools.

Now I turn my attention to the campaign for Bartlett Alderman Position 1, where voters will have a choice between a “new” candidate and an incumbent who has spent the last 18 years in government.

I take this step not to occupy an office but to serve the public, for a limited time.

If you’d like to support me in that effort, I certainly welcome your help.