Feb. 21, 2011 — -- Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has written "A Simple Government," in which he discusses the most important form of government -- the family.
Read an excerpt from the book below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library.
The Most Important Form of Government Is a Father, a Mother, and Children
We Need a Return to Family Values
There's an old Japanese proverb that says, "It is easier to rule a kingdom than to regulate a family." I don't know who said this, but as someone who's done both (though I'd hardly call Arkansas a kingdom), I can say with absolute certainty that he was right.
I'll bet you've never thought of your family as a government. But when you get right down to it, it's the form of government that matters most—much more than Congress, or your state legislature, or even your neighborhood block association. Get your family right, and its strength will wind its way up to the highest levels of global power. Of course, the reverse is also true: When the family fails, so do the other organizing structures around it.
Why does a person commit a heinous crime—use a deadly weapon to rob someone, vandalize a school, rape a woman, murder a hapless victim for twenty dollars, or steal millions from investors (perhaps including friends and relatives) in a Ponzi scheme? Are these acts caused by incomprehensible wickedness? Are these people just plain bad? No, it's really very simple. These are people who failed to grasp—or were never off ered—the simplest lessons of self-discipline, respect for others, and a strong sense of human decency. And where should those lessonsbe taught and learned? It's not the job of a school, a workplace, or even a church to provide these most basic of life lessons (though we shouldn't forget about them there either). And besides, even when we do rely on institutions for these lessons, they usually fail.
No, these lessons cannot be taught by a teacher, boss, or minister. In order to create truly valuable and respectful citizens, these lessons need to be taught at home. By the time we enter school or start a job, we should have learned how to behave. I'm not usually a pessimist, as you probably know, but I'm afraid that if a child has not learned to behave by age four or so, he or she never will.
When I was a child and did something my mother found objectionable, she'd say, with some exasperation, "Were you raised by wolves?" Of course (being objectionable), my immediate inclination was to whip back a smart-aleck answer like "No, ma'am. I got it from you!" But I never did because I knew that the wolf in her would come out andprobably chew me out. Plus, I knew what she meant: Th is was her way of reminding me that I was supposed to try to achieve a certain level of civil behavior. I might even demonstrate a notable diff erence from animals in the wild by using a napkin, saying a blessing before diving into a plate of food, or washing up before sitting down to eat. Suchcivilized rules of courtesy, kindness, and unselfi shness were expected of me not merely so that I could get what I wanted but because, quite simply, they were right.
To this day, I try to behave the way my mother wanted me to - not because I'm afraid of being grounded (my wife does that now) but because she taught me the difference between right and wrong and showed me by example how to behave. These principles originate, of course, from the family.
Okay, let me say it before you do: No family is perfect, and even children raised in wonderful families can turn out to be like wolves.
Still, it makes sense that children nurtured with rules are far more likely to follow them than those given free rein to follow their most primal instincts of "self fi rst, others second." In the national ongoing conversation about how to change "government" and make "society" better, I rarely hear a reference to the obvious starting place: the creation and nurturing of functioning families, in which a mother and a father bring up their off spring with the understanding that the older generation is training the younger to be their replacements.
This essential belief is not (at least it shouldn't be) a partisan issue, butsometimes it can seem like one. For example, President Obama, speaking to the West Point graduating class on May 22, 2010, said, "American innovation must be the foundation of American power." Yes, innovation is important (as I will discuss in later chapters of this book), but, to repeat, I believe that the foundation of American power has always been and must continue to be...(drum roll, please!)...the American family.
On this issue, as on so many others, I cast my lot with Ronald Reagan, who said, "The family has always been the cornerstone of American society. Our families nurture, preserve, and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish, values that are the foundation of our freedom."
It should surprise no one - certainly it would not have surprised President Reagan - that those who now want to "transform" traditional America recognize this truth from the opposite direction and have placed the American family smack in the crosshairs. You know this. You see it every day. Th e family structure that made this country the most powerful and prosperous in the history of the world - father, mother, children - is under assault today as never before.
As parents and even grandparents, what can we do? Simple. We fight back. What happens in our day to the traditional family will determine whether we remain a morally healthy nation of self-reliant families, for the most part, or degenerate into a decadent welfare state of shattered, chaotic, and dependent families.
If you think I'm exaggerating, a little history lesson might be in order. (Many of us somehow managed to get a high school diploma even with a meager knowledge of history, but I digress...) In 1917, when the communists seized power in Russia, they immediately and frankly set out to destroy what they saw as the two biggest threats totheir authority: religion and the family. According to an article in the July 1926 issue of Atlantic Monthly, the Bolsheviks hated the institution of the family with a fierce passion. They forbade all religious ceremonies,which had the effect of turning marriage into just a piece of paper issued by a clerk. In turn, marriage could be undone in a matter of minutes by a piece of paper from another clerk. The ultimate aim of this new socialist state, so far as family was concerned, was to promulgate free love. Along the same lines, abortions were officially sanctionedand paid for by the government.
The article contained some startling facts to back up the report: It was not an unusual occurrence for a boy of twenty to have had three or four wives, or for a girl of the same age to have had three or four abortions. Some men have twenty wives, living a week with one, a month with another...They have children with all of them, and these children are thrown on the street for lack of support.
The party's long-term goal? To throw families into chaos, thus making children loyal to the state rather than to their parents. To that end, children still living at home were told to keep a close eye on their parents and, if they criticized the regime, turn them in to the authorities.
So now the young, aft er all, knew better than the old! Almost one hundred years later, of course, the Soviet Union has collapsed. We don't live in the shadow of the cold war; but threats lurk elsewhere. Th e legacies of this massive failed "experiment" are the ideas of sexual revolution that live on and wreak havoc in our own society today through legalized abortions (and the movement in favor of having them funded by the government), seemingly casual divorce (for the fi rst time, in 2010 fewer than 50 percent of American adults were married), growing nonchalance about unwed pregnancy among teens, and, fi nally, the fevered attempts to extend the defi nition of marriagebeyond "one man, one woman." Not even the heirs of Marx and Lenin thought of going that far!
Pull Up the Drawbridge
From our friends across the pond, the Brits, we long ago adopted theidea that "a man's home is his castle." Fine, so far as that goes, but wemust remember this: Castles were built not as mansions or showcasesto impress the neighbors but as fortresses that would provide protectionfrom ruthless enemies. Not to sound paranoid (just realistic),but I believe that in America today, as in the Russia of 1917, the familyhas lots of enemies - not all of them clearly identifying themselves orriding up armed and mounted on a steed. So parents really do needto draw up the drawbridge against a widespread culture of vulgarityand violence. You don't have a drawbridge? Th at's fi ne, because youhave something better - parental guidance. If you can monitor the influence the world has on your kids and fulfi ll your parental responsibility by acting as the fi lter representing traditional values, then youwill be, in effect, keeping out any enemies threatening to take over your family.
When it comes to questionable infl uences, just where do you draw the line? Well, you could start with a simple premise about what's beaming in on the airwaves: Much of it deserves to land squarely in themoat. But some stuff is worse than other stuff. Not to give government a pass here (we'll get to them), but I'dargue that pop music is oft en the worst culprit, with "reality TV" (talk about untruth in advertising) running a close second. Without parental guidance, an impressionable girl might learn that the way to succeedis to shed her innocence as early as possible. Th at means, forstarters, that becoming recognized in the public eye as a talentedyoung woman involves seminudity, plastic surgery, and maybe even astripper pole. Also, posting naked pictures or a sex video on the Internetis a guarantee of instant attention.
This is, to some extent, just a contemporary exaggeration and exploitationof the old story of the teen years. Many girls, particularlythose who don't have a dad at home, believe that male approval in theform of a boyfriend is essential to existence. I don't think any sane personwho doesn't live under a boulder would try to argue otherwise.Some boys sense this very well (hello!), pressuring girls to "get with theprogram." One good message that did come out of feminism - thatgirls can write their own program instead of just trying to pleaseboys - is now out the window among many young people, especiallywhen dealing with their peers.
Okay, so you're fully aware of all of these infl uences, and you'restanding warily at the drawbridge. Or maybe by now you're up on thebattlements armed with cauldrons of boiling oil. Next step, aside frominsisting that your home conform to your values: You have to be vigilantabout what goes on in your local schools. Th at means get out thecatapult! To be eff ective, your reach needs to extend as far as it possiblycan.
Here are some things you might want to look into. Is your fi rstgrader reading about Dick and Jane getting a puppy named Spot, or ishe learning how nice it is that Heather has two mommies? Is youreighth grader studying the fruit and vegetable exports of South Americanfarmlands, or is he practicing how to put a condom on a banana?Or is your child not learning anything at all today aft er being senthome for wearing an American fl ag T-shirt on Cinco de Mayo—or anyother day?
Don't hesitate to pore over your kids' assigned books and lessonplans. Do the history books teach them that America should becherished—or blamed for something? Talk with your kids about whatgoes on in the classroom: Do any teachers preach according to personalagendas that confl ict with what you teach at home? Encourageyour kids to read widely for themselves, rather than be bound by theassignments from school. Help them understand that they go to schoolto be educated, not indoctrinated. Class is supposed to be for exercisingthe mind. Th at means they need to be taught how to think, notwhat to think.
Pull Up Some Chairs Around the Table
Perhaps by this point you think I'm being too optimistic. But I'm alsorealistic. I know from talking with parents that many are about readyto throw in the towel. Th ey try and try again but don't feel able tocounter the peer pressure and insidious media messages that bombardtheir kids every day. Many have come to believe that they may be fi ghtinga losing battle. Th e struggle is just too diffi cult and exhausting.Well, I get that. But how hard is it to have dinner with your children?Let me share with you an amazing statistic discovered by the NationalCenter on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at ColumbiaUniversity. For the past decade and a half, researchers there have beentotting up the diff erences between teens who eat dinner with theirparents "frequently" (defi ned as being at least fi ve nights a week) andthose who do it only three times weekly or less. Th e results of a CASAreport published in 2009 were dramatic:
1. Teens who eat dinner infrequently with their familiesare twice as likely to use tobacco and marijuana as thosewho have family dinners "frequently."
2. Similarly, they're one and a half times more likely to usealcohol.
3. And they're one and a half times more likely to getmostly Cs or lower in school. (No one's saying that infrequentfamily dinners necessarily cause bad grades,but there's clearly some sort of correlation. Try it!)
"The magic of the family dinner comes not from the food on the plate but from who's at the table and what's happening there," explains Elizabeth Planet, CASA's vice president. "The emotional and socialbenefi ts that come from family dinners are priceless."
That means the food doesn't have to be fancy, or organic, or even homemade. What counts, evidently, is the time spent together around the table. Good grades; avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs; closerand warmer family relationships - it's a scientific fact (not to mention plain old common sense) that something as simple as sharing take-out pizza is associated with all of them!
Whatever Happened to Dad?
I've been criticized many times for talking so much about "social issues"when the real issue now, according to some people, is the economy.Well, buckle up, Turbo, because here's a simple, inarguable fact:Every broken, fatherless family has a tremendous economic impact.Common sense is clear: Th e more families can do for themselves,the less they will need from the government. But what happens whenthere's no dad in the picture?
Here's what Robert Rector, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has to say about that:
The disappearance of marriage in low-income communities is the predominant cause of child poverty in the U.S.today. If poor single mothers were married to the fathers of their children, two-thirds of them would not be poor...When liberals refuse to talk about marriage and the poor in the same breath, they are guilty of willful neglect of the major source of poverty.
Surprise. Liberals are just fine with that, since one of their goals seems to be getting as many people as possible on public assistance.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, about one in three American kids lives in a home without a dad on the premises. Are you - like me - stunned to hear that? Allowing for exceptions, as in all things, the typical portrait of these children is grim indeed. These kids are five times more likely to live in poverty than kids living with bothparents. Th ey have higher rates of delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, and obesity. It gets worse. They have a 125 percent higher risk of suffering from abuse and are twice as likely to drop out of school. You can guess the next stat: Girls raised by a single mother are more likely as teenagers to become pregnant themselves.
Some of you may be inclined to turn away, as if none of this hasanything to do with you and your family. In fact, far from aff ectingonly the children directly involved, fatherless families aff ect all of usand our descendants. Th e so-called dad deficit added more than $300billion to the national deficit in 2010 because of welfare payments tomoms. Many of these men are responsible—at least, in the biologicalsense—for two or more single-parent families. Remember Russia in1917? This is exactly the same problem that the communist regimedeliberately created.
Again, a relevant comment from Robert Rector: "[L]iberal politicians...have a vested interest in the growth of the welfare state, and nothing grows the welfare state like the disappearance of marriage." And what happens then? The bigger the welfare state grows, the more powerful it becomes. Beware a government bearing gift s, because every one of them comes with strings attached. Over time, those strings grow into heavy chains.
Basically, the decline of the family is a failure of personal responsibility. The personal rights of each one of us are sacred, a part of our connection to God, but they are linked to our personal responsibilities.
If we fail to live up to those responsibilities, we will lose our rights. And the state, following its own agenda, will take over.
The Worst of Both Worlds: Out-of-Wedlock Birth and Abortion
If we could hop into our "way-back machine" and travel to Washington in 1965, we might find a young Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then working at the Department of Labor in his presenatorial days, prepared to issue a report about the rate of out-of-wedlock births among African Americans. He is clearly dismayed to report that it's almost25 percent. Now let's zip forward again to 2008 for the latest statistics then: almost 75 percent, or exactly the reverse of the 1965 ratio of illegitimate-to-legitimate births! I can hear Senator Moynihan nowfrom beyond the grave, intoning, "I told you it was getting bad. . . ."
There's more bad news from 2008. Among whites, out-of-wedlockbirths were almost 29 percent, higher than the rate among blacks backwhen Moynihan sounded his alarm. Moreover, at 41 percent, the overallout-of-wedlock birthrate for all Americans was the highest ever,compared with just 5 percent in 1960. So it's safe to say that every groupis moving dramatically in the wrong direction.
What to do? Well, when we compare out-of-wedlock births by state, those with higher incomes and education levels show lower rates. Some observers, as you might imagine, infer that this statistic suggests a socioeconomicproblem that can be solved by helping more teens stay inschool so that they can go on to college and higher-paying jobs. Butwait: It's not quite so elementary, my dear Watson.
Let's look more closely at the situation. While red states do indeedhave more out-of-wedlock babies, the blue states have—perhaps you'vealready guessed it—more abortions. In fact, pregnancy rates do notdiff er all that much; it's abortion rates that do. As compiled by theGuttmacher Institute (using 2005 statistics, the most recent available), the abortion rate is 6 percent in Mississippi and Utah and 9 percent in Arkansas. But it's 24 percent in Connecticut, 30 percent in New Jersey, and 33 percent in New York. Shockingly, the nation as a whole aborts about 1.2 million babies each year. So no matter what you may have read or heard elsewhere (perhaps from abortion activists), higher education and income levels are not stopping young women from getting pregnant: Th ey're just turning to a different "solution." Of course, myview is that abortion, rather than actually providing a solution, is instead an even more awful problem.
So while we should be disturbed by the huge number of out-ofwedlockbirths, we should be even more disturbed that abortions areso common. As hard as it can be to grow up without a dad, there's a farworse fate: not growing up at all because one's life was snuff ed out inthe womb.
Abstinence for Kids Is the True Freedom
It is clear to me that these two epidemics - out-of-wedlock births and on-demand abortions - are sapping America's moral strength. We have two challenges. On the one hand, we need to reduce the number of pregnancies that so often lead to sad, unstable homes and eventual divorce (assuming that marriage ever had any role to play in the situation in the fi rst place). On the other, the answer to the likelihood that childrenwill grow up in a fatherless home is not to abort them. Th e strongfamilies this country needs are always built on two shared societal beliefs:the value of marriage and the value of human life.
"Grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure," wrote English playwrightWilliam Congreve in 1693. "Married in haste, we repent at leisure."That's certainly still true all these years later, as many youngpeople pressured to marry in response to an unplanned pregnancy willattest. But even those who decide not to marry may eventually havereason to "repent," because the other choices can be equally dismal. Asa pastor, I often saw women who suffered wrenching guilt and/or depressionafter having an abortion or giving a baby up for adoption. Ibelieve these women will feel their loss and anguish for the rest of theirlives. As for single mothers, they typically have to interrupt their education,entrust their children to the care of strangers, and marginallysupport their households on a meager income. (It's then, of course,that the kindly federal government steps in to "help.")
Kids exposed to mass culture - TV, movies, music, the Internet - areincessantly told that everybody who's "cool" has sex before marriage.What's the prob? Sex is no more consequential than a handshake, dude,so "hook up" any time you want, and with anybody. Aft er all, doingwhat you want, what you feel like in the moment - that's what "freedom"is, right? Too bad our culture doesn't bother to explain that it isabstinence that is the true freedom. Only abstinence ensures that ourchildren don't have to take on adult roles before they're ready. It's onlyabstinence, too, that protects their options to pursue their dreams,marry the one they love at the time that's right, and feel joyful about thechoices they've made freely along the way.Gay Parenthood: A Social Experiment
I have often been criticized for my outspoken views on gay marriage and homosexuality, so let me be clear. I have no doubt at all that homosexual men and women love their children deeply. Just as deeply asheterosexuals love theirs.
But love alone cannot always provide what children need. If that sounds harsh, bear with me for a moment. My main concern here is that the children, most of whom are heterosexual, will not, and reallycannot, get critical early-life lessons in how a heterosexual family functionssuccessfully. In general, men and women bring different outlooksand temperaments to the task of parenting. Those male/female dynamicsthat make themselves evident in parenting - including even the conflicts and inconsistencies that are likely to arise - teach a child about how men and women relate to each other. In the home with two gayparents, where is that learning going to come from? It's already challenging enough to grow up, even when the parents are more conventional role models.
Of course, I'm certainly not saying that all heterosexual parents provide, or are even able to provide, a good example to their children. I know that very well from years of conversations in my pastoral study,if not from just walking through a mall. Still, I believe that we're in denial about potential problems as we see more and more homosexual couples raising families. Essentially, these are experiments to see howwell children will fare in such same-sex households. It will be years before we know whether or not our little guinea pigs turn out to be good at marriage and parenthood.
Government Breakfast: A Symptom, Not a SolutionEach year, our friends in Washington decide how much to increase the budget to subsidize school breakfasts. We may disagree among ourselves on the dollar amounts, but few ask why the government is at allresponsible for this program. What does it say about our society thatso many parents apparently can't get it together enough to give theirchildren a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice? It is that they just assume,after years of the practice, that it's the government's job to pay forschool breakfasts? We need to look closely at this program.
After all, the government already has plenty of jobs to do - for example, fighting terrorists (sorry..I believe I should have written "man-made-disaster facilitators"). Feeding our kids some breakfast? Our job. Our pioneer forebears - who grew the wheat for their toast and the apples for their juice, who raised the cow for their milk - wouldbe appalled at how pathetic many of us have become.
Let me make clear that I am in no way suggesting that we shouldstop school breakfasts. Having oft en seen firsthand the impact of povertyand hunger among American children, I know that if we did, manykids would not get breakfast at all. In a perfect world, the governmentwouldn't have to feed children a breakfast because their parents wouldbe doing the job. But as you may have noticed, we don't live in a perfectworld. My own church is actively involved in going beyond the governmentprogram, conducting what we call the "backpack" ministry: Itensures that kids leave school on Fridays with a backpack fi lled withfood for the weekend. We use backpacks so that the child does not sufferthe added embarrassment of being seen carrying charitable fooddonations home.
Result: The child has food for the weekend and returns the empty backpack to school on Monday. The government does not pay for any of this: The people of my church do. Th is is closer to the ideal, I think.What a family can't do, friends and neighbors can. Government is notat all in the picture. What the friends and neighbors can't do, the churchdoes. If this model were followed all over the country, there wouldno longer be a need for the government to do the things it's doing—many of which add to the problem instead of solving it. I have long said,and you may have heard me say so on the air, that if all Christians inAmerica actually gave a dime out of each dollar to help "the poor, thewidows, and the orphans," we wouldn't have fi ft y cents of every dollarconfi scated by various levels of government, which will probably mess it up.A Tear in the Social FabricWinston Churchill saw the family this way: "There is no doubt thataround the family and home all the greatest virtues, the most dominatingvirtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained."True, but with this one caveat: We can guard that drawbridgeand provide our kids all of the moral lessons we think they need, butit's impossible to wall them off entirely from others who don't receivesimilar grounding. Unless society as a whole is committed to moralbehavior, everything we build for our families can be destroyed in aninstant.
Take the mean streets of Chicago, where dozens of children dieviolently every year. Typically, the only mistake they made was being"in the wrong place at the wrong time." Th e columnist Bob Herbert,who has written extensively about this tragedy, interviewed Ester andEugene Stroud aft er their sixteen-year-old son, Isaiah, was stabbed todeath on his way home aft er winning a dance contest. Th is is heartwrenchingto read:Their grief, aft er nearly a year and a half, seemed still tobe weighing on them, like a cloak that cannot be lift ed...Mr. Stroud, his eyes red, recalled playing chess with his sonand teaching him to swim, and watching old Godzilla movies on television...Mrs. Stroud said, "...Maybe this isjust a mother talking, but I think the world is a little different without him.
Mr. Herbert also interviewed the Reverend Autry Phillips, who said, "We've got young people pulling out guns at ?? o'clock in the afternoon and shooting all over the place. A lot of them are angry becausetheir daddy's not around and their mama's on crack. Who was there to teach them how to behave?"Very simply, my friends, that's what it comes down to. When families are torn apart, our entire social fabric inevitably rips to shreds right along with them. It takes strong, united fathers and mothers toteach children how to behave. Th e children deserve no less.Parents could start the lessons with their own example each morning,by the way, as they set out the cereal, juice, and milk on the breakfasttable.
Social Conservatives vs. Fiscal ConservativesYou know, when fi scal conservatives try to distance themselves fromconservatives, I just don't get it. (Th at's what I meant back on page ??about the criticism I get for talking so much about "social issues.")Aft er all, it's obvious, at least to me, that everything is tied together. Byfi ghting for marriage and the traditional family, we're also fi ghtingagainst poverty and crime. Without tackling it all at once, how else canwe achieve our goals of smaller government and lower tax rates?If you disagree, I'm willing to listen, but I believe that one thing leads to another. Stronger families will produce the educated workers who will be able to generate more total tax revenue. As that happens,we'll see a decline in the need for bigger government, higherspending, and larger defi cits. It's a no-brainer: Local, state, and federalgovernments will thereby be able to reduce outlays on welfare, foodstamps, house and energy assistance, health care, law enforcement,and—last, but not least—prisons.
I see this goal as a win-win for ALL conservatives. Let the liberalscontinue to push for a redistribution of wealth, as President Obamaclearly intends. But instead, we conservatives should call for a rededicationto marriage and family, with all of the societal benefi ts that willdefinitely follow.
True Self-governmentLet me again stress the parallels between family and government andeven church. When a corrupt leader is in offi ce, he corrupts what heleads. Th is is true of a family, true of a church, true of a nation. A corruptfather will ultimately corrupt his family. A corrupt pastor willcorrupt, infl uence, aff ect, and infect his church. And a corrupt electedoffi cial will infect his nation with corruption.
I like to tell a great background story to this idea from the ninth chapter of the book of Judges in the Old Testament. It's about Gideon's son Abimelech, who craved leadership and elevated stature. But he didnot want to serve the people (as so many of our politicians claim theywant to do); he wanted the people to serve him. At fi rst glance, it mighthave seemed that he was offering a pretty good deal: If they would onlyconsolidate power in him, he would simplify their lives. This "simplification" would involve taking their responsibilities upon himself (translation: he would be taking from them for himself). Th at kind ofpolitical promise is gravely dangerous.
There are two basic elements that will collapse any organization, be it a family, a business, a church, or a government. Number one: consolidating power in the hands of too few people. Th at ignores the warningin the classic statement that power corrupts and absolute power corruptsabsolutely. Number two: a people abdicating personal responsibilityin order to remove any risk to and for themselves.
Our founders were brilliant in deciding that power would be constitutionallydistributed carefully among the states, leaving the federal government very limited in its boundaries. Every amendment in the Bill of Rights expressly tells the government what it is forbidden to do. Not one of them explains what the people can't do.
Just as there are the two elements that will collapse any organization, so there are two results that will predictably come from making asingle leader solely responsible for the national interest without anysharing of responsibility. First, the cowardice of the people will be revealed,because they simply do not want to be held accountable. Second,the corruption of the leader will become apparent. You can count onthis: When leaders want those in their charge to become more dependentrather than less so, they are defi nitely moving toward corruption.
Back to Abimelech's schemes: His youngest brother, Jotham, saved the day with a very clever story about three diff erent types of trees (an olive tree, a fi g tree, and a vine tree) that were offered the position ofking of all trees. All rejected the idea and all, signifi cantly, are productivebearers of fruit. But the bramble bush, a weak and pesky plant thatproduces nothing useful, wanted the post. Jotham's point was that theweakest, rather than the strongest, feels the urge to dominate others.But real leadership is about risk, not self-gratifi cation. Jotham could betalking about politics today. I've oft en said, "If you don't like the sightof your own blood, then don't get involved in political battles; just buya ticket and watch from the stands!" It is a full-contact sport; those of us who choose to participate all leave the fi eld bloody, bruised, and scarred.
Further, as I've thoroughly outlined in a previous book, Do theRight Thing, the very best form of government is self-government. It'sthe goal that every honorable leader should seek to implement for hisor her followers. In the family, a good parent builds independence inhis or her children, not dependence. I can't imagine that a parentwould feel successful if a forty-year-old child was still living at homeand was unable to balance a checkbook, wash his own laundry, cleanup his own room, drive himself to do errands, or responsibly find a jobor income in order to pay his part of the freight. The idea of a child'sremaining permanently dependent on parents is heartbreaking. By thesame token, the idea of pastors' making parishioners solely dependentupon the church ministry is the antithesis of New Testament Christianity.Instead, the Scriptures make clear that the pastor's role is to equip the saints or the parishioners to do the work of ministry as individuals.
A church that provides only a forum for the pastor's ideas and encourages worshippers to follow him or her without becoming directly and personally involved in some type of genuine, living ministryto others is not even close to the biblical norm of the purpose of church.
Finally, when politicians encourage people to become increasinglydependent upon them and the government programs they create,they've violated those people's sovereignty and autonomy as individuals.You will recognize this theme throughout this book, for I firmlybelieve that such abandonment of personal responsibility can lead tothe destruction of our nation. We must be on guard: Whether we aretalking about parents, pastors, or politicians, the goal should neverbe to create dependence on a leader or a government program; the aimshould be to nurture independence that will empower and equip, notenslave.