Excerpt: Mike Huckabee's 'A Simple Government'

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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.

Chapter One

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 lessons be 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 and probably 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. Such civilized 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 to their 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 sanctioned and 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 marriage beyond "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 the idea that "a man's home is his castle." Fine, so far as that goes, but we must remember this: Castles were built not as mansions or showcases to impress the neighbors but as fortresses that would provide protection from ruthless enemies. Not to sound paranoid (just realistic), but I believe that in America today, as in the Russia of 1917, the family has lots of enemies - not all of them clearly identifying themselves or riding up armed and mounted on a steed. So parents really do need to draw up the drawbridge against a widespread culture of vulgarity and violence. You don't have a drawbridge? Th at's fi ne, because you have 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 you will 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 the moat. But some stuff is worse than other stuff. Not to give government a pass here (we'll get to them), but I'd argue 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 succeed is to shed her innocence as early as possible. Th at means, for starters, that becoming recognized in the public eye as a talented young woman involves seminudity, plastic surgery, and maybe even a stripper pole. Also, posting naked pictures or a sex video on the Internet is a guarantee of instant attention.

This is, to some extent, just a contemporary exaggeration and exploitation of the old story of the teen years. Many girls, particularly those who don't have a dad at home, believe that male approval in the form of a boyfriend is essential to existence. I don't think any sane person who doesn't live under a boulder would try to argue otherwise. Some boys sense this very well (hello!), pressuring girls to "get with the program." One good message that did come out of feminism - that girls can write their own program instead of just trying to please boys - is now out the window among many young people, especially when dealing with their peers.

Okay, so you're fully aware of all of these infl uences, and you're standing warily at the drawbridge. Or maybe by now you're up on the battlements armed with cauldrons of boiling oil. Next step, aside from insisting that your home conform to your values: You have to be vigilant about what goes on in your local schools. Th at means get out the catapult! To be eff ective, your reach needs to extend as far as it possibly can.

Here are some things you might want to look into. Is your fi rst grader reading about Dick and Jane getting a puppy named Spot, or is he learning how nice it is that Heather has two mommies? Is your eighth grader studying the fruit and vegetable exports of South American farmlands, 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 sent home for wearing an American fl ag T-shirt on Cinco de Mayo—or any other day?

Don't hesitate to pore over your kids' assigned books and lesson plans. Do the history books teach them that America should be cherished—or blamed for something? Talk with your kids about what goes on in the classroom: Do any teachers preach according to personal agendas that confl ict with what you teach at home? Encourage your kids to read widely for themselves, rather than be bound by the assignments from school. Help them understand that they go to school to be educated, not indoctrinated. Class is supposed to be for exercising the mind. Th at means they need to be taught how to think, not what to think.

Pull Up Some Chairs Around the Table

Perhaps by this point you think I'm being too optimistic. But I'm also realistic. I know from talking with parents that many are about ready to throw in the towel. Th ey try and try again but don't feel able to counter the peer pressure and insidious media messages that bombard their kids every day. Many have come to believe that they may be fi ghting a 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 National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. For the past decade and a half, researchers there have been totting up the diff erences between teens who eat dinner with their parents "frequently" (defi ned as being at least fi ve nights a week) and those who do it only three times weekly or less. Th e results of a CASA report published in 2009 were dramatic:

1. Teens who eat dinner infrequently with their families are twice as likely to use tobacco and marijuana as those who have family dinners "frequently."

2. Similarly, they're one and a half times more likely to use alcohol.

3. And they're one and a half times more likely to get mostly Cs or lower in school. (No one's saying that infrequent family 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 social benefi 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; closer and 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 when there'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 both parents. 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 has anything to do with you and your family. In fact, far from aff ecting only the children directly involved, fatherless families aff ect all of us and our descendants. Th e so-called dad deficit added more than $300 billion to the national deficit in 2010 because of welfare payments to moms. Many of these men are responsible—at least, in the biological sense—for two or more single-parent families. Remember Russia in 1917? This is exactly the same problem that the communist regime deliberately 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 almost 25 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 now from beyond the grave, intoning, "I told you it was getting bad. . . ."

There's more bad news from 2008. Among whites, out-of-wedlock births were almost 29 percent, higher than the rate among blacks back when Moynihan sounded his alarm. Moreover, at 41 percent, the overall out-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 group is 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 socioeconomic problem that can be solved by helping more teens stay in school so that they can go on to college and higher-paying jobs. But wait: It's not quite so elementary, my dear Watson.

Let's look more closely at the situation. While red states do indeed have more out-of-wedlock babies, the blue states have—perhaps you've already guessed it—more abortions. In fact, pregnancy rates do not diff er all that much; it's abortion rates that do. As compiled by the Guttmacher 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, my view 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-ofwedlock births, we should be even more disturbed that abortions are so common. As hard as it can be to grow up without a dad, there's a far worse fate: not growing up at all because one's life was snuff ed out in the 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 children will grow up in a fatherless home is not to abort them. Th e strong families 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 playwright William Congreve in 1693. "Married in haste, we repent at leisure." That's certainly still true all these years later, as many young people pressured to marry in response to an unplanned pregnancy will attest. But even those who decide not to marry may eventually have reason to "repent," because the other choices can be equally dismal. As a pastor, I often saw women who suffered wrenching guilt and/or depression after having an abortion or giving a baby up for adoption. I believe these women will feel their loss and anguish for the rest of their lives. As for single mothers, they typically have to interrupt their education, entrust their children to the care of strangers, and marginally support 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 - are incessantly 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, doing what 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 is abstinence that is the true freedom. Only abstinence ensures that our children don't have to take on adult roles before they're ready. It's only abstinence, too, that protects their options to pursue their dreams, marry the one they love at the time that's right, and feel joyful about the choices 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 as heterosexuals 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 really cannot, get critical early-life lessons in how a heterosexual family functions successfully. In general, men and women bring different outlooks and temperaments to the task of parenting. Those male/female dynamics that 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 gay parents, 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 how well 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 Solution Each 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 all responsible for this program. What does it say about our society that so many parents apparently can't get it together enough to give their children 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 for school 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 - would be appalled at how pathetic many of us have become.

Let me make clear that I am in no way suggesting that we should stop school breakfasts. Having oft en seen firsthand the impact of poverty and hunger among American children, I know that if we did, many kids would not get breakfast at all. In a perfect world, the government wouldn't have to feed children a breakfast because their parents would be doing the job. But as you may have noticed, we don't live in a perfect world. My own church is actively involved in going beyond the government program, conducting what we call the "backpack" ministry: It ensures that kids leave school on Fridays with a backpack fi lled with food for the weekend. We use backpacks so that the child does not suffer the added embarrassment of being seen carrying charitable food donations 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 not at all in the picture. What the friends and neighbors can't do, the church does. If this model were followed all over the country, there would no 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 in America actually gave a dime out of each dollar to help "the poor, the widows, and the orphans," we wouldn't have fi ft y cents of every dollar confi scated by various levels of government, which will probably mess it up. A Tear in the Social Fabric Winston Churchill saw the family this way: "There is no doubt that around the family and home all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained." True, but with this one caveat: We can guard that drawbridge and provide our kids all of the moral lessons we think they need, but it's impossible to wall them off entirely from others who don't receive similar grounding. Unless society as a whole is committed to moral behavior, everything we build for our families can be destroyed in an instant.

Take the mean streets of Chicago, where dozens of children die violently 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 and Eugene Stroud aft er their sixteen-year-old son, Isaiah, was stabbed to death on his way home aft er winning a dance contest. Th is is heartwrenching to read:Their grief, aft er nearly a year and a half, seemed still to be weighing on them, like a cloak that cannot be lift ed...Mr. Stroud, his eyes red, recalled playing chess with his son and teaching him to swim, and watching old Godzilla movies on television...Mrs. Stroud said, "...Maybe this is just 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 because their 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 to teach 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 breakfast table.

Social Conservatives vs. Fiscal Conservatives You know, when fi scal conservatives try to distance themselves from conservatives, 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. By fi ghting for marriage and the traditional family, we're also fi ghting against poverty and crime. Without tackling it all at once, how else can we 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, higher spending, and larger defi cits. It's a no-brainer: Local, state, and federal governments will thereby be able to reduce outlays on welfare, food stamps, 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 liberals continue to push for a redistribution of wealth, as President Obama clearly intends. But instead, we conservatives should call for a rededication to marriage and family, with all of the societal benefi ts that will definitely follow.

True Self-government Let me again stress the parallels between family and government and even church. When a corrupt leader is in offi ce, he corrupts what he leads. Th is is true of a family, true of a church, true of a nation. A corrupt father will ultimately corrupt his family. A corrupt pastor will corrupt, infl uence, aff ect, and infect his church. And a corrupt elected offi 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 did not want to serve the people (as so many of our politicians claim they want to do); he wanted the people to serve him. At fi rst glance, it might have seemed that he was offering a pretty good deal: If they would only consolidate 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 of political 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 warning in the classic statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Number two: a people abdicating personal responsibility in order to remove any risk to and for themselves.

Our founders were brilliant in deciding that power would be constitutionally distributed 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 any sharing 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 on this: When leaders want those in their charge to become more dependent rather 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 of king of all trees. All rejected the idea and all, signifi cantly, are productive bearers of fruit. But the bramble bush, a weak and pesky plant that produces nothing useful, wanted the post. Jotham's point was that the weakest, rather than the strongest, feels the urge to dominate others. But real leadership is about risk, not self-gratifi cation. Jotham could be talking about politics today. I've oft en said, "If you don't like the sight of your own blood, then don't get involved in political battles; just buy a 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 the Right Thing, the very best form of government is self-government. It's the goal that every honorable leader should seek to implement for his or her followers. In the family, a good parent builds independence in his or her children, not dependence. I can't imagine that a parent would feel successful if a forty-year-old child was still living at home and was unable to balance a checkbook, wash his own laundry, clean up his own room, drive himself to do errands, or responsibly find a job or income in order to pay his part of the freight. The idea of a child's remaining permanently dependent on parents is heartbreaking. By the same token, the idea of pastors' making parishioners solely dependent upon 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 ministry to others is not even close to the biblical norm of the purpose of church.

Finally, when politicians encourage people to become increasingly dependent 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 firmly believe that such abandonment of personal responsibility can lead to the destruction of our nation. We must be on guard: Whether we are talking about parents, pastors, or politicians, the goal should never be to create dependence on a leader or a government program; the aim should be to nurture independence that will empower and equip, not enslave.