They've been underestimated countless times. Conversely ignored and courted by politicians, attacked and reverenced in the media, constantly discussed and analyzed, they are without a doubt the most misunderstood voting bloc in America. We call them values voters .
Just who are these people, and what do they stand for? What are the values they allude to, and why?
The answer could be found at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC from September 22-24, 2006, when more than 1,700 conservatives from all over the nation rallied to discuss the issues and learn from the greatest minds in their movement. Hosted by FRC Action, in cooperation with Focus on the Family Action, American Family Association Action, and Americans United to Preserve Marriage, the Washington Briefing: 2006 Values Voter Summit was an extraordinary conference of epic proportions in the Christian conservative movement. Featuring an incredible lineup of the movement's most outstanding intellectuals, the conference served as a morale booster for conservatives nationwide. Speakers included such influential citizens as Dr. James Dobson, Senators George Allen, Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Judge Charles Pickering, Alan Sears, Tony Perkins, Don Wildmon, Bishop Wellington Boone, Representatives Marilyn Musgrave, Mike Pence, and Katherine Harris, Maggie Gallagher, Tony Snow, William J. Bennett, Gary Bauer, and many more. The event also included times of worship, as well as entertainment from Steve Bridges and special music by Larnelle Harris.
I had the privilege of attending the Washington Briefing with TeenPact, and was very blessed and educated by the experience. The issues discussed covered a broad range of socioeconomic and international concerns, from feminism to terrorism, and the Judiciary to the Church.
Indiana Representative Mike Pence addressed the issue of immigration from a Biblical standpoint. Quoting the Biblical directive against mistreating aliens, he reminded his listeners that we are children of immigrants, and America is a nation of immigrants. While stressing his belief that we ought to reject amnesty, he also encouraged compassion toward those who will attempt anything to enter this great country, reminding his listeners that our ancestors once felt the same way. Pence additionally discussed his immigration reform bill, the Hutchinson-Pence plan, which he and Kay Bailey Hutchinson have partnered together to produce.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee echoed similar statements in a later speech, exclaiming, "Thank God we live in a country that people are trying to break into instead of out of!"
Marriage vs. Homosexuality
Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts, discussed the fight to preserve marriage, stating passionately that children deserve to be raised in a loving, stable environment by a father and mother. Speaking of the fact that the liberals have been trying to use the courts to force gay 'marriage' on America, Romney stated, "Too often liberals love democracy only when the results are certain to be in their favor". He added that marriage is a status, and marriage in one state affects all the states.
Bishop Wellington Boone brought up the recent problem of gay individuals claiming that their fight to legalize same-sex 'marriage' is comparable to the civil rights movement. Himself an African American, Boone found this comparison highly offensive. After passionately reviewing the history of the civil rights movement, he exclaimed, "You telling me you wanna get in on that? Get outta here!"
Boone also made the point that it is not enough to simply blame the homosexual agenda. When Christ comes back, He won't hold merely homosexuals accountable, He will hold us accountable. After all, aren't we the ones who were commanded to be the salt and light? Bishop Boone challenged his audience to get busy fulfilling that mission.
Ann Coulter attacked the homosexual 'right to privacy in the bedroom' argument. Am I allowed to sell drugs in private? Can I hide the money that I owe to the IRS under my mattress, since the government isn't supposed to enter the bedroom? Confronting the homosexual lie with these and similar questions, Coulter made the point that government is most certainly justified in prosecuting sexual crimes.
She also mentioned the frequently used argument that 'gay marriage doesn't affect me, therefore it must be ok'. Well, neither does someone who sells drugs or does murders in North Carolina, for example, she stated. Some things are just wrong!
Coulter also spoke directly to those who wish to overturn marriage. "If you want to overturn a 3,000 year old institution, you can make the arguments!" she declared, referring to the liberal tendency to put conservatives in the position of defending traditional marriage, as though conservatives were the ones with the radical ideas for social change in that respect.
She also joked about the judges who are supposedly able to find the right to gay 'marriage' in the Constitution. "We should get them out to look for Bin Laden!" she teased.
Dr. James Dobson cited encouraging new statistics, which indicate that 73% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong, 66% that it should be ended or severely restricted. US Senator Sam Brownback also had an optimistic attitude, suggesting that we now live in a pro-life nation ! He went on to remind his listeners that abortion is extremely painful for the child, and that as conservatives, we fight for life.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee concured, stating that our ultimate value is that we value people. "Being prolife" , he purported, "Means that I care about people from conception to death".
Bishop Wellington Boone commented on the problem of abortion in the African American community, stating that, although 8% of America's population is African American, 35% of abortions are performed on African American mothers. He issued a challenge to his listeners to make a difference, asking "Why should God have to wait for the next generation to do what we should be doing in this generation?"
Conservative thinker Paul Weyrich agreed. Liberals, he said, think that when they've won something (Roe vs. Wade, for example), they are entitled to it forever. They are wrong!
Ann Coulter also spoke out strongly in defense of life. When you start with a lie, she reminded, it snowballs into more lies. Abortion advocates try to cover up the gruesome reality of abortion by using more pleasing words like procedure, choice, and termination . The fact remains, however, that abortion means death . Its advocates know that, and even those who peddle this so-called 'right' don't want their names associated with it. Ever heard of the "Ted Kennedy abortion clinic"? You never will.
Gary Bauer's remarks on abortion elicited several standing ovations from the crowd. Every day, he reminded the audience, we inflict another 9/11 on ourselves - abortion. He added that the abortion culture is built on a lie: the lie that only some life is valuable. And because it is built on a lie, it will ultimately fall !
Someday, he visualized, we will look back at abortion like we look back at slavery now. One day you will go get your paper in the morning, and it will say, "Roe overturned" !
Media experts Ted Baehr, Don Feder, and Tommy Tenney joined to discuss Hollywood in the Heartland in an interesting panel discussion, moderated by movie director Jonathan Flora. After showing conference attendees a preview of Tommy Tenney's new movie One Night with the King , the three discussed Hollywood's influence on American culture. "If you're a Christian" , Feder remarked, "Hollywood hates you" . He went on to contrast Hollywood's 'religion' with Christianity, showing the drastic differences between the two worldviews.
The three men also shared some enlightening statistics: 149 million Americans attend church every week, while only 26.7 attend movies during the same time period. And while Americans do spend 9.21 billion each year on movies, they give approximately 248.52 billion in charity annually. Tenney reminded listeners that every battle we abandon, we lose by default . Hollywood is desperate to survive, and they are responding to feedback on films. You don't have to view bad movies and TV: life is too short!
Myrna Blyth and two other accomplished conservative women shared their thoughts regarding feminism in What Feminist Majority? , a panel moderated by FRC's Connie Mackey. Referring to such female liberal personas as Clinton, Boxer, and Finestein as the 'liberal sisters of doom', the three commented that people are always telling women what they should want. The media attempts to sell women the idea that they are victims, mistreated creatures who deserve full sympathy.
The three ladies also pointed out that the women employed in media today market themselves as 'girlfriends', thinking that they speak for all women, and assuming that all women agree with them. Such is not the case! According to recent polls, 9 out of 10 high school senior girls want be be married and have children.
"We want to be protected by men, it's ok with us!" one of the women on the panel and mother of nine declared. Their insights were fascinating, and they ended with the remark that "Women still want the things that are near and dear to their hearts".
The War on Terror
Many speakers shared insights on the war on terror, among them Gary Bauer. He quoted a recent speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iranian TV, in which he stated, "Can you imagine a world without America? It will happen soon" . Mr. Bauer reminded conference attendees that Islamo-fascists are a real and serious threat with the will to win. Do we have the will to win?
Bauer contrasted the ideologies in America's war on terror and pointed out that radical Islam worships death, whereas God says, "Choose life!" William J. Bennett agreed, pointing out in his talk that jihadists seek death. Our marines, on the contrary, view death as the last resort, the full measure of devotion. In the difference lies civilization.
Referring to the left's impatience with the situation in Iraq, Ann Coulter compared liberals to little children on a long car drive, constantly complaining, "Are we there yet? ARE WE THERE YET?" She pointed out that it took 50 years to reinstall democracy in Germany after WWII, and America's progress in Iraq has really been astounding in the history of warfare.
Coulter also ridiculed the appeasement mentality that so many in the left have towards terrorists. Their logic goes something like this: "If we make war against those who seek our destruction, they might get mad and seek our destruction!" .
Judge Charles Pickering, former Judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and author of Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation and the Culture War , spoke on the increasing problem of judicial tyranny. He commented that the judiciary was never intended to be a 'political' branch of government, but that is what it has become. Reminding conservatives that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, he emphasized the fact that judges are not all-knowing: they are human and often make mistakes.
According to the liberal position that the Constitution is continually evolving, Pickering stated that, in that case, no one would ever know what it means except for 5 Justices on the Supreme Court, and we the people could never know unless they tell us. He added that if it is possible for 5 Justices to change the Constitution, it certainly ought to be possible for the American people to do so!
"Don't apologize for believing in the things that matter", White House spokesman Tony Snow admonished. He challenged Christians to: 1) acknowledge evil and swear to fight it, 2) defend the definition of the family, and 3) teach the next generation well. This nation, he commented, has barely begun to scratch the surface of our potential. When they look back at us 50 years from now, our children will not ask, "What did the polls say that day?", they will ask, "What did you do about it?".
TeenPact founder Tim Echols conducted a breakout session on training the next generation. Along with other things on the topic of family, he commented that we live in the age of child-centered families. Parents have too often become accustomed to doing what their children tell them to do. America's students, he added, need to be inspired. They need a higher standard to live by.
Rev. Dr. John Guest, Dr. Richard Land, and Rev. Herb Lusk joined a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Kenyn Cureton, titled The Role of Churches in Political Issues . Pastors, they explained, have an obligation to speak prophetically to their churches regarding current issues. The three gave details on tax exempt status and the rights that pastors have as far as political action is concerned. God has a side on current issues, they reminded, and therefore His church will have one, too. "Stand tall and preach the truth!" they admonished pastors. "The gospel is for the world" .
Not On My Watch!
Ron Luce, Founder of Teen Mania Ministries, gave a passionate speech on the effects of sin in our generation and the deep responsibility that we have to make a difference. "If we can pass laws to stop trash from being dumped in the rivers, why can't we pass laws to stop trash from being dumped in the minds of our children?" he demanded. When people look back at the atrocities that occurred in our generation, they will ask, "Where were the Christians?" We must be the ones at this moment in history who will rise up and say, "NO! This will not happen on my watch. This train will not run off the tracks!" If the train of Christianity is derailed, it will be off of the tracks for a long time.
Here We Stand
"We don't endorse candidates" , Pastor Herb Lusk stated emphatically, referring to Christian values voters. "We look for candidates who endorse us. We don't endorse platforms, we look for platforms that endorse us" . He alluded to the Biblical example of Nehemiah, who, after agonizing over his nation's political problems, organized and activized . Encouraging Christians to the same, Pastor Lusk reminded them that "God will never assign you to a task that He will not give you the resources to perform" .
Tony Perkins, president of FRC, echoed similar thoughts. "We need fewer politicians, and more statesmen" , he asserted. Perkins defined a politician as someone who takes a poll to see where the people are, and then runs out in front of them. A statesman, on the contrary, leads the citizenry in truth regardless of the consequences.
Bishop Boone also mentioned the need for moral leaders. "How can someone that doesn't feel a need for God lead me (in government)?" he queried.
America's Glorious Future
Throughout the conference, speakers displayed an enduring optimism for America's future. Attendees were constantly encouraged by the fact that conservatism works , and reminded of the potential that the values voters have for making a positive difference in American society.
Governor Huckabee mentioned the joy and purpose that Christian conservatives display. Sean Hannity contrasted liberalism and conservatism and spoke of Reagan's vision for America: a shining city on a hill, a blessing to all the earth. Governor Romney quoted Abigail Adams: "Great necessities call out great virtues" , and said that America's greatness is found in her people. William Bennett voiced his firm belief that America is the world's last best hope, and encouraged conservatives to stay on the offensive in the culture war.
Bishop Boone probably said it best, however, at the end of his rousing speech. "Go on! Go on!" he shouted passionately. "The victory is already assured!"
This article was first published at www.regenerateourculture.com