The Prayer of Thanksgiving

By Faith and Freedom Staff

As our friends and neighbors gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, we at the Faith and Freedom Coalition share in your thoughtful contemplation of our many blessings. Moreover, as we continue to fight against those who wish to scrub prayer from our schools and other public places, it’s worth remembering that Thanksgiving was founded essentially as a prayer.

Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation noted its primary purpose was to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Lincoln further asked Americans to pray for “all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

The Background

George Washington was the first president to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, issuing his request on October 3, 1789. Others followed, but the celebrations were sporadic and disjointed—usually held separately in Northern states, primarily New England.

Then, beginning around 1848, a 74-year-old magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, began writing to presidents requesting a formal national holiday. Finally, in the midst of the Civil War, on September 28, 1863, Hale wrote the President Abraham Lincoln again making her request:

“You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”

President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale immediately and soon granted her request. Lincoln asked Secretary of State William Seward to write the proclamation, which outlined the many blessings—even in the midst of a bloody conflict—that our nation enjoyed at the time. These blessings included a growing population and vast stores of minerals. Most importantly, Lincoln said, “In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict…”

Most notably, from our perspective, is Lincoln’s appreciation for the mercy and grace of God. The proclamation begins by recognizing that we are “prone to forget the source” of our “fruitful fields” and “healthful skies” – “the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.” He continued: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation for America’s national day of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863. We stand with you in prayer and supplication during these difficult times, and wish you a peaceful, praiseworthy holiday.

The Last Sermon?

Religious Freedom in the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States of America

By Faith and Freedom Staff

These are perilous times in many respects. Social unrest, political upheaval, and a worldwide pandemic cast daily shadows over our lives. As Christians, we find our encouragement in scripture which tells us “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

But what about when our very faith is challenged by government officials and others who seek to infringe upon our ability to exercise our religious freedom?

Unfortunately, this is the situation in which we find ourselves today.

People of faith tend to share a deep appreciation for religious freedom. It’s quickly becoming apparent, however, that some powerful non-believers are far less enthusiastic about this important freedom. This truth was recently voiced by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who recently noted the COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread curbing of individual and religious liberties.

Calling such restrictions, “previously unimaginable,” Alito described their severity and duration as “unprecedented.” This is not mere happenstance. Alito points out the fact that “in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”

More broadly, a recent Pew survey cites the decline in religious freedom as occurring across the globe. The Pew report announced that governmental restrictions on religious practices set records in recent years. Christians suffered most, according to the data, which can be found here.

The Pew Government Restrictions Index analyzes government policy and laws that ban a specific religion, or do things such as prohibit conversion, place limits on preaching, or give preferential treatment to certain religions. It may come as no surprise that such practices were most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, where 90% of the nations rank “high” or “very high” in restrictions. China, nevertheless, remains the worst offender.

We must not underestimate the devastating consequences of COVID-19, but it’s clear that the virus, which will subside with widespread distribution of vaccines that have already been approved, is not the biggest long term threat to our democracy.

Rather, the loss of our religious freedom—a bedrock of our democracy—could lead to a wider challenge to the Republic. The religious bigotry exhibited at the state and local levels across the United States is nothing short of astonishing. Churches, pastors, and congregations have complied with government guidelines in the face of unwarranted attacks—while bars, casinos and even strip clubs have been permitted to operate with far more freedom.

In the United States, public policy on the matter of religious freedom increasingly mirrors Pew Report findings on the Middle East, North Africa, and China. God will ultimately prevail over these unfortunate circumstances and we must therefore react as Jesus called us to: “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Isiah 35:3-4, ESV)

And yet, for a nation that once served as a beacon of religious freedom, this is indeed a sad state of affairs.

The U.S. Senate Matters!

Faith and Freedom Staff

This is definitely a challenging time. Christians are joining each other in prayer as we ask God for wisdom and guidance during this post-election period. And as legal battles play out in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and other states, the United States Senate hangs in the balance. 

Democrats hoped to pick up several Senate seats but came up short. Their hopes to win control of the body and take full control of the White House, Senate, and House now depends on a pair of races in Georgia.

Democrat Hopes

As of November 3, 2020, Republican’s three-seat advantage over Democrats and control of the White House netted three new conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court and dozens of conservative federal judges on other courts. Leading up to the election, Democrats needed to pick up at least three, probably four seats and win the White House (a VP Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote). Democrat Senator Doug Jones, of Alabama, was widely expected to lose. Furthermore, Democrats had to defend 11 seats held by Democratic incumbents.

What happened? Winning net new seats in Arizona and Colorado, while Republicans flipped the Alabama seat, Democrats experienced a net gain of just one seat. Republicans have secured 50 total seats and Democrats (with the two independent senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) have secured only 48.

If Georgia conservatives don’t turn out again on Jan 5 out of disappointment or dejection, their inaction could create a 50-50 tie with Kamala Harris being the tiebreaker. Losing the Senate would make Chuck Schumer the Majority Leader.  Democrats would then be free to abolish the filibuster and pack the courts and we will lose our country.  We have no choice—we must act now!

What You Can Do

Many of you have reached out to us about what you can do to help. As a result, we will have remote phone banking and other volunteer opportunities for the upcoming Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs. Please consider clicking on this link and participating in what will decide the majority of the United States Senate. https://www.ffcoalition.com/georgia-run-off/.

No matter what happens in the presidential race, this Election is not over. If Republicans can maintain control of the U.S. Senate and act as a bulwark against the socialist agenda of the Radical Left, the results of the Presidential race could be far less damaging to America’s future.

This is the most critical moment in our Nation’s history. Will you FIGHT to protect our Republic?

A Pivotal Week in American History

Picture of the Oval Office

Three Things You Need to Do This Week!

By Florida Faith and Freedom Staff

In Florida, as a person of faith, you can take three key steps this week to live out your beliefs: 1) Vote Early; 2) Ask your pastor to participate in the Believers and Ballots Initiative; and 3) Express your support for Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Failing to Vote is the same as Voting—Against Yourself

Early voting started this week in many counties in Florida. You can learn more about early voting from the Florida Division of Elections by clicking here and find your local Supervisor of Elections here. Local supervisors will have all the information you need about the details of early voting locations and timing.

Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition encourages you to vote early and to vote your biblical worldview.  Remember, failing to vote is the same as voting for the candidate, or party, whose values and plans for America you oppose. If you would never support a party’s major causes, such as promoting abortion, but you don’t vote against those causes on Election Day, you are directly supporting their cause.

Attention Pastors: Get Involved with Believers and Ballots!

Pastors have an awesome opportunity on Sunday, October 25 to encourage their congregations to go vote – on social media and from the pulpit. Pastors can and should tell worshippers to go vote their biblical worldview and deeply held values.  It’s that simple—and make no mistake about it, this is an unquestionably and completely legal act. Pastors need not get bogged down in Trump versus Biden.  One party is pro-abortion, and one party is pro-life. 

That’s it.  End of story.

Pastors are commanded to stand for those who are for life, (proverbs 31:4 and 8).

Please take less than 3 minutes to listen to this message from Pastor Jack Hibbs by clicking here. Then, make your voice count and stand for righteousness by participating in the “Believers and Ballots” initiative by clicking here to participate!

It’s Time to Confirm Amy Cony Barrett

Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings have ended, and Mitch McConnell says that Republicans have the votes to put her on the Supreme Court.  But this will be a close vote! We know you want to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court with Judge Barrett, so it’s critical that you call Republican Senators such as Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins and demand that they support the nomination of Amy Coney Barret this week—not later, after the election.

The American Bar Association rated Barrett as highly qualified and her former students have confirmed her compassion and integrity.  In a recent Judiciary Committee hearing, one former student with a disability testified that “should you confirm Amy Barrett, the country will receive something far greater than simply an unparalleled legal mind – it will gain the service of one of the kindest individuals I have ever known. Her brilliance is matched only by her compassion, and her integrity is unassailable. I am not speaking in mere abstractions here. Rather, I have experienced these characteristics first-hand, with life-changing results…In part because of her unwavering support, I am the first blind woman to serve as a law clerk on the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Let’s review the key activities for this week – one of the most important weeks in recent American history. First, make sure you vote early. Second, call and email your pastor and request that he/she get involved with the Believers and Ballots initiative. Third, tell Senator Collins of Maine and Senator Murkowski of Alaska to support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court NOW!

It’s Time to Confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court

By Faith and Freedom Staff

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced this week that “we have the votes” to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Born 1972 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Judge Barrett has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since November 2, 2017. Her impressive career includes private and public practice—and a clerkship for the legendary Antonin Scalia.

Of course, there is much more to Judge Barrett than her professional career.  She is a wife and mom who by all accounts is passionately devoted to her family. And as the radical left attacks her faith and stance for life, even those who don’t share her views have been forced to confess to Barrett’s high level of competence.

Take for example, two members of the American Bar Association (ABA). During this week’s hearings, the Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary Chair, Randall Noel, and the ABA Lead Evaluator Pamela Roberts testified that Judge Barrett meets the ABA’s highest standards.

Noel testified that “We gave Judge Barrett a rating of well-qualified, as you know, our highest rating … We interviewed Judge Barrett for over three and a half hours, Ms. Roberts and I, and we received additional information from her in the interim. The Standing Committee concluded that Judge Barrett’s integrity, judicial temperament, professional competence met the very high standards for appointment to our Supreme Court. Our rating of ‘Well Qualified’ reflects the consensus of her peers that know her best.”

Roberts, the Lead Evaluator for the ABA noted “Judge Barrett has earned and enjoys an excellent reputation for integrity and outstanding character. Judges and lawyers alike uniformly extolled the nominee’s integrity…Given the breadth, depth, and strength of the feedback we received, the Standing Committee concluded that Judge Barrett had demonstrated professional competence to exceptional and sufficiently outstanding to be rated ‘Well Qualified.’”

Upon hearing this testimony, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham R-SC, asked the two witnesses, “Simply put, would both of you feel comfortable going before Judge Barrett?”

Noel and Roberts both replied: “Absolutely.” And when the Chairman asked if their they believed Barrett would be a fair and impartial justice Noel said that there was “no doubt” and Roberts agreed.

It’s time for Amy Coney Barrett to become a Supreme Court Justice.

Social Justice and the Radical Left’s Attempts to Erase History

By Florida Faith and Freedom Staff

Many Americans believe this year’s riots and protests are more about election year politics than public policy, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume the purpose of these events is to air grievances—mainly under the banner of “social justice.”

The concept of social justice is impacting our society whether we like it or not.  We have ignored this concept for too long—not as we understand it, but as the Radical Left understands it.  For the Radical Left, “social justice” is usually a fuzzy rationalization of socialism—a justification for income and resource redistribution.

Social justice was originally a Catholic term, used to describe the need for re-organizing a modern society experiencing a mass exodus from the countryside to the city. In this sense, the original concept of social justice was far more in line with people of faith today, who believe that social justice is the manifestation of Mathew 25:20 (NIV), “…’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” In tandem with the concepts of freedom and liberty, our founding fathers based their formulation of the United States Constitution on this much older, more traditional conception of social justice.

The important difference between the Radical Left’s conception of social justice and the faith-based conception of social justice is the answer to the question, “Who’s in charge, the state or the citizens?”

The framers believed that, to the greatest extent possible, the people should be in charge. While they admittedly expressed a distrust of the masses and direct democracy, they believed that a populace, with virtuous representation and wise leadership, could best ensure justice for all. To advance this idea, they created the Constitution and adopted the democratic republic form of government.

This is the manner in which the social justice debate became a history debate, essentially an argument over whether we will follow the course determined by our faith and charted by our nation’s founding fathers, or whether we will follow the course set by Marx, Lenin, and the secular elite of modern society.

In an attempt to win this debate, the Radical Left has made a calculated (and mostly successful) attempt to take over America’s universities and K-12 schools. As many of us shout concerns about this annexation from the rooftops, the media and timid politicians across the political spectrum attempt to explain it away. We’re told that we are exaggerating or that we are insensitive or worse yet, racist.

The next step for the radical left was erasing our history…tearing down statues, changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the like. Notably, the Radical Left not only opposes memorials for Robert E. Lee and other Civil War figures, they oppose honoring founding fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The most recent iteration of this attempt to erase history is best understood with the announcement made by the Radical Left in Illinois. In August, Representative La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago began calling for the abolition of all history classes in that state. He publicly asserted: “school history teaching leads to white privilege and a racist society…” and “we need to end the miseducation of Illinoisans,”

His press release noted that upcoming press conference participants would “discuss how current history teaching practices overlook the contributions by Women and members of the Black, Jewish, LGBTQ communities and other groups…pushing for an immediate change in history changing practice starting this school year.” Another quote from Representative Ford’s release read: “Miseducation has fed and continues to feed systemic racism for generations.”

This Radical Left narrative is cloaked in social justice, but Representative Ford’s demand is, quite literally that the state of Illinois must eliminate American history classes and replace them with left wing, socialist propaganda. In order for the Radical Left to implement its agenda across the entire nation, it needs to do the same, school district by school district—abolish history and erase our collective memory of the founding principles of the Republic and the traditional, faith-based conception of social justice.

Social justice will play no small role in the upcoming election.  Voters, many of whom are already mailing in their ballots, will look back on 2020 and ask themselves which candidates are best suited to lead our nation through these tumultuous times—and to stop the Radical Left’s attack on America.

Your voice and your vote have never mattered more than they do over the next few weeks.  Please make sure that you vote—and give someone who shares your values a ride to the polls on election day.

Do Presidential Debates Matter?

By Faith and Freedom Staff

With debate season kicking off this week and continuing through October, the history and impact of this staple of American politics will be argued as hotly as who won or lost. Many will ask, as they have this week, if the debates still serve any real purpose or if we should just do away with them or change the format substantially.

There was a time in American history when debates mattered a great deal. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates set the stage for this long-lasting tradition of the Republic.  While not presidential, they were very much about national politics. Held in 1858, just three years before the Civil War began, slavery became a focus of the debates as Senator Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln battled for an Illinois senate seat.

Douglas favored giving states the right to decide the slavery question on their own, while Lincoln opposed the idea. Douglas repeatedly accused Lincoln of being an abolitionist and Lincoln claimed that he was not such. In his own defense, Lincoln infamously asserted, “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way, the social and political equality of the white and black races…”[i]

Weighty matters, indeed.

The debates drew massive crowds, even by today’s standards. The first was held in Ottawa, Illinois and drew ten thousand people. The second debate in Freeport attracted fifteen thousand onlookers. Special train service carried many citizens to the debates while others came by wagon, buggy and on foot. In his volume on Lincoln published in 1955, author Benjamin Thomas noted there were “Fireworks, rockets, and cannon[s] and that “Bands, military companies, and cavalcades of horsemen headed long processions escorting the speakers to the stand.”[ii]

The Modern Era

From the Lincoln Douglas debates onward, until the middle of the twentieth century, American political campaigns and the debate model operated on the same fundamental principles.  The biggest change came in the 1960’s with the famous Nixon-Kennedy debates on national television.  Most political historians recognize the first of those debates as having launched a new era in American politics—a period when how one appears on television matters as much as any substantive policy issue. 

The important lesson learned from that first Nixon-Kennedy debate was that visuals matter as much as verbal communication. Nixon, looking pale and sweating, cut a poor figure next to the better looking, tan (and dry) Kennedy. In voter surveys, a majority of those who listened to the debate on radio believed Nixon won the debate while those who watched on television claimed that Kennedy won. 

Subsequent presidential debates consistently reinforced the idea that non-verbal communication is an important factor in televised debates. A frown or a headshake can speak volumes. Gaffes such as the “Al Gore sigh” in the debate with George W. Bush in 2000 proved the point, as did “the glance” when George H.W. Bush briefly checked his watch during the 1992 debate against Clinton.  For Gore and Bush, these moments were magnified because they fed pre-existing media narratives: Gore was “arrogant” and Bush was a “silk-stocking” Republican.

There have been countless other moments to remember.  Ronald Reagan, former professional actor, may have worked the debates better than anyone in the modern era. With questions and comments such as “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”, “I’m paying for this microphone!”; and perhaps the most powerful velvet fisted punch of all time, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience

Lloyd Benson has gone down in history with his “I knew Jack Kennedy” dig at Dan Quayle. And scholars still talk about Mike Dukakis’ failure to show the least bit of emotion when asked what he would do if his wife were raped and murdered.

Such historic moments keep debate enthusiasts and political historians salivating for more.

Changing Debate Structure and Forum(s)

Nowadays, presidential debate prep typically starts 2-3 months in advance. Campaign teams carefully consider what questions will be asked and what responses would be appropriate. Closer to debate day, preparation may evolve into conference room meetings where staff members and consultants pepper candidates with questions.  In some cases, candidates may attempt to recreate the set and run through the entire debate for 60-90 minutes. Dick Cheney insisted on mock debates at same time of day the debate was scheduled to take place. 

Strategically speaking, the biggest question for candidates is what kind of headline they’re seeking to generate.  This is often related to how they are doing in the polls.  Do they want to mix it up with the other candidate(s) and make some news, or is it better to “speak directly to the American people?” The former is for the candidate who is behind and looking to gain ground and the latter is usually reserved for the candidate well ahead in the polls.

In this manner, debates evolved into mostly scripted affairs. Then along came the Internet, Twitter, and Donald Trump.

Beginning with the digital revolution in the late nineties, political consultants’ power over message management began to unravel. Discipline became far more difficult to maintain in a 24-hour news cycle filled with endless cable channels and the growing popularity of the Internet. Top down communication directed “at” voters gave way to bottom-up conversations “with” voters.

Today, candidates and consultants don’t have multiple days to polish messaging.  Issues change from one day to the next.  President Trump is the first candidate to fully understand this phenomenon. His use of Twitter and Facebook demonstrate the fundamental principle that the American political debate is no longer limited to television and newspapers.

Despite all these changes, televised presidential debates do still matter, just not in the way they used to.  Nowadays, the framing and re-framing of debates on cable news and social media matters as much as a candidate’s actual debate performance—a fact that became abundantly evident after this week’s debate.

So, pop some popcorn and enjoy debate season…and the debate after the debate season…and the debate about whether debates matter season. The next presidential debates will be held on October 15th in Miami and the October 22nd in Nashville.


[i] Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln, (New York: Barnes & Noble/Knopf, 1952), p. 185.

[ii] Ibid.

Time to Mobilize

By Faith and Freedom Florida Staff

President Trump will announce his Supreme Court nominee to fill Justice Ginsburg’s vacant seat on Saturday, September 26. But that’s not stopping the fake news and Radical Left politicians from launching their full-scale assault on anyone who stands to fill the vacancy—just as they did with Justice Kavanaugh.  

They’re already attacking Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s faith.  We won’t dignify their insults by repeating them here. Suffice to say the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh confirmations will look like a walk in the park by comparison. Christianity itself will come under attack.

Have Democrats forgotten that Article VI of the Constitution states “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States?”

No. They understand what the Constitution says. They just don’t care.

It’s time to prepare for the fight—on this nominee and for the coming elections in November.

Road to Majority Conference is Next Week!

At this pivotal moment, the Road to Majority Conference is happening in Atlanta – next week, September 30-October 3. This important event will be held at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, Georgia with an amazing group of speakers and presenters flying in from across the nation—including perhaps some surprise “special guests.”  Confirmed speakers will include author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, Pastor Jack Graham, Pastor Benny Tate, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, Founder of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, Faith and Freedom Founder and Chairman, Dr. Ralph Reed, and many more.

Click here to register

In November, Americans will make a choice that will set the trajectory for our nation for decades to come. Will we elect leaders who support socialism and attack religious liberty? Or will we choose those who respect and protect faith-based values?

For the past ten years, the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority policy conference has empowered conservative activists to fight for their values. Designed to forge a path towards electing a pro-family majority in Washington, attendees will be equipped with the knowledge and connections they need to drive engagement and voter turnout. Road to Majority is the event to attend if you want to prepare for Election Day energized and excited to make an impact in your community.

COVID-19 Safety Precautions

Given the crucial role this year’s elections will play in shaping the next decade, we are committed to providing activists with a safe and healthy environment to learn, network and mobilize. We will be working closely with the venue to provide a safe gathering.

Faith & Freedom Coalition is working closely with the Cobb Galleria Center to observe the CDC Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting. They are regularly consulting with governmental agencies, medical experts and industry colleagues to develop a plan that prioritizes the health and safety of attendees. Guests are encouraged to wear masks, but they are not required for entrance to the building. The Center will be performing regular disinfecting of frequently touched locations, surfaces and equipment, and guest sanitizing stations have been added in common areas throughout the convention center and specialty shops. To view the full safety guidelines, click here.

Calling all Christian Activists

There is so much at stake – one, perhaps two appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, the health of our economy, and our national security. It’s time to mobilize.

Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Executive Director, Tim Head, encouraging all who are able to join us in Atlanta, “We strongly encourage Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition supporters to join us in Atlanta on the eve of the historic November elections.”

Join the 50 Day Fight!

By Faith and Freedom Staff

As Americans prepare to choose a president in November, a group of Christians is organizing prayer groups across the nation.  Our blog today highlights the “50 Day Fight” organized by, among others, Daniel Bernard, President of Somebody Cares Tampa Bay.

The 50 Day Fight is an intensive period of prayer for 50 days leading up to November 3rd, Election Day. The group will have daily prayer and conference calls. They’re working to open churches every day specifically to pray for the nation. Furthermore, the group is organizing pastors in this collective prayer effort and encouraging them to work with other ministries in both public spaces as well as church buildings. For example, Rock Church in San Diego, CA just organized over 132 churches to pray together in public areas.

As the group works to inspire prayer nationwide, it hopes the prayer movement will go viral. We encourage Faith and Freedom Coalition supporters to engage in the “50 Day Fight” movement.  Please consider bringing information about the movement to your pastor, home bible study, and dining room table conversations.

In addition, as we enter the final phase of this critical election, we encourage you to vote. As Christians living in a representative democracy, casting your ballot is a solemn responsibility.  You can magnify your power to influence the course of history by talking with other believers and encouraging them to vote. But above all, pray for America!

Get Ready to Vote!

Picture of the Oval Office

By: Faith and Freedom Staff

Once again, a tremendous opportunity to live out our faith approaches – Election Day!

The Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition contends that the tenets of our faith require us to vote.  It’s simple way to put our beliefs into action.

The deadline to register to vote in Florida’s general election if October 5!

Electing leaders and appointing judges who will protect religious liberties, defend the dignity of life, and uphold the traditional family that is the bedrock of our country is an essential mission for every voter of faith in America. 

We urge you to confirm your voter status today and ensure that you’re able to cast your ballot for leaders who will put faith first.    

You hear it year upon year, “Get out there and vote!” Some find it annoying to hear this mantra decade after decade; however, we will shrug off apathy and run straight into the battle.  Folks, the faith community’s vote can turn Florida’s vote on a dime!   

Florida: The Juggernaut 

The power of faith-based voters is magnified in Florida. Let’s dive into the numbers:

  • 29        Florida’s electoral votes
  • 3rd        Florida’s ranking in highest number of electoral votes among all fifty states
  • 537      Votes out of six million cast that won Florida for George W. Bush in 2000 
  • 1.2%    President Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in Florida in 2016

Florida’s 29 electoral votes represent a major chunk of the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the White House—behind California (55) and Texas (39). But California consistently votes for the Democrat nominee while Texas votes Republican. Among the three largest states, Florida stands alone.   

Make no mistake about it, Florida is the largest and most important swing state in 2020. Who can forget 2000, when George Bush won the state by only 537 votes out of six million cast . . . and hanging chads dominated the news across America?   Or, 2012 when Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Florida, 50.0% to 49.1%.  That year, Florida was the only state decided by less than 1%.  And finally, there was Donald Trump’s 2016 stunning victory, when he narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton by 1.2% in Florida.  

Florida also has a reputation for picking winners.  With the sole exception being President George H.W. Bush’s Florida 1992 loss, Florida voted with the winner in every presidential election since 1964. 

Voting Options 

We stand together with you to support leaders who uphold Judeo-Christian values.  What an honor it is to live, worship, and vote in our great Republic.

Florida offers numerous voting options – including by Mail, Early Voting, and on Election Day.  It’s critical that voting be both safe and secure.  Don’t wait to set up your option to vote-by-mail, if you wish. 

Vote-by-mail is available to any Floridian who desires it.  With our nation being rocked by crisis, it’s the right time to ensure the faith community takes steps now to set up vote by mail or whatever manner of voting we choose.  Find your county Supervisor of Elections and request to vote by mail NOW.   As part of Florida’s faith community, you hold tremendous power.  We encourage you to exercise it!

On a cautionary note, please don’t take the conservative, pro-life majorities in the Florida House and Senate for granted.  As our state grows, traditional voting patterns will be disrupted.

According to News Service of Florida, with 21.48 million Floridians recently estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Sunshine State is already expected to see an increase in federal funding and political clout in the coming years because of its growing population. It wasn’t that long ago when Florida surpassed New York to become the third most-populous state.  It now appears likely the Florida U.S. House delegation will increase from 27 members to 29 members after the 2020 Census.  When Republicans took control of the House in 1994, Florida’s population was 13,961,798 (see figure 1).  

Today, Florida’s population stands at 21,480,000, an increase of approximately 7.5 million—or more than 50%.   According to U.S. Census Bureau Projections, Florida’s Hispanic population will increase from 12% of its population to 21%, an increase attributable in part due to the influx of Puerto Rican’s into the state.

Sustained Growth  

According to Fox Business News, and estimates provided by the Demographic Estimating Conference, Florida’s growth will continue, thanks in part to the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions for federal tax purposes.  Due to changes to the tax code, many people are moving to lower-tax states like Florida. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more people moved to Florida than any other state last year with net domestic migration of 132,602 – and New York lost the most people to Florida. 

Analysts project Florida’s population will grow by an average of more than 300,000 people per year between 2018 and 2024 (a presidential election year)—or 1.8 million inhabitants. Florida’s demographic changes, involving an increased number of liberal voters, leave our important swing-state teetering on the brink of losing its conservative majorities and ending conservative control of Florida’s cabinet, including Office of the Governor, for decades. 

There is no single better strategy to maintain Florida’s conservative advantage than to institutionalize efforts to educate faith-based voters and drive them to the polls—and to aggressively pursue public policy which promotes conservative principles.   

No organization is better positioned to succeed in this endeavor than the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition.  Last summer in Washington, D.C., President Trump called the Faith and Freedom Coalition “the largest faith-based get out the vote organization in modern American history.”  Indeed, President Trump has supported the Faith and Freedom Coalition with more than simply words.  He has spoken at six of our annual Road to Majority Conferences.   

Support Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition today through donating or volunteering to mobilize voters.  Confirm your voter registration statusfind early voting period and election dates, and find your Supervisor of Elections and request to vote by mail.

ROAD TO MAJORITY: IT’S ON!

By FFC Staff

This November, America will make a choice that will set the trajectory for the rest of the decade. Will we elect leaders who support socialism and attack religious liberty? Or will we choose those who respect and protect faith-based values? Our annual Road to Majority policy conference is designed to activate and encourage people of faith to get involved in this historic event.

The Road to Majority policy conference is scheduled for October 1-2 at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, GA. This conference is “in person” but there will also be an option to attend virtually. We are committed to providing activists with a safe and healthy environment to learn, network and mobilize. We will be working closely with the venue to provide a safe gathering. That said, it’s time to mobilize.

For the past ten years, the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority policy conference has empowered conservative activists to fight for their values. Designed to forge a path towards electing a pro-family majority in Washington, attendees will be equipped with the knowledge and connections they need to drive engagement and voter turnout. Road to Majority is the event to attend if you want to prepare for Election Day energized and excited to make an impact in your community. You can purchase tickets HERE.

Nick Sandman’s Story

Nick Sandman

August 28, 2020

As told by Nick this week at the Republican National Convention…

For our blog this week we are reprinting the transcript of Nicholas Sandman’s speech at the Republican National Convention. This young man received death threats and his school was forced to close after he and his classmates were taunted by adults during a simple field trip to exercise their right to free speech and support the rights of unborn children.  This is Sandman’s story, in his own words.

Good evening, everyone. My name is Nick Sandman and I’m the teenager who was defamed by the media after an encounter with a group of protesters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last year. Before I begin, I’d like to thank President Trump for the opportunity to share some of my story and why it matters so much to this November’s election.

In 2019, I attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., where I demonstrated in defense of the unborn. Later that day, I bought a Make America Great Again hat because our President, Donald Trump, has distinguished himself as one of the most pro-life presidents in the history of our country, and I wanted to express my support for him, too. Looking back now, how could I had possibly imagined that the simple act of putting on that red hat would unleash hate from the left and make myself the target of network and cable news networks nationwide.

Being from Kentucky, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, my classmates and I visited the Lincoln Memorial. I found myself face to face with Nathan Phillips and other professional protestors, looking to turn me into the latest poster child showing why Trump is bad, while the media portrayed me as an aggressor with a relentless smirk on my face. In reality, the video confirms I was standing with my hands behind my back and an awkward smile on my face that had two thoughts. One, don’t do anything that might further agitate the man banging a drum in my face. And two, I was trying to follow a family friend’s advice, never to do anything to embarrass your family, your school, or your community.

Before I knew what was happening, it was over. One of Mr. Phillips fellow agitators yelled out, “We got him. It’s all right here on video. And we won, Grandpa.” What I thought was a strange encounter, quickly developed into a major news story complete with video footage.

My life changed forever in that one moment. The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. They did so without researching the full video of the incident, without ever investigating Mr. Phillips’ motives, or without ever asking me for my side of the story. And do you know why? Because the truth was not important. Advancing their anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-Donald Trump narrative was all that mattered. And if advancing their narrative ruined the reputation and future of a teenager from Covington, Kentucky, well, so be it. That would teach him not to wear a MAGA hat.

I learned what was happening to me had a name. It was called being canceled, as in annulled, as in revoked, as in made void. Canceled is what’s happening to people around this country who refuse to be silenced by the far left. Many are being fired, humiliated, or even threatened. And often the media is a willing participant. But I would not be canceled. I fought back hard to expose the media for what they did to me and I won a personal victory.

While much more must be done, I look forward to the day that the media returns to providing balanced, responsible and accountable news coverage. I know President Trump hopes for that too. And I know you’ll agree with me when we say that no one in this country has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump.

In November, I believe this country must unite around a President who calls the media out and refuses to allow them to create a narrative instead of reporting the facts. I believe we must join a President who will challenge the media to return to objective journalism, and together, I believe we must all embrace our first amendment rights, and not hide in fear of the media or from the tech companies or from the outrage mob, either. This is worth fighting for. This is worth voting for. And this is what Donald Trump stands for. Thank you all for listening to me tonight. And one more thing, let’s make America great again.

Faith in Florida: Rabbi Leonid Feldman

By: Dr. Kelli Criss 

In our series, Faith in Florida, we’d like to familiarize the faith community with leaders who serve Florida in ministry and public service.  We posed four questions to leaders.  Each blog shares a leader’s responses with you.  We thank God for the service of these leaders and pray for them daily.  Today, we profile Rabbi Leonid Feldman

Rabbi Leonid Feldman 

Rabbi Leonid Feldman has been the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in West Palm Beach since 2005.  Born in the former Soviet Union, Rabbi Feldman has experienced violent anti-Semitism, imprisonment in Russia as a Zionist activist, Jewish rebirth, and freedom in the West. Rabbi Feldman holds graduate degrees in rabbinic studies from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, in Education from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and in Physics and Theater Arts from Kishinev State Pedagogical Institute in the USSR. He has completed course work towards a PhD in International Relations at the University of Miami. 

Your Faith’s Influence 

How has your faith influenced your decision enter ministry and to serve Florida?  

My road to faith and to God was a very atypical one. I was born and grew up in the former Soviet Union where religion was, in essence, illegal. As a high school physics teacher, I was also trained and was required to teach “Scientific Atheism.”  The textbook basically made fun of the Bible and insisted that only stupid and uneducated people could believe in God.  

On the other hand, as a Jew, I was often beaten and blamed for “killing Jesus.” I had no idea who Jesus was, but eventually a neighbor explained it to me.  

When I was a student in college, a dissident gave me a book about Israel. This is when I learned that Israel was a Jewish country and as a “Feldman,” I would not be discriminated against there. Miraculously, a couple of years later I arrived in Jerusalem. I saw many religious Jews in the streets and I was very curious about them, but nobody explained to me what Judaism was about. Israel was unprepared to deal with a committed atheist.  

I eventually came to the United States to study for a Ph.D., and here my transformation took place. I was very fortunate to have met two of the most gifted teachers of Judaism – Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. I became a “born-again Jew” and decided to learn as much about Judaism as possible. The more I read, the more I was falling in love with Jewish philosophy, traditions and history.  

One year later, I became a student in Rabbinical School and in 1987 I was ordained as the first and only Russian Conservative Rabbi in America.  

I have been a congregational Rabbi ever since then. 

Top 2021 Public Policy Priorities 

Considering your faith, what are your top public policy priorities in 2021?  

According to all polls and surveys, Jews are the least religious group in the United States. As a Rabbi, this is my main concern and priority. 

I try making Judaism relevant to Jews, and I must fight ignorance of basic ideas and concepts of Judaism among my people. In terms of public policy priorities, my priorities are very similar. Americans know nothing about the history of our unique country and “patriotism” has become almost a dirty word. I would love to return the Pledge of Allegiance and The Ten Commandments to the classrooms and I want our schools to teach basic Judeo-Christian values. The indoctrination and brain-washing of our youth begins very early, and as a result of this America is going through a dangerous crisis.   

Your Mentors 

Who has greatly influenced your relationship with God, whether family, mentor, friend, faith leader, or public figure?  

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin who was a major inspiration in my becoming a Rabbi is also my best friend. He has written many books and is highly respected as a public moral leader. I have been extremely fortunate having him as my mentor, my friend and my counselor. 

Current Reading  

 What books are you reading currently?  

I have recently read several books about King David who is my favorite hero in the Bible. I have just begun an important classic from the 1970s, “Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong” by William Kilpatrick. This book must be read by anybody interested in saving America. 

Getting to Know Rabbi Leonid Feldman  

For more information about Rabbi Leonid Feldman, explore his biography on the Temple Beth El website and watch his Bar Mitzvah speech.   

We’re excited to be profiling additional leaders who serve Florida’s faith community throughout the remainder of 2020. Be on the lookout for our Faith in Florida series.  Visit our Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition website and read previous blogs to learn more about us.   

Faith in Florida: Pastor Pam Olsen

By: Dr. Kelli Criss 

In our series, Faith in Florida, we’d like to familiarize the faith community with leaders who serve Florida in ministry and public service.  We posed four questions to leaders. Each blog shares a particular leader’s responses with you.  We thank God for the service of these leaders and pray for them daily.  Today, we profile Pastor Pam Olsen

Pastor Pam Olsen 

Pastor Pam Olsen is the Founder and President of the Florida Prayer Network, a statewide ministry that seeks to unite individuals, churches, and ministries in prayer and action for the state of Florida, the United States, and the world. Pam and her husband, Tenney, are Founders and Executive Directors of the Hilltop House of Prayer Tallahassee and pastors of Hilltop Church Tallahassee.  

Pam is also the State Director of the Florida Prayer Caucus Network under the direction of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. She has led prayer for 25 years at the Florida State Capitol weekly and during the legislative session she leads weekly prayer with legislators.  

Your Faith’s Influence 

How has your faith influenced your decision to enter ministry in order to engage public servants and to serve Florida’s faith community? 

My husband and I were pastors and I was a mother of four young children.  Our country was in trouble and I knew that I had to be a voice for truth and righteousness in the public arena. Twenty-nine years ago, I started speaking at city hall and county commissioner meetings to get them to enact proper laws in our community. We started a citizens group at our church to get out the vote. I heard Dr. James Dobson, Founder of Focus on the Family, ask “Is There Not a Cause” to stand up and be a voice, and I knew God was challenging me to do more. I was asked to lead the National Day of Prayer (NDP) for the state and to host the Florida State Capitol National Day of Prayer Observance.  

I lived 300 miles away from Tallahassee then, but I said yes. I started reaching out to pray with our government leaders. Now, twenty-six years later, I still host the NDP Observance, pray with leaders on an on-going basis and speak to them regarding biblical issues that matter to our state and nation. I moved to Tallahassee 20 years ago.  I have raised my family in Tallahassee and pastored in the city.  I currently serve on the Florida Faith-based and Community-based Advisory Council as the Legislative Lead and State Director for the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. It matters that Christians get involved in the area of government. I speak in committee hearings at the Capitol and meet and pray with legislators in Tallahassee, as well as in D.C. 

Top 2021 Public Policy Priorities 

 Considering your faith, what are your top public policy priorities in 2021?  

Fighting for the issue of the unborn, for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, for our government not to bow to “political correctness,” for parental consent laws, for biblical values in every area, and for religious freedom. 

Your Mentors 

Who has greatly influenced your relationship with God, whether family, mentor, friend, faith leader, or public figure?  

I was greatly influenced and discipled in the Word of God as a teenager by Dr. Buddy Hicks. He was asked by David Wilkerson to come disciple all the young people getting saved in Houston in 1970 during the Jesus Movement. He has greatly influenced my husband, Tenney and I. Also, Dr. James Dobson and his wife, Shirley have been a great influence on me, as a woman of God, wife and mother and to be involved in the governmental arena.  I am blessed to count them as mentors and friends. There are many others throughout the years that have boldly preached the Word and taught me to pray and stand up for righteousness. My husband and I pray together, study the Word together and pastor together, so he has been my constant and best influence in the Ways of Jesus since we met 50 years ago and married 41 years ago! 

Current Reading  

What books are you reading currently?  

Prayers that Avail Much for America by Germaine Copeland, Unlocking the Bible by David Pawson, and Healing Americas Wounds by John Dawson 

Getting to Know Pastor Pam Olsen 

For more information about Pastor Pam Olsen, check out the Hilltop House of Prayer website.   

We’re excited to be profiling additional leaders who serve Florida’s faith community throughout the remainder of 2020. Be on the lookout for our Faith in Florida series.  Visit the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition website and read previous blogs to learn more about us.   

Faith in Florida: Anna Paulina Luna

By: Dr. Kelli Criss  

Our Faith in Florida series aims to familiarize the faith community with Florida’s most influential leaders like candidates running for office in 2020 who uphold Judeo-Christian values.  We posed four questions to leaders. Each blog shares a particular leader’s responses with you.  We thank God for the service of these leaders and pray for them daily.  Today, we profile Anna Paulina Luna.   

Anna Paulina Luna  

Anna Paulina Luna is a Republican running to unseat former Republican turned Democrat Charlie Crist in Florida’s Congressional District 13.  As a proud Hispanic-American of Mexican descent, Anna was raised in the lower-income neighborhoods of Southern California by a single mother.  Anna’s formative years involved challenges like dealing with her father’s addiction struggles, losing her grandmother to AIDS contracted from heroin use, and being on-campus in high school when a fatal gang shooting took place.   

A United States Air Force (USAF) veteran and recipient of the Air Force Achievement Medal, Anna was honorably discharged with five years of USAF active duty service and one year of service in the Air National Guard.  Her undergraduate degree in Biology is from the University of West Florida.    

Anna has served as the Director of Hispanic Engagement for Turning Point U.S.A., a non-profit whose mission is to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government. Currently, Anna serves as the Chairwoman of Hispanic Initiatives at PragerU.  

As Saint Petersburg, Florida residents, Anna and her husband, Andy, met while serving in the USAF and were together when Andy was shot by enemy combatants in Afghanistan, for which he earned a Purple Heart. A decorated warrior, Andy was also awarded the Bronze Star and deployed to the Middle East four times.    

Let’s dive into Anna’s responses to four questions about her beliefs and goals.    

Your Faith’s Influence  

How has your faith influenced your decision to run for office and to serve Florida?   

I am a Christian and I absolutely do believe God has worked in my life to prepare me for this position. I can say that it was my faith that kept me going and out of trouble growing up, even when I had almost zero adult supervision and parental figures. Everything I stand for is backed by my faith to include my very pro-life stance on abortion. I am not afraid to talk about my faith in a public setting or on any of my public platforms.   

In August 2018, I was called by Charlie Kirk [founder TPUSA] one day before I was supposed to go to medical school. He offered me a job with TPUSA as the National Director of Hispanic Engagement. I had less than 24 hours to decide if I would be staying or going to medical school. I did not want to end up like Jonah and the whale, as I saw leading up to this time many indicators that I was being called to get involved in politics.   

Once I decided to stay, I ended up slingshotting to a position that has since become one of the most influential positions for a young woman in politics nationally. I have also since worked with PRAGER U, the Heritage Foundation, and a few other incredible non-profits. That was all God. I had no connections and doors opened in areas that I did not think possible. All I did was follow my faith.  

Top 2021 Public Policy Priorities  

Considering your faith, what are your top public policy priorities in 2021?   

1. Protecting Freedom of Religion: This is the backbone of the country and why the US was founded in the first place. This is my main priority as well as repealing the Johnson Amendment as this has prevented the church from speaking on biblical instruction that overlaps with voting and prevents freedom of speech.  

2. Pro-life: I want to fully end late term abortion and abortion, in general. A federal ruling in the instance of Roe v. Wade is wrong. Not only has there been far more scientific evidence that has come forth to prove (from a scientific perspective) what type of pain a developing baby can feel, but it also completely does away with the sovereignty of the state.   

3. Protecting the Second Amendment: This is the ONLY amendment that is put in place to ensure that every single other aspect of our constitution is protected to include freedom of religion.   

4. Fighting Marxism  

Your Mentors  

Who has greatly influenced your relationship with God, whether family, mentor, friend, faith leader, or public figure?   

My Dad. Although my dad struggled with a very severe drug addiction and was not really in my life, he was the only one that would continue to try to bring me to church when he had visitation with me. He made church part of the time we spent together.  

Current Reading   

What books are you reading currently?   

The Bible and The Heritage Foundation’s Policy Solution Handbook.  

Getting to Know Anna Paulina Luna   

For more information about Anna Paulina Luna, check out her campaign website.    

We’re excited to be profiling additional leaders who serve Florida’s faith community throughout the remainder of 2020. Be on the lookout for our Faith in Florida series.  Visit our Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition website and read previous blogs to learn more about us.    

Faith in Florida: Representative Ray Rodrigues

Representative Ray Rodrigues 

By: Dr. Kelli Criss 

In our series, Faith in Florida, we’d like to familiarize the faith community with leaders who serve Florida in ministry and public service. This series will also help people of faith learn more about candidates running for office in 2020 who uphold Judeo-Christian values.  We posed four questions to leaders. Each blog shares a particular leader’s responses with you.  We thank God for the service of these leaders and pray for them daily.  Today, we profile State Representative Ray Rodrigues

State Representative Ray Rodrigues 

A lifelong Republican, Representative Ray Rodrigues has served District 76 in the Florida House of Representatives since 2012.  In the Florida Legislature, Rep.  Rodrigues has championed issues that matter for Florida, including restoring and preserving our water quality, an open and transparent government, and lower taxes. Currently, Rep. Rodrigues is running for District 27’s State Senate seat. 

Rep. Rodrigues earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Berry College in Rome, Georgia and in 2017 earned his Master’s in Public Administration degree from Florida Gulf Coast University. 

Your Faith’s Influence 

How has your faith influenced your decision to run for office and to serve Florida?  

My faith is the foundation of my public service.  I originally ran for the Florida House of Representatives because of my belief that Christians have a duty to participate in government.  We are called to be in the world, but not of the world.  The political process is part of our world.  Therefore, it is critical that there are Christian voices in the process to advocate for biblical principles and morality as public policy is being formed. 

Top 2021 Public Policy Priorities 

Considering your faith, what are your top public policy priorities in 2021?  

As a Christian, I believe we have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens.  That is why I have prioritized and supported legislative proposals to protect our unborn, our children and our disabled.  While I feel good about the progress that Florida has made in these areas during my eight years of service in the Florida House of Representatives, there remains much work to be done that I look forward to continuing in the Florida State Senate. 

I believe segments of our economy that can result in addiction and abuse like alcohol, gambling, and drugs must be highly regulated and kept away from children.  I will continue to support legislation that pursues those goals and will resist the efforts of the libertarians and progressives to weaken and remove those safeguards. 

 Your Mentors 

Who has greatly influenced your relationship with God, whether family, mentor, friend, faith leader, or public figure?  

I’ve been blessed with great Christian mentors and encouragers through the years.   

When I left home for the first time to attend Berry College, I was blessed to attend church with Randy Richardson.  Randy was a professor at Berry, and he took me under his wing and served as a mentor throughout college and has remained a lifelong friend.   

At the church where I’ve worshipped for the past 26 years here in Fort Myers, I’ve been blessed with a minister, Randy Simmons, who is both a great teacher and a friend.  I’ve found that the church has always been a great place to find friends who positively impact my relationship with God. 

Finally, my wife Ruth Rodrigues is my closest friend.  We’ve been married for 28 years and together we have built a family centered on Christ.  Ruth always challenges me to live my faith rather than just talk about it, and pushes me to grow spiritually.  Finally, our son Rhett has drawn me closer to God because in him I see the love that God feels for us. 

 Current Reading  

What books are you reading currently?  

I am currently reading Arguing with Socialists by Glenn Beck.  Given that I will be facing a liberal progressive Democrat in the upcoming November election, I figure there could be good material in here to use on the campaign trail. 

I just finished reading Angel Eyes by Ace Atkins, continuing Robert Parker’s Spenser detective series.  The Spenser novels have long been one of my guilty pleasures and I’ve read them all.  It was a fun summer read. 

Getting to Know Representative Ray Rodrigues 

For more information about State Representative Ray Rodrigues, go to www.isayray.com and Rep. Rodrigues Florida House of Representatives page.   

We’re excited to be profiling additional leaders who serve Florida’s faith community throughout the remainder of 2020. Be on the lookout for our Faith in Florida series.  Visit the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition website and read previous blogs to learn more about us.   

For God and Country: The Christian Case for Trump

By: Dr. Kelli Criss 

This week we focus on the new book, For God and Country: The Christian Case for Trump (2020), by Dr. Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.  Dr. Reed is also the chairman and CEO of Century Strategies, the Atlanta-based public relations and public affairs firm.  His work in American politics includes eleven presidential campaigns, chairmanship of the Georgia Republican Party, and service on the Evangelicals for Trump Coalition.  Additionally, Dr. Reed is a prolific writer, having authored or edited seven bestselling books and columns in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and National Review.   

Politics, History, & Faith 

The significance of the title, For God and Country, lies in its parallelism with Dr. Reed’s own life.  In the book, he draws upon his knowledge of US history (evidenced by his PhD in history from Emory University), his expertise in American political strategy, and his deeply held Christian values.  The book is woven together with personal anecdotes detailing interactions between Dr. Reed and President Trump as well as the First Family.  The book aims to explain the various reasons that Trump is the “unlikely champion” of Christian values and to rally pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals to maintain their support of Trump.  

Hypocritical Heretics 

For God and Country describes the liberal media’s lingering befuddlement over Evangelical Christians’ backing Trump: “The only thing that has driven the liberal media more nuts than Trump’s presidency . . . is the fact that it was achieved with the full backing of Evangelical Christians” (Reed, 2020, p.8).  Dr. Reed enumerates various criticisms hurled by commentators like Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time, who said in 2016 that Evangelicals’ voting for Trump has laid bare “the shameful hypocrites they’ve always been” and that “Trump has nothing in common with Jesus.”  

Confounding the Liberal Media 

As the liberal media scratches its head over the fact that Trump even won in 2016, they daily review the mystery of Trump’s continued support from Evangelical Christians.  Why is the liberal media confounded by Evangelical Christians’ backing Trump? 

Dr. Reed (2020) proposes that the liberal media lacks understanding about the “civic aspirations of people of faith” and “the proper role of faith in God in a pluralistic society” (p. 9).  This misunderstanding by the liberal media implies that Evangelical Christians, due to their belief system, should only vote for sinless candidates who are embracing and carrying out Evangelical Christians’ moral principles impeccably. 

The liberal media preaches to the faith community that our vote should not be cast for imperfect candidates whose history includes missteps and whose platform includes the valued policy positions of Evangelical Christians whether pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, or pro-religious liberty.  Reed (2020) claims such commentary implies “the citizenship of Christians is reduced to a function of their piety – not love for America, advancing sound public policy, or a desire for the common good” (p. 9).  While we embrace our religious convictions through our vote, the liberal media daily proselytizes on a worldwide stage available 24 hours a day through laptops, iPhones, tv screens, and radio to win converts.  They seem unaware of their promotion of their own religion of judgement against dissenting views and of faith in secularism and humanism.   

Shame: The Real Goal 

What’s the goal of the liberal media’s criticism of Evangelical Christians on the basis of a perceived conflict between a vote for Trump and the Christian faith?  Shame – is the simple answer.  If they can criticize and malign us enough, perhaps the public shaming will keep us from casting our vote for Trump in 2020.   

Dr. Reed supposes that if the liberal media’s criticism were meant to promote morality in America, then perhaps Evangelical Christians would give weight to the liberal media’s complaints.  The hypocrisy of the media’s criticism of Evangelical Christians’ support for Trump relates directly to their loyalty to and promotion of the Clintons.  They want to shame us into staying home and silent, not only to make the 2020 election a referendum on Trump, but also because they vehemently reject our political convictions regarding the unborn, the family, and Israel. 

Power: 50 Million Christian Votes  

Without the 50 million Evangelical Christians and pro-life Catholic voters in 2016, Dr. Reed contends that Hilary Clinton would have been president.  We can only imagine what would have happened if Hilary Clinton were in charge.  Thankfully, we elected a president who is committed to conservative policies.  Namely, the Trump administration enacted the  Title X Protect Life Rule, relocated the American embassy to Israel to Jerusalem, and nominated two conservative, pro-life Supreme Court Justices, and 158 conservative, lifetime federal judges.  These nominations mean that nearly 1 in every 4 seats on U.S. appeals courts is now filled by a judge appointed by Trump. The Boston Globe has asserted that “the breadth of the Donald Trump legacy on the federal courts…will be with us for decades to come.”                                

Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition refuses to cower to the liberal media’s shame campaign against Evangelical Christians and pro-life Catholic voters.  We stand with the faith community to support and vote for leaders who uphold our Judeo-Christian values. Be sure to check out next week’s blog and to sign up for our newsletter.   

Faith in Florida: State Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez

By: Dr. Kelli Criss 

In our series, Faith in Florida, we aim to familiarize the faith community with candidates running for office in 2020 who uphold Judeo-Christian values.  We posed four questions to leaders. Each blog shares a particular leader’s responses with you.  We thank God for the service of these leaders and pray for them daily.  Today, we profile State Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez

Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez 

Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez is running for Florida Senate District 39 covering all of Monroe County and part of southern Miami-Dade County.  She has received the endorsement of Governor Ron DeSantis.  Representative Rodriguez was elected to the District 105 seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2018.  As the Senior Vice President of the Miami Association of Realtors, she holds a BS in Communications from Florida International University and MS in Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.  Representative Rodriguez resides in Doral, Florida with her husband, Dr. Clemente Canabal. 

Your Mentors 

Who has greatly influenced your relationship with God, whether family, mentor, friend, faith leader, or public figure? 

My parents have been the foundation of my relationship with God.  From the moment I was born, they raised me with the fundamental belief that I was born with a God-given purpose and mission during my time on earth.  When one is raised with and continues to live a purpose driven life, it makes everything so much more meaningful, especially if one chooses to follow a path of public service.  For many years I suppressed my desire to run for public office, thinking I could and would make my mark in other aspects (which I did).  However, a crossroads in my life (in 2010) presented the opportunity to run for public office.  I prayed over it and then made the decision to run, which turned out to be fruitful since its brought me to where I am today.  My decisions and votes as a public official have helped shape conservative public policy in our state, and I believe that because of my upbringing, especially my parents, I am where I am today. 

Florida House Experience 

 How does your experience in the Florida House inform the goals you plan to pursue in the Florida Senate? 

We made progress in many important areas of public policy over the last couple years as I’ve served in the Florida House.  I will look to continue that work in the Florida Senate, especially in key areas like protecting our water supply and natural environment, expanding school choice programs, and supporting policies that allow the economy to expand and entrepreneurs to create more jobs. 

Current Reading  

 What books are you reading currently? 

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks.  The book basically compares life to a series of mountains. The first mountain consists of financial or professional achievements, which may create a sense security, but not moral purpose.  When we seek the “Second Mountain” in our lives, it’s to find a greater purpose than ourselves.  In my case, I feel that I am on my “Second Mountain” as a public servant. 

Public Policy Issues in Southeast Florida 

What unique public policy issues exist in Senate District 39 or, more broadly, in southeast Florida which will need to be addressed in the next legislative session?  

Fortunately, we’ve worked to address many of the issues that are particularly important in Southeast Florida and will continue to do so.  Some examples include ensuring that we plan coastal communities in a resilient way going forward; making sure that private property rights are protected while balancing our communities’ needs as it relates to public policy around vacation rentals; investing in infrastructure to alleviate traffic congestion; investing in projects that will restore and protect our water quality and environment; and improving our natural disaster preparedness and relief efforts.  These issues and many more are perpetual, and we must keep them in focus to ensure that progress is consistently made.  Generally speaking, we must stay the course. 

Getting to Know Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez  

For more information about Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez, visit her Senate campaign website.   

We’re excited to be profiling additional leaders who serve Florida’s faith community throughout the remainder of 2020. Be on the lookout for our Faith in Florida series.  Visit the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition website and read previous blogs to learn more about us.   

Faith in Florida: Former State Representative Jason Brodeur

By Dr. Kelli Criss

In our series, Faith in Florida, we’d like to familiarize the faith community with leaders who serve Florida in ministry and public service. This series will also help people of faith learn more about candidates running for office in 2020 who uphold Judeo-Christian values.  We posed four questions to leaders. Each blog shares a particular leader’s responses with you.  We thank God for the service of these leaders and pray for them daily.  Today, we profile former State Representative Jason Brodeur. 

Former State Representative Jason Brodeur 

Jason Brodeur is a Republican running for the Senate District 9 seat. He worked for Procter & Gamble for nearly 12 years before starting his own local health care consulting business headquartered in Sanford, Florida.  His experience as a local business owner and community leader inspired him to run for State Representative in Florida House District 28 in 2010, and his positive track record earned the support of voters for his reelection every year since. Brodeur graduated from University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the College of Agriculture, and also earned his MBA from the University of Florida. 

Your Faith’s Influence 

How has your faith influenced your decision to run for office and to serve Florida?  

“As someone who was adopted to incredible parents, I believe my life has been very blessed. I feel like I have been called to serve to help those that maybe didn’t get the same chances I have gotten and to find a way to ensure we deliver for the most vulnerable among us.”   

Top 2021 Public Policy Priorities 

Question Two: Considering your faith, what are your top public policy priorities in 2021?  

“I would like to make sure that for whoever is suffering, whether through calamity or circumstance, there is a safety net for them to be able to get back on their feet or obtain the services they need for the fullest life possible.”   

 Your Mentors 

Question Three: Who has greatly influenced your relationship with God, whether family, mentor, friend, faith leader, or public figure?  

“Dr. Burk Parsons [Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel of Sanford, FL], hands down. I was drawn to the church by Dr. R.C. Sproul [American theologian and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America], but my friendship with Burk has allowed my faith to grow. His accessibility, knowledge, and sheer history of the faith has allowed me to explore questions and become more confident in the path that was chosen for me.”   

 Current Reading  

 Question Four: What books are you reading currently?  

“I’m actually in the middle of three books, which is a bit abnormal. The Splendid and the Vile about Churchill, The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, and I am finally tackling Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – but it is really, really long. I’m happy to report I make progress on all of them every week.”   

Getting to Know Jason Brodeur 

For more information about Jason Brodeur, check out the Brodeur for Florida Senate campaign website.   

We’re excited to be profiling additional leaders who serve Florida’s faith community throughout the remainder of 2020. Be on the lookout for our Faith in Florida series.  Visit our Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition website and read previous blogs to learn more about us.   

It’s Time For Christians To Speak Out

By Dr. Kelli Criss

In the current political climate, American people of faith can glean some timely wisdom from the example of persecuted Chinese Christians.  Particularly, the words of Pastor Bob Fu, founder and president of the international human rights organization, ChinaAid, are poignant.   

Today’s blog, It’s Time For Christians To Speak Out, focuses upon Pastor Bob Fu’s recent interview with the Christian Post.  Pastor Fu, known as “the pastor of China’s underground railroad,” details a “pandemic of persecution” facing Christians in China. We’ll discuss the encouragement being offered to the American church by persecuted Christians in China.  It’s time to embrace God’s strength in an area of weakness that American Christians have allowed to paralyze us from speaking out about our faith to neighbors and in the public square – fearing the rejection of others.   

Paradoxically, freedom can be a vice and persecution can unencumber.   

Pastor Bob Fu  

Pastor Bob Fu is founder and president of ChinaAid.  Under the leadership of Fu, ChinaAid stands up to the Communist Party in China through its “endeavors to expose the systematic persecution, harassment, torture, and imprisonment of Chinese Christians and human rights lawyers in China.”  Furthermore, this year’s William Wilberforce Award was bestowed upon Bob Fu.  Likewise, ChinaAid received the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy.   

“So What?” 

 Pastor Fu’s basic counsel to the American church is – “so what?”  In a recent interview with the Christian Post, Bob Fu recounts a meeting between Chinese Christian business owners and American Christian business leaders visiting China.  The Chinese Christians shared their methods for ministering within the workplace about the gospel message.  The American Christian business leaders explained that sharing their faith in the American workplace was not possible because of potential lawsuits from groups like the ACLU.  The Chinese Christians replied to their American counterparts, “So what?”   

Expanding upon the “so what?” counsel of the Chinese Christian business leaders, Pastor Fu asks the American church:  

Are we so intimidated by the culture, by the privatization of faith, by being accused of being right wing or all kinds of labels, or narrow minded? And then, we retreat from the public square, we retreat our faith . . . And are we really more fearful of the Lord than fearful of atheistic, secular culture, the pressure, the political moment? I think that is a tragedy. I think in the free world like America, I think we need to really, holistically, continuously, restore back to the spirit of the Early Church.” 

The Internationally Persecuted Church 

Pastor Fu is quick to point out that persecution of the church spans history and geography which is evident in Paul’s prison letters, the history of the Early Church, and beyond.  He explains about the Church’s persecution: 

It’s not a unique Chinese church experience. It’s happening to the churches in North Korea. It’s happening to the churches in Iran, under the extremism, militant Islamic kind of a dictatorship. So it happens in Nigeria.  And so, I think this not just the one unique experience, one country.” 

Pastor Fu’s words remind us at Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition to continue praying for persecuted communities of faith globally, and his statement spurs us to use our platform for sharing our faith boldly.  As Christ said,  

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33, New International Version) 

Like our brothers and sisters in faith around the world, we are scattered from one another, yet united by Immanuel, God with us.  Even without persecution, we can fashion our freedom into the benefit which it actually is – an opportunity to carry out redemptive ministries which share our experience, strength, and hope in Christ with colleagues and neighbors.   

“Quite Different” 

The faith community feels the pressure to avoid lawsuits and criticism from others by remaining silent about our spiritual life.  Of course, wisdom must be our guide as we relay our experiences within our sphere of influence; yet, when we see that a seeker is at some stage of readiness to hear the gospel, we challenge ourselves to speak now!  We leave you with some final thoughts from Bob Fu: 

I feel if we get back to the original, to honor the lordship of Christ, not only in a church building, not only on a religious occasion, that he is the Lord all the time. . . . So if we declare the sovereign lordship of Christ everywhere in our life, things in our church in the West will be quite different.” 

For more information about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, visit our webpage and read previous blogs.   

Note from Dr. Kelli Criss:  This blog is dedicated to my favorite missionaries to China and recognizes missionaries around the world who have been recalled to the U.S. because of the global public health crisis.  Knowing that “‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,’” we “‘ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (Luke 10:2, NIV).  

Additional Resources 

Entire Interview with Pastor Bob Fu 4/20/20 

 Fu and Senator Rubio on Remembering Tiananmen Square: Commemorating the 31st anniversary of the massacre   

China Removes over 250 Church Crosses in First Four Months of 2020 

Evangelism Over Isolation: The Coronavirus Provides Opportunities and Hurdles for Ministry to South Africa’s Chinese Population 

Cancelled Mission Trips Expected to Have Long-Term Fallout 

Glorifying His Name, Part III

By Dr. Kelli Criss

During the current series, we’ve considered how King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah received God’s victory over Judah’s enemies through humility, worship, obedience, and gratitude.  As we experience the global pandemic, we are witnessing God glorifying Himself.  Last week, we discussed America’s deliverance from Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturing

In today’s blog, Glorifying His Name, Part III, our focus is upon God’s delivering the people of faith from themselves and their idols and teaching us to love one another.  God is using the current crisis to deliver us from ourselves. 

“Deliver Us, Oh God!” 

The modern faith community, like the generations before it, is riddled with dependence upon ourselves rather than God.  We want to be in control.  The options for idols we seek to meet our own needs apart from God are innumerable – money, hedonism, perfectionism, people-pleasing, codependency, impurity, intellectualism, science, government, socialism, workaholism, etc.  Consider how we can worship education and human accomplishment and believe that they are our hope just as Paul once did.  

Paul’s Testimony 

Paul was a man who had achieved the highest levels of religious education as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5, New International Version) and who was “faultless” regarding how he kept the law (Philippians 3:6, NIV).  As the archetypal “enlightened religious man,” Paul recognized the worthlessness of his own resume of religious education and behaviors:  

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:8-9, NIV) 

It’s noteworthy that Paul did not recognize the “garbage” that had once filled his resume until he was struck blind and gained a clear awareness of Christ on the road to Damascus.  At Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, we feel God is glorifying Himself by using the current crisis to show us the worthlessness of the idols we use to prop ourselves up. 

Chosen Instruments 

Why did God need to deliver Paul from his character defects/idols?  Certainly, it was simply God’s will for Paul to be free from self-reliance and the worship of intellectual and religious accomplishments.  Likewise, it was God’s will to deliver Paul from himself so that he could have a redemptive ministry which would serve people.  His service to others enabled people to be rescued from themselves and be made free in Christ.  When God sent Ananias to pray for Paul’s sight to return and for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Ananias hesitated and reminded the Lord of the severe persecution levied by Paul upon the church.  The Lord elucidated the importance of Paul’s deliverance by saying to Ananias, “‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel’” (Acts 9:15, NIV). 

Like Paul, we are being delivered from our idols so that we may carry out redemptive ministries as “chosen instruments” who will support people of faith and people who do not have a relationship with God.  We know that even during the global public health crisis and America’s civil unrest, God is on His throne and ruling over everything with a redemptive purpose.  God is for us, not against us.  God is our ONLY security, wisdom, strength, righteousness, holiness, peace, and joy in the midst of crisis. 

We thank God for all He has and will do in our world.  The faith community is rising to minister through God’s redemptive work in our own lives so that those around us may also be delivered.  

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV) 

Around the world, we’ve seen God’s “chosen instruments” at work during the current public health and economic crises offering God’s comfort through redemptive ministries.   

Redemptive Ministry in South Africa  

One example of a powerful redemptive ministry is found in South Africa.  Recent international news has featured Andie Steele-Smith, former Australian banker who now serves as a missionary in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa.  Over the last five years, his ministry has focused upon the poor and gangs in the townships or shantytowns.   Steele-Smith has led “murderers and drug lords to cooperate amid the coronavirus pandemic as a new distribution network for soap and emergency food delivery.” This ministry was desperately needed in Cape Town, which as of late May, accounted for 60 percent of the coronavirus cases in South Africa.   

Steele-Smith has seen God use the gifts of the gang members for the kingdom as they help distribute soap and food: “When people are set free from alcoholism, they still need to drink something. Gangsterism identifies the best entrepreneurs in a community. But they need legitimate enterprise so they can use their same skills and hustle for God’s kingdom and their community.” 

God is glorifying Himself around the world through servants like Steele-Smith.  During the current pandemic and civil unrest, Florida is called to serve others with the comfort and redemption God has given us.   

For more about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, visit our website and read our previous blogs

Glorifying His Name, Part II

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Our blog series about the testimony of King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah during an impossible battle has focused upon God’s glorifying Himself through our current war against the global enemy, the coronavirus.  Last week, we considered how God has placed the home at the center of children’s education and exposed the lies of socialism to millennials during our current war on COVID-19. Today’s blog, Glorifying His Name, Part II, focuses on more examples of God’s working for the good of America and the world during the global pandemic. 

China’s Rise – Courtesy of the Clinton Administration 

In May 2000, President Clinton was hailed by the liberal media for his triumph in granting China permanent normal trading privileges.   After our government furnished these special trade privileges to China, they rapidly absorbed our pharmaceutical market as well as other manufacturing sectors like steel and aluminum.  

During the last two decades, American pharmaceutical factories have been closing.  China has strategically dismantled America’s pharmaceutical manufacturing through protecting their own singular interests as a dominant producer of pharmaceuticals.  Through government subsidies and poor safety requirements, China has inundated the U.S. market with inexpensive, unsafe drugs.  

After Clinton’s trade deal with China in 2000, we began losing pharmaceutical factories.  Until we finally lost our last antibiotics manufacturer, the Bristol Myers Squibb East Syracuse, NY factory, which stopped penicillin production in the mid-2000s.  In fact, from 1943 to the mid-2000s, the East Syracuse factory had manufactured almost 70% of the world’s penicillin.   

For too long, we have allowed China to set the rules of the pharmaceutical market so that everyone else is at their mercy.  We lost much more than jobs as American pharmaceutical factories closed.  The U.S. lost our supply of safe drugs.   

American Deliverance from Chinese Pharmaceutical Manufacturing 

Now, Senator John Cotton (R- Arkansas) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) are calling for America to fight back against China’s dominance and establish our own secure, reliable pharmaceutical manufacturing.  Their bill, Protecting Our Pharmaceutical Supply Chain From China Act, would prohibit federal agencies and departments (i.e., the Department of Defense, Medicare, and Medicaid) from purchasing medications with Chinese ingredients by 2025.  This bill enables U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers to transition back to higher production levels over a span of years while also putting the squeeze on importers to eliminate their trade with China’s pharmaceutical industry.    

In Awe of His Goodness 

We thank God for delivering us from our adversaries like the Chinese government.  As we’ve faced the blight of COVID-19, God has not wasted any opportunity to bring deliverance to us.  Just as the people of Judah and King Jehoshaphat turned to God with gratitude for the victory He gave, we are in awe of God’s goodness, always, but especially during the current public health crisis.  The prophet Jeremiah’s words amplify God’s steadfast faithfulness toward His people:  

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”  (Jeremiah 29:11-14, New International Version) 

Join us next week, as we consider more ways that God is glorifying Himself during the pandemic.  If He delivered King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah from hordes of enemies, then we know God will help us as we face the current enemy, COVID-19. 

To learn more about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, check out our websitesign up for our newsletter, or read previous blogs.   

Related Articles 

US Intelligence Documents Accuse China of Covering Up Coronavirus Outbreak 

Glorifying His Name, Part I

By Dr. Kelli Criss

We join the rest of the faith community in continuing to pray for peace and safety during the current public health crisis and social unrest. We pray for a clarity of vision to see what God is doing to answer our prayers for righteousness in America and for leaders to uphold Judeo-Christian values.  We want children and families to be guided by God’s principles.  We seek the defeat of socialism in our Republic.  God is answering these prayers through His favor and blessing during the current global pandemic and unrest.    

In our series about the nation of Judah’s and King Jehoshaphat’s miraculous victory and testimony during their national crisis, we have recalled God’s faithfulness to the world during COVID-19.  Last week, we considered the securing of international borders during the pandemic.  This week’s blog, Glorifying His Name, Part I, considers the insight we experience from God’s peace.  We’ll name further examples of how we see God working on behalf of humanity.  God is defeating COVID-19 just as He delivered the people of Judah during an impossible battle.   

Removing Fear  

The power in God’s victory for the people of Judah was not only in its impact upon surrounding kingdoms, but also in the way the nation’s gratitude brought them peace. According to 2 Chronicles 20:30, peace was not only around the nation, but within it: “And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side” (NIV).  After the paralyzing fear of the unknown and their powerlessness, King Jehoshaphat and his people had peace and rest.  Gratitude removes fear.  Praise and worship of God for who He is – removes fear.  Obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit removes fear.  Remembering to thank our God for His grace, favor, faithfulness, and power removes fear.   

God-centered Clarity 

As the nation of Judah and King Jehoshaphat turned their attention and meditation to God in prayer and fasting, the people stopped focusing solely upon their circumstances of being drawn into an unprovoked attack from a multinational force.  The people of Judah focused upon the Lord through God-centered praying and fasting.  The nation heard from the Lord and obeyed Him as the Holy Spirit empowered them to do.  God won the battle for the people of Judah.  Through their gratitude, God granted the people of Judah peace and removed their fear.  When fear is gone, God’s children see clearly what God is actually doing – glorifying His name.   

Educating Children within the Family  

Through the peace and subsequent clarity God has given us, the faith community is seeing God’s movement to glorify His name.  At Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, we believe God is glorifying His name during the current crisis through moving U.S. education out of the government’s hands and fully into the family’s realm.  Since March, American children have been embedded more deeply into their families where they are home-schooling and spending quality time together. Although the juggling of work and home-schooling is overwhelming for parents, we are seeing how much time together with our children offers all of us.   

Now, the textbooks of government-run schools are under even more scrutiny from parents who can identify the revisionist history and the anti-God message woven into these texts.  More time together means more opportunities for parents to model a relationship with God just through working together on life’s ordinary tasks.  After all, more is caught than taught.  Our children absorb who we are in our everyday relationship with them rather than particular “lessons” we attempt to teach them explicitly.   

Exposing Socialism’s Lies 

Millennials have supported socialist candidates like Bernie Sanders because they believe that government needs to control society to make life better for everyone.  God has blessed millennials during the pandemic by allowing them to have real experience of government control, rather than merely ideals.  Although the actions taken by governments to require citizens around the world to stay at home have been necessary, being isolated from one another by government order involves millennials’ being told to do something whether they agree or not.   

Now, millennials may better understand that more government control can border on tyranny.  Socialism is tyranny’s twin.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” 

Join us next week as we delve further into how God is moving during the global crisis and national unrest to glorify His name.  Visit the Florida Faith and Freedom website to sign-up for our newsletter or read previous blogs.   

Gratitude’s Power

By Dr. Kelli Criss

At Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, we see the importance of avoiding the snares set by the radical left and the media who insist the global pandemic falls on Trump’s shoulders alone.  They falsely assert that recovery relies totally on the political leaders of our day. We know that the faith community possesses power and influence from God to be part of the solution ourselves. 

Today’s blog, Gratitude’s Power, discusses how King Jehoshaphat and Judah reacted to God’s victory and favor with worship and thanksgiving and how the faith community can learn from the people of Judah’s testimony.  We discuss the ways God’s victory over COVID-19 is unfolding even now.   

Thanking God 

After the tremendous victory over their enemies, King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah remembered to thank God for who He is – sovereign, all-powerful, gracious, just, and generous.  They expressed gratitude for all God had done for them: 

On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day. Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies.  They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. (2 Chronicles 20: 26-28, New International Version) 

Berakah means praise.  Just as worship and praise led the nation of Judah into battle, praise led them into their future after the crisis.  Whether the faith community is facing trouble or triumph, relating to God through praise and gratitude is our guide and constant.   

Like the people of Judah, the faith community has united for prayer and fasting.  We meditated upon God’s attributes during the Florida National Day of Prayer livestream and heard God’s word communicated through faith leaders. 

Impacting Surrounding Kingdoms 

As King Jehoshaphat and his nation, Judah, turned to God for help, they shared a testimony that impacted their neighbors in the surrounding kingdoms.  Of course, God had accomplished the victory and granted the spoils; yet, the people of Judah and their king, had been obedient to God.  This interaction between God and His people possesses tremendous power to impact everyone around the faith community: “The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel” (2 Chron. 20:29, NIV).   

God was glorified through the nation of Judah’s testimony.  As people of faith, we are always eager for our lives to be a vibrant testimony which will help people know God.  This truth feels even more poignant during the current global crisis when suffering is rampant.  So, how has God impacted the “surrounding kingdoms” during His victory over COVID-19? 

Border Security 

 The faith community is seeing God’s movement to glorify His name.  At Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, we believe God is glorifying His name during the current crisis through securing international borders.   

Borders are being closed or highly monitored via restrictions throughout the world.  At home in the U.S., since April Trump has repeatedly extended border closures for non-essential travel with Canada and Mexico through June, 2020.  Furthermore, the Trump administration has restricted travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals from various countries to protect America from the spread of the coronavirus.  Before the pandemic, the media and political opponents labeled President Trump as xenophobic for focusing upon border security through measures like building the wall and increasing border security staffing.   

Now, even globalism-focused Europe has imposed travel and border access restrictions. Consider how globalism has been the rallying cry in Europe during recent decades; however, during the pandemic Europe has closed and/or limited travel within the bloc and from neighboring countries around the European Union (EU) bloc’s borders.  Although on the surface these European border restrictions are a response to coronavirus, God is using these restrictions to protect nations from threats by causing leaders to decide to secure their borders.  Hasn’t the faith community prayed for God to create security along borders around the world? We can worship God with gratitude.  He is answering our prayers.   

Next week, we’ll discuss further examples of God working during the current crisis.  God is fulfilling His promise to make “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB).    

For more information about the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, visit our website to read previous blogs or signup for our newsletter.   

Responding to God’s Command

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Unfortunately, the current public health crisis has become politicized.  The radical left is using the coronavirus to attempt to stop the re-election of President Trump.  Democrats and the media elite are blaming the administration for this naturally occurring pandemic.  While we need leadership from the president and government officials, whatever impact COVID-19 has, it is no match against God’s plan for His children.   

In recent blogs, we considered how King Jehoshaphat led the people of Judah in fasting and prayer centered upon God’s faithfulness and justice.  God’s answer to the prayers of Judah came through Jahaziel, who proclaimed that the battle was God’s to fight and that the people did not have to fear.  Today’s blog, Responding to God’s Command, emphasizes King Jehoshaphat’s and Judah’s reaction to God’s words.   

Obedience to God’s Words 

King Jehoshaphat responded to God’s revelation of Himself and His plan with humility, worship, and obedience.  2 Chronicles 20:18 describes how “Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord” (New American Standard Bible).  What an impactful act of humility for the king of Judah to “bow his head with his face to the ground” as he worshipped God in the presence of the nation he led.  King Jehoshaphat’s leadership had guided the nation of Judah into prayer and now he ushered his people into worship.  (In Jehoshaphat’s response, we see a powerful reminder of the value of righteous leadership for a country.  As goes the king, so goes the nation.) 

Worship Leads the Charge 

Next, the priests, “the Levites . . . stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel, with a very loud voice” as they joined the king in worship (2 Chron. 20:19).  The following morning, they went to the battlefield to face the enemy.  When they started the journey toward the battlefield, King Jehoshaphat addressed the people saying “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem!  Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chron. 20:20, NASB).  How amazing that this verse is the 20th chapter and 20th verse of 2 Chronicles.  We can have “20-20” vision to face the battle when we have faith in God’s words.   

Subsequently, Jehoshaphat “consulted with the people” and organized them for battle (2 Chron. 20:21, New International Version).  The way he organized the people carried significance – they were instructed to worship ahead of the soldiers in order to face their enemies: 

Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” (2 Chron. 20:21, NIV) 

God’s enduring love was on their lips as they marched into battle.  This is the faith community’s model for facing our current enemy, the coronavirus.  Let us speak about the love of God to everyone around us so that we are prepared for battle.   

God’s Victory and Abundant Favor 

God was at work before Judah could even reach the battlefield: “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (2 Chron. 20:22, NIV).  It was as they worshipped the Lord that Judah received the fulfillment of God’s promise.  Indeed, God satisfied His commitment to fight the battle for Judah.  Likewise, as we worship God during this crisis, God is acting to fulfill His promises to us.   

As if winning an impossible battle and saving Judah from slaughter weren’t enough, God blesses the nation abundantly after the battle is won: 

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. (2 Chron. 20: 24-25, NIV) 

Judah received the blessing, grace, and favor of God as a result of the people’s actions (fasting, praying, waiting, listening, obeying, and responding to God’s answer through worship).   

By recalling God’s faithfulness to the nation of Judah, the faith community can understand how to respond to God during the pandemic and can be encouraged by Judah’s testimony.  Just as the king admonished Judah’s people to have faith in the message of the prophets, we recall the words of God’s messengers in the Scriptures so that we may have godly success in our current struggles.  We stand together assured that God is at work as we worship Him in the charge onto the battlefield of this crisis.   

Join us next week, as we consider how Judah thanked God for His favor and received peace without fear.   

To sign up for our newsletter or find out more about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, visit our website.   

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Over the past two weeks, we have discussed how Judah faced an unprovoked attack from myriad enemies.  We have considered how King Jehoshaphat of Judah guided the nation through a turbulent time.  He acknowledged his fears to God, fasted, and prayed with a focus upon God’s attributes.  Today, our blog, The Battle Belongs to the Lord, emphasizes waiting upon God and listening during the current public health and economic crisis. 

During the challenging and uncertain era presently facing the world, we glean wisdom as we remember all that God has done for His people throughout history.  With the time we have been given, the faith community seeks God in prayer and awaits His response just as Judah did when the nation encountered an impossible battle.  

Judah Waits and Listens 

After the people of Judah had fasted and prayed focusing upon God’s attributes and character, Judah and their king waited on God: “All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives, and their children” (2 Chronicles: 20:1, New American Standard Bible).  They were standing and waiting to hear from God.  At this point, Jahaziel, the Levite, was empowered by the Spirit of the Lord to share God’s message for which Judah had waited.  Jahaziel proclaimed: “You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah” (2 Chron 20:17, NASB).  

Our Battle Belongs to the Lord 

We can apply God’s message for Judah to our current battle, not only against COVID-19, but to the job loss and financial hardship many are experiencing.  If Jahaziel were speaking to God’s people today, we might hear: “Do not fear or be dismayed of this great multitude [of financial and public health problems], for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chron. 20:15, NASB).  When mankind admits to God our fear and powerlessness, submits to the Lord with prayer and fasting, waits upon God, and listens for God’s instructions, we hear His plan and receive the Lord’s comfort and support.   

God’s Ability to Speak 

What if we just cannot hear God? Won’t that keep us from receiving God’s revelation just as Jahaziel heard for Judah? It’s not about our ability to hear, it’s about God’s ability to speak.  And God is perfectly able to speak.  All we must do is wait.  We can wait confidently with the expectation and certainty that God will share His plan.   

Next week, join us as we explore the nation of Judah’s response to God’s plan and how the people’s fear dissipated. Visit our website for more information about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition or to read previous blogs.   

Florida’s 2020 National Day of Prayer

By Dr. Kelli Criss

On Thursday, May 7, 2020, Florida’s National Day of Prayer (NDP), was hosted via livestream by the Florida Prayer Network along with Hilltop House of Prayer. Today’s blog, Florida’s 2020 National Day of Prayer, shares the prayers of civil government and faith leaders during the event and the history of the NDP.  

FLORIDA’S FAITH 

Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, Governor Ron DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, CFO Jimmy Patronis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Representative Mel Ponder along with Florida’s civic government and faith leaders sought God’s blessing for our beloved state and country during Florida’s NDP.  

Pastor Pam Olsen, the event’s organizer, opened in prayer outside the Old Capitol with these words: “Father God, I thank you for the privilege to stand here at the heart of our state government. God, crying out for America that we need you.  Jesus, we need you to come and heal our land. . . . Stop this virus.  Heal hearts.  Heal the economy.”

Governor DeSantis explained “With faith guiding the way, we will emerge stronger than before. . . .My prayer for all Floridians is that we continue to carry an appreciation of what truly matters in life and that we gain a new understanding of our true strength. In the face of fear and crisis, we are resilient.”

Rabbi Leonid Feldman of Temple Bethel in Palm Beach shared: “Master of the Universe, as the entire world continues to combat this dreadful scourge, we are grateful to you for inspiring the heroes who are sacrificing their lives day after day and for granting wisdom to our government officials so they can make the right decisions.  We ask you to help us understand that we all truly are one.  Dear God, remind us that every human being was created in your image and that every person has unique value and dignity. . . .Teach us . . . to realize that what we used to call menial jobs are in fact, essential. . . .Help us dear God to see the good in people so that we will, indeed, be able to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” 

THE WHITE HOUSE

President Trump released a Proclamation for the 2020 NDP stating: “On this National Day of Prayer, Americans . . . join together and lift up our hearts, remembering the words of 1 John 5:14 that tell us when ‘we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.’”  Faith and Freedom Coalition National Chairman, Dr. Ralph Reed, joined faith leaders from across the nation at the White House on Thursday for the National Day of Prayer.

THIS YEAR’S NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER – DIFFERENT FROM THE PAST

According to the National Day of Prayer.Org, over 60,000 community prayer gatherings typically occur on the first Thursday of May across America.   The National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force confirmed that this powerful observance would neither “be canceled nor postponed–but will look very different from years past.” The 2020 NDP event involved “new and creative approaches, combined with unprecedented access to digital platforms . . . to mobilize millions in unified, public prayer for America . . . with the potential to become the largest prayer ‘gathering’ in U.S. history – with millions praying together, individually.”

BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

Let’s look back at how our government observed previous national days of prayer that predated the American Revolution.  Before the United States was established, the tradition of praying as a nation on a predetermined date was already occurring.  The Continental Congress, the legislative body which governed the U.S. from 1774-1789, made the first proclamation in 1775 designating a day for prayer. 

Another proclamation made by Congress was designated for May 17, 1776 in the colonies.  The proclamation declares that the colonists must “confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his [God’s] righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness.”  As colonists prepared for revolution against the British crown, Massachusetts wanted printings of the proclamation for churches to be distributed.  Rather than employing the traditional “God Save The King” maxim, the printings’ closing read “God Save This People.”

A YOUNG REPUBLIC PRAYS

Subsequently, throughout Revolutionary War, the Congress continued to set at least two national days of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer,” according to the Library of Congress.  As the Civil War ravaged our country, President Abraham Lincoln called for a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in an 1863 proclamation.

MODERN DAY OBSERVANCES

During President Truman’s administration, the NDP became a formalized annual tradition, established through a joint resolution of Congress in 1952.  Later President Reagan’s administration fixed the first Thursday of every May as the NDP.  This national observance includes yearly proclamations by our presidents which ask our Republic to pray.  Since 1952, every president has signed such a yearly National Day of Prayer Proclamation.  Only four presidents have issued several National Day of Prayer Proclamations within the same year: Presidents Gerald Ford, George H. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

Join us next week as we continue our series about God’s protection over Judah during unfathomable fear and trouble.  To learn more about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, visit our website to sign-up for our newsletters and to read previous blogs

God Is

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Last week, we discussed King Jehoshaphat’s process for turning to God in the midst of war.  To overcome his panic over the enemy, he admitted his fear of the unknown and his powerlessness.  Shifting his focus from only the problem, he went to God with his own limitations.  Today, our blog, God Is, emphasizes the content of Jehoshaphat’s prayers. 

God’s attributes pervaded Jehoshaphat’s prayers as he submitted to God.  King Jehoshaphat focused upon God’s sovereignty, power, faithfulness, grace, and justice.   

Sovereignty and Power 

God’s sovereignty and power supersedes all created things.  No force in the universe is strong enough to stand against His power.  All other power in our world is derived from God, who shares His power. King Jehoshaphat proclaims God’s sovereignty and power as he prays: “Are you not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations?  Power and might are in your hand so that no one can stand against you” (2 Chron. 20:6, New American Standard Bible).  This power is spiritual.  Today during the global pandemic, we ask God to fill us with His Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might so that we and those around us will become people who build a society in which justice, truth, mercy, and goodness prevail.   

Faithfulness 

The faithfulness of God arises in Jehoshaphat’s words: “Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham your friend forever?” (2 Chron 20:7, NASB).  God made Abraham a promise in Genesis 12:1-6 and Genesis 17:1-8 to make him into a great nation, to bless him, and to bless all the world’s families through him.  In the book of Joshua, God’s promise was fulfilled.   

Moses said, “There is no one like the God of Israel.  He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor.  The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27, New Living Translation).  Unlike fickle human beings, God never wavers in His commitments due to boredom, fear, weakness, difficulty, or selfishness.  How would our lives change if we truly understood God’s faithfulness? Would we be so frustrated and fearful if we knew that God would never break His promises because He cannot be faithless to Himself?  Wouldn’t we have more peace if we could daily renew a complete confidence in God? 

Grace and Justice 

The grace of God also emerges in Jehoshaphat’s prayer as he proclaims, “We will stand before this temple . . . in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple)” (2 Chron. 20:9, New King James Version).  God’s presence indicates a supernatural persevering love for us.  That love confers such favor upon us.  God’s love sustains us even if we waver in our love for God.  Jehoshaphat focuses on God’s justice as he prays “O our God, will You not judge them?” (2 Chron. 20:12, NKJV).  Judah faces an unprovoked attack.  The nation seeks God’s justice in relation to the country’s undertaking the meritless attack.   

Following Judah’s Example 

As the world contends with our own fears and powerlessness during the COVID-19 onslaught, the faith community is being called to submit to God in prayer.  We can follow the example set by Judah and King Jehoshaphat as they focused upon God’s attributes during prayer and fasting.  Today, we can recall examples of God’s sovereignty, power, faithfulness, grace, and justice; meditate upon these examples; and share with those around us.  We can extract these examples from our lives and from Scripture.  Indeed, God has been faithful to mankind throughout eternity.    

Next week, join us as we discuss how Judah waited upon God’s response to the nation’s prayers.  We will explore God’s answer to King Jehoshaphat and Judah’s prayers.  Resolving to wait for God’s response to their prayers enabled Judah to listen for a divine plan rather than relying solely on human intellect. 

For more information, check out Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition’s website where you’ll find previous blogs and a newsletter sign-up form.   

Fixing Our Eyes Upon God

By Dr. Kelli Criss

When the world is troubled, God is with us.  As COVID-19 impacts the globe and Holy Week has just occurred, the faith community turns to God and our holy texts.  This week’s blog, Fixing Our Eyes Upon God, brings attention to God’s presence and work during our shared struggle.  We examine the experience of King Jehoshaphat for insight into how we can focus on God in the midst of trouble. 

Jehoshaphat Reigns over Judah 

Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah for 25 years (2 Chronicles 17-20; 1 Kings 22:42-43).  During his reign, he made a disastrous alliance with Ahab, King of Israel (2 Chron. 18:1).  An infamous union, Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel is known for the pagan practices their relationship ushered into the kingdom of Israel.  The alliance between King Jehoshaphat of Judah and King Ahab of Israel involved a marriage between Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, and Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah. 

Athaliah’s influence brought pagan practices to Judah that Jehoshaphat had to purge from his kingdom (2 Chron. 19).  King Jehoshaphat further ensured that the Mosaic Law was known and understood in Judah (2 Chron. 17:7-9).  He reorganized the judiciary, assigning judges in the more important cities of his kingdom (2 Chron. 19).  He strengthened the defenses along his norther frontier near the boundary between Israel and Judah (2 Chron. 17:2).   

An Impossible Battle  

Jehoshaphat not only struggled with pagan influences within his kingdom, but also he faced enemies from without.  2 Chronicles 20:2 (New International Version) explains that “a vast army is coming against” Jehoshaphat.  The Moabites turned their wrath against him and induced the Ammonites, the Syrians, and the Edomites to unite with them.  Jehoshaphat, believing that his help would come from God, proclaimed a fast, and the people assembled in Jerusalem to implore God for divine assistance (2 Chron. 20:3, NIV).  After he finished praying, Jehaziel, a Levite, proclaimed deliverance in the name of the Lord, assuring Judah’s overthrow of the enemy without a blow: 

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (2 Chron. 20:15, 17, NIV). 

Indeed, Judah’s enemies quarreled among themselves and destroyed each other (2 Chron. 22-23). 

Jehoshaphat Turns to God  

Before the battle was won, Jehoshaphat’s circumstances were overwhelming.  Let’s examine how King Jehoshaphat overcame his enemies.  First, he admitted fear:  ‘Jehoshaphat was afraid” (2 Chron. 20:3).  Second, he admitted the sources of his fear: 

  • The Unknown:  “nor do we know what to do” (2 Chron.20:12, NIV). 
  • Powerlessness:  “We are powerless before a great multitude who are coming against us” (2 Chron. 20:12, NIV). 

Jehoshaphat’s powerlessness shows he knew that the problem was bigger than his ability, resources, wisdom, and experience.  He felt vulnerable as a king, wondering whether the people God had entrusted to him would die and whether he would face failure and defeat.  He was afraid of having no security.  David said, ‘The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.  He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103: 13-14, New Living Translation). 

Third, he focused on the Lord: “Jehoshaphat turned his attention to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 20:3, NIV).  The people of Judah “gathered together to seek help from the Lord’ (2 Chron. 20:4, NIV).  He focused on God using several tools:  a) he called himself and the people to fast and pray (2 Chron. 20:4, NIV) and b) his prayer focused on the Lord and his attributes, particularly. 

During the uncertainty the world endures today as we battle an invisible enemy, the circumstances seem as overwhelming as Jehoshaphat’s battle against many enemies.  The faith community looks to the testimony of God’s deliverance of Jehoshaphat from an impossible and terrifying predicament.  It’s noteworthy that Jehoshaphat had not been a perfect king.  Hadn’t he aligned his son with a wife who ushered paganism into Judah?  God heard Jehoshaphat’s cry in spite of his mistakes and because of Jehoshaphat’s willingness to admit his need for God’s help.   

Our Challenge 

Whatever our human errors and squabbles, God is present and at work during our current crisis.  This is certainly true for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Governor DeSantis as well as our brave first responders, doctors, and nurses.  None of us is perfect.  Our government’s leadership and the faith community have an opportunity to admit our fears and powerlessness and to seek God humbly in prayer.   

We’ll see you next week when we discuss the attributes of God that pervaded Jehoshaphat’s prayers as he submitted to God.  Until then, stay safe, keep praying, and share your faith with those around you.  You can sign-up for our newsletter and get further information about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition on our homepage

Germ Theory and Public Health

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Last week, we considered how germ theory advanced the discovery of vaccines.  As the world continues its struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19, our blog, Germ Theory and Public Health, emphasizes the impact germ theory had in the last quarter of the nineteenth century upon health institutions, medical practitioners, and the public.  

Germ Theory’s Revolution 

From 1875-1900, scientists like Louis Pasteur in France and Robert Koch in Germany helped develop germ theory that remains the standard in medicine over a century later.  Their discoveries helped science understand the microbiology behind diseases that gripped the population.  Typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and tetanus were demystified, preventable, containable, and curable thanks to scientific advances.   

Targeted Prevention 

During the late nineteenth century when scientists could specifically identify the pathogen causing an illness, they could also improve prevention.  Efforts to improve public health were possible through helping the population avoid environmental conditions that accelerated disease.  At this time in America, major cities experienced tuberculosis as the leading cause of death.  Identification of the pathogens causing tuberculosis enabled test development which revealed high levels of infection in individuals that existed only as a dormant form of tuberculosis in the 1890s.  To curb the advancing of the disease to an active state, cities worked to correct housing and working conditions which accelerated the stimulation of active tuberculosis.  Likewise, officials worked to cleanse water supplies that could carry cholera and efforts were made to pasteurize milk in order to avoid fever linked to unpasteurized milk.   

Sterilization Techniques  

As germs made more sense to scientists, techniques for preventing infection through sterilization created advances in surgery.  Operating rooms could be cleansed to eradicate bacteria and a process of sterile procedures were instituted in operations to keep germs out.  As surgery became safer and the discovery of X rays enabled better diagnosis for problems requiring surgery, the use of surgery expanded.   

Practice of Medicine Expands 

During the late nineteenth century, population shifts, transportation expansion and communication technology advances led to an influx of medical professionals in cities where doctors were easily accessible to their patients and fellow physicians.  The population was leaving the rural areas for urban ones.  Railroads connected cities and created hubs just as streetcar lines enabled intra-city movement.  As people moved and railroads expanded, doctors relocated to cities, often establishing their offices by streetcar lines and near hospitals.  The telephone enabled patients to rapidly reach physicians and enabled doctors to contact other physicians, hospitals, and pharmacies.   

As doctors became more accessible, then competition took over leading to decreased costs for patients.  Medical insurance did not emerge until the end of the nineteenth century; however, some protection was available through union and immigration society’s providing benefits for membership.  As more people moved to cities, hospitals emerged to help care for patients who had no relatives to help them when they were sick.   

Improved Medical Education & Regulation 

Likewise, as more doctors practiced and more hospitals emerged, regulation of medical education increased when previously in the first half of the nineteenth century medical education was not standardized, and doctors were not licensed.  A landmark decision in 1888 by the U.S. Supreme Court, Dent v. West Virginia established the states’ right to license physicians.  This decision initiated the formation of state board of medical examiners and medical education improvements.  The length of medical education extended from only two to three years at medical schools like Harvard while some schools began insisting on a four-year medical training program and required a four-year undergraduate degree as a condition of admission to medical school.   

Gratitude “In the Day of Trouble” 

As we have the benefit of looking back upon the end of the nineteenth century, there’s no difficulty in seeing the amazing discoveries and improvement God accomplished through man.  Being in the midst of a pandemic leaves little room for focusing on any advances being made because it’s warfare.  The Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition believes that God is at work even as our world struggles.  We are reminded of David’s words in Psalm 27:5 (New American Standard),  

“For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.”  

 Even though the stress is real, we remember all God has done in the past to help the world and to help us in our individual lives.  Recounting all God has done helps with feeling gratitude and hope “in the day of trouble.” 
  

We’ll see you again next week.  Until then, you can sign-up for our newsletter and get further information about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition on our homepage.   

Timeline of Events 

1856 – Joseph Lister develops an antiseptic method used to disinfect operating rooms to eradicate microorganisms.   

1883 – Johns Hopkins Medical School requires four years of training and requires a four-year undergraduate degree for admission into the school.   

1895 – X rays are discovered and improve diagnostic capabilities of doctors.    

1889 -1891 – 40 % of world’s population infected with influenza during epidemic. 

Sources 

Hooper, J. (1999, February).  A New germ theory.  The Atlantic.  Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/02/a-new-germ-theory/377430/  

Tompkins, V. (1997).  American eras: Development of the Industrial United States, 1878-1899.  New York, NY: Gale 

Resources 

Lecture 14: The Germ Theory of Disease from History 234: Epidemics in Western Society since 1600, an Open Yale Course 

https://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-234/lecture-14

Germ Theory and Vaccines

By Dr. Kelli Criss

As our country and the world continue to address the coronavirus outbreak, our blog, Germ Theory and Vaccines, looks back to the end of the nineteenth century.  This retrospective contextualizes our current search for a vaccine and efforts to “flatten the curve” of rising infectious cases.   

1875-1900: The Discovery of Germ Theory 

During the final quarter of the nineteenth century, a scientific methodology for comprehending and addressing epidemic diseases was created and thus, opened the field of modern bacteriology.  This period was characterized by the identification of the pathogens causing myriad illnesses like typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and tetanus.  The ability to make such ground-breaking discoveries was linked to advances in medical technology like aniline stains and microscopes with high magnification ability.  These stains, developed in the 1860s and 1870s, were dyes enabling bacteria cultures to be seen under a microscope.  Likewise, new microscopes enabled high magnification of bacteria without distortion in the images.   

With a greater understanding of the bacterial and viral sources of diseases, public-health methods to control the spread of illness launched.  Among these methods, were disinfecting the environments of people infected with disease and separating ill patients in sanatoriums.  Investigation of diseases worked hand-in-hand with bacteriology and vaccine discoveries to enable the prevention of disease.  Diphtheria is one such disease.  

Diphtheria: The First Widespread Disease Prevented by Vaccine 

Diphtheria was a challenge to diagnose, and therefore, study.  Having the same symptoms as other diseases, diphtheria was not easily diagnosed.  In 1884, the diphtheria bacillus was identified; however, another decade passed until any breakthrough in prevention occurred.  By the middle of the 1890s, a diphtheria vaccine was developed through the identification of the diphtheria antitoxin.  States like Illinois showed a major drop in the death rate from diphtheria with the advent of the vaccine.  To be exact, Illinois’s death rate fell from an 1886 rate of 113 people per 100,000 to a 1902 rate of 22 individuals per 100,000.  After such success, bacteria became the focus of the medical community and accelerated advances in public health. 

Our Guide into All Truth 

People are experiencing desperation and confusion globally as we face the current coronavirus pandemic.  We need God’s help greatly and grapple with maintaining our faith-centered focus.  Like us, the disciples struggled to reconcile the stress and bewilderment of the events Jesus foretold about his crucifixion with their need for Christ’s physical presence in their lives.  When Jesus was preparing the disciples for his crucifixion and resurrection, he promised them that he would send the Holy Spirit as a guide and comfort to them, saying  

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13 (New American Standard) 

Throughout history, God’s Spirit has revealed truth to humans and been Immanuel, God with us.  We thank God for all the wisdom and understanding we have been given.  As the faith community, we pray for God’s truth to light our path concerning the coronavirus and we ask for wisdom for our leaders, healthcare providers, and researchers.   

For more information about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, check out our website or sign-up for our newsletter.   

Timeline of Events 

1862 – Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French scientist, demonstrated airborne bacteria were the source of fermentation.  Due to these findings, scientists move away from believing disease is connected to environmental sources and embrace the notion of “germ theory.” 

1876- Robert Koch (1843-1910), a German scientist, while investigating anthrax in sheep and cattle, proves that particular pathogens or disease-causing agents like bacteria and viruses, cause disease.  

1882- Koch discovers the tuberculosis bacillus or bacteria. 

1879 – Louis Pasteur identifies how to use the bacilli or rod-shaped bacteria at the source of various illnesses in vaccinations.  The work of Edward Jenner (1749-1823), a British doctor, who discovered the smallpox vaccine, was instrumental in Pasteur’s innovation.   

1889 -1891 – 40 % of world’s population infected with influenza during epidemic. 

Sources 

Hooper, J. (1999, February).  A New germ theory.  The Atlantic.  Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/02/a-new-germ-theory/377430/  

Tompkins, V. (1997).  American eras: Development of the Industrial United States, 1878-1899.  New York, NY: Gale 

Resources 

Lecture 14: The Germ Theory of Disease from History 234: Epidemics in Western Society since 1600, an Open Yale Course 

https://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-234/lecture-14

COVID-19 Update: Confronting Fear

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Faith and information are your friends in these uncertain times.  We take time to reflect on both in today’s blog, COVID-19 Update: Confronting Fear.  Although we grieve the illness and loss of life around the world as the direst consequences of this viral outbreak, we limit today’s discussion to fears around the economic impact of COVID-19.    

Starting in China, reaching South Korea, Japan, Africa, Australia, Europe, and now, the United States, the coronavirus dominates the world’s headlines.  According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, 318,662 confirmed cases exist.  Globally, 13,672 deaths have occurred as a result of COVID-19. There are 94,704 people who have recovered from the virus.   

Let’s consider the impact of a viral outbreak on the economy in the short and long-term while knowing faith and information are the answers to fear in our world.  

Global Supply Chain Disruption 

February 24, the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a 1,000-point drop (McCabe, 2020) and the S&P 500 plunged over 100 points as news emerged about swelling cases in Italy and South Korea. On March 16, the Dow plunged again by 3,000 points (McCabe, Hirtenstein, & Ping, 2020) in response to the expanding pandemic’s interruption of supply chains around the world.  Likewise, as of March 16, the stock market index of 500 large companies which measures stock performance on the U.S. Stock Exchange, the S&P 500, increased or decreased by 4% for 6 days in a row (Herron & Hajric, 2020), which is outrageously volatile movement. 

Why is the pandemic so powerfully impacting supply chains, in particular? China, as one of the globe’s biggest economies, is not only the center of COVID-19’s origin, but also at the center of myriad supply chains.  Whether it’s your electronic devices, your car, or your blue jeans, the globe receives products and depends on the industrial strength of China.  Apple (Wakabayashi, 2020) and Adidas (Germano, 2020), for example, have already declared their profits will be hindered by China’s supply chain disruption.  The world’s economies are intricately connected.   

Falling Oil Prices 

Like manufacturing, tourism, airlines, and energy are experiencing a slump due to the coronavirus. On Monday, March 9th, we saw 24% single-day drop in Brent crude, which is a particular oil viewed as a yardstick for global oil prices.  Catapulting the market into turmoil, this one-day plunge of oil prices was the largest since 1991 during the Gulf War (Hodari, 2020).  Again, on Wednesday, March 11th, oil prices tumbled (Faucon, Said, & Hodari, 2020).  

 Oil prices are falling because of the decreased demand caused by less travel from lockdowns globally and fewer goods being transported.  Countries, like China, are producing fewer goods so they need less oil.  It’ simple – the law of supply and demand.  Too much supply and too little demand means prices decline.  Also contributing to the fall in oil prices is the escalating Oil War between Russia and Saudi Arabia.  

This Oil War involves Russia and Saudi Arabia’s recent talks about stabilizing oil prices by reducing their production of oil.  Their negotiations have fallen apart.  Saudi Arabia responded by ramping up their oil production which of course serves to reduce prices rather than raise them. Russia responded by similarly pumping more oil. 

Here in the United States, having the world market flooded with oil will make lower gas prices at the pump right now.  In the long term, energy corporations and many nations who rely on high oil prices for revenue, will suffer.  We remember well in 2014-2016 when energy stocks plummeted and oil workers were laid off as oil prices bottomed out with the same radical plunge we’re seeing now (Thompson, 2020).   

Recovery: A History of Market Response to Viruses 

The past performance of the market to viruses can be seen in the movement of the S&P 500.  For 6 and 12 months following a virus outbreak, the S&P 500 performance indicates what we can expect in the months following the COVID-19 pandemic (DeCambre, 2020).  See the table below.  

Epidemic Month end 6-month % change of S&P 12-month % change of S&P 
SARS April 2003 +14.59% +20.76% 
Swine flu April 2009 +18.72% +35.96% 
Cholera November 2010 +13.95% +5.63% 
MERS May 2013 +10.74% +17.96% 
Ebola March 2014 +5.34% +10.44% 
Zika January 2016 +12.03% +17.45 

 
Although each epidemic listed in the table above varies by global region, symptoms, chronology, and context, one thing’s clear – the market recovers in the long-term after dropping in the short-term, immediately after the virus outbreak.  

The Weapons of Our Warfare 

Fear doesn’t just drive drops in the Dow and S&P 500.  Fear can take control of everyone whatever their beliefs.  The weapons we have to confront fear are information about what’s really happening and our faith in God.  We endeavored in this blog to arm the faith community with information about the current situation and the history of our economy’s response to viral outbreak.  The CDC and President Trump have outlined plans to help us protect ourselves and our neighbors from COVID-19.   

According to counselor, author and Hope for the Heart founder, June Hunt, fear is part of your body’s way of preparing to take action.  It sets off a chain of chemical responses created by God to increase circulation to muscles and to speed up your heartbeat so you can have the strength and speed you might need to fend off or flee a threat.  We know that God is helping us be physically ready for whatever comes our way even as we feel fear.  Thank goodness we have weapons to keep fear from making our decisions.   

We can turn our thoughts to God’s divine weapons and protection. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (New American Standard Bible) says: 

For the weapons of our warfare are . . . divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Indeed, we have supernatural tools for calming our minds.  We can focus on the peace and security God offers us.  Jesus’s words in Luke 12:22–25 (New American Standard Bible) help us remember how valuable we are to our heavenly Father: 

“Do not worry about your life . . . Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” 

Meditating on God’s Words 

June Hunt (2013) recommends in her book, Fear, meditation upon the 23rd Psalm by saying each line repeatedly and emphasizing one word in the line.  If there are 5 words in the line, then you repeat the line 5 times.  For instance, Psalm 23:1 (New American Standard Bible) reads “the Lord is my shepherd.”  Upon first saying verse 1, you emphasize the word, “the.”  On the second repetition, you stress the word, “Lord,” etc.  You repeat the verse until you have placed a stress on each word of the verse.   

We join the faith community in prayer for our nation, our leaders, our healthcare workers, our first responders, and families affected by COVID-19 around the world.   

For more information about Florida FFC, check out our blogs and sign up to receive our weekly newsletter.    

  
References 

DeCambre, M. (2020, February 24). How the stock market has performed during past viral outbreaks. MarketWatch. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-the-stock-market-has-performed-during-past-viral-outbreaks-as-chinas-coronavirus-spreads-2020-01-22 

Faucon, B., Said, S. & Hodari, D. (2020, March 11).  Saudi Arabia Signals Bigger Oil-Output Boost. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabia-to-boost-oil-output-even-further-11583911022 

Germano, S. (2020, February 19).  Adidas, Puma warn of Coronavirus blow. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/puma-tops-hopes-but-warns-of-coronavirus-hit-11582106613 

Herron, J. & Hajric, V. (2020, March 15).  U.S. stocks plunge 12% in biggest rout since 1987: Markets wrap.  Bloomberg.  Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-15/yen-gains-on-virus-worries-kiwi-slides-on-rates-markets-wrap 

Hodari, D.  (2020, March 9). Oil prices collapse after Saudi pledge to boost output. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/crude-prices-collapse-after-saudi-pledge-to-boost-output-11583748166 
 

Hunt, J. (2013). Fear: No longer afraid.  Torrance, CA: Aspire Press. 

McCabe, C.  (2020, February 24). Dow Industrials close 1,000 points lower as Coronavirus cases mount. The Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/stocks-fall-as-coronavirus-spread-accelerates-outside-china-11582533308?mod=hp_lead_pos1 

McCabe, C., Hirtenstein, A., & Ping, C.K. (2020, March 16).  Dow plummets nearly 3,000 points as virus fears spread.  The Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved from  

https://www.wsj.com/articles/stocks-dow-slide-after-fed-slashes-rates-11584310328

Thompson, M. (2020, March 11). Saudi Arabia doubles down on threat to flood the oil market. CNN Business.  Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/11/business/oil-prices-saudi-arabia 

Wakabayashi, D.  (2020, February 17). Apple signals Coronavirus’s threat to global business. The New York Times.  Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/17/technology/apple-coronavirus-economy.html 
 

Resources 

CDC – COVID-19 Information 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Hope for the Heart, Counseling Ministries 

https://www.hopefortheheart.org/

 Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering – COVID-19 Statistics Map 

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Shaping the Presidency, Part II

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Last week, we discussed President Theodore Roosevelt’s shaping of the American Presidency.  Calling the office, a “bully pulpit,” he pushed the legislative branch and the country to support his agenda. Today’s blog, The Bully Pulpit, describes Roosevelt’s strategy in more detail.   

President Roosevelt operated through four tools: a) well-placed experts in the executive branch, b) an active legislative and labor role, c) a masterful media plan, and d) a group of informal advisors.   

Expert Research and Actively Legislating 

To address the emerging needs of a rapidly changing society, President Roosevelt sought out specialists in their respective fields and recruited them to serve in the executive branch.  While this practice is commonplace today, government’s emphasis on hiring people with expertise in a given area was a strikingly novel idea in the early twentieth century.  Strategically placing experts tended to concentrate power in the federal government generally and, more specifically, in the agencies and departments of Roosevelt’s executive branch. 

Some of these new government “experts” conducted legitimate research in areas such as public health, national defense, and more.  Other research and resulting policy outcomes were misguided at best—even racist and misogynist.  Prior to World War I, for example, at the height of concern over sexually transmitted disease in the armed forces, any woman in the United States could be required to submit to public health exam is she were even suspected of being infected—an absurd violation of her rights under the Constitution. 

Nevertheless, these new government experts used their findings as a guide, writing legislation to deal with the problems they had studied.  This process was similarly used by the more progressive portions of the Republican Party who pushed for labor and other reforms.  President Roosevelt thus adopted a significant element of the emerging progressive movement, frequently alienating conservative Republicans. 

President Roosevelt’s “bully pulpit” and exceedingly outgoing personality served to keep the Party together, barely. The activist president actually helped to write bills himself and to get them through Congress.  When Congress resisted, Roosevelt turned to the media.   

Labor Dispute Mediation 

The United Mine Workers (UMW) walked out in 1902, beginning a strike that lasted through spring, summer and into the fall.  As the cold winter months approached, the government and the country’s fears about having enough coal for winter increased.   

At this point, President Roosevelt stepped in as a negotiator, making him the very first president to mediate a labor dispute personally.  Previously, federal troops had been used to stamp out strikes and force miners back to their work.   

True to his usual form, Roosevelt skirted the boundaries of his Constitutional authority by warning the UMW and the coal industry that he would employ troops to work the mines and allow the government to take the profits.  Such threatened use of troops and funds may have been unconstitutional, but it successfully forced an agreement between the UMW and the coal industry.  The two sides agreed to allow a presidential commission to negotiate an agreement and to enable the workers to return to the mines while the negotiations occurred. 

If all this sounds incredibly familiar, it’s because President Trump’s personal involvement in issues such as building a wall on the Southern border, trade battles with China, and arm-twisting Congress, strongly echo President Roosevelt’s immersion in running the country.  

Outside Resources: The Media, the People, and Informal Advisors 

Roosevelt reached outside of the executive office to the media, the public, and informal advisors to accomplish his goals.  His media skills enabled him to challenge Congressional opposition to the legislation he supported by meeting with reporters regularly.  Writing articles for the magazines of his day was another strategy he employed.  Speaking tours to engage the public helped him lay out his agenda all over the country.  Roosevelt also had a set of informal advisors who were young men like Gifford Pinchot, the 1st Chief of the United States Forest Service, and James R. Garfield, the Secretary of the Interior.  This informal set of advisors joined Roosevelt to play tennis or ride horses as they talked over policy issues.  The media referred to these informal advisors as the “Tennis Cabinet” because of the sports enjoyed by the politicians and the President during critical conversations. 

Presidential Power 

President Roosevelt set the course of the Presidency for over one hundred years through the increased power he obtained for the executive branch.  Now, the Chief Executive of our Republic wields all of the power of the Presidency either for faith or for godlessness.  As we see from the example of Roosevelt’s Presidency, the American Commander in Chief has the authority to set the course of our highest elected office and the nation for generations.   

Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC) bands together with the faith community to support candidates and issues aligned with a Biblical worldview.  Let’s work together to ensure we elect a President who appoints conservative judges, protects life, and preserves family!   Check out more about Florida FFC’s efforts to support President Trump and find ways to volunteer by visiting our website. We’ll see you again for next week’s blog.   

 Sources 

Greenberg, D. (2016, January).  How Teddy Roosevelt invented spin. The Atlantic. Retrieved from  

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/how-teddy-roosevelt-invented-spin/426699/

Gould, L. L. (1991).  The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.  Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.  

Tompkins, V. (1996).  American Decades: 1900-1909.  Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc.  

Whitehouse.gov. (n.d.). Theodore Roosevelt. Retrieved from  

https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/theodore-roosevelt/

Shaping the Presidency

By Dr. Kelli Criss

The Radical Left invokes the end of American Democracy every time President Trump flexes his executive branch muscle. But President Trump didn’t initiate the concentration of power in the White House – far from it.  In fact, the American Presidency is an ever-evolving organism, shaping the nation and the globe. 

Now, with Super Tuesday behind us and the presidential election year in full swing, the national debate is beginning to focus even more intently upon President Trump’s use of the powers of the American Presidency.  This week our blog, Shaping the Presidency, considers how two presidents occupying the White House for little more than a decade (1897-1909) redefined the notion of executive power. 

 The Metamorphosis 

After decades of a strong legislative branch and weak executive, the transformation of the American Presidency began in the early twentieth century when President William McKinley began quietly increasing presidential powers without consulting Congress.  In particular, McKinley leveraged the Spanish American War and U.S. policy toward the Philippines. 

Heavy congressional backing for more American involvement internationally helped to put a lid on any rumblings of disapproval from Congress.  With an expanded international role, President McKinley felt the need to restructure the executive branch.  He built up the amount of executive staff to manage the increasing workload. 

Another element of his Presidency that helped to enlarge the powers of the executive office was President McKinley’s considerable involvement in the legislative process.  He actively engaged in writing and passing legislation, managing the Republican Party (in an age before the decline of the power of national parties), and steering the government as a whole.  America’s victory in the Spanish American War and an economic upturn generated public support for McKinley’s heavy-handed management of national policy. 

Tragedy Accelerates Transformation 

With the assassination of President McKinley in September 1901, 43-year-old Vice President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) was sworn in as the youngest president in the nation’s history.  While McKinley’s expanding international responsibilities and heavy legislative and party involvement shaped his Presidency, President Roosevelt’s own personality molded the executive office.  Journalist Henry Stoddard commented: “Yes—it is true that TR liked the centre of the stage—loved it in fact, but when he sought it he always had something to say or to do that made the stage the appropriate place for him.”  

President Roosevelt took the “centre of the stage” to assert his agenda during the December 1901 State of the Union address.  He affirmed his commitment to the Republican causes McKinley had supported, but also laid out his own plan to address conservation, to reinforce the military, and to improve distressing labor conditions.  This agenda represented a mix of the more progressive political left of the Republican Party and the old guard of the GOP.  In many ways, Roosevelt’s leadership helped align national policy with an increasingly complex national economy and International balance of power. 

Presidential History Matters 

President Roosevelt aimed to craft a Presidency aligned with his own image.  Ultimately, his efforts led to a significant concentration of power within the executive branch and created a pattern followed by presidents who would serve America in the future. 

Pushing the limits of his constitutional powers, Roosevelt had a reputation for using his Presidency to accomplish his legislative goals.  He called the office of the Presidency, a “bully pulpit,” from which he could press the legislative branch to support his agenda.  He built and operated his “bully pulpit” through four tools: a) well-placed experts in the executive branch, b) an active legislative and labor role, c) a masterful media plan, and d) a group of informal advisors. 

Roosevelt’s presidential moves were challenged by opponents who believed his actions tested the boundaries of the Constitution. They could do little, however, to stand in his way. 

Roosevelt’s leadership and the historical concentration of power in the executive branch is worth closer study as the Radical Left screams, the sky is falling in 2020. We’ll see you next week for our blog, The Bully Pulpit, which details President Roosevelt’s unique strategy and tools used during his 1901-1909 administration, and puts President Trump’s exercise of presidential power into the appropriate historical context.   

 To learn more about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition and to sign up to volunteer in 2020, check out our website.   

At Risk: Alcohol Regulation and Florida

By Dr. Kelli Criss

In this week’s blog, At Risk: Alcohol Regulation and Florida, we focus upon the current dangers facing alcohol laws in Florida.  We believe that alcohol should remain highly regulated. While the social acceptability of this substance has increased considerably, we urge caution on its broad availability and immediate access. 

Let’s consider studies about the link between alcohol abuse, lack of alcohol regulation, and social issues.  We’ll also address how recent moves by certain members of the Florida legislature to deregulate alcohol have significant public health consequences. Believe it or not, recently introduced legislation would totally deregulate Florida’s alcohol industry.  

 Drinking and Driving Deaths Increase 

Deaths attributed to drinking and driving increased between 2015 and 2016, after a long decline. Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition continues to support high visibility law enforcement presence, such as sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlock devices, to reduce drunk and drugged driving. Currently, every state across the nation has some type of ignition interlock law. 

 Domestic Violence, Homicide, and Adverse Childhood Events  

Some studies continue to show a strong correlation between drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, homicide, and adverse childhood events. It must be noted, however, the correlation between alcohol and many of these adverse life events does not necessarily reflect causation. Factors such as desire and intimidation and desire for control may play an equal or more important role in IPV—Intimate Partner Violence. 

 This does not mean, however, that alcohol can be absolved of blame.  Studies indicate that alcohol remains a risk factor for incidents such as IPV because it affects both physical and cognitive ability.  It may therefore contribute to IPV and other violent acts by causing a loss of self-control and lack of judgement.[1] 

Alcohol use is frequently associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially in the face of chronic traumatic experiences. It’s logical that perpetrators of domestic violence are the first people who come to mind when considering alcohol’s role in domestic violence; however, survivors of domestic violence face trauma as well.  Considering that trauma and alcohol use are associated, studies do suggest the importance of assessing trauma symptoms and motives for drinking in order to understand alcohol use in recent survivors of domestic violence.[2]  

Poorly Regulated Youth Access  

In addition to domestic violence concerns, studies demonstrate that increased youth access to alcohol is a growing danger. For example, a University of North Carolina School of Public Health study demonstrates that disappearing alcohol purchasing and shipping regulations have increased youth access to alcohol.[3]  According to the study, “Of the 100 orders placed by the underage buyers, 45% were successfully received; 28% were rejected as the result of age verification.  Most vendors (59%) used weak, if any, age verification at the point of the order, and of 45 successful orders, 23 (51%) used none.  Age verification delivery was inconsistently conducted and, when attempted, failed about half of the time.”[4] 

 A Call to Action  

The current alcohol regulatory regime has held industry members accountable for the ways they promote and sell their products for many years. Moreover, recent polling data indicates Floridians: 1) are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current access to alcohol and, yet, 2) feel concerned about the consequences of increased availability.[5] Floridians’ concerns are well-founded because there is a storm brewing in the legislature.   

Unfortunately, legislation that would decimate Florida’s alcohol regulations was filed recently by Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini. His bill, HB 6017, totally deregulates the alcohol industry. We urge you to call Representative Sabatini’s offices in Tallahassee (850.717.5032) and Clermont (352.989.9100) to encourage that he withdraw this bad bill. 

[1] C.F. Gebara, C.P. Ferri, L. M. Lourenço, M. Vieira, F. M. Bhona, & A. R. Noto, (2015). Patterns of domestic violence and alcohol consumption among women and the effectiveness of a brief intervention in a household setting: a protocol study, BMC Women’s Health, Volume 15, Issue 78, September 2015. 

[2] D. Kaysen & T.M. Dillworth, Domestic violence and alcohol use: Trauma-related symptoms and motives for drinking, Journal of Addictive Behaviors, Volume 32, Issue 6, June 2007, Pages 1272-1283. 

[3] R.S. Williams & K. M. Ribisl, Internet alcohol sales to minors. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.  Volume 166, Issue 9, Pages 808–813. September 2012. 

[4] Ibid. 

[5] What Floridians Think About Alcohol, A public opinion survey conducted by New Bridge Strategy, January 2020.