Willie Deutsch.com

Religion and Politics from a Young Christian in Northern Virginia

A Call for Unity and Coalition Building in the Republican Party

April 22nd, 2013

I can definitely be a firebrand at times, and someone who aggressively holds politicians accountable.  However, I also believe just as strongly in the importance of building bridges.  As a party we need 50%+1 statewide to win.  If we are not building coalitions to accomplish that, we are keeping ourselves from accomplishing our primary goal as a party.

Principles matter because they define what we stand for as a party, but ultimately the Republican Party is an organization created to ELECT Republicans.  For those who would argue that there is no difference between the Republican and Democrat parties, imagine the gun control bill that would have passed if Democrats controlled 90% of Congress.  Would we have been able to audit VDOT, pass necessary health regulations on abortion clinics, or other common sense legislation of the last four years if Democrats controlled the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion?  We tried to pass many of those same pieces of legislation before, and were stopped.  Have we been burned by Republicans on the state and federal level at times?  Of course.  However, 90% of Republicans are better than 90% of Democrats.

Over the last five years, I have seen some interesting pendulum swings in terms of who controlled the Republican Party.  From 2008-2011, the McDonnell/Bolling forces largely controlled the Republican Party, an systematically worked to remove those who disagreed with them.  You saw the election of Jeff Frederick as Party Chairman and his removal within one year by State Central at the insistence of Bob McDonnell.  The story of the 6th District at that time is also important to remember.  At the 2008 Republican Advance, Bill Bolling met with a number of conservative party leaders from the 6th District.  He told them to support him for LG, or he would work to remove them from their positions.  They refused to be bullied, and he followed through.  In the Spring of 2010, conservatives were systematically removed from the 6th District Committee at unit meetings, and the district committee.  In what was a fairly balanced committee, conservatives were left with a couple unit chairs, and one vice chairman by the end.  The two bright spots in 2010 occurred when Northern Virginians united to defeat one of the most corrupt and heavy handed District Chairs in the state with the election of Howie Lind as 10th District Chair, and the election of Bill Stanley as 5th District Chair.  In a move that made little to no sense since everyone knew Stanley would win overwhelmingly, Bolling tried opposing Bill Stanley’s election as District Chair.

In an effort to pass the Governor’s Mansion from McDonnell to Bolling, the vote on the nominating method for 2013 was held incredibly early, in 2011, and a primary was selected.

In the Spring of 2012, State Central and many of the District Committees were transformed.  This enabled a reversal of the 2013 nominating process on June 15th to a convention.

While many conservatives came to power in this wave, what we saw was a systematic effort by Ron Paulers, or self described “Liberty Activists,” to win every State Central and RNC Delegate position available.  In the middle of the process, Chris Stearns, the head of the Ron Paul movement in Virginia, made the movements intentions crystal clear.

“We want to change the Republican Party,” said Chris Stearns, the Virginia state director for the Ron Paul campaign. “We are making sure our people get in positions of leadership — in the nation, in their state, in their county and city, all the way down to the grass roots level.”

Should Ron Paulers have a seat at the table in the Republican Party of Virginia? Of course.  But it makes very little sense that the Ron Paulers should win 15 of 24 RNC Delegate positions through the first 8 District Conventions in 2012, and finish with a disproportionately large percentage of the final delegate count.  Honestly that looks more like taking over the table, than having a seat at it.

Now there is talk of amending the party plan to either eliminate conventions or only allow conventions at the May state convention.  Either move would have incredible blowback if pushed through.

Here’s the thing.  We need to be growing the party, not driving people out of it.  Driving social conservatives, tea partiers, Ron Paulers, establishment types, the business community, etc out of the party is stupid.  We need to be thinking strategically about what it takes to win in November.  Nominate the most conservative person who can win a race, and actually build the coalitions necessary to elect them in November.  Statewide in Virginia, that winning coalition is challenging to create when the business community and Richmond establishment are not part of the equation, just like it is challenging when social conservatives are essentially told they are unneeded.

Should grassroots activists of different stripes fight to make sure we have a seat at the table?  Definitely.  But when it reaches the point of driving those we disagree with completely out of the party, we have to make sure we really are in the business of actually getting Republicans elected in November.

Open-Handed Theology

October 29th, 2012

I’ve been attending Pillar Dumfries for quite a few months, and recently took their membership course.  While I have loved the sermons, I hadn’t read their statement of faith.  When the course began, I quickly turned to Section 2 (p.6 & 7) in the membership book, entitled doctrine, to read it and check if there were any points I disagreed with.  What I found brought me to tears.

– Two –

“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.”
– St. Augustine

In the church, unity is of great importance. Churches tend to make primary issues secondary ones, and make secondary issues primary. We feel like it is important to identify which issues are primary (closed handed) and which issues are secondary (open handed).

It is important to note that we are not claiming that “open handed” issues are not important issues. We are, however, claiming that they are not more important than the unity of our church. Some issues are that important; we call those “closed-handed” issues.

Here is a brief definition of how we will use each of the terms:

Closed-Handed Issues represent those issues that we ask every member to affirm and support in good-conscience. Major disagreement in one of these areas makes it difficult to carryout the gospel centered mission of the church. Note, we are not saying that every disagreement within this category separates a Christian from a non-Christian. For example, we have Presbyterian friends that take a different view of the ordinance of baptism, but believe the gospel and we would certainly not argue that they are not Christians because of this disagreement.

Open-Handed Issues represent those issues where disagreement should be discussed and debated but not at the expense of unity around the essential mission of the church.

This laid out an approach to doctrine that was both unexpected and beautiful.  Later the document lists God, The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit, Scripture, Man, Salvation, The Great Commission, and Ordinances as closesd-handed issues.  It lists end time views, sovereignty vs. free will, education, giving, and Bible translations as examples of open-handed issues.

I grew up listening to people vigorously defend minor points of theology, and then wonder why the church wasn’t more united.  I’ve seen churches expend more resources and energy working to get their members and other churches to agree with them theologically than reaching the unconverted.  Pastor’s equated their preferred confession with the meaning of the word of God, and made understanding and agreeing with it a prerequisite to church membership.  In practice correctly understanding theology was more important than understanding how it should be lived out.

Being part of a church that truly values the unity of the body of Christ has been a wonderful oasis.  The pastors come from a theological perspective I appreciate, and have spent a lot of time studying theology, but their focus is outward as they focus on reaching the unchurched and stay humble.  Uniting around the heart of the gospel truly is unifying, and it has been wonderfully refreshing.  This beautiful surprising contrast in approaches forced me to fight back tears.  Sometimes crying is good, especially when you know you really are finding a home.

Willie Deutsch.com

Religion and Politics from a Young Christian in Northern Virginia