Sunday, July 10, 2016

An Open Letter to American Evangelicals by Chaplain Scott Scrimshaw

An Open Letter to American Evangelicals
by Chaplain Scott Scrimshaw
“This meeting marks the end of the Christian Right,” Michael Farris, a national homeschooling pioneer and longtime figure of the Christian Right, wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. He noted that he was present at the first gathering of the Moral Majority in 1980: “The premise of the meeting in 1980 was that only candidates that reflected a biblical worldview and good character would gain our support. … Today, a candidate whose worldview is greed and whose god is his appetites (Philippians 3) is being tacitly endorsed by this throng. … This is a day of mourning.” ~The Washington Post 

When Michael Farris wrote those words concerning a recent gathering of top evangelical leaders, it struck a deep resonant chord within me. I knew on a gut level his words were absolutely true. To put things in perspective, I have been a Christian since high school, a former L'Abri student of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, an early volunteer organizer in the 1988 Pat Robertson Presidential bid and a supporter of his post bid formation of the Christian Coalition. I was a “Contract with America” Gingrich Republican who could appreciate the Blue Dog Democrats. Truth be told, I was an “I already miss Reagan” Republican.

However, as I continued in my Christian pilgrimage I learned things about Jesus, myself and my many Christian brothers and sisters. Life in the “real world” of ministry kept putting me at odds with the Republican Party and the evangelical base dominating it. Both were becoming more dishonest and manipulative, more authoritarian and exacting on social issues and less gracious in policy. Law was destroying grace.

Furthermore, increased government and taxation were hindering freedom and innovation. We are meant to be creative and enterprising, and yet I saw our creativity being stifled! The politics of war and NSA spying fostered fear and suspicion of “the other.”  We are also meant to live in community and to associate freely with others, but that was becoming strained by the isolationism and fear-mongering that was running rampant. I began wondering if the Church was losing touch with its Gospel message. I felt I was becoming a man without a church, and a voter without a party.

For me, the final straw was Donald Trump. Not simply Trump's campaign persona but also how it revealed the impoverished state of Republican rank and file members of Congress.  Furthermore, the absence of our political and spiritual leadership speaking out against Mr. Trump’s behavior and rhetoric was shocking to me.  It astounds me that the evangelical heroes of my youth would end up endorsing him. I feel compelled to speak out. Think about this:  If you or I—as a student at Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s Liberty University, or on the airwaves of James Dobson's Focus on the Family or as a staff member in a Ralph Reed’s or a Mike Huckabee’s church—were to speak or behave as Trump has, we’d be resoundingly disciplined. If I were in a staff position, I'd be removed from ministry. Fired.

By constantly choosing the lesser of two evils, America has been reduced to the bottom of the barrel. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the end result. And we, the evangelical Church, are in bed with this? Where are our spiritual elders? Why are they not speaking out? This has caused us, as a nation, to re-evaluate who and what we are. But that’s a good thing. It certainly caused me to take a solid look at Governor Gary Johnson. When Governor Bill Weld became his running mate, I stopped looking back. I chose to look at what I can support in these Libertarian candidates and discovered there is much in this two-Governor ticket that I can rally behind.

1) Governor Johnson epitomizes integrity and honesty. “There is no self-righteous agenda in his campaign or in his resume.” ( His book, Seven Principles of Good Government, belies a genuine humility. His “free market enterprise” approach to economics and innovation ardently denounces the corruption of today's cronyism. Capitalism, with its self-empowering abilities, has become a distorted abomination supported by the Clintons and Trumps of the world. Johnson opposes both crony capitalism and the corrupt, compromising relationship of Congress to lobbyists. He is a consistent advocate for term limits and the reduction of political corruption they have engendered.

2) Governor Johnson takes a solid stand for religious freedom. We as Christians are absolutely feeling the ever increasing pressure. Thankfully, Governor Johnson has a high respect and strong view of both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It’s that view which enables him to routinely re-examine himself while continuing to stand firm for things as important as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also makes no apologies for the 2nd Amendment. In other words, Johnson is a constitutionalist and a true civil libertarian. On the other hand, neither Trump nor Clinton can lay claim to such values and, as a result, Trump is promising favors to the evangelical constituency—favors directed at us and at our politicking concerns.  He misses the boat completely.

For communities of faith, schools, think tanks, foundations, organizational clubs, charities and action committees across the country,  the real solution lies in doing away with the IRS and the US Tax Code. Such an action would end the ability of the Government to profile and discriminate against a particular group applying for  particular tax status. It would also immediately put an end to the corrupt buying and selling of influence peddling.  

The real issue before the Church is profound. The evangelical Church rightfully fears coming restrictions that will jeopardize its tax exempt status. I know the Church is being scrutinized for the culture wars we've been waging all these years. Eliminating the IRS frees the American Evangelical Church from its dependence upon the Republican Party. The Church is finally being given the chance to choose between access to cheap political power, used to push a conservative cultural agenda, and the liberty to actually be the Church. To go out unfettered and by the free association that de Tocqueville wrote about, we need to be that city on a hill. Remember, "Our [American] Founders, their rallying cry was liberty—not social conservatism.” (

But this requires deciding what tit of the Harlot are we willing to give up. Governor Gary Johnson is advocating for the abolishment of the IRS. He wants to implement an across-the board-consumption tax. Boom! Done! No more IRS, no more churches fearing the loss of their tax exempt status. But that would also mean equal treatment under the law for all. In other words:  no more political favors coming our way either.

4) Governors Johnson and Weld fully understand the need for a strong national defense as well as the threat of terrorism. They understand the distinction between Sharia, a political ideology incompatible with our Constitution, and being Muslim, which is protected by the Bill of Rights. Their determination to treat ISIS as an organized crime syndicate is intelligent, and Governor Weld has a successful track record shutting down such organizations.

"Something that no one in this presidential race is discussing is that Sharia law is politics. Everyone in this country supports freedom of religion, but Sharia law is politics. Sharia law is absolutely incompatible with the US Constitution -- and that starts with women’s rights. We are clouding Sharia law with freedom of religion and we need to clearly separate the two. And we need to cut off funding to what is advancing Sharia." (Governor Gary Johnson)

The Governors also understand the concerns of Israel.

5) Governor Johnson is the only candidate seriously attempting to address our $20 trillion dollar National debt. He recognizes this as a true threat to our national security. He has an incredible fiscal track record:  he understands the importance of a sustainable and solvent economy, as well as the importance of honoring our treaties and promises. Furthermore, as a border state governor, he understands the economic importance of immigration issues and the importance of free trade and open borders. He reminds us of our human brotherhood with the Hispanic community and with the members of our own spiritual family. Many Hispanics are Catholic Christians and many are members of a variety of Protestant denominations too. Under a Trump presidency, families will be broken up and deported. Churches and communities will be torn apart. Aside from the inhumanity of such actions, this would have a significant economic impact across our country.

6) Governor Johnson will move to abolish the Department of Education, a relative recent addition to the federal bureaucracy, going back to Jimmy Carter. Not back to Washington or even Lincoln. Governor Johnson has long been an advocate of school choice, school vouchers, home schooling and charter schools—in short, anything to stimulate educational competition and innovation. He is a charter school pioneer. His policies created merit based scholarship funding for New Mexico high school graduates to pursue college education. The scholarships are awarded based on high school grades and immediate enrollment in college following high school graduation. Scholarships are funded from state lottery revenues.  Governor Johnson is fully aware of the problems our school children, their families, their home schooling parents and our educators are struggling with their efforts to be educated and to educate and to exercise  the free expression of their consciences while doing so.

7)  Governor Johnson is not pro-life. But he is also not pro-death. Both Governors Johnson and Weld are pro-Choice but want a pro-life economy. This is another example of the many libertarian paradoxes. Or what I have come to know in my own experiences as the quest for the radical middle.  I know what it’s like to be forced to live in an either/or world. I also know what it’s like to stick out my neck all the way for God and not know what the hell hit me so hard afterward!  

No, Governor Johnson is definitely not pro-death.  He wants to end the criminalization of marijuana and an end the catastrophic war on drugs. The human cost has far exceed what was expected. Governor Johnson has been a leader on this issue for decades. The war on drugs has become a culture war of death. It has ruined many lives across the entire social spectrum. A grandmother 30 years ago fought for tough criminal sentencing on drug offenses never thinking it would lead to her grandchildren losing scholarships, jobs, their freedom and, in some cases, their lives. Governor Johnson has been a pioneer in changing how we think about marijuana and hemp. He fully grasps both the medical and industrial aspects of the marijuana and hemp industries.  Governor Johnson is pro-living. pro-family and pro-child—from the parental consent laws he signed as Governor to the Salud! program he created as a safety net in New Mexico to ensure healthcare and human services for lower income families.

Why do I build a case for pro-life support of Governors Johnson and Weld? Because I know they're not what the evangelical community has been conditioned to support. I know that this issue is so important to many in the Christian community that they simply will not vote for a pro-choice candidate. I am taking this one on faith. I will not make this a single issue presidency. I believe in the integrity and presence of character as found in both Governor Johnson and Governor Weld. I believe they will be better than either Clinton or Trump when it comes to both sides of this issue. I have met with both men. These are men we can respect. There is wisdom in their thoughts. Their human “energy” is clean. And, they are also better than Trump or Clinton when it comes to Planned Parenthood:

"I would prefer that the government not be in the healthcare care business. However, it is, and as much as 75% of the federal funding for Planned Parenthood comes in the form of providing services under Medicaid. Cutting off that funding from Planned Parenthood would simply result in it being directed elsewhere -- to other providers of the same services, where available.

“Targeting Planned Parenthood for de-funding is a political ploy that yields the net effect of targeting a certain group of women by making it more difficult to access health care services—from cancer screening to prenatal care—for which they are otherwise eligible. As long as that is the case, I will not jump onto the de-funding political bandwagon. We can, and should, have a national discussion about the government's role in funding health care. However, arbitrarily targeting Planned Parenthood without having the discussion and reforming Medicaid, along with other federal and state programs, is simply unfair and discriminatory. There would be no benefit to taxpayers, and only disruption of services to which women are today legally entitled." ( Gary Johnson,

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I think the best thing I can do is leave you with this:  recent remarks by the governors at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, DC. Give yourself an hour to sit thoughtfully and hear them speak. Talk to God as you watch it.  I think you’ll hear that still small voice. There is a wisdom here. There is a maturity. There is truthfulness of character. That's God. One thing I learned through the spiritual renewal poured out within our own recent memories and presumably still taking place in places like Bethel Church in Redding California:  our experiences bore testimony to the truth that the presence of God was made known by the character of God.

Our experience in the Kingdom of God was based on God's character. These men have godly characteristics and peaceful spirits. That is sufficient for me. God moves where his presence is and His presence is where His character is reflected.

Remember the still small voice. It hasn't been so easy for me to hear it lately with everybody in a continual uproar and state of agitation. As a chaplain volunteering with the campaign, I'm starting to hear it again. I encourage you to listen for it too. I'm not looking back. I've got good reason to keep my eyes on the race set before me.
In His grip,

Scott Scrimshaw
Volunteer Campaign Chaplain