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Joel Belz: Truth from the top down


WORLD Radio - Joel Belz: Truth from the top down

The federal government’s fiscal and moral woes come from a lack of commitment to truth-telling

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to media at the White House in Washington, D.C. Getty Images/Photo by Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 16th. Thank you for listening to The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next: presidential politics from the past.

In this classic commentary, WORLD Founder Joel Belz on what he took away from a presidential candidate speech back in 1988. George H. W. Bush at the Republican National Convention.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: There shouldn't be any quibbling over whether it is the responsibility of those who govern to tell the truth. Even if the people being governed don't demand it, the Bible does. Such truth telling is required on several fronts: 1) about what's happening. How is it that grown up people can keep lying about where they were and what they were doing? How is it that they think they can get away with it? From Chappaquiddick to Watergate to Iran-Gate to monkey business, we’re confronted with would-be leaders who demonstrate at the most elementary of levels that they aren't to be trusted.

And 2) about how it's happening. It is dishonest for Congress to pass a string of laws that puts constraints on society at large but not to tell that society forthrightly that those same laws do not apply to Congress itself. It is dishonest for the White House to pretend it is trimming some parts of the bloated federal budget, even citing amounts like 6% and 13% cuts, but never explaining that the figures refer only to how far under the originally projected budget the figures are–not how far under last year's budget they come.

Or 3) about the nature of people. Here is the hardest of all truth-telling assignments for government leaders. But any governance that doesn't take seriously the sinfulness of mankind is doomed.

The modern federal government teeters on the edge of moral and fiscal bankruptcy, in part because no one dares any longer speak honestly about who man really is, and how he relates to his Maker, God. Even George H. W. Bush in his otherwise excellent acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in New Orleans, blurred this critically important point when he spelled out his political philosophy by emphasizing how the individual is the starting point of society, then the family, then the community, etc. Not that we’re asking politicians to take on the role of professional theologians, but it doesn't take a professional theologian to assert that God belongs at the center of our considerations–that He is our starting point.

Having taken Vice President Bush to task for missing the boat with one statement in his acceptance speech, I'm eager to quote here from the same speech a passage in which he was right on target. Mr. Bush noted,

BUSH: There's graft in City Hall, and there's greed on Wall Street. There's influence peddling in Washington and the small corruptions of everyday ambition.

“I wonder sometimes if we have forgotten who we are. We're the people who sundered a nation rather than allow a sin called slavery. We were practical, but we didn't live for material things. We believed in getting ahead, but blind ambition wasn't our way. The fact is, prosperity has a purpose. It is to allow us to pursue ‘the better angels,’ to give us time to think and grow. Prosperity with a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness.”

Well, Mr. Bush, you could have talked about the glory of God instead of our better angels. But even so, it pointed us in a good direction. That is the kind of leadership we can well afford to hear.

REICHARD: That was Joel Belz reading his commentary titled “The Nature of Authority” from his book, Consider These Things.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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