The members of the Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House seem to favor Congressman Paul Ryan as the next Speaker. Not being a member of Congress or privy to the Freedom Caucus’ meetings, I’m sure there are things I don’t appreciate about the situation. But one of the conditions Mr. Ryan has placed on his willingness to serve is a real red flag to me.
To understand the condition that concerns me you need to know that I believe Congress, on the whole, is infected with an upside-down, unbiblical view of the nature and purpose of authority. When those who are authorized to delegate authority, as the members of Congress do when they elect a Speaker, don’t understand authority, they tend to delegate it unwisely.
Biblically speaking, all persons holding authority are also under authority. Only One person has authority in and of Himself, God. Our problem is that we have an insatiable desire to be our own god. The lure of gaining authority over others is too much for us to resist if we are not accountable to those from whom we have received whatever authority we have. That’s why Lord Acton said that absolute power (authority) corrupts absolutely.
Those who don’t understand authority often unwittingly set themselves up for a loss of freedom by not providing sufficient checks and balances on those to whom they delegate authority. And those who ask for authority who also want checks and balances (accountability) removed or limited either intentionally or unwittingly set themselves up to become tyrants. And that brings me to Paul Ryan and the Freedom Caucus.
It appears to me that at least some members of the Freedom Caucus began to chafe under Rep. John Boehner because, in part, he abused his power. Rather than using the authority he was given to serve those in authority over him, he began to use his authority to punish those Representatives who did not do his bidding. In July Rep. Meadows had had enough, and he filed a resolution to have the Speaker position vacated. Things began to unravel.
In steps Ryan, who says he will not serve as Speaker unless the power of a single member to file a motion to oust him as Speaker is changed. It sounds good and innocent. The theory is that Republicans need to be united and that can’t be done if one person can cause friction by filing an ouster motion. Yes, the Republicans need unity and Congress needs unity, but tyrants can bring unity, too!
In my opinion, our problem in Congress isn’t unity so much as it is that the members of Congress have allowed themselves to be placed under tyrants (Pellosi before Boehner) and, as a result, we, the people, are under the tyranny of Congress. We’re under the tyranny of Congress, because the members are prone to be more accountable to tyrannical speakers (and their party’s leadership) than to the voters from whom they received their authority in the first place.
What we need are members of Congress who understand that they should only delegate the authority voters gave them to a Speaker who does not fear being accountable, even to the least of them. Sometimes the accountability that a Speaker needs will only come about when one person with courage does what the cowardly majority will not do.
Paul Ryan may have intellect, be winsome, and share many values1 with the members of the Freedom Caucus, but if the Freedom Caucus wants its members to have the freedom to be more accountable to the voters and less accountable to a Speaker or to Party leadership, they need a leader who is willing to be accountable to each of them.
If the Freedom Caucus doesn’t understand this, then it may unwittingly give up its freedom (as well as ours!) to a well-meaning person who eventually may not be able to resist the temptation to abuse authority that can come when accountability is decreased. If that happens, we’ll all be right back where we started.
- I admit that I would not vote for Ryan for Speaker anyway. On November 7, 2007, Ryan voted for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), one of the LGBT political lobby’s top priorities. ENDA will force religious employers to violate their beliefs about homosexuality or face financial ruin by opening them up to endless lawsuits, often backed with the full power of the federal government. In my opinion, those who respect religious liberty and understand God’s moral order and the importance of God’s design for human sexuality for the health of the social order which, in turn, affects society’s economic health should not vote for him.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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