Friday, January 25, 2008


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

It's been a whirlwind week for me. From Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill to today in Lynchburg, Virginia, there wasn't a second wasted. Thanks for praying us through the crisis at the U.S. Senate. As you probably read, we did have a National Memorial for the Pre-born service in the U.S. Capitol complex after all. It didn't look that way as late as last Thursday.

(I should mention that for the tenth year in a row I was back at North Carroll Assembly of God in Manchester, Maryland, to preach their annual Sanctity of Human Life Sunday service on January 20. Pastor Dave Olson is a wonderful man with a real shepherd's heart. I'm deeply grateful for the long-time friendship and support of this beautiful family of God!)

Only a few days before the 14th annual Memorial, we were told that when it came to pro-lifers on Capitol Hill, there was no room in the inn! That would have been the first time we were denied access to this incomparable venue. Our thinking is simple: Put the pro-life message where it counts--right in the center of U.S. Senate life by staging it inside the U.S. Senate office buildings. By now I hope you've read and watched my account of what transpired. We'll post a new video soon on YouTube--please watch for it and forward the link to your family, friends and fellow church members.

The Memorial itself was an overwhelming success. We once again had a standing-room-only crowd. World renowned singer, songwriter and guitarist Tony Melendez performed. Not only is he an extraordinarily gifted artist, he is almost unbelievable. Born without arms, he plays complex guitar arrangements with his feet. He also drives his full-size conversion van--with his feet! He even backed it into the narrow parking space behind our building--effortlessly! Many pro-abortion advocates would say that a pre-born baby without arms shouldn't be born. Tell that to Tony and to the countless number of people deeply affected by his music. Along with Tony Melendez, we heard another powerful message from Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. Fr. Frank is the "priest who preaches like a Baptist and prays like a Pentecostal!" I closed the historic gathering by announcing that despite the opposition, we had just had church in the U.S. Senate!

Meanwhile, as we were getting underway with the service at the Senate building, my brother, Paul, and our chief of staff, Peggy Birchfield, were at the White House for a strategic breakfast meeting hosted by President Bush and attended by other national pro-life leaders. Paul made it back just in time to introduce one of our honored guests, attorney and Christian philanthropist Stephen Peroutka. (The generosity of Stephen and his brother Michael are the reason we can maintain our National Pro-Life Action Center.)

On Wednesday I presented the Ten Commandments Leadership Award to Indiana congressman Mike Pence in a ceremony in his office in the U.S. House Longworth Building. Faith and Action and the National Clergy Council cooperate to confer this distinction on those who use their considerable stations in life to promote and model principles consistent with the Great Words of Sinai. Congressman Pence is an outstanding Christian witness on Capitol Hill and a tireless champion of the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage and the family and the public acknowledgment of God.

Thursday included a meeting with a gentleman I haven't seen in 24 years. Dr. Ray McCoy was a pastor in Western New York when my brother, Paul, and I first launched this ministry there. He now leads a Christian humanitarian effort to orphans in Nigeria and Burkina Faso, Africa. As an African-American, Dr. McCoy carries a great burden for the mother continent. We prayed together, talked and explored how we can network to benefit both of our missions. This is a good example of the many projects we assist each year that never get headlines. Our opponents in the struggle for the soul of American civilization often accuse us of being callous toward those who suffer. They don't care about the other side of our work and never give us credit for it. I don't think the secular media has ever mentioned that my brother Paul and I founded a relief agency, Operation Serve International, or a domestic outreach called Hearts for the Homeless. It doesn't matter. We don't do these things to gain the praise of men; we do it out of obedience to God and love of neighbor.

Finally, the week ended with my visit to the School of Law at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. This, of course, is the school founded by the late Jerry Falwell, and now lead by his two sons Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Jonathan Falwell. Mat Staver, a good friend of many years, is dean of the law school and founder of Liberty Counsel, a public interest religious liberty law firm. Mat is a former pastor turned lawyer who is leading the charge on many fronts to reclaim our nation for God. He's become a very important part of our effort to reach judges and justices with the Biblical truth. Mat was my host during my visit to Liberty. I also did several television broadcasts with him and addressed students and faculty in the law school's newly completed courtroom that is a replica of the U.S. Supreme Court chamber.

This weekend I'll travel to Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania (near Trenton, New Jersey) to preach for Pastor David Farina at the great Calvary Full Gospel Church. Please pray for me, that the Lord will use me to advance His will and our shared mission. If you live within driving distance, come out and join us!

That's all for now--be back soon,

Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

If you live in South Carolina, today's the day to go out and vote. If you don't live there, by all means call family, friends, old-time church members, colleagues or any contact who cares about the state of our nation.

Today four principal candidates will battle for the Republican nomination in South Carolina. In alphabetical order: Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.

My last-minute thoughts after meeting and talking personally with each one:

Huckabee is a warm, friendly, gentle and humble man who truly loves the Lord, his family and his country. He's deeply interested in people's personal needs and cares especially about the ones who get the short shrift in life. He's a "Sermon on the Mount" man--a pastor in the true sense. His background in Christian ministry and even as governor of Arkansas is a consistent history of care for the poor, the stressed and the average Joe and Jane. He's a good man. He has rock solid, biblically informed convictions and prays and works continually to bring America back to her dependency on God. He's the most religiously impressive of the candidates. Of course some say this will limit him in winning a general election, but constituencies beyond Evangelicals and homeschoolers have begun gravitating to him.

McCain is different. He's strong on defense--a real "military man." We know he's a hero for choosing to stay with his fellow POWs and endure torture and deprivation rather than accept freedom because he was the son of an admiral. I know McCain on Capitol Hill as an adept deal-maker in the US Senate. He knows how back room politics works, but he can also be angry. His big problem is temperament. Something that shows even in his most famous legislation, McCain-Feingold, crafted with Democrat senator Russ Feingold. The law basically intimidates groups like ours from issuing commentary on elections. That's a big problem.

Mitt Romney is a class act. An enormously capable businessman, he is also a devoted husband and father. He admits he made a huge mistake backing pro-choice positions in the past, but I believe his conversion to pro-life is sincere. He runs an airtight campaign operation and is a skilled negotiator. He's cool, can be calculating (in a good sense) and carries himself presidentially. Some say he's too aloof, not warm enough with people, but I do think that makes him capable of making hard decisions and standing up against terror.

Fred Thompson is a good guy with an avuncular personality. He holds the right principles and has a pretty good history. When I met and talked with him he was quite comfortable to be with, relaxed and not terribly impressed with himself. But I wouldn't describe him as passionate. He just doesn't project "fire in the belly." His reputation from his days in the Senate are basically that he was good but slow to get things done. It takes an almost super-human level of strength and drive to be president. Thompson just doesn't project it. I like him, but it takes so much more than likability to be a successful candidate and chief executive of the United States.

Please do your duty as a citizen today and help your South Carolinian friends to do the same. It's a matter of stewardship over this nation that will have enormous consequences in the upcoming election. It will determine what happens in the war on terror, the economy, the choice of Supreme Court justices and whether or not we remain "one nation under God." Get out and vote or make those calls--please.

P.S. I will write about the Democrats in a future post. I've met Hillary Clinton and I even have a close friend working in her campaign--believe it or not! I haven't met Barack Obama, but I know plenty of people who have and I'll consult with them before I write.

Back later . . .

Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action

Friday, January 18, 2008


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck reporting:
Today I was the guest of my dear friend Kumar Lakhavani. We were in Spartanburg, South Carolina for my long-awaited face-to-face with Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. I was impressed with the man and the people around him. (Please forgive any typos as I'm composing this on my Blackberry handheld while Kumar speeds us to the airport.)
Until now I've only been able to comment on Huckabee from a distance, but today I got the close-up. There's something about looking a person in the eyes. It's like peering into the soul. If you've wondered whether Huckabee is the real thing, I saw today that he is.
Now, I will punctuate this to say yet again that I do not--and probably never will--endorse a candidate. (I wouldn;t do so here in any case.) What I will do is give you the information I have and urge you to do your own further research.
Having said that, in the same way I learned Mitt Romney is the extraordinarily gifted business leader he appears to be, so I learned Mike Huckabee is the extraordinarly gifted spiritual leader he appears to be. He and the people around him clearly love the Lord, they love His people and they love America.
Here's what else I learned about this surprise headliner among Republican candidates:
Those closest to him are his friends of many years. (And that group always tells you a lot about a candidate; you're known by the company you keep.) I spent considerable time with Rick Caldwell, who has known the Governor since high school days. They also shared a dorm at the Baptist college each attended. Caldwell and Huckabee share a lot in common, including having married at 19.
Rick recalls being in the school dorm praying with "Mike" about "bringing our nation back to where it needs to be." That's why Rick, a former youth minister, says it's no surprise to him "to see the man standing at the presidential debate sharing from his heart the same vision he had when we were college students."
Rick adds, "Mike Huckabee did not become pro-life because he was getting into politics. He went into politics because he is pro-life."
When I asked the Governor himself what he most wanted you, my Faith and Action Blog friends, to know about him. He said it was his pro-life convictions. That they're the starting point for everything. He was emphatic about his passion for the sanctity of life.
According to the people who know him best, Huckabee marched for over twenty years for the sanctity of life, and he did so alongside the Roman Catholic archbishop in Arkansas. (Huckabee has historically been ecumenical--an extension, Caldwell says, of deep personal relationships with Catholic leaders and others.)
A woman traveling with the campaign named Linda told me she and her husband have known Mike and Janet Huckabee for over eighteen years. When I asked this woman what she would say about the Huckabees after such a long friendship, she instantly responded, "They're the same precious people they were eighteen years ago. No different. Absolutely transparent."
On the character issue, Mike Huckabee shines. He's the real deal. You'll have to judge for yourself whether that's enough to pick him to lead the nation. You need to evaluate his platform, policies and competence. But if you're asking if his heart and soul are right, in my estimation the answer is an unqualified YES.
More to follow . . .
Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

The big news out of Michigan was Mitt Romney's big win over John McCain. (No news from the Democrat side--Hillary Clinton was uncontested on the ballot.) The victorious Romney secured his place among top tier Republican candidates. It gives him significant momentum as attention now shifts to South Carolina.

Something else about this Michigan surprise: An impressive majority of Evangelicals and other conservative Christians gave Romney their confidence. I saw this personally when I was there. In talking about each of the candidates' religious sensibilities, a number of pastors and lay church leaders told me they had no problem electing a Mormon. That took me aback, given what attitudes have been reported to be. I consider this an important and positive development. (I took note that Romney publicly thanked our friend Jay Sekulow for his work on behalf of the campaign in Michigan and for Jay's efforts to "get good judges"--meaning, of course, good federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. Should Romney win the presidency, Jay will be a top adviser to him on nominees to the federal bench.)

Yesterday I received an E-mail from a woman in Pennsylvania telling me she had examined all the candidates and determined Mitt Romney was the best qualified, but she still had doubts about his religion. She asked what I thought of Mormonism. I won't repeat everything I wrote back to her, but I will mention these points:

1) Religious labels don't mean much in politics. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both Evangelicals--Southern Baptists to be exact--just like Romney's contender, Mike Huckabee, but they are all very different people and hold very different values.

2) While Evangelicals and other orthodox, trinitarian Christians will have serious doctrinal differences with members of Romney's church (more correctly, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--"Mormon" is a nick-name), LDS members do hold to the highest moral values. God, family and country are passions for Mormons as much as they are tenets of faith. The Ten Commandments are revered and repeated in the Book of Mormon.

3) Romney's official religious advisor to his campaign is an ordained, Bible-believing Evangelical minister.

4) The measuring rod for Romney and all other candidates is whether they adhere to these high moral standards and whether they have the ability to govern effectively. After my personal meetings with Mitt (and Ann) Romney, I'd have to say he clears the first hurdle. I won't say I'm an expert on the second, but many agree with this woman from Pennsylvania.

I have not--and will not--endorse a particular candidate, but I do want the most qualified person to win. Michigan was one more tine in the winnowing fork. Let's see what happens next!

Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Monday, January 14, 2008


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

My feet are on Capitol Hill again after a quick jaunt to Michigan last week. I met many Republican leaders in the state. (While I was in New Hampshire the week before I talked mainly with Democrat Party leadership.) At one Republican function, anyone attending could have mistaken it for a church banquet. A state legislator opened in prayer—and I mean PRAYER—telling the attendees he was there to serve the people of his state, the members of his party and his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Mitt Romney was the only top-tier candidate making the rounds while I was there. I had met and talked with him before, so I didn’t even try this time. The frenetic schedules these candidates keep is exhausting just to watch, let alone try to engage. But I did do one mitzvah (a Jewish term for "good deed"). At the dinner function, I was milling around a private reception when I struck up a conversation with a diminutive grandma who was dressed to the nines. (Never mind that her sequined two-piece was probably from J.C. Penney and not Saks!) Anyway, she stood anxiously holding a Romney sign, furtively looking into the hallway. I asked if she expected to meet the governor.

“Oh, yes,” she said with little girl coquetishness. “I waited three hours in a restaurant the last time he was in town, but they changed his schedule and he never came. I was so disappointed.” She told me she wanted the photo to show to her 25 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren--noting there were five more on the way--and she wasn’t even Mormon! I had to make this my cause for the evening.

“Tonight’s your night,” I assured her. “You’ll get your photo with the Governor if there’s anything I can do about it.”

When I talked to Governor Romney’s state campaign director, she flatly ruled it out. “He’s not doing any photos tonight,” she pronounced—and there was no route of appeal!

Undaunted, I looked for a window of opportunity. When Governor Romney arrived, he was immediately whisked into a side room off the dining area for a news conference. By now the reception guests had filtered into the main hall to take their dinner seats. It was a sea of people. I prayed, “Lord, if you mean for me to do this mitvah for this precious lady, you will have to help me find her.” With that, I looked out over the crowded room and the first person I saw standing was Grandma! I dashed over to her, took her by the hand and barked, “If you want your photo, come with me now!” She excitedly squealed, “I can still run!” and off we trotted.

Governor Romney was just concluding his remarks to reporters when we reached the side room. A secret service agent blocked the door and asked what we wanted. I said, “Grandma here just wants a photo for her 25 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren."

“Well, you don’t look like much of a threat,” the agent teased, beckoning her closer.

When the Governor and his wife, Ann, turned to leave the room, I made sure I was the first in position as they exited. I extended my hand to Ann first. They both recognized me from our previous meetings, but there was no time for chit-chat.

“Ann, Governor, this little lady would love a photo for her 25 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren.” I pulled her toward me. The Romney's graciously and immediately indulged us. I waved down the official photographer and Grandma got her prized picture. It was my greatest accomplishment yet in these campaigns!

Someone came up to me after Romney received a standing ovation for his keynote address and asked, “Did you get face time earlier with the Governor?” I simply said, “Yes, and we got a lot accomplished.”

On the official end, as you probably know, Romney and McCain are in a dead heat in Michigan with Huckabee trailing by ten points. I do want to note that Governor Huckabee has indeed been adding a good amount of substantive content to his stump speeches. That’s good and necessary in order to be judged as a truly viable candidate in the general election. Still, he remains weak on defense and international policy. It goes without saying he is the only Evangelical in the race and therefore commands strong backing from churches, pastors and conservative Christian groups. No major Christian leader has yet to explicitly endorse him, though, indicating some measure of doubt as to his platform, record and / or whether he is electable. We’ll watch and see.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, political warfare has ignited as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duke it out for first place. I still don’t see how the party machinery will ever give it up to a neophyte like Obama, but stranger things have happened. We will watch and pray!

Don’t miss my Faith and Action Live! field report this Wednesday. We’ll score the candidates on the major moral issues: Sanctity of Life, Marriage and the Family and the Public Acknowledgement of God. You’ll find a link at our website. Lots to more to talk about!

Your grateful missionary to elected and appointed officials,

Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd St., NE, Washington, DC 20002

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Oops! Pardon my mania!

Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

If New Hampshire does anything for campaign enthusiasts, it ought to sober us up. I’m embarrassed to be among those who got caught up in the political inebriation. Until New Hampshire, I had calmly assured everyone who asked me my opinion on what would happen that it would be Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. Then I got swept up in the noxious fumes emitted by hysterical pollsters and pundits. For shame, for shame! I actually said aloud, it looks like Barak Obama will swamp Hillary! To add insult to self-injury, I said McCain will bury his competitors.

None of this proved true. Hillary squeaked ahead of Obama by a nose, giving each an equal number of delegates, but giving her the comeback aura exploited so well by her husband in his bid for the White House. And McCain, while scoring a comeback of his own, only bested Romney by three delegates to the convention. (Romney is currently leading in the overall delegate count.) So, the contest continues apace. In other words, it’s far from over; it’s just started. So I’m back to where I started: Hillary is her party’s likely nominee. Whoever the Republicans pick better be ready for the battle royal. If there’s anything the Clintons are not, they most definitely are not quitters.

This should be enough to give my fellow Evangelicals pause. We were threatened with our own mania, acting as if God had delivered a new Moses in Mike Huckabee, but as one seasoned Christian leader recently wrote me, “Huckabee needs to get away from homilies and add a little substance.” This contest will be fierce—fiercely fierce, whether Hillary or Barack is the Democratic nominee. The pro-life, pro-family, pro-acknowledgement of God candidate will need to be formidable, substantial, articulate, tested and presidential. And, hold your breath and don’t hate me, he will need to appeal to women! Yes, women! Women voters will be a force in this election as never before. So, he better be attractive, nice and sensitive—and have a very good track record as a husband and father.

My point is we need a principled, experienced and appealing winner for the pro-life, pro-family and pro-acknowledgment of God platform. More importantly, he will need to be a highly capable and proven executive. It’s still way too early to pick a favorite. Evangelicals need to soberly, prayerfully and diligently examine each candidate. It’s not enough that he can “preach.” We’re not hiring an evangelist to conduct a week-long revival; we’re hiring the chief executive officer for the largest, most complex and consequential enterprise in the entire world. Just in terms of numbers, the next president will manage scores of agencies with millions of employees and contractors. He (or she) will control $3 trillion in spending—that’s $3,000,000,000,000! And, need we say any more about the awesomely demanding responsibility of guarding the safety of over 300 million citizens from countless unnamed and unknown threats?

OK, we got our cup of coffee and we’re seeing clearly again. Now it’s time to settle down, get ourselves together and fully appreciate what this is about. It’s about the most serious business in the temporal world. If it takes more than a good preacher to run a church, imagine what it takes to run the United States of America. We’re not done vetting our candidate, not by a long shot. Keep watching, keep praying, keep asking and keep probing. The slate is still wide open. If ever we Evangelicals needed to pick the right one, it’s this time. We did it with Ronald Reagan and we can do it again. But remember, we need a Ronald Reagan for this assignment, not a Billy Graham.

Your grateful missionary to elected and appointed officials,

Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd St., NE
Washington, DC 20002

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

Once again, I’m writing to you from above the clouds at 34,000 feet. My brother, Paul and I are on our way back from Manchester, New Hampshire, where you know what is going on. As you’ll see in my audio and video postings, we’ve spent the last 30 hours in the Granite State watching . . praying . . . and reminding everyone we came in contact with just how consequential this primary vote will be.

The big surprise, of course, was the plummeting of Hillary Clinton from the presumptive Democratic nominee to a presumptive second-place loser. One poll (if you can believe polls) had her down by 13 points. In a minute I’ll give you my take on this from a spiritual perspective, but let me report just a little more:

From what we all saw on the ground, Barack Obama’s people were super-charged. They were bright-eyed, visibly excited, jumping up and down and very, very optimistic about their candidate. On the other hand, Hillary’s people were subdued, at times grim and resigned to her loss. At one dinner sitting, several of her top advisers inexplicably gravitated to our table. These were former top officials in her husband Bill’s administration. They wondered aloud by just how many points she would lose to Obama. (That’s not something any supporter wants to think about.) It took my brother’s gentle but prophetic confrontation of the Clintons’ track record on the paramount moral issues to convince them we were not prospects for their much needed 11th hour support!

(Oddly, I discovered I had more than a couple of mutual acquaintances with these folks. We didn’t get into it because of other things, but two of them told me they are involved in Bible studies in Washington that I have visited. Some day I’ll ask them how they square that with Hillary’s platform.)

I’ll admit now I never saw Hillary’s tumble coming. I had previously evaluated Obama as a shooting star who would go off with a bang but quickly flame out. After talking last year with top-ranking Democratic Party leaders, I was convinced there were so many Hillary IOU’s the Party would never turn on her. I’m beginning to think I was wrong.

There are two ways to view this from my perspective: 1) Hillary is getting her comeuppance (and God is a part of that), and / or 2) Obama, whose policies I believe would be in greater conflict with biblical principles than Hillary’s would be, is a judgment from heaven. Immoral leadership is an instrument God uses to chasten a people.

On the Republican side, the big surprise remains Mike Huckabee, but he’s expected to place only third in New Hampshire. The same network of fundamentalist leaning Evangelicals is not available to him in New Hampshire. Home-schoolers are divided, unlike the situation in Iowa. A lot of New Hampshire home school families are Roman Catholic and have different tastes, including for Ron Paul. That leaves a toss-up between John McCain, who doesn’t appear to me to have any vital faith, and Mitt Romney, who, while LDS, most certainly does.

All this is to say why we gathered with our good friend and frequent ministry partner, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, for a beautiful prayer service Sunday night. Our host was Pastor Gary Hamilton of the First Assembly of God in nearby Aurora, New Hampshire. His worship team led in a beautiful time of praise and many visiting and local Christian leaders exhorted the crowd and led in prayers. My brother Paul led the prayer for the all the candidates. It was not recorded, so I thought you’d like to read it:

“Lord God, men and women strive for high public office for many reasons: only you know their true motives and intentions. In each one is a mixture of willingness to serve others and ambition for power. We bring before you each candidate - Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, progressive. We pray that he, or she, will turn to you for guidance and wisdom. We pray that he or she will acknowledge you as the source of knowledge and goodness. We pray that he or she will defend the sanctity of human life and the dignity of each person - from conception to natural death. We pray that he or she will uphold the sacredness of the marriage of man and women as you ordained it. You have said that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. In this primary election - help the citizens of New Hampshire to rely on their knowledge and consciences well formed by your word, in casting their ballots for the leader who will rely on you and not his or her personal ambition. Let us too heed your admonition not to rely on our own strength or prowess, but to say 'The Lord has given us this victory.'” In Jesus' name. Amen.

Before I took to the pulpit to close the gathering, I surveyed the room and was struck by the breadth of diversity among those that ministered that night. There was Starr Parker, the African-American woman who has lead in so much social development. Joining her was Norma McCorvey, the former Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade and now tireless pro-life evangelist. And young people—lots of young people—from all over the country who have taken up the cause of calling America back to God and ending the horror of abortion. A troop of them presented a deeply moving “human video” (a drama in mime set to music) that left everyone speechless.

I reserved my time to commend Pastor Hamilton for his courage in hosting such a meeting. A lot of pastors—and maybe most—would have been afraid to do so. I led in a prayer that God would multiply Pastor Hamilton’s number. With 30 million Evangelicals and millions more Roman Catholics and other Christians of conservative moral conviction in this country, the Lord has his forces in place. The challenge is in their doing the right thing. Pastors have a lot to do with whether people feel comfortable—or even responsible—to engage the political process. A lot of pastors stay away from the topic afraid of either alienating prospective church members or being bullied by the ACLU. May God give us pastors bold as lions who will challenge and equip their people to be salt and light!

I will not be endorsing a candidate for many reasons, but I did urge the people gathered in Manchester to take their responsibility seriously. They thanked me for it.

Today the people of New Hampshire will vote for who they want to represent their party in the presidential race. The net result will likely be fewer candidates next week. This is the process that’s winnowing out the field. As we narrow our focus we can say more about those who remain. Please pray God’s will be done in today’s important phase of picking our next president.

We will keep watching—and, more importantly—praying!

Your grateful missionary to elected and appointed officials,

Rev. Rob Schenck

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

I’m propped at a lap-top counter at the Southwest Airlines gate in Chicago’s Midway airport en route home from frenetic—and extremely consequential—Iowa and its caucuses. I’ll have a day with Cheryl before heading off to New Hampshire to observe yet another round in this early stage of picking the ’08 presidential candidates.

The results were surprising. You know now that national political newcomers Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee swamped their more seasoned and well-heeled opponents, unsettling many a campaign strategy. From my vantage point on the ground, it appeared three elements combined to form this perfect storm. On the Democrat side it’s a surge in young voters for Obama. They told me Hillary is stale as last weeks’ bread and John Edwards is just phony. For the Republicans it was Mitt Romney’s unforgivable sin of going negative on Mike Huckabee, who was supported by a highly energized fundamentalist-leaning network of born again Evangelicals, mostly home-schoolers.

Let me give you a picture of what I saw and what happened: I watched common “heartland” folk who had organized and informed themselves, then braved very—very—cold weather with ice and snow, to make their way to the polling places. For Republicans it would have been an otherwise boring night sitting on folding chairs, listening to amateur speakers and trying to write something very important on a loose piece of paper supported only by their knees. Pen points frustratingly punctured the fragile leafs and no one knew where to put them when they were through. Still, they fulfilled their responsibility as American citizens. Good for them!
For Democrats the structure of the night was a bit more entertaining. I didn’t get to watch it (because I was at a Republican caucus meeting), but I was told it was pretty wild. Clusters of caucus attendees assembled in respective corners of their rooms, designated for the candidate of their choice. If that candidate didn’t achieve 15% representation of the registered voters present, he or she wasn’t considered “viable” and the “caucusers” could move to another candidate’s corner.

Most of this sounds as dull as a barn dance, but the outcomes were anything but! For the Dems, the less-favored Barack Obama bested Hillary Clinton by a full nine points. John Edwards squeaked just ahead of her by one point. (It was 38% Obama, 30% Edwards, 29% Clinton.) The Republican side was the real eye-popper. Going into caucus night, the former Arkansas governor, Huckabee, and the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, were in a dead heat. I knew Romney was in trouble when I heard the count announced at the Burlington, Iowa, 9th Precinct caucus. (I was invited there by the newly elected secretary of the body, the Reverend Morris Hurd. Pastor Hurd is an evangelical United Methodist and chairman of the Iowa Christian Alliance, a break-away of the old Christian Coalition.) The 83 voters in the room were the quintessential representation of all Republicans in Iowa: mostly silver-haired 55-plussers, a smattering of 30- and 40-somethings, and only a couple of young people. There were so many Romney lapel stickers in the room I thought for sure he’d have the edge. When Huckabee won the contest by two votes, for me it spelled a certain second place for the man who had once enjoyed a commanding lead in the Hawkeye State.

About the Republican upset, a lot of people have asked me if it was Romney’s Mormonism. I don’t think so. First, Iowa has a healthy LDS population. Burlington, the area I was in, has a relatively large number. It’s also close to Nauvoo, Illinois, a near sacred Mormon settlement. (It was while in Nauvoo that LDS founder Joseph Smith was jailed and later murdered by a mob.) I did not hear much objection to Romney’s religion. What I did hear was criticism—and even serious offense—at his campaign’s negative tactics hitting at Huckabee’s weak spots. Iowans are earthy, can’t-be-fooled-twice people who want a straight-up, “just-the-facts-ma’am” approach to politics. If there’s to be any swipes at candidates, they’ll make them for themselves, thank you very much.

One thing to keep in mind, Iowa has not historically done well picking presidents. Their early choices have rarely ended up the actual nominees and winners. I did say in a couple of media interviews that I think Iowa remains a good place to have the first contest, for precisely the above reasons. Iowans help expose the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. Their no-nonsense approach helps weed things out. (Just as an aside, it is good to keep all this stuff in perspective. According to my calculations, 90% of Iowans did sit out this process. Still, when it comes to this sort of civic duty, 10% is an impressive number.)

This experience was renewing for me. To watch so many Iowans—in every way “ordinary” American citizens—fully engaged in the political process was heartening. (I only spoke with three people who didn’t seem to know what was going on: one sweeping the floor at the Walgreen’s pharmacy, the other behind the cash register, and the third, a waitress at Perkins. The waitress had a good excuse: she’s a single mom of an autistic teen. ‘Nuff said.)

May we all be as motivated as the tithe of Iowans at those caucuses. There’s much more to learn about the candidates—good and bad. The contest has only just begun. I urge you to be diligently attentive, prayerful and careful as we move ahead. The consequences of this next presidential administration will be enormous. Among other things, at least two seats on the Supreme Court are at stake. Presidents last only four or eight years, but the Supreme Courts they appoint last decades. This race is for our kids and grandkids. God help us to do the right thing.

Everywhere I went in Iowa I reminded God’s people to keep three things in front of them as they approached the caucuses and eventually the race itself: 1) We need a God-fearing president who unashamedly, unreservedly and unapologetically acknowledges we are “one nation under God” and that it is “in God we trust.” 2) We need a highly capable leader who can govern with strength and effectiveness at home and on the world stage during a particularly complex and dangerous time, and 3) We need a candidate with the stamina and resources to go the distance and finally win against a formidable opponent. Only one or two of these elements will not suffice; we need to the whole package. (I’ll take the same message to the Granite State.)

By the time you read this I will be in New Hampshire. I’ll try to post another audio report from the field. Watch for details . . .

Your grateful missionary to elected and appointed officials,

Rev. Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK)
Faith and Action
109 2nd St., NE, Washington, DC 20002