Mark West Commentary: When Men are Unwilling to Lead – Tennessee’s Gubernatorial Race

July 27, 2018

by Mark West

There is a story in the Old Testament (Judges 4), where we read about two leaders in Israel, Deborah and Barak. The people of Israel were facing a serious threat from an oppressive enemy, King Jabin and the Commander of his army, Sisera. God had told Deborah to instruct Barak, a leader of men in his own right, to march out against Sisera to defeat the infidel. When Deborah informed Barak of God’s charge to him, Barak’s answer was:

“If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”

In that brief response, Barak revealed a lack of trust in God, a fear of men, and an unwillingness to go into enemy territory alone, without someone of greater courage and faith.

Deborah’s response to Barak was: “Very well, I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture.”

Like all stories in the Bible, there are typically modern day applications to our lives and even our nation.

Rewind twelve months ago to July 2017. I was contacted by Bill Lee to sit down with him, one-on-one, to discuss his campaign for Governor of Tennessee. Mr. Lee’s intent was to introduce himself with the hopes that I would support his candidacy. I had not met Bill before but I was grateful to have the opportunity to get to know him and to ask him questions on key issues, particularly the ones that were the “non-negotiables” for me. I also knew that the questions I would ask would be ones of great interest to many others.

We met at Panera in Chattanooga (my “office” for the last decade or so) and we spoke for nearly an hour. We covered a range of topics, but there were several litmus questions that I was eager to delve into, in order to determine if Bill Lee understood both the threat that our state faced, as well as the opportunity he would have to address those threats, if elected to Governor.

The phrase “Values Voters” has been assigned to constituents who elevate God, Life, Marriage, and Family, above issues such as economy, immigration, taxes, gun rights, etc. I consider myself a Values Voter, not because the other issues are unimportant, but because I view God, Life, Marriage and Family as foundational to any stable and thriving culture. Without a solid foundation, there can be no long-term optimism for all the other lesser issues that concern voters and politicians.

With this as a backdrop, I quizzed Bill Lee about God, Life, Marriage, and Family. Included in my questions was the fairly recent phenomena that has arisen in our culture, where men and boys have been given an open door to enter the restrooms and locker rooms designated for ladies and girls. Some legislatures have attempted to address this assault on the privacy and safety of women and girls with so called “Bathroom bills.” But when I used that term, “Bathroom bills,” with Bill Lee, his tone and demeanor changed. It was at first a subtle change, as he shared that he did not believe this issue required a Governor to intervene but that he would simply leave that seminal issue to local municipalities and school boards. He reemphasized that his focus as Governor would be on the economy, jobs, education and such.

Because I see the battle in our bathrooms and locker rooms as merely indicative of a much deeper threat, I respectfully pressed Bill further on the issue. It was at that point that he became agitated and even angry — not necessarily at me but rather at the fact that Bathroom Bills and such had seemed to become such a big “distraction” from greater priorities.

Again, while our conversation lasted nearly an hour, I knew from Bill’s prolonged response about bathroom bills, that he was clearly unwilling to offer unflinching leadership in the office he aspires for, as the onslaught of demands continue from those pushing to expose our daughters and wives to threats that should never be.

At the time, while I did not yet have a candidate to support, I walked out of Panera that day knowing that I would not support Bill Lee. Not that Bill isn’t a good man. Not that he isn’t a godly man. Not that he isn’t a successful businessman. But rather, Bill was and is unwilling to lead out on one of the greatest threats to the foundation of our culture — the sanctity and distinctness of the sexes and the all out assault on something as basic as the dignity, privacy and safety of every female in our state. In less than a generation, we have gone from a nation that would have never imagined that men would be given free access to women’s private rooms, to where now one is a bigot or something worse, if he or she stands for the privacy and safety of women. And even worse, those aspiring to lead are fearful and unwilling to stand for all that is right and good. Sadly, we have too many modern day Baraks seeking leadership roles, and too few Deborahs stepping out with courage and faith.
Job, a man of great wisdom and integrity, had this to say about the importance of speaking out and standing up for matters of value:

“Have I feared the crowd or the contempt of the masses, so that I kept quiet and stayed indoors?” (Job 31:34)

There are many men and women in our state and nation, who do such good for their families, community and even state. But being good does not necessarily mean one is qualified for all his ambitions. Rather, an indicator that one is prepared to lead is the evidence that one is willing to lead on matters requiring courage. Unwillingness to stand where the battle is waging, is the greatest disqualifier to leadership, as we see in the story of Deborah and Barak, playing out right before our very eyes as we go to the polls.

(It should be noted that the other prominent man running for governor, Randy Boyd, is also unwilling to stand against this same threat. Thankfully, the top tier woman campaigning for governor, Diane Black, has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to stand for the safety and privacy of women and girls, as well as all the other Values Voters issues.)

“Where the battle rages, the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

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Mark West is a successful businessman and founder of the Chattanooga Tea Party.