Q & A: Tim Pawlenty on Evangelicals and the Issues
Courage to Stand
Tim Pawlenty knows that he doesn't carry the same name recognition that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin does, but that doesn't keep him from testing the 2012 presidential waters. The former governor of Minnesota said recently that he is "leaning" towards a run as he promotes his new book Courage to Stand (Tyndale). An outspoken evangelical, Pawlenty attends Wooddale Church, led by Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. CT recently spoke with Pawlenty about issues like the environment, health care, and foreign policy, plus the number of evangelicals considering a 2012 presidential run.
Your book encourages Christians to be involved in public issues. At what point might Christians rely too much on political solutions to current problems?
I started with the perspective of someone who says that faith is separate from public law and public service; it really isn't. We have, as a country, a founding perspective that we're founded under God; our founding documents reference and acknowledge God, and acknowledge that our rights and privileges come from our Creator.
For those who have an interest in or passion about an issue, being involved in the political process is important. It isn't for everybody; there are other ways to serve, including the family, neighborhood, faith-based organizations, charitable organizations, and also reaching out and helping somebody on a one-on-one basis.
Recently, Alabama governor Robert Bentley spoke at a Baptist church about accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior, and then said, "I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister and I want to be your brother." How does someone balance being evangelistic while also having the obligation of a governor representing a religiously diverse state?
I'm not familiar with the Alabama situation, so I can't comment on it. Beyond that, when I go into the public square and speak about faith matters, first of all, I try to not inject my own personal editorial comments. If I make a faith-related comment, I usually quote from the Bible, often from the Old Testament. I remind people that our country is founded under God, and the founders thought that was an important perspective. I watch my tone so I don't get judgmental or angry about issues. I try to express myself in ways that are measured and appropriate and hopefully civil and positive. Lastly, I try not to say that God is on my side, but I strive to be on God's side.
You write that whenever Christian leaders try to influence social policy, it's important to remain goodhearted, measured, and loving. Do you think Christians have struggled with these qualities in politics?
Some have. Of course, it doesn't take many to create a stereotype or impression on broader audiences. For people who might be a little skeptical about people of faith in public life, or people of faith who have large television exposure or something, [they have seen] a lot of fallen leaders. There have also been times when people came across as fairly judgmental. It's most effective to reach out in a way that's respectful and loving, even if we disagree. You win more arguments or draw people in to get a fair hearing if your approach is thoughtful and civil and respectful in these matters.