Samuel Wurzelbacher was launched into the public arena after Senator John McCain used him as an example of an average American during a presidential debate last fall. "Joe the Plumber" quickly became a celebrity because he questioned then-candidate Barack Obama about his small business tax policy during a stop in Ohio. Now, Wurzelbacher travels the country promoting his book, campaigning for candidates, and speaking at conservative rallies. Wurzelbacher spoke with Christianity Today at an event near Chicago.
Why does conservatism appeal to you as a Christian?
Conservatism is about the basic rights of individuals. God created us. As far as the government goes, the Founding Fathers based the Constitution off of Christian values. It goes hand-in-hand. As far as the Republican Party? I felt connected to it because individual freedom should not be legislated by the federal government.
One thing I've been thinking about is taking the social issues out of national politics. For example, if Georgia wanted abortion and Alabama didn't, that's going to be up to the people in Georgia. I can't sway them. Would I give them advice not to? Absolutely. Would I say it's wrong? Yes. I'll go to Alabama where they say, "I don't want abortion." Trying to get 350 million people to agree on an issue is not going to happen. That way, people can live the way they want to as opposed to being imposed on by the federal government.
In the last month, same-sex marriage has become legal in Iowa and Vermont. What do you think about same-sex marriage at a state level?
At a state level, it's up to them. I don't want it to be a federal thing. I personally still think it's wrong. People don't understand the dictionaryit's called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It's not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that. You know, God is pretty explicit in what we're supposed to dowhat man and woman are for. Now, at the same time, we're supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins. I've had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn't have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they're people, and they're going to do their thing.
Does the Republican Party reach out to evangelicals enough?
No. None of them stand up for anything. They use God as a punch line. They use God to invoke sympathy or invoke righteousness, but they don't stay the course. That's why I think that all needs to be taken out of the federal level and give it back to the states. We've lost our American history. Every state has "In God we trust" or "With God's help" in their constitution. God is recognized as, if you will, America's religion.
Who do you see as the emerging leaders for the Republican Party?
There isn't one. You got the RNC talking about repackaging principles and values to make them hip and cool to the younger generation. You can't repackage them. They are what they are. You can't make what they are.
I like Sarah Palin a lot, actually. I just don't know if that's where God's leading her. I just know the Republican Party's done its best to blackball her. I don't know what her agenda is. If she ran, would I vote for her? Absolutely. John McCain was the lesser of two evils.
Who do you see as the emerging Christian leaders?
James Dobson. I love Dobson. I love John Eldredge's Wild at Heart. The last book I read was The Five Love Languages [by Gary Chapman].
Do you see any Christians becoming stronger voices in politics?
When politicians start talking about being a Christian, I just worry, because a lot of them don't really follow through. I like to see real action in that area. I heard some stories about George Bush, and how he wrote an original letter to each and every soldier that died. And his prayer life was listed to be pretty intense. That kind of thing, it's awesome. I would love it to be true. I would love to hear our leaders actually check with God before he does stuff.
Some people have criticized the Republican Party as being the party of the rich. How can they change their image?
I don't know if they can change their image. I really don't. But, you also have to take into consideration that the Democrats say they are for people in poverty. They're not. They take advantage of all the tax breaks that the IRS has put in place for them. Tax lobbying is a billion-dollar industry up in Washington. Get rid of the tax code we have. Implement a fair taxmake it a level playing ground. People in poverty keep them in powerthat's what people have to understand.
How did you react to such public attention after John McCain talked about you in the presidential debate?
The second day, when everything out came out about my taxes, you know, I got really scared, really down. All these people were saying just god-awful things about me. I mean, I'm not one to blow smoke up my skirt, but I think I'm a pretty nice guy and I'm not used to people saying that kind of thing about me. It really hurt. But then I went to bed that night and talked to God for a good, long time. The next morning, I woke up feeling like Superman and I didn't care about what things people said anymore from that day on. They're going to say what they're going to say. They want to tear people down to make themselves feel better. They have their own agendas, and God said, "Well, you know, listenI set you on a path, and go to it. See what you can do."
Who are you people you look to for advice?
Ken Holder from fairtax.org, who is working hard to spread the fair tax. There are people out there that I respect, but my hero is my dad, and he's the Christian that I aspire to be. He's reading his book, he's praying. He's doing the things he's supposed to be doing as a Christian. I fall short.
How so? What do you mean when you say you fall short?
I don't read my Bible as much as I should. My walk with God seems to get interrupted sometimes. And as much as I fight against that, the world invades in my life, and it will keep me off track for a little while. And then I have to remember, Okay, this is what I believe in, I've got to get back to it. My dad has always been a rock when it comes to Christianity. As far as my faith goes, it's what got me through my life.
Do you have plans to run for public office?
Not right now. God hasn't said, "Joe, I want you to run." I feel more important to just encourage people to get involved, one way or another. If I can inspire some leaders, that would be great. I don't know if I want to be a leader.
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