Report by Betty Sakai
Forum Past President Jerry Mungai introduced Dr. Charlie Self as a UCSC Banana Slug. He earned four degrees at UCSC from 1981 to 1995, including Renaissance/Reformation and Colonial American History, History of the Church and Social Change in Latin America, culminating with a PhD in Modern European History with foci on Belgium Protestantism and studies in Virtue Ethics and the Holocaust. In 1986 Charlie received an MA in Philosophical and Systematic Theology from the Graduate Theological Union and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. Many know Charlie Self as Dr. History on KSFO’s popular Morning Show with Brian Sussman. He also is a senior advisor to the Action Institute for Religion and Liberty, a world-leading think tank dedicated to good intentions, sound economics, and Biblical principles integrated with free market principals.
Charlie Self’s life mission is to build understanding, to encourage communities and the nation to flourish according to Isaiah 61, to equip and empower others’ destiny in Christ. He stimulates people of all perspectives to think and act decisively. In 1980 he became an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God Church and thereafter served as an associate and senior pastor in several congregations in California. As a Professor of Church History at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO, he teaches courses in apologetics, church history, mission history, leadership development, and in discipleship. He is a Senior Advisor to the non-profit Active Institute -- a research organization dedicated to the study of free market economics and moral absolutes. His writings include: The Devine Dance, The Power of Faithful Focus, and with the Action Institute for Religion and Liberty, Flourishing Churches and Communities: A Pentecostal Primer in Faith, Work and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship. He and his wife of 33 years, Kathy (a professional artist) have three adult children.Together they maintain two websites: www.drcharlieself.com and www.colorbrush.com. They welcome email contacts @ email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone @ 408-307-1339.
This was Dr. Self’s 2nd speaking engagement at the Forum, the first being at the inception of the Forum. His talk this time focused on helping Conservatives understand what to do moving forward, considering the vast diversity of Conservative thinking. Venomous reactions he said are not new in American politics. What we believe is much bigger than any election. He then noted that his father was a Long Island Democrat -- a Harvard and MIT grad -- and his mother was the “last Republican from Vermont”. He mused that when his 8th grade friends were building paper mache teepees, he was studying the original documents. Today he enjoys reading the works of William Buckley and Arthur Brooks for their insights, wit, and ability to debate and consider the other side. This 2016 Presidential election has been interesting but is certainly not a new phenomenon in American history. He gave a number of examples, citing in 1800 that Adams and Jefferson were mortal enemies and later reconciled. In 1860 it was Abraham Lincoln against the world. In 1912 Teddy Roosevelt divided the party and the result was Woodrow Wilson. In 1948, Republican pollsters made the same mistakes pollsters made today when they forgot that not every Democrat owned a telephone; the polls were off and Harry Truman won.
The meaning of words change with time. “Liberal” originally meant “free market person”. The American Revolution was actually a Conservative revolution -- very liberal for its time -- an attempt to get rid of government control over the economy in favor of local governance. Today the term “Conservative” needs to be re-examined as we go back to the future exploring what happened in the 2016 election. Taking the position that assumes Donald Trump is a racist and xenophobic, he asked, “Did all the racists and xenophobes suddenly come out of their bunkers?” He asked, “Was Hillary Clinton so flawed that all the Obama supporters defected? What actually happened?” The answers to these provide endings and new beginnings. There will be much reflection as leaders consider the future. Trump is a Populist and it’s been a long time since the parties have worked together. Populism is something America has not seen in 100 years and it has been reborn in both parties in this 2016 election -- a result of millions feeling alienated in both parties -- especially those in the Conservative camp.
He implored his audience to consider what it means to be Conservative. Charlie said he is involved in many business and religious circles. In some he is considered a radical innovator. In others he is a symbol of everything that is wrong and will not change. Conservatives believe in dignity and personhood, the integrity of every individual, in family, and that religious and civil institutions and local governance take priority over larger agencies of state and federal governments. Conservatives believe that local and ethical free markets with global access are critical to social flourishing. Conservatives believe in a functional legal system, in property rights, and in a commitment to personal and social virtues. Conservatives believe in creativity and innovation and the timeless principals of conservation. Conservatives reject hedonistic Humanism and dehumanizing Communism as subversions of what it means to be human. Conservatives believe that a true balance of power is vital and want to see a judiciary interpreting cases in light of original Constitutional intent, to see legislators actually proposing legislation. Conservatives affirm national identify with borders and language and cultural identity as important and easily undermined by various forms of totalitarianism.
Outsiders winning elections is not new. Both Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 were outsiders who repudiated the political correctness of the day. Charlie mused that the 2016 election has looked a lot like the 1921 charismatic Warren Harding scandal-ridden administration that actually had elements of racism and xenophobia in it. There exist today deep divisions among Conservatives concerning the 2016 election. Like the British recently, Americans said they wanted someone in office who actually knows where we live and who we are. In the 1960s we celebrated together the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts that allowed millions of Americans to vote and have access to education and prosperity. The radicalization of the Democrat Party after 1968 and the southern strategy of the Republicans completely upended this. It is frustrating to listen to people not understand who actually voted for civil rights. Deep divisions in our society concerning race go back to the 1840s and 1850s when every religious institution was split on racism. In the South, people believed government came after the individual, after family. In the North, people deferred toward government.
People need to be respected for their individual differences. Our crisis today is determining what it means to be human, to be an American -- how to build a free and virtuous society. Vilification, castigation, and personal insults are not effective. We must proceed to win the day and change the world. Considering why Trump won out over Conservatives like Cruz, Jindal, and Santorum, he said it was more than persona or personal insults. Trump tapped into the disaffections and dreams of millions of people. Conservatives have to learn how to touch the heart, and Democrats have to learn how to win back the heart.
Charlie admitted he is often accused of being intellectually too detached, abstract. But being a good neighbor he said means giving love and respect to even those who seek our demise. We want people to flourish. Conservatives need to unmask statism and encourage strong marriage and work ethics. Able-body people are dehumanized when the state creates dependency by giving them welfare checks. Charity does not work. Expose the overreach of government agencies. Help to bring the public and private sectors together. For example, in Haiti some Haitian men started a company that created solar panels. Then a Texas-based charity dumped solar panels into Haiti and these Haitians went out of business. The film Poverty Inc. exposes the boondoggle of foreign aid destroying local enterprise. There are a thousands of charities in Haiti and none of them work. Ethical enterprise joined with public infrastructure and property rights creates flourishing markets and trade.
Conservatives must reach out to forge meaningful relationships. A Tea Party Group he once counseled reached out to help a senior center and their membership doubled in size. Share visions and values without labels. Forge a preferred future -- one winsome and preferred future at a time.
The Q & A session was conducted by Jack Mallory. Charlie Self was asked: (1) who he voted for? Although voting is personal, he qualified his answer by stating he did not vote for the loser. (2) his opinion on N.P.R.? Public radio he said produces a definite Left narrative but instead of defunding NPR he counseled conservatives should get involved to change it, (3) On Mike Pence? Charlie’s response was immediate: “Pence is a gift!” (4) On Donald Trump? Admitting to doubts during the primaries, based upon Trumps’ speech of Gettysburg, he has become hopeful. (5) about the U.N.? He said it needs reforming. Governance needs to stay local. There also needs to be a stop to the anti-Israel title wave. (6) about the role of labor unions in America? He discussed the historic role of labor unions and added there needs to be a vast and immediate reform of public labor unions. The public needs civil servants and unionization of the public trust is a real contradiction. Public pensions he added need to be privatized. (7) about the Electoral College? Charlie said that the founders of our Republic were brilliant in providing a voice for those not living in the populated areas. He added that if he could change anything, he would have Senators elected through the state legislatures and would require term limits. (8) about his concerns if Hillary Clinton had won? He answered that it would not have been an apocalypse any more than Donald Trump’s winning will be a utopia because the real issues remain on the ground, in the hearts of the people which is where our persuasive works must happen. If President Trump acts as an Executive and lets the Legislature do its business and he nominates Supreme Court Justices who make judgments based on the original U.S. Constitution, then President Trump will have done a remarkable job.
(9) about Islam in America? Charlie was challenged by one gentleman in the Forum audience who accused him of not understanding Islam. Charlie answered he certainly has never experienced being a Muslim. Historically since the 1600s Islam has been a major aggressor that demands submission. He noted that there are forces evolving in Islam today working to change Islam, that they are the hope. The fact is, Islam is intolerant and provides no room for creativity or innovation, freedom for women, or love. True to his faith, Charlie talked about the hundreds of disciples for Christ he has placed in the field who have successfully worked to assist cultural Muslims to free themselves from the intolerance. Charlie sees the issue as one of giving Muslims the opportunity to live upholding the first amendment, but many in the Forum audience remained pessimistic of Muslims seeking to assimilate, citing the fact that in America today there are places like Dearborn, Michigan where everything is dominated by Islam. Pressed, Charlie agreed Muslims who are unable to assimilate should not remain in the U.S.
(10) how to change how crude and rude our society has become? He said, we can start today. Make changes without reducing ourselves to personal insults. Refuse to call names and lower ourselves to the level of our opponents. Go about our business of solving problems and this will turn the tide.
(11) about why so many people look to the government to solve moral and economic problems? He answered that in the late 19th Century the Prime Minister of Holland was a theologian Protestant Minister named Andrew Piper who promoted the idea that no-one should die hungry, cold, and alone. This was the birth of the welfare state -- out of Christian compassion, not Marxism. Because we have lost the primacy of religious communities that established this compassion, today we are experiencing government stepping in to provide welfare that creates dependency. We are at a very serious moment with the children of the prosperous feeling entitled, even as immigrants don’t feel entitled.
The Forum audience provided a warm and appreciative applause for the depth of information provided by Dr. Charlie Self. He is an introspective, complex thinker that seeks to provide answers to problems we face today -- problems not easily understood in a world threatened by a lack of fundamental security, education, morality, hope, opportunity, and unexpected violence.
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