Conversation: Congressman Todd Tiahrt
Faith and Capitol Hill
Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., has served as a member of the House of
Representatives for 14 years. He recently visited with Today’s Pentecostal
Evangel. Following is an excerpt of that conversation.
tpe: What were the circumstances surrounding your decision
to follow Jesus?
TIAHRT: I grew up in church. But, like most people, I
thought I had faith because I was going to church. It took me awhile to
understand the difference between going to church and having a relationship
with Christ. I think I was about 20 when I attended a crusade in Sioux City,
Iowa. I realized then that I needed a personal relationship with Christ.
tpe: You decided to attend an Assemblies of God university
(Evangel). What led you in that direction?
TIAHRT: I had been attending engineering school and was
playing football, but I had an injury that prevented me from playing. So I
began looking for another goal in life. My uncle recommended that I pursue a
business degree, so I transferred to Evangel.
tpe: You were working at Boeing when you felt led to run for
political office. How did that come about?
TIAHRT: My wife encouraged me to meet with my state
representative. After meeting with him, I realized his view of the world was
that children were the property of the government. He was pro-choice, for
higher taxes, and for less personal responsibility and a more intrusive
government. My wife began looking for someone to run against him. She couldn’t
find anyone, so I finally said I’d do it. That was in 1990. Election night I
thought I had won by 24 votes. But in a recount, 48 hours later, I discovered I
had lost by 8 votes.
tpe: Even though you lost your first election, you didn’t
walk away from politics. You ran again.
TIAHRT: Yes. I felt like I was doing the right thing. It was
something more than a desire; it was a sense of purpose. But, after the election,
while going around and picking up my campaign signs in my pickup, I wondered if
I had missed God’s signal. My faith was telling me I had done the right thing,
but my result was telling me I had done the wrong thing. It took me six months
to work through that. But I realized the battle wasn’t over.
I had invested all this time and come close to winning, so I
decided to run for the state senate. I worked every day at Boeing and then
walked door to door at night seeking votes. During my lunch hour I’d make phone
calls on my cell phone for the campaign. I defeated a candidate whose family
had held the seat for more than 24 years. In 1992 I won a four-year term to the
state senate. I served two years in the state senate then was elected to
Congress in 1994.
tpe: What do you like the most and least about your job?
TIAHRT: I like working for the values of the people of
Kansas and people of faith. We often forget our Christian heritage. When the
tsunami hit Southeast Asia, Americans sent $1 billion to the region. The U.S.
government matched it with another $1 billion. When asked why we were doing
this, I said, “We’re doing this because we’re a Christian nation. These are
Christian values. These values are the basis of this great society.” The
underlying values that guide our government and individual lives are based on
I dislike the lack of accountability I see within the
national media. Often the media accept statements that are absolutely false
without verifying the facts because it parallels, or supports, their ideology
or view of the world. Unfortunately, that seems to be acceptable these days.
tpe: Most people view Congress as gridlocked. How do you
deal with political disappointments, stalemates and partisanship?
TIAHRT: Politics certainly functions at a different pace
than most people are used to. I have to get 217 people to agree with me before
I can get anything done. Coming out of business, that was a change for me. I
had to learn to practice patience, be tolerant of different views, accept
people for who they are and listen to people — which are all facets of my
tpe: As you look over your 14 years in Congress, what do you
see as your major accomplishments?
TIAHRT: I’ve worked hard to eliminate barriers to businesses
keeping jobs here in America. I’ve also been a proponent of the faith-based
community receiving resources in order to help people in need.
Jesus taught that everyone has value, that individuals are
persons and not property. When I discovered how tax dollars were being used by
non-governmental organizations in the form of food, medication and clothing,
and leveraging it to encourage sterilization and abortion in foreign countries,
I was able to put language in place to prevent it. No longer can agencies
coerce people to have abortions or be sterilized in order to receive food or
tpe: Some question whether a person can really make a
difference for the kingdom of God as a public servant. What would you say to
TIAHRT: Christians should be engaged in the culture.
Sometimes that requires that we leave our comfort zone. Christians need to be
in politics. I grew up hearing that politicians were dirty and dishonest.
Politics was something you pushed aside because there were risks involved.
It’s difficult. It’s out of the pew and out into the
community. But Christ didn’t stay in the synagogue. He was engaged in His
culture. There are people who go to church every Sunday who are articulate, who
have a good worldview, who have the ability to lead people. Some of them need
to be in politics. They can help change our culture by serving on the school
board, city council or at the state and federal levels.
tpe: Are we making progress in terms of Christian
involvement in the public square?
TIAHRT: We’re more involved today than we were in 1994. It
ebbs and flows. There are more faith-based organizations today like Convoy of
Hope, more health care is being provided, and more people are involved with
adoptions. In 2006 I felt like we took a step back. People stayed home on Election
Day. Because of that we saw a change of direction in Washington. We need people
to go to church on Sunday, go to work on Monday, and vote on Tuesday.
tpe: What part do prayer and Bible study play in your
TIAHRT: I’m involved in several prayer and Bible study
groups. They’ve been a great encouragement to me. And encouragement breeds
courage, which is vital to my work as a congressman.
tpe: What’s at stake whenever Christians vote?
TIAHRT: There are two worldviews. One view is intrusive and
wants to force faith-based organizations to incorporate non-faith-based people.
Pro-choice versus pro-life is another issue. People can’t help determine the
direction of our nation unless they get involved in elections. Find a candidate
who supports your view. Put a sign in your yard, make a donation to that
candidate’s campaign, pray for that person and be sure to vote.
tpe: How can the readers of TPE and the people of the
Assemblies of God pray for you?
TIAHRT: First, pray for the protection of my family. This is
a difficult lifestyle — a lot of travel, a lot of time away. You become a
target in the media and a target spiritually, too.
People need to pray that church leaders and people of faith
who are in politics have the courage to stand their ground in the battle and
avoid the temptations. We forget that this is a battleground. We’re fighting
for the soul of this culture.
Please pray for your elected officials — from your
township to the president of the United States, to those who serve in the court
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