TIME faith

Rand Paul: America Is in a Full-Blown Spiritual Crisis

Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit on Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington.
Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit on Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

How did we stray so far from the Constitution? And how do we find our way back to the traditions of our founders?

America is not just experiencing growing pains. America is in a full-blown crisis — a spiritual crisis.

Soothing voices seek to reassure us that everything is OK. Everything is just fine. All is well. All is well until… Until one day all is not well. The problem, as Os Guinness puts it, is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor. Our foundation is cracking. It’s not that we’ve chosen the wrong politicians. It’s more fundamental than that.

We have arrived at that crossroads. We have arrived at a day of reckoning. Will we falter? Or will we thrive and rediscover our mojo?

America has much greatness left in her. If we believe in ourselves, if we believe in our founding documents, if we believe in the system that made us the richest, freest, and most humanitarian nation ever. But cracks are evident. The sand is shifting. Our moral compass is wavering.

Guinness makes this point. When he states that: “The only proper restraint to freedom is self-restraint.”

What does that mean? It means that those who love freedom must realize that freedom is not a license to do as you please, freedom can only be realized when citizens know self restraint, or put another way — virtue. This parallels George Washington’s belief that democracy requires a virtuous people. Laws don’t really restrain people. Ninety-eight percent of people follow a virtuous course with or without laws. This is not an argument against laws but an argument that laws alone are not enough to civilize a nation.

What America needs is not just another politician or more promises. What America needs is a revival.

Two hundred years ago Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” The question is now as important as it was then, will you be “sunshine patriots” shrinking and gone when the going gets tough or will you stand, shoulder to shoulder to defend the Republic!

As your representative, I swore an oath to defend the Republic against enemies foreign and domestic. Now that I’ve been to Washington and seen the belly of the beast, I can tell you that I’ve met the enemy and the enemy is too often right here in this town.

In the White House. In Congress. In both parties.

In bipartisan fashion, Congress defies its own rules on publishing bills online in advance of votes.

The President acts as if he were a king. He ignores the Constitution. He arrogantly says, “If Congress will not act, then I must.” These are not the words of a great leader. These words sound more like the exclamations of an autocrat.

In the face of war, the President is just as arrogant. Instead of coming to Congress, he illegally acts on his own.

We are faced with a crisis in the Middle East that does require action. While I am one who is hesitant to involve us in their civil wars, ISIS is now a threat to our consulate in Erbil and possibly to our embassy in Baghdad.

We must act but we should act within the rule of law. The Constitution states that only Congress may declare war, yet this President has, in Libya, and then again this week in Syria, committed our sons and daughters to a war that is not authorized by Congress.

Had I been President, I would have called for a joint session of Congress, laid out the threat, and requested Congressional authority to respond. By failing to follow the Constitution this President missed a chance to unite the nation. He missed a chance to galvanize the country. He missed the chance to become a great American leader.

How did we stray so far from the Constitution? And how do we find our way back to the traditions of our founders?

Don Devine writes of how Freedom and Tradition are intertwined: “Freedom needs tradition for law, order, and inspiration. Tradition needs freedom to escape stagnation, coercion, and decline. The great achievement of the Constitution’s framers was in providing a means for synthesizing freedom and tradition.”

America needs to revive tradition. America needs to revive virtue. America needs to revive the hope that springs eternal from the transcendent teachings of a humble carpenter who died on a cross. Government can supply bread, but it can’t mend a broken spirit.

Mother Teresa was once praised for her social work in India. She replied, “We are not social workers. We do this for Jesus.” No secular government, no social worker can claim the same motivation. No government, no law, can force a people to be virtuous. Our churches, schools and parents must fill that void.

This is not the norm right now. Speaking of a revival, speaking of our values, is sadly considered nonconformity in this day and age.

In other words, we must do something that our world often tells us not to do: Seek God.

Walker Percy laments in “The Moviegoer” that we’ve left no room for the seeker. Maybe, our country’s revival depends on seeking and re-discovering the synthesis of freedom and tradition.

Some seem to believe you must choose either liberty or virtue — that to be virtuous you can’t have too much liberty. That is exactly wrong. Liberty is absolutely essential to virtue. It is our freedom to make individual choices that allows us to be virtuous. Government cannot impose virtue, we must impose it on ourselves.

This does not mean our government should or cannot reflect our values. In fact, it must. The first Amendment is not about keeping religious people out of government, it is about keeping government out of religion. Some seek to separate the issues of our day. Separate our debt, from the issue of life. Separate our charity from our education policy. Separate our values from our government. This does not work.

Obamacare tries to force us to separate our faith from our business. Fortunately, The Supreme Court thought otherwise.

Reagan understood this unity of message when he wrote: “We do not have a separate social agenda, separate economic agenda, and a separate foreign agenda. We have one agenda, just as surely as we seek to put our financial house in order and rebuild our nation’s defenses, so too, we seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of schoolchildren by utopian planners and permit the acknowledgement of a Supreme Being in our classrooms.”

As Christians, we should always stand with the most defenseless. I believe that no civilization can long endure that does not respect life from those not yet born to life’s last breath.

The debate isn’t really about whether government has a role in protecting life. The debate really hinges on when life begins. I’ve held one and a half pound babies in my hand. I’ve seen them sucking their thumb on ultrasound and I’ve seen surgeons operate on babies still in the womb. So don’t tell me that five and six pound babies have no rights simply because they are not yet born. I am one who will march for Life and will continue to stand up in defense of life as long as I am privileged to be in office.

Another way we as Christians should stand up to the current status quo is in foreign policy. Reagan in his first speech to the UN said: “The record of history is clear: citizens of the US resort to force reluctantly and only when they must.” Reagan believed in strength, but also peace. He said: “As for the enemies of freedom, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people.”

Our foreign policy, though, has too often accepted war instead of peace, and intervention instead of strength, leading to a host of unintended consequences. Toppling secular dictators in the Middle East led time and time again to chaos and ultimately that chaos enabled and abetted the rise of Radical Islam. As secular dictators fell in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and now Syria, radical jihadists exploited the vacuum and Christians have been forced to flee. Where will the Syrian Christians go when the civil war breaks down their door?

Across the Middle East, the story is the same. Christians are either persecuted or on the run. In Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim is on the run. She is a Christian. For her beliefs she was sentenced to death by the Muslim courts of Sudan. Meriam was raised by a Christian mother and married a Christian man. At the time of her arrest, she had a young son and was pregnant. Because Meriam’s father was Muslim, Islamic law considers Meriam and her son to be Muslim. So when she was arrested, Meriam and her young son were taken and kept in prison. Meriam was forced to give birth in prison, shackled to the floor. When Meriam’s Muslim brother was asked about her sentence, he replied: “If she repents and returns to our Islamic faith, then we are her family. But if she refuses she should be executed.”

After her conviction, Meriam was given a chance to recant her Christianity and save her life. She refused, declaring: “I am a Christian and I will remain a Christian.” Luckily, Meriam was granted asylum and in August she was allowed to come to the United States. But there are more like her.

Across the globe, Christians are under attack as if we lived in the Middle Ages or as if we lived under early pagan Roman rule.

In Libya, once the secular dictator Muammar Gadaffi fell, radical jihadists raided Christian churches rounding up over a hundred Christians accusing them of being missionaries because they possessed Bibles and crosses. Many were tortured and one Christian died while being tortured.

In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian, sits on death row for blasphemy. She says it all began when she drew water from a Muslim villager’s well. As she was filling her bowl of water, a crowd formed chanting, “Death! Death to the Christian!” She pleaded for her life. She was pelted with stones, punched in the face and drug through the streets. The local Imam finally intervened only to say, “If you don’t want to die, you must convert to Islam.” The crowd descended on her again beating her with sticks. Finally, the police stopped the attackers only to arrest her. For several years now, Asia Bibi has been on death row for the alleged crime of blasphemy.

Until Asia Bibi is freed, Pakistan should not receive a penny of U.S. aid! Not one penny should go to any nation that persecutes or kills Christians!

You would think your representatives would get that message but they don’t. This summer I introduced legislation to stop foreign aid to any country that gives the death penalty or life in prison to Christians for religious choices. Both Republicans and Democrats voted overwhelmingly to continue funding countries who persecute Christians. The committee voted 16-2 to continue aid to countries persecuting Christians.

Our foreign policy must also let us Stand with Israel. That’s why this year, I introduced a bill to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas until they laid down their arms, stopped firing their rockets, and publicly recognized Israel’s right to exist. The irony is impossible to escape: Our taxpayer dollars may well end up funding Hamas, allowing them to buy more missiles to attack Israel with. My bill was opposed by Republican and Democrat leaders.

Instead, this past week Congress voted to arm Islamic rebels in Syria. One group of these so-called moderate rebels has stated publicly that when they’re done in Syria, next they will head to Israel. I asked on Senate floor last week: “To those of you who wish to arm these Islamic rebels, tell me who among them will recognize Israel’s right to exist?” No one answered because not one of these Islamic rebels will ever think about recognizing Israel.

In country after country, mobs burn the American flag and chant Death to America. Congress responds by sending more of your money to these haters of Christianity. I say not one penny more to any nation that is burning our flag!

It is time to put a stop to this madness, re-examine our foreign policy, halt all aid to Islamic radicals in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, and take a good hard look at what our foreign policy has done. You and I must and should stand with our fellow Christians in the Middle East and around the world — but that does not necessarily mean war and it certainly does not mean arming both sides in every conflict.

As Christians, we understand that the right to life, and freedom of religion, pre-exist all government. These rights are not granted to man by other men, these rights are granted to us by our Creator.

God, help us in these troubling times to make wise decisions, to make moral decisions, and to listen to the voice of God that lives and breathes and resides in us all. Amen.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky. These remarks are as prepared for delivery to the Value Voters Summit today in Washington, D.C.

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TIME politics

Rand Paul: ‘I Am Not an Isolationist’

Rand Paul, Rod Blum
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. listens he is introduced to speak by Iowa Republican congressional candidate Rod Blum, left, during a meeting with local Republicans, Aug. 5, 2014, in Hiawatha, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall—AP

If I had been in President Obama's shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS

Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militarily. They shouldn’t be. I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist. I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally.

I still see war as the last resort. But I agree with Reagan’s idea that no country should mistake U.S. reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.

As Commander-in-Chief, I would not allow our enemies to kill our citizens or our ambassadors. “Peace through Strength” only works if you have and show strength.

Our recent foreign policy has allowed radical jihadists to proliferate. Today, there are more terrorists groups than there were before 9/11, most notably ISIS. After all the sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq, why do we find ourselves in a more dangerous world?

And why, after six years, does President Obama lack a strategy to deal with threats like ISIS?

This administration’s dereliction of duty has both sins of action and inaction, which is what happens when you are flailing around wildly, without careful strategic thinking.

And while my predisposition is to less intervention, I do support intervention when our vital interests are threatened.

If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS. I would have called Congress back into session—even during recess.

This is what President Obama should have done. He should have been prepared with a strategic vision, a plan for victory and extricating ourselves. He should have asked for authorization for military action and would have, no doubt, received it.

Once we have decided that we have an enemy that requires destruction, we must have a comprehensive strategy—a realistic policy applying military power and skillful diplomacy to protect our national interests.

The immediate challenge is to define the national interest to determine the form of intervention we might pursue. I was repeatedly asked if I supported airstrikes. I do—if it makes sense as part of a larger strategy.

There’s no point in taking military action just for the sake of it, something Washington leaders can’t seem to understand. America has an interest in protecting more than 5,000 personnel serving at the largest American embassy in the world in northern Iraq. I am also persuaded by the plight of massacred Christians and Muslim minorities.

The long-term challenge is debilitating and ultimately eradicating a strong and growing ISIS, whose growth poses a significant terrorist threat to U.S. allies and enemies in the region, Europe, and our homeland.

The military means to achieve these goals include airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. Such airstrikes are the best way to suppress ISIS’s operational strength and allow allies such as the Kurds to regain a military advantage.

We should arm and aid capable and allied Kurdish fighters whose territory includes areas now under siege by the ISIS.

Since Syrian jihadists are also a threat to Israel, we should help reinforce Israel’s Iron Dome protection against missiles.

We must also secure our own borders and immigration policy from ISIS infiltration. Our border is porous, and the administration, rather than acting to protect it, instead ponders unconstitutional executive action, legalizing millions of illegal immigrants.

Our immigration system, especially the administration of student visas, requires a full-scale examination. Recently, it was estimated that as many as 6,000 possibly dangerous foreign students are unaccounted for. This is inexcusable over a decade after we were attacked on 9/11 by hijackers including one Saudi student who overstayed his student visa.

We should revoke passports from any Americans or dual citizens who are fighting with ISIS.

Important to the long-term stability in the region is the reengagement diplomatically with allies in the region and in Europe to recognize the shared nature of the threat of Radical Islam and the growing influence of jihadists. That is what will make this a comprehensive strategy.

ISIS is a global threat; we should treat it accordingly and build a coalition of nations who are also threatened by the rise of the Islamic State. Important partners such as Turkey, a NATO ally, Israel, and Jordan face an immediate threat, and unchecked growth endangers Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries such as Qatar, and even Europe. Several potential partners—notably, the Turks, Qataris, and Saudis—have been reckless in their financial support of ISIS, which must cease immediately.

This is one set of principles. Any strategy, though, should be presented to the American people through Congress. If war is necessary, we should act as a nation. We should do so properly and constitutionally and with a real strategy and a plan for both victory and exit.

To develop a realistic strategy, we need to understand why the threat of ISIS exists. Jihadist Islam is festering in the region. But in order for it to grow, prosper, and conquer, it needs chaos.

Three years after President Obama waged war in Libya without Congressional approval, Libya is a sanctuary and safe haven for training and arms for terrorists from Northern Africa to Syria. Our deserted Embassy in Tripoli is controlled by militants. Jihadists today swim in our embassy pool.

Syria, likewise, has become a jihadist wonderland. In Syria, Obama’s plan just one year ago—and apparently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s desire—was to aid rebels against Assad, despite the fact that many of these groups are al-Qaeda- and ISIS-affiliated. Until we acknowledge that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria allowed ISIS a safe haven, no amount of military might will extricate us from a flawed foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Obama’s decisions—from disengaging diplomatically in Iraq and the region and fomenting chaos in Libya and Syria—leave few good options. A more realistic and effective foreign policy would protect the vital interests of the nation without the unrealistic notion of nation-building.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

TIME politics

Rand Paul: We Must Demilitarize the Police

Police Shooting Missouri
Police in riot gear watch protesters in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 13, 2014. Jeff Roberson—AP

Anyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention, Sen. Rand Paul writes for TIME, amid violence in Ferguson, Mo. over the police shooting death of Michael Brown

The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown is an awful tragedy that continues to send shockwaves through the community of Ferguson, Missouri and across the nation.

If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.

The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.

Glenn Reynolds, in Popular Mechanics, recognized the increasing militarization of the police five years ago. In 2009 he wrote:

Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … Police look inward. They’re supposed to protect their fellow citizens from criminals, and to maintain order with a minimum of force.

It’s the difference between Audie Murphy and Andy Griffith. But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.

The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson observed this week how the rising militarization of law enforcement is currently playing out in Ferguson:

Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?

Olson added, “the dominant visual aspect of the story, however, has been the sight of overpowering police forces confronting unarmed protesters who are seen waving signs or just their hands.”

How did this happen?

Most police officers are good cops and good people. It is an unquestionably difficult job, especially in the current circumstances.

There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

This is usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism. The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick wrote in 2013 that, “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.”

Bernick continued, “federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.”

Bernick noted the cartoonish imbalance between the equipment some police departments possess and the constituents they serve, “today, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country—tanks included.”

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.

This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It is what the citizens of Ferguson feel when there is an unfortunate and heartbreaking shooting like the incident with Michael Brown.

Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it.

Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.

Let us continue to pray for Michael Brown’s family, the people of Ferguson, police, and citizens alike.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

TIME Foreign Policy

Sen. Rand Paul: U.S. Must Take Strong Action Against Putin’s Aggression

Rand Paul
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

In an op-ed for TIME, Senator Rand Paul argues that if he were President, he would take a harder stance against the Russian President for his actions: "Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of that nation’s sovereignty and an affront to the international community"

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of that nation’s sovereignty and an affront to the international community. His continuing occupation of Ukraine is completely unacceptable, and Russia’s President should be isolated for his actions.

It is America’s duty to condemn these actions in no uncertain terms. It is our role as a global leader to be the strongest nation in opposing Russia’s latest aggression.

Putin must be punished for violating the Budapest Memorandum, and Russia must learn that the U.S. will isolate it if it insists on acting like a rogue nation.

This does not and should not require military action. No one in the U.S. is calling for this. But it will require other actions and leadership, both of which President Obama unfortunately lacks.

I recommend a number of specific and decisive measures to punish Putin for his ongoing aggression.

Economic sanctions and visa bans should be imposed and enforced without delay. I would urge our European allies to leverage their considerable weight with Russia and take the lead on imposing these penalties. I would do everything in my power to aggressively market and export America’s vast natural gas resources to Europe.

I would immediately remove every obstacle or current ban blocking the export of American oil and gas to Europe, and I would lift restrictions on new oil and gas development in order to ensure a steady energy supply at home and so we can supply Europe with oil if it is interrupted from Ukraine.

Because of so many of our current needless laws and regulations, President Obama has left Europe completely vulnerable because of its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

I would support immediate construction of the Keystone Pipeline.

It is important that Russia become economically isolated until all its forces are removed from Crimea and Putin pledges to act in accordance with the international standards of behavior that respect the rights of free people everywhere.

We should also suspend American loans and aid to Ukraine because currently these could have the counterproductive effect of rewarding Russia. Ukraine owes so much money to Russia that America would essentially be borrowing from China to give to Russia.

The U.S. should suspend its participation in this summer’s G-8 summit and take the lead in boycotting the event in Sochi. If Putin’s troops remain in Crimea at the time of the summit, Russia should be expelled from the group.

I would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic, only this time, I would make sure the Europeans pay for it. The problem with the foreign policies of both Democratic and Republican administrations is that they never give a second thought to how America can afford what they implement.

America is a world leader, but we should not be its policeman or ATM.

At the end of the day, I still agree with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen — the greatest threat to America’s security is our national debt.

Russia, the Middle East or any other troubled part of the world should never make us forget that the U.S. is broke. We weaken our security and defenses when we print money out of thin air or borrow from other countries to allegedly support our own.

Like Dwight Eisenhower, I believe the U.S. can actually be stronger by doing less.

Like Ronald Reagan, particularly regarding Russia, I also believe, “Don’t mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.”

I stand with the people of Ukraine against subjugation and support their efforts to restore freedom. The Ukrainian people must be free to determine the fate and future of their own nation without unwarranted military or political intimidation from Russia.

Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength” requires strength of the sort President Obama now fails to project. But what some American leaders, including some in my own party, often forget is that lasting peace was always Reagan’s ultimate objective.

I have said, and some have taken exception, that too many U.S. leaders still think in Cold War terms and are quick to “tweak” the international community. This is true.

But mutual respect and practical diplomacy is a two-way street, where Russia or any other nation should not be tweaking us, or their neighbors, either.

Putin’s invasion and occupation of Crimea certainly now go far beyond tweaking.

The U.S., in cooperation with the international community, should respond to Russia’s aggression with action.

The Budapest Memorandum said that Russia wouldn’t violate the integrity of Ukraine, but now it has. There is no realistic military option in this conflict, at least for the U.S. But this does not mean there aren’t options, many of which I’ve outlined here.

The real problem is that Russia’s President is not currently fearful or threatened in any way by America’s President, despite his country’s blatant aggression.

But let me be clear: If I were President, I wouldn’t let Vladimir Putin get away with it.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky

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