A Special Note to JCSBW Readers: It’s no secret that Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk have been specifically courting the evangelical Christian crowd as a voting bloc. Many, maybe most of us, that write for JCSBW are Christian too, though we see some issues a little differently than our school board majority.
We have shared a lot of important information with you the last two years, and at this point we imagine that we’re “preaching to the choir” much of the time. That’s one of the reasons that we have kept asking you to share our stories, whether by email or on Facebook. This is a classic case.
We are very impressed by this letter in response to our “Faithful and Fed Up” request and are guessing that you probably know some good Christian people who need the “permission” that this reader is giving. So with two weeks to go before people get their ballots, please do share.
I’m an evangelical Christian and will be voting to recall Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk.
I attend a conservative Christian church in Jeffco. Probably not the most conservative church in Jeffco, but pretty conservative. I don’t know everyone’s political backgrounds, but it seems like most members are Republican, with some Independents and I think there are a few Democrats too. I’m not the most conservative in my church, but maybe average. I’m a Republican who works in a corporate environment.
My family and I have been hearing people at our church that are discontented with this board but hesitate to vote against them because the board calls themselves conservative and Christian, and so the people tend to believe everything this board says. I think that Christians need to look long and hard at this board majority, and then know that they do have permission to vote against them. I do like that they are Christians, but just because they are Christians does necessarily not make them good public officials.
Here’s my thinking. My biggest concern is glorifying His Kingdom however I can through my life. I tend to have views consistent with most Republicans, but I am sometimes slow to choose sides, especially on local issues, until I see that one side is clearly working to advance His Kingdom through their values. I do understand that elected officials aren’t appointed to force Christianity on the community, but I do think I can tell when their Christian values are shining through their actions. That is important to me.
I don’t question the faith of Julie Williams, John Newkirk, and Ken Witt. That’s dangerous territory. We are all sinners and we are all made in Christ’s image. We have to take one another’s faith statements at face value. I believe that they are Christians and they are probably good family members.
What I do have a problem with is how they treat others from their public office.
You see, I don’t think God really cares that much about exactly how schools are structured, whether there’s a teachers’ union or not, how compensation packages work, and all the legal stuff we get involved in. My reading of scripture is that Christ says to leave worry about all that stuff behind. Now, there’s a time and a place for those questions, and our public officials have to make tough choices. I get that, but I don’t think that God sides with one side or the other very much on those kinds of issues. God wants us to do our best but God doesn’t take very many hardline policy stances. I’ve heard from enough teachers and other parents that have concerns that I trust that there are two sides to all of these issues, anyway. So I don’t think that God cares that much about the exact decisions, but God does care that these issues get resolved humanely, truthfully, respectfully. That’s not what I see happening.
I do see fault on both sides, or maybe it’s on all sides. Still, here’s what I’d challenge my Christian friends to do. You know those Planned Parenthood videos? Maybe you watched one, and were shocked and disgusted, but if you’re fair-minded, maybe you thought “well this looks bad but maybe this is a little out of context and heavily edited.” But then you watched more of the videos and it’s clear, there’s a pattern of terrible problems.
The same thing happened to me with the school board majority in Jeffco. A friend of mine forwarded a clip from one of their meetings about a year ago. The behavior in the video by Ken Witt was a lot less shocking than what’s in the Planned Parenthood video, but that doesn’t make it right and I couldn’t stop being bothered by it.
I thought maybe he was having a bad night or the clip was taken out of context. I started watching other videos of the school board. The more I watched other videos and live-streamed part of a couple other meetings, the more I saw the same patterns. Ken Witt being rude and dismissive to speakers and to the other board members. John Newkirk and Julie Williams just sitting there and not speaking up. It was totally clear that at times they weren’t being open about their plans. Something is going on there and it seems like they are being guided. They make decisions without input from the other board members, and it seems sometimes it really is in secret. They don’t seem to take seriously those who have worked in the district for a long time, or parents, or teachers, who disagree with them. They can’t agree with everyone, but I just expect them to take them seriously and think it through. I know how I’ve felt when liberal politicians just dismiss more conservative points of view; this is no different. On top of that, I do believe that they are not following their own policies about transparency and notice.
I think about Micah 6:8: “What Does The Lord Require of Thee? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
My ideal public official is a Christian who’s guided by their Christian values. If a Christian seems to be acting for some other purposes, then the “Christian” label doesn’t make that much difference to me in their public role. Some people have accused those that are against the board majority of having poor behavior. I’ve seen some of that too, but I also know that people act that way when they’re not being listened to. That happens in any business environment where employees and clients don’t feel heard. I don’t think that Ken Witt just disagrees; he seems to show no signs of listening. He has to show that he is listening.
It’s Ken Witt’s job, and the job of John Newkirk and Julie Williams, to create that environment. They are not doing that. It doesn’t excuse all the behaviors from their opponents, but the buck has to stop with them. The pattern is clear: they do not seem to be acting humbly or respectfully. I hope that if they survive the recall, they will turn that around, and if they don’t survive the recall, they will figure out ways to prioritize respect and humility a little more in whatever public lives they later have. They may be Christians and I appreciate that, but in my opinion the way they have exercised power has not done honor to Christ’s name.