Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there were four trees. These trees were looking for a king. So they brought forth the most likely candidates. They first asked the Olive Tree if he would be king…but he didn’t want to give up his oil to become king. So they asked the Fig Tree…but he didn’t want to give up his fruit. So they asked the Vine…he didn’t want to give his wine.
Finally, with no more trees left to ask, they asked the Thornbush. The thornbush was very excited about the proposal and gladly offered the other trees shade under his brambles.
This was a parable told by a young man named Jotham to the citizens of the village of Shechem (see Judges 9:7-15). It was there that Abimilech had used treachery and deceit to gain the crown: He murdered all of the other candidates.
In response to this political drama, Jotham tells this story. His point is clear. A person (or tree) of integrity would never sell out just to become a king. Only a thornbush would do something so depraved. Treacherous Abimelech was that thornbush. Take refuge under his brambles if you’d like, but don’t start crying when you’re pricked…that’s the nature of living with thorns.
Unfortunately, the people didn’t listen to Jotham and the young story-teller barely escaped with his life. It turns out Jotham was right after all. After three years on the throne of Israel – three years of wickedness – Abimelech met with a falling millstone dropped by a loyal subject tired of getting pricked by thorns (see 9:52-53).
That parable is a great reminder of the importance of elections. But not all elections are created equal, right? It seems Dentonites think this way. In the 2018 June run-off for Denton City Council Place 5, only 6,500 of us voted – the winner decided by only 528 votes.
I believe local elections matter a great deal. It was former Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Niell (D. Mass.), who made famous the axiom “All politics is local.”
Perhaps the wisdom in O’Niell’s statement is that all politics start at home. We might think in terms of first having a secure and stable home, then city, then county, state, and country. In that sense, all politics IS local. It starts at home, making local elections important.
But there’s another, growing reason why local politics is vital. National political movements and trends are coming to us. No longer is the City Council just about streets, parks, and taxes. Council members must now contend with national agendas brought to our door. I’ve detailed here the LGBTQ Washington Lobby called the Human Rights Campaign and their intrusion into Little D’s municipal politics.
But that may just be the nose of the camel in the tent. Recently, the San Antonio City Council forbid the franchising of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in their newly remodeled airport because the owners of the company regularly give to conservative organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes (Chick-fil-a).
Last year, the City Council in Austin passed an ordinance that would forbid, among other entities, churches from discriminating in their hiring practices ministers who differ from the churches’ views on gender and sexuality (Texas Tribune).
In 2017, Tampa, FL passed a city ordinance banning any counseling from parents or clergy meant to change one’s understanding, behavior, or expression of transgenderism or homosexuality (Daily Business Review).
But, as we like to say around here (with apologies), we’re not Austin or San Antonio or Tampa. “We’re Denton, Dammit.” Maybe not for much longer. I sat in one Council meeting where the “Conversion Therapy” ban, similar to Tampa’s, was floated as a trial balloon. So was the Austin-like discussion of expanding discrimination laws (churches aren’t on that list yet).
The only acceptable discrimination is against Chick-fil-A, it appears.
On the Council at the moment, we have two fans of this Austinization. Although, by law, Denton municipal elections are non-partisan, we have Paul Meltzer who claimed in the DRC: “If you truly care to know, I’m a proud Democrat.” (Meltzer). Being a Democrat is not wrong. But bringing national party agendas to Denton’s City Council is.
We have another in Dr. Deborah Armintor. Her UNT biography reads: “Dr. Armintor also serves UNT’s LGBT community through her work as a UNT Ally and as a member of the Senate Committee on the Status of LGBT Faculty. She is currently at work on a second book, about the homoeroticization of same-sex Master/Servant and Mistress/Servant relationships in the 1700s (That this is being taught in a tax-payer-funded university is a discussion for another day…).”
One of her first orders of business after election was to unilaterally give “Golden Toilet” awards for transgender friendly bathrooms, ostensibly speaking for the council (City Council – Bathrooms). It was all tongue-in-cheek, but still agenda-revealing.
And both, of late, seem to be following the national model: If you don’t like an election or a ruling, ignore it or file a complaint and start an investigation.
So, yes. Local elections are very important…unless you like Washington and Austin. Local elections are more important than ever – for your family and your church. Four seats are open in the May 4 election and they will definitely sway the balance and point the direction of this Council and our beloved city. Get out and vote. We can’t afford any more thornbushes.