Our Man in Charleston

Pastor, politician and investment counselor-these are words which describe William Michael Hall. A native West Virginian, he is married to another native of the Mountain State, the former Miss Vicki Sue Steele. They have two grown sons.

Mike Hall graduated from Marshall University in Huntington. He attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, and received his M. Div. from Methodist School of Theology in Delaware, Ohio.

Mike grew up a Methodist. In 1972, after one year at Gordon-Conwell, he was licensed as a Methodist preacher; and in 1978, upon graduation from seminary, was ordained by the West Virginia Methodist Conference. For several years, starting in 1972, he pastored-simultaneously-four United Methodist churches in Mason County.

In 1981, he was received by New River Presbytery to become pastor of Rebecca Littlepage Presbyterian Church. After that church's building burned down, Mr. Hall used his financial expertise to secure an old motel in downtown Charleston for a new facility. Now named Riverview Presbyterian Church, the congregation is located just a few blocks from the state capitol. The site features a view of the Kanawha River.

In 1994, Mike Hall resigned his pastorate in order to work with the denominational Insurance, Annuities, and Relief (IAR) Committee as Marketing Coordinator. In that capacity, he travels often to various presbyteries around the General Assembly. But in West Virginia, he is best known as a politician.

He first became involved in politics in 1984, when he paid $33.00 to the Secretary of State's Office to run in a Republican primary in a four-delegate district. Mr. Hall had thought that he would "go to a few meet-the-candidates meetings and make a few speeches and that would be the end of it." However, when only three Republicans, including himself, filed, he found himself on the ballot in the general election. Mr. Hall recounts: "One of the first things I did was go to a Putnam County Republican dinner. In my presentation, I spoke about the rights of the unborn children, tax cuts, the American Christian heritage, the death penalty and other conservative values. I was surprised and delighted by the warm response. This experience was repeated again and again. I give these speeches and people come to their feet in approval. At that point in the state's history the legislature was very liberal and generally unresponsive to conservative values. What I was saying helped me gain momentum that almost brought victory."

That year Republican Arch Moore won the governor's race and Ronald Reagan carried the state. Candidate Hall came in fifth, losing by only 200 votes after garnering 13,500 in a heavily Democratic district. The spending of a million dollars by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller on election day in a successful bid for re-election to the U. S. Senate tipped the results enough, Hall believes, to prevent his election.

He tried again in 1986; but without the strong Republican showing of two years previous, he lost. In 1988, both the Democrats and the Republicans offered him an opportunity to run on their ticket for a state senate seat.

Mike knew that he could not win that year as a Republican; and he did not want to make the switch to the Democratic Party. He stayed out of politics for four years; but then an interest was re-kindled in 1992, and he ran again in 1994. By that time, the four-delegate district had been changed into a two-delegate district; and he surmised that the district was ripe for becoming Republican territory. "This was one time where I saw, as Wayne Gretzke says, where the puck was going to be. I could see that this was going to be a Republican seat, probably throughout the '90s. And I've not been proven wrong in that. A significant aspect of politics is changing demographics and discerning where things are."

In 1994, he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. This was a year of anti-incumbency, said Mr. Hall, a factor which helped him place second out of four candidates in a two-delegate district-enough to elect him to the legislature with 31 per cent of the vote. In a two-delegate race the percentage is a factor of the entire vote cast for all candidates. The winner received 33 per cent, Mike 31per cent and the other two 19 per cent and 17 per cent.

His dual career as denominational employee and legislator was not planned. He had already filed for the House race in February 1994 and could not get off the ballot when Jim Hughes of IAR offered him a position. Because of his political commitment, Mr. Hughes agreed for him to work out of his home in West Virginia as well as from the IAR offices in Atlanta.

His new work schedule with IAR had prevented him from doing much campaigning. As a matter of fact, he said "on the night of the election, Jim Hughes and I had gone to Birmingham, it was not until 11 o' clock on the election night when I returned to my apartment in Atlanta that I discovered that I had won."

In 1996, his work with IAR prevented him from doing any campaigning at all. "As all things are, my reelection must have be ordained by God." From the human perspective, Mr. Hall notes the demographics-being in a Republican district, having a Republican governor at the head of the ticket, incumbency recognition, and living in the city of Hurricane, which is the address of many of the voters of the district were all major factors.

We interviewed him at the state capitol building in Charleston on June 25, 1998. Here are excerpts from that interview.

"How would you respond to someone who said, 'Politics is a dirty business-a Christian shouldn't be involved in it'?"

"I think that everybody has a calling, that everyone's life is different. And you don't find in the New Testament, a number of people who hold positions of power. But there are a few. And there definitely are certain spiritual dangers in the political arena. Pride obviously being one of them.

"You are also called to make decisions that involve complexities and subtle nuances. When the vote is finally cast, the vote is finally cast. To me the danger of it is, there are so many commitments being asked of you and that you have to then sort of settle yourself down and not commit to something before you fully understand what's involved. There often are a number of complexities to issues. What the press reduces to print . . . is often an oversimplification of what is exactly the fact. There have been a couple of times where I committed to something because of the first person I talked to. And I went ahead and kept my word and cast votes that . . . I was reconsidering on further information." Delegate Hall recounted a situation when fellow winsome delegate from a rural southern county approached him with a strong argument in favor of a bill which would allow motorcyclists over the age of 21 to have the liberty not to wear helmets. Mr. Hall gave this delegate his word that he would vote for the legislation. "The night before the vote, I went to the Safety Council meeting, and they began talking about this very terrible bill that they were going to vote on the House floor tomorrow. That terrible bill was the motorcycle helmet bill. Suddenly, I was cast into turmoil. Statistically they said eight people would die every year if this bill passes. At this point I knew I had already committed to the delegate to vote for it. My wife was also against the bill. As the next day approached I went to the chamber with the intent to discuss this matter with my fellow delegate. When I arrived the next day, the Superintendent of Schools for Mason County was there, and wanted a meeting . . . with the Chairman of the Education Committee. The meeting lasted until twenty minutes into the floor session. I did not get to the House floor until they were already into the debate on the helmet bill. My hope was this would be a voice vote. I looked across the house chamber and asked the delegate, 'Are we going to roll-call this?'

"I had been told that one of the most serious opponents of this bill was going to speak against it but not call for a recorded vote in the belief that the Senate would kill the bill. Every thing was fine until Delegate Fredrick, this fundamentalist brother and he's a strong Christian and a strong Democrat. . . got up and said, 'I've prayed about this all night. I don't believe I can vote for this…. And I'm asking for the yeas and the nays.'" Mr. Hall confessed that he would liked have walked out of there right then, not having to cast a vote on the bill, "because I can see both sides of this." He finally decided to vote in favor of the bill, because "it came down to my word-I told my fellow delegate I'd vote for it. And I didn't really have a chance to go over and look him in the eye and straighten it out, so I voted 'green.' The bill did pass. After the vote Delegate Butcher (the bill's sponsor) came over to me and said, 'I tell you what. A number of people left me today, particularly when another (female) Delegate cried and pleaded for the defeat of the bill based on a personal experience of the loss of a friend in a motorcycle accident . . . but you kept your word and stuck with me. So, you know, all the motorcycle guys . . . are going to know about it.' I said, 'That's good, because the Safety Council people are going to know about it, too!' I remember the first Republican meeting I addressed after the vote, I was asked 'What ever possessed you, who talked you into, what rationale do you possibly have for voting for that motorcycle helmet repeal law?' And I told them the story that I told you. I said it came down to a matter of my word. . Now if someone comes to me and says, 'We need you' or 'Can you help us?', I want to know the full story. I want to hear both sides and understand who's interested in this and why? Bills are often loaded with provisions that are good and provisions that are not. The people that craft the legislation around here are skilled at doing that."

"Tell me what your political philosophy is and what are the most influential books in terms of shaping your philosophy."

"When I was in seminary I did a study on the relationship of the Reformation to the development of the American political government. I remember writing a paper called 'From Geneva to Philadelphia'. I believe the Reformed view of the Lordship of Christ over all of life and the two kingdom view of the church as the kingdom of Christ, and the state as the kingdom of God, is biblical."

Mr. Hall expressed his belief in absolute truth. He continued: "Civil government has a legitimacy based on texts like Romans 13 and others. Others have to derive it philosophically. I think the question of the nature of man is critical. The fact that we have checks and balances is a testimony to the fact that we don't want any one fallen man to get control of the whole political process."

Mike stated that he had read writers such as John Eidsmoe [who has written on the Christian foundation of the U. S. Constitution-Ed.] and Gary DeMar [who has written books on the theme, "God and government"-Ed.]. "I am also interested to read any Christians who seek to address public policy questions from a theological point of view."

He continued: "On the National Day of Prayer breakfast meeting this year I sat very near the Governor. He asked me what I was assigned to pray for. I said 'the legislature' to which he quipped, 'You have a tough job.' In my prayer I asked that 'God, help us to understand that we're not here primarily to make laws, but we're here to set up laws that you have in conformity those already written."'

Mike also believes questions like sanitation, water lines, roads, laws of jurisprudence, criminal penalties, civil penalties and all manner of public policies issues can be informed by the case law of the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments.

"In terms of your fellow legislators, how do they view you? Do they respect you when you come to an issue and say, 'Well, we see similar things in terms of the Bible'? Or, 'My faith informs me in terms of this'?"

"What's interesting in a legislature like this, if you listen to the tapes of the opening prayers prayed before the sessions, I would say that eighty per cent are concluded in the name of Jesus Christ. I think it would surprise the public the number of delegates that have a genuine evangelical faith"

Mr. Hall spoke of a Democrat member of the House who during an opening prayer said, "God, we start our day off, . . . [but] if there are some in here that are not ready to meet You on the day of judgment, let this day not end 'til that be satisfied.'" This labor-oriented Democrat told Mr. Hall that when the Speaker of the House put him in a little office, he thought he was being punished; but he got down on his knees and thanked God for the little office. "Jerry's going to be closer to the throne than I am, as are many others" declared Mike Hall. "We have great fellowship together.

"So, the issues of faith do come up." Mr. Hall stated that he was more sensitive to the matter than others, because of his being an ordained minister. He quickly pointed out that there are other ministers in the legislature, but that they are "lay ordained ministers."

Mr. Hall believes that he has earned the respect of his colleagues in the House, and has demonstrated that he is not the "legalist" that they may have initially feared. His first year, he gave a speech about abortion on the floor of the House. He says: "I basically argued that we give civil rights to every other group, and that Jefferson believed in transcendent rights based on creation, and I argued the same thing for the unborn. . . . I remember beginning that speech by saying, 'If Jerry Falwell or Jimmy Swagert were the only reasons to be pro-life, I might be pro-choice.' I was trying to get everybody's attention, which I did then. I said, 'The Charleston Gazette keeps writing this is a Bible, fundamentalist issue where they are trying to impose their morality on everyone else.'

"I said that I'm going to argue that you can't be anything other than pro-life if you believe in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, no matter what the Supreme Court said. I tried to be temperate in my language. And when it was over, the former president of the National Organization for Women, who sat in front of me, came to my chair and said, 'That was a good speech.' . And when she got up, she said, 'I do not agree with the delegate from Putnam on this one point-I do not believe that the "right to life" phrase of the Declaration of Independence refers to the unborn.' I was pleased to take the debate this direction."

"Have you had any pieces of legislation bear your name? Have you introduced anything?"

"We all introduce legislation but usually, the weightier matters come from the Governor and the legislative leadership. My name will often be attached to bills that originate in committee. In this process, as it is in Washington, you've got the Speaker, you've got the President of the Senate and you've got the Governor, and they usually set the major legislative agenda. Surprisingly, in West Virginia, the four years I've been here, the leadership of the House has been very conservative, on most issues.

"The gambling issue was one area in which I opposed the governor and the legislative leadership. West Virginia like many other states is tempted by the prospect of increased revenues and is considering many gambling initiatives. One of those is video machines. If you go into a small store or restaurant, often over in a corner, you'll see a video machine that says, 'For Amusement Only.' You can purchase credits; if you manage to win the store manager will give you X amount for each credit. This is strictly illegal but it is a major source of revenue for these businesses. Everybody knows that that's done but nobody polices it. We all kind of know who the people are in high places who are kind of involved in it. So there's a move to regulate them: 'Let's make them have a ninety per cent pay out, let's take so much state money.' All three of my opponents in the up-coming election have taken that position initially, in print: To support legalizing video poker machines.

"The gambling issue with most support in the up coming session will be to permit casino gambling in the 'bunker' of the Greenbriar Resort in the resort town of White Sulphur Springs. The bill technically permits a local referendum to permit the county to hold an election." (Mr. Hall said in an update that a powerful lobbyist for the Greenbriar Bill has withdrawn his support for him in the next election.-Ed.)

"Would you vote for a bill that has an immoral piece of legislation attached to it? Let's say that the gaming bill was attached to something else-would you vote for it?"

"No, fortunately we have a rule that requires that issues must be related or germane each to the other. Otherwise a division of the question can be requested. You cannot load two things together, which are not necessarily attached. So you can't put a gaming bill on a health care bill.

"Toward the end of the regular session there is a furious practice of attaching amendments to bills. However the amendment must be germane. The mover of the amendment must find an acceptable related legislative vehicle to attach the amendment to. And that's part of the scramble of the last week of this legislature."

Mr. Hall gave the example of a proposed raise in the tobacco tax, the proponents of which could not get their bill out of committee, who therefore attached an amendment to a proposed cut in the provider tax bill for dentists. As soon as the bill was amended, the committee chairman pulled the bill from the agenda, enabling the leadership to blame the proponent of the tobacco tax for killing the dentist legislation. Mr. Hall reiterated: "I'm not going to violate conscience" in terms of voting for something that he believes is morally wrong in order to get something else, but so far in four regular session that has not happened "and I believe the House rules will prevent it."

"Do you read all the legislation?"

"Nobody can possibly read all the legislation."

"How do you know what you're voting on?"

Mr. Hall responded that there is great reliance on the committee system and trusting the members there to inform the other members of each party's caucus as to the substance and significance of the pending legislation. Staff lawyers are employed to assist, also. However, toward the end of the session, particularly on the last night of the session, Mike stated he will not vote to suspend rules or vote for something that may be suspect.

"Is there one Christian position on the following: abortion, gun control, lotteries, public education, welfare, civil rights, taxation, legislation regarding homosexuality, laws regarding Sabbath observance?"

"In an ethics course I took from R. C. Sproul there was a discussion of gray areas. Certain issues are clear while others are more difficult. A Christian position is often hard for us to discern. So there are certain issues to me that are black and white and then there are policy matters" that are difficult to discern. Furthermore, there are weightier matters. "Our own Confession says that there are degrees of sin, and so there are degrees of issue. . . .

"On the abortion issue, for several decades, our nation affirmed the right to life; based on the transcendent view of truth we should continue as Christians defend the rights of unborn children."

Earlier in the interview, Mr. Hall noted that after a number of prayer meetings, a bill banning partial birth abortion passed in the waning days of the legislature, 34-0 in the Senate and 96-2 in the House. He regarded this as a an answer to prayer. He indicated that a number of pro-choice legislators voted for the provision only because it was attached to a women's health access bill.

Regarding homosexuality legislation , Mr. Hall said: "My view is the good of the state is served as we recognize the God-revealed natural order. So same-sex marriage is wrong. A bill banning same-sex marriage went the brink of passage, but because of a procedural movement in the last hours, it died. As far as civil rights go, I certainly defend the notion of legitimate civil rights but sexual preference is not a civil rights matter.

Regarding gun control , he said: "To me the notion that guns kill people rather than people killing people is stupid. People are responsible for their actions." He does not agree with the premise that keeping guns out of the hands means you reduce violence. Simply removing guns will not necessarily have the effect of reducing criminal activity. However, we already do have gun control. We're not allowed to carry fully-automatic weapons. You're not allowed to have grenades or bazookas and things like that. These are the weapons that we don't allow people to have, and everybody agrees. But to load up the system as the Brady Bill does, with all these checks is too costly and forces the state police into the office rather than on the road. So, I'm not big on trying to control everybody's possession of a weapon. There's differences of opinion between your absolute radical gun lobby and the NRA, for example. But is there a Christian position?"

"Self-defense?"

"I believe in self-defense. I think that statistics demonstrate that those states which permit concealed weapons have fewer problems with crime. Is this a Christian position? Again it is a gray area and believers disagree. Gun safety is and ought to be promoted in the private sector."

"Taxes? Property taxes? Are you for such?"

"Well, there are three things that are taxed. You can tax assets or wealth. You can tax activity and then you can tax income or earnings. . . . Now the question is, of those three categories, what sub-headings underneath those are fairer? In the Old Testament it appears that 'income' was the basis of public taxation." The delegate noted that there is currently an on-going discussion on the question of taxation; and that he had a front-row seat and an invitation from the Governor at the unveiling of the chief executive's study on the taxes of West Virginia. "We are beginning to discover, like many other communities, that property tax is one of the most difficult to administer. It's one of the most unfairly-levied.

"We would like to replace it with other methods but this will be a difficult political challenge. As you replace revenue sources with other revenue sources you will be reducing the cost to one segment of taxpayers while raising them on others."

What then is a Christian tax code? "You've got to back up and ask yourself, 'What is a legitimate state service?' And you should build from there. State governments provide roads, water, sewage, infrastructure, public safety. We need to discuss education, which demands about half of the state budget."

"Do you agree with that? . . . I know that your wife is a principal [in a public school]. Do you agree that public education [is a legitimate state service]?"

"If you talk philosophically about it, I'd say, perhaps No, I would much prefer that we would keep all this tax money to ourselves and that the private sector would provide quality education. And you're seeing that! You're seeing a rise in the home school movement and the private school movement, all around the country.

"The voucher system tends to put an end to the grip of the public school system. In a speech to the school superintendents the Chairman of the Senate Education stated he was very much opposed to the voucher system. He elaborated on the view by citing Texas as a state where the voucher system had decimated public school funding. And he felt that if there was an arena in government life that would sort of provide services for a full range of people where you know what their needs are, it was the public school system, and he was not about to support something that would bring about its demise.

"My reaction to that speech was to note that the messianic social engineering that drives old liberalism was alive in the words he spoke. The existence of public education should be to provide the basic skills that are needed to function in the world. Very little philosophical discussion occurs except in the think tank organizations.

"On the matter of the separation of church and state, and prayer in schools, there wasn't a public school system of the dimensions that we have today when the First Amendment written. The First Amendment was interpreted through the Fourteenth, so that now schools are the 'state' that cannot be encroached upon by the presence of religion. But notice, originally, it wasn't that at all. And so we have this huge state service (public education) that is heavily funded by state taxes, that influences the minds of our children.

"Recently I had a discussion about teaching Creation in the public school with the lobbyist from the West Virginia Education Association. I surprised him when I said, You know, your view's as religious as mine. Your view's not neutral. So when you go out and tell these little ragamuffins that they came from whatever they came from and that there is no God, by implication, don't you think it's going to influence their choices? He kind of agreed. The other guy said he didn't have any problem with it.

"But to bring you back to the main point here-yeah, I would like to say that the responsible person is the parents. And I've said that-I've advocated for homeschoolers. I think our law here is favorable to homeschoolers. We are protective of it. I think that the overall private school movement here operates relatively unencumbered. I do think there are those out there who would try to weaken our position. We try to prevent that. But public education is way down the road. It's very much involved in the whole cultural view of what we are. So, you could take a position of, Well, let's try to subvert and eliminate it. . . . My position has not been that. My position has been to try to be supportive, knowing that many educators that I do know, many who are genuine believers in Jesus Christ, can use that as a corner of their world to live out their sense of mission and purpose to salt the earth. . . . Like Daniel was in the University of Babylon, and Paul was at the school of Tyrannus. I definitely encourage people to become involved in whatever educational options."

"I actually was involved in politics. I was chairman of a local Right-to-Life chapter, and ran for town councilman about fifteen years ago. One of the things I did not do was to show up for a fund raiser, which also included a 'raffle for life,' on a Sunday. Is that your position, not to participate in political activities on the Lord's Day?"

"I will not attend meetings that conflict with the Sunday worship hours but I have attended interim meetings in the afternoon. Ordinarily, there are no [legislative] sessions on Sunday. There may have been one since I've been here.

"[What about] welfare reform?"

"Our state, we passed a welfare reform act a couple of years ago that said you have sixty months [to be on welfare]. I think that was part of the federal bill. . . . From what I understand, about half of the people on welfare have gotten off. . . . It's a system that pays to lose. I have what I call my 70/30: either seventy or thirty per cent of the people are abusing it. There are some people that it's a safety net that it has helped. I think that it's an overall welfare system that is just designed to be socialistic-to take from this and give to that, without any sense of production on the part of those who are in receipt of it, is not good for them or the rest of society. I think the whole mood of the country is that."

"The Y2K problem?"

"I'm not as alarmed about the Y2K problem as some people are. In our state, we went after the Y2K problem and discovered it wasn't as great a problem as we initially thought, and saved like $30 million in terms of tax and revenue, cause they had already gotten it straightened out."

In terms of the nation as a whole, Mr. Hall said that there was not a simple solution, especially with regard to the situation overseas. "I think it will have an effect. . . . But I don't agree with those who say, Sell everything you have and cash out all your retirement plans and move to Montana."

"When I interviewed Haley Barbour [Then Republican National Committee Chairman] a couple of years ago, he said there was no litmus test for the Republican Party. Should a political party have a litmus test on various moral issues?"

"That's a tough one. I guess when it comes to this whole thing of politics, there's the state and then there's the church. And this is not the church. And it would be my view that we would have to engage people at various levels of understanding. And as far as the political party goes, I would hope that my ideas would prevail over someone, but I would not exclude someone from the party who may take a position that's different from me. The governor of this state was the prime mover behind the gambling bill. Now, should I say he shouldn't be a Republican if he's pro-gambling? Well, you know, we could take an agenda out and sort of separate off and say if you're not down the line here, as I understand that [James] Dobson made some sort of statement along that line-that he was going to leave the party if they didn't come across. For the right or the wrong of it, being involved in this process, I know that until you actually get control of all the critical components that could block a decision, you're just jockeying for position. And if you basically pull your troops back and lose. . . . If Republicans had control of the White House, for example, as well as the Congress, then you would see more could be done. But they're dealing with a real problem up there. And if the White House is this and the press is that, you just can't get the full agenda through until you get control of all components, because there are many roadblocks along the way. Legislation can easily be stopped. It's a very hard road to get a piece of legislation through sometimes."

"One of the problems with the Right-to-Life Party, of which I'm a member, besides it being single issue politics, it also became like a moral crusade that did not take into account the political realities."

"That's exactly the point! I'm glad you said that, because that's really been the way I view things. There's a difference between a moral agenda and a message of redemption." Mr. Hall referred to the 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards. According to the legislator, Edwards distinguished between a "virtue that works to restrain for civil or personal ends" and a "virtue that comes from redemption, from a change from within." He explained that Christians must not have "simply a moral message"; and continued: "When we put together a moral position and say, This is the Christian position, without the message of redemption-that's the problem I have with a litmus test issue. Some people say they will not vote for a candidate that does not agree with them on a certain issue. What if no one on the ballot agrees with you-do you simply let a person whose views are far different than yours on a wide range of issues win? You know, there but for the grace of God, may I hold that position. . . . No, I'm not necessarily going to work against Christine Whitman [Governor of New Jersey-Ed.]. She takes a different position-I think she took the wrong position on the partial birth abortion bill."

"So, you'd still vote for her."

"I wouldn't walk away from the election if I thought I was going to lose and give the election to those who completely disagree with me on all points when I may be able to prevail on her in turn.

"I think that if people have a moderate to conservative bent on fiscal matters and on questions of morality and crime and punishment and so forth, they'll tend to be Republicans. The Democrats, basically, in the last five years, have been moving to taking our Republican issues and winning with them, but being less enthusiastic about them. They've done a great job doing that. They've concealed themselves extremely well. And we are sort of caught not knowing how to handle that. There comes a point to where if they adopt a Republican position and you move to the right of it, then you marginalize yourself far to the right of where you were in the first place. And I've seen that happen in our state, where some of our people have responded to the initiatives of the conservative to moderate Democrats-they didn't see the policy was good, they said, That can't be right, because they said it, so there must be something else: we've got to be more radical."

"Are you optimistic or pessimistic concerning the future of West Virginia and of the Federal union?"

"I'm ambivalent on it. I think there are certain factors out there that are beyond government's ability to control. I think the decline in our culture, from the media, the print media, just the overall general lowering of the knowledge-not necessarily the intelligence, but just the 'sound-biteness' of our culture. . . . People are so easily manipulated. And so I'm concerned that there's not a real depth of thought that grips a large number of people in this country. What I think will happen . . . is that when something majorly negative occurs-the economy turns the wrong way-that'll show us if we'll be able to cut the mustard. And maybe that will be a time of real genuine spiritual awakening and renewal. But right now I don't think we're being tested-I think we're floating along.

"If you want to take a look at it on the economic sense, the future of the state of West Virginia-most people talk in terms of economics-we're better off than we've been before and we've participated in the overall strength of the rest of the country. Our revenues are stronger, we've made some good policy decisions. We are a gorgeous state. People don't know what they don't have by not being here, except we don't have a whole lot of jobs. But it's a very pretty place, and as people do want to retreat from other parts of this country that are more crime-ridden, it's a good place to be. I don't think I have any real insight as to the future of the republic, other than my Biblical theology tells me that man is not getting better and better. . . . It's my understanding that no experiment like this in democracy, that basically gives government this type of freedom really lasts for more than 200 to 250 or 300 years. We've basically moved from a very conservative to a moderate to a liberal give-it-away. We've trapped our people with centralized funding. We've tried to spread it out. Some day we're going to realize the state just can't do it all. We're realizing it now, but it may be too late. And when you . . . see all that we've contractually promised and won't be able to meet, then I think it will cause some social problems. So, I think there's some real bumps in the road out there. The kingdom of man will once again crumble. We might have another Augustine come along and write about the decline of Western civilization. But I don't see it anytime soon. And I don't think the Y2K problem will cause it. I think it will be other stuff."

"Anything I didn't cover that you would really love to say to our readers?"

"One thing that I'd really like to make clear is that this endeavor is like any other. I think that for Christians . . . it really drives you to a sense of your dependence upon God-to take on something that really you feel is beyond yourself ordinarily. And then you get involved in it.

"I would encourage believers to [get involved politically]-not in a moralistic crusade. There is some element of truth in the statement, Those who show up rule. If you want to become involved in government it's as simple as just showing up, in certain instances, and hang in there. Get involved, and so forth, because there's so few Americans that are. I mean, nobody brought me out. I wasn't the candidate of a political kingmaker's choice. I'm truly an example of what the founding fathers, I guess, dreamed about. You know, somebody could just go and run and file and win. And it's a tremendous mission field-it's wide open."