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Sen. Jim DeMint (Photo by James Allen Walker for WORLD)

Telling the truth

Q&A | Sen. Jim DeMint wants to stop the nation's 'slide into socialism'

Issue: "Save the unions," Oct. 24, 2009

Television news shows emphasize the rhetoric of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.): Regarding the health insurance debate, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will become his Waterloo." DeMint in our interview spoke more of his religious beliefs and how he applies them politically.

Q: You graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1973. Were you involved in any Christian pursuits in college? Unfortunately not. For the record, I was a little angel.

Q: Duly noted. But later on . . . I was 30 and had never been happier, but there was just something terribly empty about my life. I knew there was a God, but I saw God as the one who took the fun out of life. My plan was to do business with Him when I got older and was tired of having fun. But a business friend of mine said, "You ought to come by this Christian businessmen's committee breakfast." My wife thought I'd gone crazy when I left at 6:30 a.m. to go. They were arguing about things that were in the Bible, and I loved it. That was a period in my life where I was on a mountaintop because I was discovering that God loved me and had a plan for my life-things that were completely new to me.

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Q: It seems that you also developed a sense of God's providence: In your new book, Saving Freedom, you write, "For me, the journey to the Senate still seems so unreal and so miraculous that I am heavily burdened with the belief that God has put me here for an important reason." What is the reason? I think it has a lot to do with freedom: Galatians 5:1, "It's for freedom that Christ has set us free." After the Protestant Reformation people came here with a new-found spiritual freedom that blossomed into the demand for economic and political freedom. That's what God wants us to talk about as Christians and politicians: What does it mean to be free? What are our responsibilities? How do we live free as people, as a nation? How do we share that with others?

Q: The subtitle of your book is We Can Stop America's Slide into Socialism. The socialist or collectivist view is about central management and planning: You need experts to effectively manage and choreograph what's going on. When you believe in the individual, our whole focus as a society should be to develop the character and capabilities of individuals so they can succeed in a free society. When individuals are making choices, they're not only practicing freedom, they're developing their capabilities to be free.

Q: The Christian understanding is that we change society one by one, from the inside out. One person disciples another, who disciples another, and that expands exponentially. You can actually change things quicker that way than through some external structure.

Q: It's a year since the stock market crashed: Were federal bailouts part of "saving freedom"? They took us in a wrong direction. Flooding the banks with money may have stopped a run on the banks, but we could have done that by raising deposit insurance levels, which we eventually did. The problem was caused to a large degree by the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This administration is blaming the problem on free-market capitalism and using this as an excuse to take control over more of the financial sector.

Q: You must see a lot of avarice for power in Washington. What do you do about that? I don't think too many people would admit that they're trying to gain power for themselves, except to do good for others. Good intentions do pave the road to hell. Many believe that in order to do what's best for you we need to make more of your decisions. They don't understand, appreciate, and respect the principles that make this nation unique and prosperous.

Q: Last year John McCain rushed to Washington and supported the bailouts. If he hadn't done that and instead stood on a firm free-market position, do you think he would have been elected president? That decision killed any chance he had of being president. If he had come back and taken a principled stand, that would have been a contrast to the massive confusion and massive control by the government. Now banks aren't lending for commercial projects because they're afraid of federal regulators. We're hurting the economy now more because of federal oversight than anything else. We've put all this money in the banks and no one's doing anything that has any risk involved.

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