Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
The dogmatic unwillingness of Wis. Gov. Scott Walker to negotiate or to compromise with Democrats or unions has surprised many people in the state. One explanation for his attitude may be found in his religious convictions.
In a talk to the Christian Businessmen's Committee in Madison on November 13, 2009, Walker, who was raised by a Baptist preacher, spoke about his personal relationship with God, his "walk to Christ," and his belief in the need to "trust and obey" the Lord.
He told the group that when he was thirteen, he committed himself to Jesus. "I said, 'Lord, I'm ready ... not just in front of my Church and the world but most importantly at the foot of your Throne, I'm ready to follow you each and every day.... I have just full out there said, 'I'm going to trust in you Christ to tell me where to go. And to the best of my ability I'm going to obey where you lead me,' and that has made all the difference in the world to me, for good times and bad."
Walker said that God has told him what to do every step of the way, including about what jobs to take, whom to marry, and when to run for governor.
When he had first met his wife, he said, "That night I heard Christ tell me, 'This is the person you're going to be with.'"
He said he was trusting and obeying God when he took a job at IBM and then at the Red Cross. ""Lord, if this is what you want, I'll try it," he said. It was all about "trust and obey."
Then he recalled how he got into the race for governor in 2006, only to withdraw, which he said was a difficult decision.
"My wife and I prayed on it," he said. "I remember feeling so torn: I just didn't want to let people down. I said, "Lord, I can't do this. I can't let people down."
But he says he found divine guidance from the daily devotion, which "was about a guy who was a sailor. One of his buddies came along, they were in choppy waters, and the guy was throwing up. He was told, stop looking at the waves, find a point on the horizon. And he did this and it worked."
Walker explains the meaning: "I was focused all too much on the choppy waters of my life, about how uneasy it would be to look people in the face. I wasn't trusting and obeying my Savior. That morning Christ said to me through that devotion, 'This is what you're going to do. Look at me. Find that point on the horizon, and you're going to be just fine.'"
He added: "God had a plan further down the road. Little did I know I just had to trust in Christ and obey what he calls me to do and that was going to work out."
He then qualified that statement a little: "I don't mean that means it's going to work out for a win.... I don't believe God picks sides in politics. I believe God calls us to be on His side."
He urged everyone in the room "to turn your life over 100 percent to what Christ tells you what to do."
Once you do that, he said, your life will be complete:
"The way to be complete in life is to fully and unconditionally turn your life over to Christ as your personal lord and savior and to make sure that every step of every day is one that you trust and obey, and keep looking out to the horizon to the path that Christ is calling you to follow and know that ultimately he's going to take you home both here at home and ultimately far beyond."
Fourteen months later, at his inaugural prayer breakfast, Walker said, "The Great Creator, no matter who you worship, is the one from which our freedoms are derived, not the government."
Walker's views disturb Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
"It is frightening that the highest executive in our state suffers from the delusion that God dictates his every move," she says. "Consider the personal and historic devastation inflicted by fanatics who think they are acting in the name of their deity."
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Jim DeMint, Take Note: Union Rights Enshrined in Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.