Since becoming a U.S. Senator representing South Carolina in 2013, Tim Scott has had an impact on BJU students. He spoke at BJU for the Presidential Leadership Series in 2014, and students have also had the opportunity to intern in his office. For his positive influence and strong Christian testimony, BJU awarded him with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2018.
In addition to sharing his testimony and biblical worldview in chapel today, Sen. Scott shared how he applies faith to politics and interactions with fellow politicians.
Transcript for Chapel 10/21/20 (Senator Tim Scott):
Pettit: All right, let’s all stand together this morning as we begin our chapel service, and thank you for being here today. We’re excited about the opportunity to hear our U.S. senator who is live, going to be livefed in today. And so, let’s pray together.
Father, thank you so much for your goodness and grace and thank you, Lord, for your blessing upon our lives. We pray for your favor in chapel this morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
You may be seated. I have a number of announcements that I’ll wait until the end of chapel this morning, but we are honored this morning to have with us on livefeed U. S. Senator Tim Scott. Tim Scott is a tireless public servant who has dedicated his life to serving the people of South Carolina at the county, state and federal levels. After graduating from Charleston Southern University in 1988, Senator Scott worked in insurance and real estate. In 1995, he was elected to the Charleston county council, serving for 13 years and in 2008 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. Two years later he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and in 2012, then South Carolina governor Nikki Haley appointed Scott to complete the term of retiring U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, making Scott the first African American senator from the South since the late 1800s. He won the election to retain his seat in 2014 and was reelected in 2016. As a U.S. senator, Tim Scott is known for his leadership in the areas of tax reform, education and job training. Senator Scott has visited campus here a number of times, most recently in 2018 to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree, and I know – is he there? There he is; I’m talking about him. And – how are you doing, Senator?
Scott: I’m doing fantastic. How are you?
Pettit: I’m doing great. I’m saying all the good things about you just to make sure you can be properly introduced.
Scott: You are very kind, sir.
Pettit: That’s the most important thing I love about Tim Scott is he is a believer in Jesus Christ.
Pettit: And he loves our state, we love him, and we thank God for him. And the Lord has used him in amazing ways up on Capitol Hill and is using him today. I know, Senator, that you wanted to be here today, but there’s a little bit going on in Washington today. And so, thank you for being with us, the floor is yours, you can speak as long as you want until 11:35. So, let’s welcome U.S. Senator Tim Scott.
Scott: Thank you very much. God bless you. That’s awesome.
Well, thank you very much. I hope you can — can you hear me? Wave at me if you can hear me. Alright. How many of you would like not to hear me? Wave at me then too. Thank God, only three hands went up; that’s fantastic. That’s my best joke. If you don’t like that one, it doesn’t get any better from there.
You know, I was going to talk about my testimony and my faith and the walk that I took to get to where I am and how good God is. Instead of talking about my personal testimony, I’m hoping that a. you guys and girls will have some questions for me in about 10 minutes, so I’m going to give you some time to think about that. If that’s OK, sir, I’d love to answer a few questions if you have any. If you don’t have any, this is going to be one of the shorter times that we have together.
This morning, as you may not know, I am the co-chair of the Senate prayer breakfast, and I was given the assignment yesterday to talk about my faith this morning at the prayer breakfast; I was the speaker. And I want to share some of the thoughts I had from my prayer breakfast this morning because I think it’s relevant to who we are and where we are as a nation, and frankly, in our personal journey with the Lord.
I’ll say this. As you’ve heard my story probably before since I’ve spoken there a couple times – I’m a kid from North Charleston, born and raised in poverty, single-parent household, Mom worked long hours. She always wanted us to understand that there was dignity in all work. She was a nurses’ aide, which is the closest thing to a maid in the hospital. She changed bedpans and turned patients for literally more than 30 years, all for a little bit more than minimum wage.
And I was that kid growing up in her household that my mother and my grandparents were strong, committed Christians. They believed that you had to first give your life to Jesus Christ before you could find purpose or significance. I was a bit of a stubborn child growing up. I certainly was a little more mischievous than my astute brother who behaved really well. I was the kid that was always testing the limits. I needed to figure out how far I could go before my mother would lovingly spank me back to the porch, as she says it in public. I’m not sure how lovingly spanking I was getting. I was just getting spanked, from my perspective as a little one.
As I grew a little older, I certainly struggled in high school as a freshman. And what I want to talk about for the next few minutes is why I struggled. I struggled in many ways because I was afraid. I was afraid to live out my full potential. I first committed my life to the Lord at 11. I recommitted my life to the Lord and I thought a lot about that conversion at Presbyterian College when Jesus was no longer my Savior only; He was my Lord and Savior. And to me, Him being my Lord meant that I was going to live my life in a way that was consistent with His word. Savior has a lot to do with where you’ll spend eternity – really important decision, by the way – but also very important is the decision to give all my life over to the Lord.
There are pockets of my life that I wanted to keep for myself and one of those pockets was my athletics. I really thought as a kid that escaping poverty meant playing football for the only NFL team that matters – of course, you all know it and I’m glad to see you agree – that is in fact the Dallas Cowboys. Can I get an amen – someone wave at me who believes that the Cowboys are the only team – yep, can’t see any hands in the air so I’ll continue my story. And so, my senior year I had a major car accident. Fell asleep driving down the interstate I-26. I was eastbound; I ultimately ended up on the furthest lane, the farthest lane westbound. So, I flipped through several lanes of traffic, hit a car, I went over a few cars; it was just a painful, excruciating experience that ultimately – Romans 8:28, “All these things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” I found and understood the actual challenge in that Scripture, which was that when I was far away from where I needed to be, the Lord used it. He didn’t cause the accident — that was my fault; I fell asleep driving – but He used that accident in a powerful way to bring me a little closer to Him. And then over the next 12 months, I finally realized that as opposed to Jesus being my game and football being my life, that I needed to make Jesus my life and football only a game.
Now I say that to say this, that at that time in my life, unbeknownst to me, I was actually blind. I was blind to all the opportunities that the Lord had for me, and I could only see what I believed was the single path out of poverty, which was athletics. For a poor African American kid who was taught day in and day out, reinforced day in and day out, but the only ways out of poverty for a kid like me was either the drug trade, which my mother would have killed me so no need to do that; entertainment – I can’t sing and can’t dance; or athletics, and I was really good at football for a while. Those were lies from the pit of hell, that the only way out of poverty for a poor kid was one of those three paths.
And what I learned was that sometimes in life we are blind. And the question I’m asking us today as we wrestle with where we are in America’s history, where we are on this path, this journey that we’re currently on, where are we blind? For me, I was blind to all the opportunities that God had for me beyond athletics. I was blind to the fact that a poor kid and any kid at any time in the greatest nation on earth could live out their wildest imaginations. And those imaginations should not be relegated to something so small as just athletics. I needed to find the whole story. I needed to see the whole picture, and there are many examples in the Word of God where we don’t see the whole picture.
I think about II Kings 16, verse 17, where Elisha the prophet was talking to his servant. I guess he had sent his servant to the local Starbucks for some coffee and he came back, and the servant said, “The king of Syria – paraphrased, of course – has sent a ton of people to take you out, sir, and if they take you out, they’re going to take me out” – paraphrasing. And Elisha, with a cup of coffee in his hand, kind of, just kind of, I think he just snickered a little bit and said, “Let’s pray for a second.” He prayed that the Lord would open his eyes, and as the young servant’s eyes were opened to the rest of the story, he saw that there was more with Elisha than there were, than there was against Elisha. That there were angels of the Lord, chariots of fire, warriors that surrounded the city for Elisha and not just against him.
There’s another great story in Genesis where Abram was going to be the father of many nations but he was blind to the truth of that because his wife was barren, and he was getting old. And so, he just could not see it, and so God walked him outside and said, “Abram, look up at the stars. Can you count them?” And he looks up and he says, “One, two …” and he says, “No, I can’t count them.” And He said, “Nor will you be able to count the descendants.” And God changed a blind man named Abram to a man with sight named Abraham so that he could see himself as a father of many nations.
We can flip to the New Testament and see the story of Saul of Tarsus who was present at the stoning of Thomas. He was literally the Pharisee of Pharisees. He had more intelligence, more intellect – he was supposedly a wise person and well-studied in all the ways of the world and he was a crucifier of Christians. But on that road to Damascus, he met the Lord. And the Lord said, “Why are you persecuting me?” and he said, “Who am I persecuting?” That sounds like a blind man without sight. Of course, he was blinded, literally blinded, and he had to spend a few days before he got sight back. And when he did, he became a champion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He dedicated his life to bringing sight to the blind.
Here’s my question, though. What makes us blind? What literally takes away our sight? And I think it’s a couple things. One thing that I believe in the nation’s capital and maybe in leadership positions all around the country and the world, one of the things that takes away our sight is a bit of arrogance, some self-righteousness. James 4:10 reminds us to guard our hearts against that type of arrogance or self-righteousness. James 4:10 tells us that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves, those will be exalted.
So, one of the things that I try to guard myself against, and I’m thankful to have prayer partners and prayer warriors who are given permission to call me on the carpet that just know me as Tim, or if you’ve known me for a long time, you know me as Timmy. You don’t think of me as your senator; you think of me as your friend. And for those folks who have walked this walk with me for a long time, I’ve given them permission to call me out and take me down and make sure that we are in the process of humbling ourselves so that we don’t have to have God do it for us. And I take that seriously. And when we do that, we find ourselves perhaps being able to see the whole picture and not just a prism, not just a picture with blinders on.
Another thing that really leads to blindness is greed as well as obsession. When you are obsessed with something, you simply can’t see clearly. We see that obsession is synonymous oftentimes with lust, and we see how that plays out. Matthew 5:27 says that it’s not just the act that causes us to fall, it’s the thoughts in our hearts, the doing of the act before you actually see it manifested in your world that causes you to fall.
We can think about David, frankly, when he was on top of his building when he should have been at war, and he was blinded by lust and obsession. And that just didn’t impact his life and the life of the soldier because he went where he shouldn’t have gone with the soldier’s wife. Here’s what we see there. We see that David was not where he needed to be, he was somewhere where he should not have been, and because of that the domino effect led someplace he probably could not have imagined before then.
We see the same thing in our lives in 2020. We see the impact, the negative impact throughout our country. And so, my question for all of us, for each of us: have we asked God to restore our sight? Have we given our best friend to love and we can trust permission to look peer-to-peer into our dark spots where the shadows are in our hearts so that we can really give those areas over to the Lord? That’s a tough thing to do because most often we don’t see what we’re blind to. And that is a struggle. It’s a struggle that can only be solved by the notion of Proverbs 27:17, that we bring people into our lives with the express purpose of iron sharpening iron. I’ve given Trey Gowdy, who is a man from the Upstate, Spartanburg, South Carolina, former congress member, one of my best friends in the world and a solid believer. I said to him, “Call me on the carpet. You’ve been where I am. Help me not miss the call of God. Help me not sacrifice too much for too little in pursuit of my own ambitions.”
And I’m asking and I’m hoping that at your wonderful age and with so much opportunity and promise before you, that you will make sure that you have prayer partners, that you have people that you trust completely that you will lean on and give them permission to let you know when there is a stench in your life and not an aroma, a sweet aroma. That you are veering away from the Word of God and from the walk of the Lord. If we have people like that it will keep us on the right path. Without that, we will find ourselves, as the old song by Casting Crowns says, you may be too young to know the song – it was several years ago, probably 15 years or more ago, it was called “A Slow Fade.” Your world goes from black and white to gray.
So, that’s my prayer for all of us. I hope that it has blessed you. And I look forward perhaps to participating in a little Q and A, sir.
Pettit: All right, thank you Senator. Can you see me?
Scott: I can’t see you but I can see them.
Pettit: OK, all right. So, …
Scott: I can see you now.
Pettit: All right, thank you. I have a number of questions that have come in, and so I’ll just kind of run through them very quickly, and some of them kind of run together so I’ll try to prioritize them.
First of all, how does a believer shine as a light in the government?
Scott: Great question. How does a believer shine in the light of the government? The first thing you do is make sure you are a believer first, that your priority in your leadership position is to first exalt the name of Jesus. My daily prayer, and I believe that your habits are so important. In 2011 I was a new Congress member, and I was trying to learn as much as I could possibly learn, and I was trying to take in every facet of the government. I was spending 10, maybe 15 hours a day in study and in preparation. And I guess it was four, five, six months into my public service that I heard something right before I spoke at a Bible study, and the Lord said (in my heart), “I miss my time with you.” And it kind of shocked me; it stung me a little bit, to be honest with you. And what the Lord was trying to tell me is that I was so committed to being a good Congress member, I had forgotten my first love and putting Him first. I was still having my chapter a day in the book of Proverbs, I was doing the things that I was supposed to be doing, so-called, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was rushing through it so I could get to my homework.
And what we first must understand as believers is that our priority must be our relationship with the Lord and we should start every single day with prayer, Bible study, and I also add on top of that praise and worship music so that my heart, which is my soil, my soil conditions are conducive for the Word to be planted in my heart. And then all day long it’s a little bit easier for me to stay focused, not on the plans of a Congress member or a Senator now, but on the plans of my Father who is in Heaven and what He has called me to do. And then my confession – I have a daily confession that in every day and every way, God, you are using me to grow your Kingdom and influence the world You have given me to influence. In Jesus’ name. And so, I try to do that every single morning. That keeps me focused, it sometimes recalibrates my appreciation for where God has placed me, and that’s one of the things I do in order to be effective as a believer in some of these interesting and influential places.
Pettit: I have another question here. How do you prioritize your identity as a Christian over your party affiliation?
Scott: That’s a great question and a question that it seems like the world is struggling with right now, or at least our nation is. I see myself first as a biblical leader and not as a Republican or conservative leader. I am first a Christian, and it is the thing I have chosen to be above all other things. I was talking to my pastor recently, and we were going through some of the challenges that we’re seeing around the country, and a lot of our challenges that we see around the country is an identity question. It’s who are we. And if I first see myself as a black person, then I’m going to see everything through the priorities of a black person. If I see myself first as a man, I’m going to see my priorities as a man first. But if I see myself first as a Christian and everything else is secondary, then I’m going to first prioritize my faith in Jesus and what He would do in the circumstances. Not what a black guy would do, not what a man would do, but first I see myself, I see it through the eyes of the Lord, and I try to apply Scripture to my decision-making process and to that overall engagement. So, for me, that seems to be the easiest answer.
Pettit: These are actually two questions that came in and they are very similar so I’ll read both of them and let you respond. The first question is how do you promote your viewpoints and policies without demeaning someone else? And secondly, how do you ensure that you give Christlike, respectful responses to people who oppose your viewpoints or openly criticize you and God.
Scott: Um, I’m writing down these questions so I’ll make sure I get them right. The second question first – how do I give others Christlike respect? I first do that by recognizing that the chief sinner is the person I see in the mirror every morning. Therefore, I have very little to celebrate except for the fact that Jesus loves me, yes, He does, Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so. And as a Christian, as long as I know that very simple concept, it is then easy for me to show deference and respect to people who are not like me. My pastor always tells me I have the right to be wrong. Said differently, I’m not always right, and if I go into every discussion sharing the gospel, sharing my values, sharing my perspective, and I leave a little margin that I might be off somewhere, then I do not come across as a person who thinks I’m always right.
Number two, because the gospel is always going to be proved to be right in the end, I can have confidence that my responsibility is just to share the truth, but to share it in love. I think truth and love have to be fused in love in the current environment. And I think when you do that, you attract Republicans, Democrats, Independents; you attract both sides of the aisle; you attract African Americans, white folks and Hispanics, Asians to at least listen to someone who is being respectful to others. And if there is a point of contention, I think we should aggressively defend our faith or our point of view without demonizing the other side. I don’t see enemies on the other side. I see people who are opposed to my position, and I’m going to do my best to defend my position, but I’m not going to say that you’re unAmerican or that you can’t go to heaven because you don’t believe like I believe. I’m going to leave those decisions up to a higher power, the Father in heaven. I’m going to defend the truth, and I’m going to make sure the truth first sets me free and let the Lord deal with the other side of the issue.
And I think, finally, in promoting versus demonizing, I think you can promote your agenda by speaking the truth in love. You promote your agenda by having not just facts but weaving the facts into a story that ends with truth. So, talking about truth and then reinforcing it with both heart and head leads people to a more positive conclusion about you, and you are first going to be a witness and then by what you’re talking about.
Pettit: I have two more questions. One is — the first one is, what suggestions would you give to someone who is interested in public service and especially a student in college today? And then we’ll finish up with a question about the Opportunity Zones.
Scott: Sounds great. Public service is a – in my opinion, you can look at first Romans 13, I believe it is, that talks about government officials being called ministers. I think that if you have a heart for public service, I would spend some time – and I hope I have the chapter right, Romans 13 – spend some time in Romans 13, understanding and appreciating your call. Your call is to serve others; it’s not to serve yourself. We all, I think, go into public service typically with the right heart and the right attitude. It’s keeping that right heart and right attitude that gets more and more difficult as the years accumulate and more power and more influence. You have to remember that it’s not yours. You’re basically a conduit for the resources, the power or the influence that you’ve been given to help others. I think it’s Proverbs 31:8 or Proverbs 31:9, NIV version, it says to stand up for those who can stand up for themselves. I see that as the role of a healthy public servant, that you have been given something, not for you but for others, and you are simply the vehicle to deliver it to others. So, if you’re going into public service with that kind of attitude, and you maintain that through healthy daily habits, you can do a world of good. I am a believer that Jeremiah 1:5, that before you in your mother’s womb, that there was a specific call and purpose for your creation. Follow that track and whatever it is, put the Lord first and then keep him there by your daily disciplines, you can make an amazing impact on our nation and frankly, the world.
Pettit: Amen. One more question, and then we’re going to pray for you at the end, Senator.
Scott: Yes, sir.
Pettit: We know that you are the primary leader in the Opportunity Zones. I don’t want to feel like – I don’t think all of our students understand what that is. The question is, how did you apply your faith and testimony to your initiatives for the Opportunity Zones.
Scott: Thank you, sir. Short story – Opportunity Zones is how we identify the most distressed communities in our country and bring much-needed resources to help the people living there in those communities, not through the government but through private sector investment. I used my faith in the crafting of Opportunity Zones by thinking about the kid that I used to be – a seven-year-old; parents were divorced; we were moving into my grandparents’ house; my mother, my brother and myself, we were going to share one bedroom with one bed, because the house was 800 square feet and my grandparents had the other bedroom, and there was so much potential. There were so many smart kids, a lot smarter than I am, in the neighborhoods that I grew up in, but they were – opportunity was so elusive. So, part of the craft or the construct of the Opportunity Zones was to bring opportunities through job creation, through development, through mentors into some of the poorest zip codes in America, and by doing so, we would see human flourishing happen in the most interesting ways and in some of the areas where the talent had been underutilized. My faith really did direct me to help people that I used to be.
And so, when you do that, you find an area of passion and oftentimes, God will use your mess, the life that I was born into and helped create a mess, that becomes your message. And Opportunity Zones became the vehicle for my message to impact other people with open opportunities. Hopefully, my faith in Jesus Christ, opportunities having a lot to do with financial literacy and independence through the development of those neighborhoods that are devastated by poverty, ravished by loneliness and hopelessness.
Pettit: I wanted to just kind of give you a little bit of an update on some things here at the University, and the students have heard this in part, perhaps not in whole, that because of COVID-19 and school shutting down in March and getting through graduation and then because of the social unrest because of the killing of George Floyd and just a lot of events going on, and really through some stirring going on our campus, and a lot of it having to do, Senator, with your example, that you give in your testimony all the time about your background, and the whole idea of an opportunity given to underserved people who want to have those opportunities to succeed in life.
We started our first minority organization here on campus. It was launched actually, officially, this week.
Pettit: It’s entitled “Minorities Empowered to Educate and Serve.” It’s called METES – M, E, T, E, S. And so, it’s all student led, along with faculty and staff advisors, and the vision is not only to educate here on campus but to serve in the community. So, I think they’re taking a step of faith.
Scott: Amen, amen.
Pettit: Thank you for your influence, because you’re an example to us of what we want to do, to do actually what Jeremiah says in chapter 29 and verse 7 when he says that if you, you are to seek the welfare of the community, you are to seek the peace of the community and you are to pray for it and in so doing, as you seek their peace, then it will bring peace back to you.
So that’s the vision, that’s the passion, so thank you for your influence.
Scott: Well, thank you sir, and hopefully at some time in the future that organization will give me a chance to speak. I’d love to participate and provide any help from myself or my team that we can provide for those folks. And let me say this, sir, before we call it a – before you pray for me. I really do thank you and appreciate – I think it’s James 5:17 that tells us that the prayers of the righteous avail much. So, I can use all the prayers from your righteous students and yourself as I can receive.
On that METES organization, the one thing I could say is to remember that God made you exactly as He wanted you. And so, for me, being Black was a gift from God. It was His design that He made me an African American, born in 1965, allowed me to end up where I am ‘at such a time as this,’ as Esther 4:14 says, so that I could have an impact on our community based on every single characteristic I have. And none of us should apologize for how God created us.
We also should not celebrate how God created us. We should surrender how God created us for a greater use. And so, when you have a chance to understand your roots, you can celebrate the roots. Celebrate who you are. But don’t celebrate it more than you celebrate the name of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. When we do that, we all find ourselves all working together because last time I checked, there was only Adam and Eve and we’re all a part of the same family. So, the only question is how do we maximize the potential in the family of God?
Pettit: Amen. So, how can we pray for you, Senator?
Scott: Well, as you can imagine, sir, I need all the wisdom and the gift of discernment would be really helpful. As an African American conservative, there was an article done recently that I am one of the most hated members of Congress because I’m different. And I would appreciate your prayers and your covering for protection. I’ve had a guy get out of jail who had a plot to kill me and another person who is being investigated right now, and there’s a number more of those. So, I would always covet your prayers for protection and wisdom and discernment because it’s always a challenge, but what a mighty God we serve, and I believe in His protection.
Pettit: Amen. So, let’s bow our heads together for prayer. Senator, we’ll pray for you, and I’m going to ask the student body if you’ll commit yourselves also to pray for Senator Scott and that the Lord would bless him and protect him and give him all the wisdom and discernment he needs.
Oh Lord, we thank you for your great grace. You are, as the senator has already said many times, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. You have created us and made us in your image just like we are, and you have made us and called us for a purpose and plan. And so we pray for Senator Scott, that your blessings would be upon him, that you would watch over him, that you would care for him, that you would guide him, that you would protect him from the enemy – the enemy who is far smarter and who has been working on the world ever since Creation. And so, we pray for your deliverance and protection. We pray that you’ll use him to be light in the midst of darkness, and we pray that you’ll bless him and help him as he seeks and serves not only our country but our state. We thank you for him. We love him, and God, we pray for you to favor him with great grace and great blessing. Protect him like you protected Daniel and the three Hebrew children. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
Thank you, Senator.