God Winks: An Interview with Congressman Jeff Duncan
Before the vision of Liberatus was born, I spent four years working on Capitol Hill as an aide to Congressman Jeff Duncan. It was in his office that I wrestled with my calling to start this organization as an outlet for those on the inside of American politics to talk about how the gospel sets us free from political dysfunction. So today, I’m excited to share his thoughts on how we can find a freedom that’s deeper than ideology and greater than political agendas.
What I’ve always appreciated about Jeff is his ability to relate to people—a skill I saw firsthand for years, going all the way back to that day in 2009 when we drove around SC-03 in a minivan announcing his newly launched campaign for Congress. In today’s interview, as we go “back to the basics” in Issue 016, looking at activities that help us re-create in our work, he reveals part of the secret. And that secret is simple: Spend time with family. Cut the grass. Be grateful. Trust that God will direct our steps.
Here’s to finding that simple life, where God is God and we are dependent on him, regardless of any roles of power we fill.
-Caleb Paxton, Liberatus Founder
Our theme for this series is finding outlets for recreation that help us better re-create, and at a deeper level, finding activities that help us reconnect with the life of Jesus more fully. Having been there with you for some late nights, some early mornings and some partisan fights—even within the party—how have you continued to reset and recharge over the past six years?
By going home. Being with my friends and family—returning to my roots—keeps me grounded. Nothing like getting away from the DC bubble where maître d’s say “welcome back Congressman” or people hold the door for you—to good ol’ South Carolina where people call you by your first name, you have to wait in line to get the oil changed in your car or cut your own grass. Humble yourself before your Maker as well as your friends and family.
How has pursuing those activities helped strengthen your family—especially considering the constant travel; so often being away from home and missing baseball games, soccer games, and other events?
It is important to return home as often as possible. Being a “Dad” in jeans, boots and a ball cap at a baseball game or soccer match is good for my mental health as well as that of my wife and son (who I am watching play). Knowing Dad is there. But I do miss way too much of my family's lives. That is why it is imperative that I make it home every chance I have!
This summer, you spoke to the shooter at the congressional baseball practice just before leaving for Capitol Hill. How has that experience deepened your faith?
I am more aware of God’s love for me and how He protects us. The “God Winks” in the whole baseball shooting event are incredible! From Thomas (with a Duncan for Congress bumper sticker on his truck) backing into a parking spot—not affording the shooter the opportunity to see it as we talked in front of the vehicle, to the field maintenance guy returning to the field the night before to lock a gate he had forgotten to lock—God is so good! Bottom line is: I am so grateful! Then, the outpouring of concern from others across the nation was amazing!
When I scheduled for you, I remember the bipartisan Members prayer breakfast every Thursday being a high priority for you. How have those relationships—and coming together for a purpose higher than ideology—breathed life into your work as a congressman?
The main benefit from that weekly breakfast is the relationships we build and the chance to gain a better understanding of the backgrounds of other MoC’s that one wouldn't have a chance to learn about otherwise. The simple act of singing a hymn there each week fills my spirit and reconnects me to God.
As you consider what Jesus has done for us, how is that reshaping the way you think about life and work in a place of power?
Well, that is a little heady. I follow Proverbs 3:5. Trust. In ALL THINGS.
God knows when a hair falls from my head, he knows my sinful thoughts and actions—and yet He still loves me. To believe that God loves me so much that He sent His Son to die for me is overwhelming! As Francis Chan has pointed out, it is CRAZY that He loves me, a sinner. But I am glad that He does—GRACE is a concept that is difficult to wrap my head around.
Jeff Duncan is a South Carolina native and a 1988 graduate of Clemson University. Prior to being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Duncan served as branch manager and an Assistant Vice President during his seven years working in community banking. Later, he became the President and CEO of J. Duncan Associates, a South Carolina based, family owned real estate marketing firm which specialized in statewide real estate auctions.
Duncan served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2002-2010, where he served as the Chairman of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee from 2007 to 2009.
Elected in 2010 to the 112th Congress, Jeff currently sits on two House committees including the Homeland Security Committee, and the Foreign Affairs Committee. He also serves as the Subcommittee Chairman of Foreign Affairs' Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.
Jeff has been married to his wife Melody for twenty-seven years and they have three sons: Graham, John Philip, and Parker.
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
This week, find a way to step down from your position of power and influence, regardless of how big or small it seems. Spend extra time with friends or family, or connect with a social class of people who have less than you do, where you can be a child of God—a recipient of his grace and nothing more.
We’d love to hear from you too. If you’d like to explore these ideas further with a community of other professionals in American politics, consider applying to write with us.
Liberatus is a community journal about bringing truth and beauty to American politics from the inside, because people who work in politics are tired of dysfunction. Writers who join us creatively explore healing for work culture, communication, and personal well-being.
Journal Entry #107