J.C. Watts: Bringing Diversity and Faith to Washington
By Shannon Woodland with Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Scott Ross [reporting]: From 1995 until 2002, Oklahoma lawmaker J.C. Watts, Jr., served in the U.S. House of Representatives. He devoted himself to conservatism and rose to the top ranks of Republican leadership.
Ross: You came to the point of tremendous influence in the house. You were number...
J.C. Watts: Number four in leadership with the Republican majority.
Ross: Yes, and then you quit.
Watts: I left, because at the offset, I said that I was going to run for three terms. I ran for four. I knew that it’s not healthy for the psyche for people to tell you how wonderful you are everyday. You start believing that you’re pretty good, but you’re never all of that. You may be some of that.
Ross [reporting]: J.C. grew up in rural Oklahoma in a Christian home. He was a good athlete. He was starting quarterback for the University of Oklahoma and took the Sooners to two Orange Bowl victories. But he also knew racism. As a child, he wasn’t allowed to swim in his hometown pool and had to sit in the balcony of the movie theatre. These injustices didn’t stop his parents from raising him with values and a faith that still guides him in all he says and does.
Watts: Everything I am I owe to my faith and secondly to parents who were old school. [They said] you will go to school and you will act civilized.
Ross: What did your dad do?
Watts: Police officer and a minister. He would actually arrest them, then convert them.
Ross: That’s what he did for you too?
Watts: That’s right. Sunday morning, you will be in Bible study, and anyone with the last name of Watts better be out of the house in the next 45 minutes heading to Sunday school. So faith, family and rural Oklahoma values.
Ross [reporting]: J.C. played for the Canadian Football League for five years. After his best season with the Toronto Argonauts, he had a feeling that his football days were over. So he retired from a six-figure income and took a job as a youth pastor for $300 a week.
Ross: So you have a real relationship with God via Jesus Christ. Was there a point in time when that happened for you?
Watts: I became a youth pastor in 1987, and in 1988 as a youth pastor of a church, I accepted Christ.
Ross: So you joined the church as a youth pastor not knowing Jesus Christ personally?
Ross: Then you became a follower of the Lord. How did you?
Watts: Well, like so many, I had put my faith in church work.
Watts: The system, legalism. I could check a lot of the boxes. A guy came to our church, and it pierced my heart like he was preaching to me. He challenged us to think what we had put our salvation faith in. Man, I grew up in a pastor's home, but I had never totally surrendered to Christ. So I got home that night and called the pastor of my church who’s a dear friend named John Lucas. I said, "John, I think I have this all mixed up." I prayed the prayer of salvation, was baptized for the second time. That’s how it happened in 1988.
Ross: God led you into politics.
Watts: In 1981, when I left the University of Oklahoma, I wanted to spend some time in public service. Scott, I never would have thought I’d end up in Congress.
Ross: You were the first Black Congressman?
Watts: Well, since the reconstruction, the first Black Republican south of the Mason-Dixon line to be elected to Congress.
Ross: I was doing some research, and a word popped in my mind about your life journey: anomaly .
Ross: You are a Black Republican...
Watts: Scott, I frame that as I am a Republican that happens to be Black. In 1989 when I switched from Democrat to Republican, with God as my witness, not one thing changed about what I believed about one man and one woman in a marriage or about diversity of color. That's a good thing. He made you White, and He made me Black. He knew exactly what He was doing.
Ross: One blood.
Watts: One blood, that’s right.
Ross [reporting]: So, where’s Watts today? Well, he’s still a presence in Washington. He is a businessman with a lot going on.
Ross: What’s the future? Do you want to get back into politics? What do you want to do to influence the world you live in?
Watts: I’m not driven to get back into politics. It’s not on my top five things to do before I die, but saying that, I may be in politics in the next year or the next ten years. I’ve been on the front line for 12 years, four in state government, eight on the national level. Scott, I don’t think I need "the Honorable" in front of my name to contribute. I think you grow wherever God plants you. I hope I’m growing as a person of faith, as a Christian. That should be our number one objective this journey of life. That all starts with a personal intimate relationship with Christ and then being in prayer every single day about all of those things -- being tenacious about it. At the end of the day, if I’m praying, if I’m giving, if I’m fasting and doing it with a Christ-like heart, everything else will take care of itself.
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