Today is a very historic day in the life of our country. By the end of the day today, we will have a black president–for the first time ever in the history of our country.
Given the racial baggage which America has had in its past, and which still persists even to this day, I think it is very significant that America has reached the point where it is capable of electing a black president. I think this is something for America to be very proud of.
Now then…I get that some of you–many of you in fact–have very serious concerns about Obama’s experience, his economic views, and his views on abortion and gay marriage. I share your concerns.
What I do not appreciate, however, is the Obama-bashing which seems to have become a favorite sport among evangelicals lately. You know what I mean. Calling him “Osama” instead of Obama. Saying that he’s really a closet Muslim. Saying that he’s anti-American. And many other such things. It’s wrong. It’s completely and totally uncalled for. Especially from us as Christians.
Come on, people. You know better than that. Surely you know that such things are not true of Obama. It is a bad reflection on all of us as Christians that some of you would stoop that low.
What drives a lot of this hostility which evangelicals feel towards Obama is the simple fact that we just don’t know what to do with a Christian (someone who professes to be a Christian, at any rate) who is significantly different from ourselves. In the case of Obama, these differences boil down chiefly to the issues of abortion and gay marriage. Whenever someone professing to be a Christian expresses a viewpoint which is different from the accepted evangelical viewpoint upon these issues, the thinking is that such a person is not a Christian and we are therefore excused from treating him/her with the respect and civility with which we would treat a brother or sister in Christ. Because this person claims to be a Christian and yet holds to these views which we consider toxic and harmful, that makes him/her a hypocrite and we get to say anything we want, no matter how asinine or disrespectful. God doesn’t mind; the magnitude of the issues at stake in His eyes excuses everything.
Most of us would not go that far in expressing this line of thought; most would stop at saying that you cannot be a Christian and disagree with the accepted evangelical position on abortion or gay marriage. This goes back to one of the behaviors which is unfortunately distinctive of Protestantism; that is, we specialize in defining who is and who is not a Christian. Evangelicals are notorious for this; mainlines do it too, from what I hear.
Perhaps we need to take a cue from our Catholic brethren. The Catholic Church has an incredible diversity of opinion, all united under the umbrella of allegiance to Rome. When someone like Giuliani or Biden comes along who is pro-choice, those Catholics who do not hold the pro-choice position will say that they are bad Catholics who need to be denied access to the sacraments or some other form of institutional discipline, but at the end of the day they are still Catholic. No one will ever come out and say that you cannot be Catholic if you disagree on issues such as these.
I don’t have any sympathy for any of you who say that Obama is not a Christian. He is a progressive Christian who applies his faith quite differently to the issues of abortion and gay marriage than we would. But at the end of the day he is still a Christian. If we engage him on these issues, it should be as a brother in Christ. He may be very wrong on these issues, but nothing gives us permission to say that he is a Muslim, an atheist, a God-hater, Bible-hater, or whatever choice epithet you would care to dream up.
Those verses about submitting to the government authorities? You don’t get to take a pass on them just because the president currently in power happens to disagree with you on abortion or gay marriage. Never mind what Dobson says. How do I know this? Because Paul wrote those verses while under a Roman government that not only disagreed with Christians on the moral issues of that day, but was downright hostile to Christians and given to subject professing Christians to all manner of atrocities that I won’t mention here. If, living under such a government, Paul was able to say that they were raised up by God for the purpose of governing us and that we had better submit to them, how much more so are we obligated to do so, we who face no such threat of persecution. (Never mind the people who consider it persecution that Christian nativity scenes are not displayed in the public square or that some want to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. That doesn’t count.)
If Obama is wrong about these issues then we must use the processes at our disposal to register our disagreement within the parameters of the law and our Biblical obligation to submit to the governing authorities. Our dialogue with him on these issues must be as a brother in Christ. This doesn’t mean we give him a pass if he is wrong. If he is wrong then he must be corrected and opposed in the strongest way possible; but at the end of the day we must recognize that he is a brother in Christ and carry on our dialogue with the exact same respect that we would accord a brother in Christ.