Although I’m entering the political discourse again today, I hope that those of you who blatantly oppose my political views (which is probably most of you – and I’m cool with that) can see the bigger picture, the main message that I am trying to communicate, which transcends politics. My aim with my blog is to intelligently discuss issues that pertain to evangelical Christianity, and unfortunately politics plays a really big role in the expression of evangelical Christianity, and therein lays one of the problems.
I’m writing this post in response to two different articles from Christianity Today. “WhyWe Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama” by Owen Strachan and “Barack Obama: Evangelical-in-Chief” by Judd Birdsall, which was written in response to Stachan’s article. The first article argues that President Obama is not a Christian. The article admits that the president talk often of faith, but the author’s argument is that if the president were a saved man, he would be against abortion.
Saving faith creates a relentless desire in the name of Christ to heal the wounded, restore the weak, and defend tiny fetuses that kick and spin and wave their miniscule arms when they hear their parents’ voices. Saving faith causes us to weep and yell and wrestle with God in prayer for infants that are savaged in the womb. Saving faith cannot abide unlawful death. It must and will decry it.
So when someone professes faith, yet has none of these instinctive reactions—and actually opposes such instincts despite years of membership in supposedly Bible-teaching churches—we realize, chillingly, that something greater than right morality is missing. The gospel, the ground of our ethics and the animator of our conscience, is very likely missing. Perhaps the person speaks of faith and their nearness to God. In reality, though, they are far from him. They may have come near at some point to the kingdom, but like the rich young ruler who chooses reigning with sinners over reigning with Christ, they are desperately far. (Strachan, “Why We Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama”).
I think it is extremely dangerous to assume that a person is not a Christian simply because they don’t believe the same things we do. The Bible never mentions believing abortion is murder to be one of the pre-requisites of salvation. I as a Christian do not agree with abortion, but I do not assume that those who don’t agree with me are not Christians. When we get saved, Jesus comes into our lives and he changes us from the inside out…he changes the things that he wants to change, not the things that everyone else thinks we should change. I don’t know the mind of God; perhaps he is more interested in working on other things in President Obama’s life than he is about Obama’s beliefs on abortion.
One of the problems with evangelical Christianity is that we have chosen a select few things, normally things that the majority of evangelicals don’t struggle with, such as abortion and homosexuality, to be defining factors of Christianity, and the things that we choose to be the most passionate about. But, what if we decided to major on things that we actually struggle with? How might we be able to change the world were we first willing to take inventory of our own lives and be morally outraged about lying, arrogance, gossip, theft, greed, gluttony, fighting and the like? If we worried about ourselves and our sins first, and if we tried to rid ourselves of those sins as passionately as we try to outlaw abortion or ban gay marriage, maybe then the world would at the very least have a little more respect for us when we say we don’t agree with abortion or homosexuality. Choosing things that majority of evangelicals don’t struggle with and turning those into big issues is really a good example of the classic Biblical story talking about us trying to remove motes from other people’s eyes when there are huge beams in ours.
Another thing we as evangelical Christians need to realize is that we don’t have the monopoly on truth. It’s possible that some of the ideas we cling to and promote as Biblical may be anything but. We need to be willing to be wrong, instead of being adamant that our view of the Biblical text is the only accurate one. In the words of the president himself:
No matter how much Christians who oppose homosexuality may claim that they hate the sin but love the sinner, such a judgment inflicts pain on good people – people who are made in the image of God, and who are often truer to Christ’s message than those that condemn them. And I was reminded that that is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society’s prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus’ call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history. I don’t believe such doubts make me a bad Christian. I believe they make me human, limited in my understandings of God’s purpose and therefore prone to sin. When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations – whether they come from a lesbian friend or a doctor opposed to abortion. (Obama, “The Audacity of Hope”, pg. 223 – 224).
Obama tells us what his beliefs are with his current understanding of God, and even has the humility to admit that he may be wrong, and is obviously willing to learn. If more evangelical Christians reminded themselves that they could be wrong and that they maybe don’t have the exclusive rights on truth, maybe we could then have better discussions and have more respect in the world we are supposed to be being a light to.
Obama, B 2006, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Three Rivers Press, New York.
Strachan, O 2012, Why We Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama, Christianity Today, June 21, 2012 accessed on 22 August 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/why-we-should-reexamine-the-faith-of-barack-obama.html?start=1.