What Would Rush Do? Now Do the Opposite.

“If I wanted Obama to succeed… I’d be encouraging the republicans to lay down and support him! I don’t want this to work… I hope he fails!” - Rush Limbaugh

[Update: It seems I  unintentionally misrepresented this quote. See the comments below (especially the one by Bill Blair), and check out the full context here. I'm truly, truly sorry for that. I should say, however that I still stand behind the overall thesis of this post. ]

They weren’t quite the most shocking words in the world. Everyone expects Rush Limbaugh to say something shocking and divisive – it’s how he keeps people listening to his show. And yet, for some reason – the act seems too politically unwise to be a cynically calculated move – Obama felt the need to respond. During talk of whether the stimulus bill might finally make it through the legislative process he pointed out, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.” And with that mention from the bully pulpit, the debate amongst Republicans was on: How do we feel about Limbaugh again?

McCain took the initiative to actually defend the man: “Mr. Limbaugh is a voice of a significant portion of our conservative movement in America. He has a very wide viewing audience. He is entitled to his views, and he has a lot of people who listen very carefully to him. I don’t know why that the President would take him on. He’s part of the political landscape, and he plays a role.”

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey attempted to be honest about Limbaugh: “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party.You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of thing.” Later, he called Rush live on his show and apologized profusely for offending anyone.

So where ought Christians stand in all of this? The truth is, Rush Limbaugh’s show is almost fundamentally flawed and unhelpful in general. It’s an example of the sort of thing a Christian ought not to recommend. After all, is Rush what Paul had in mind when he declared we ought to “live a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity”? Certainly not. In fact, what we know about talk radio and television tells us that the system simply doesn’t encourage real Christian values.

No, I’m not talking about the pro-life cause, protesting gay marriage, or even gambling legislation. I’m talking instead about the fruits of the spirit: love, not a wish for someone’s failure; joy, not constant discontentment in our country’s political state; peace, not a spirit of wrath; patience, not a complete and utter lack of eternal perspective; kindness, not brashness; goodness, not a belief that the means justifies the ends; faithfulness, not a sense that we must take matters into our own hands; gentleness, not a simple desire to speak one’s mind no matter the cost; self-control, not an unchecked anger.

It’s those things which ought to dictate the way in which we seek to promote our prolife, anti-gay marriage causes. Further, when someone whom much of the world believes to be popular with Christians goes so clearly off-track in so many varied, blatant and seemingly intentional ways, it’s up to us not to just turn off the radio, but to make it clear: he is not one of us.

My challenge is simple: if you find yourself listening regularly to Rush and his cohorts and nodding your head, take the time to stop and check yourself for the fruits of the spirit. And do something a little bit less predictable than what Rush has done: Pray for Obama to succeed.

“…I think President Obama is in special need of prayers right now. I want President Obama to succeed. I didn’t vote for him, I’ll admit that right now. However, he is my President… these are serious times calling for serious leadership and I truly want President Obama to lead and lead successfully. Paul instructs us to pray for our leaders at all times (I Timothy 2:1-2); I think our leader could use our prayers and supplications right now as he adjusts to the intense rigours of one of the most difficult jobs in the world.” – Adam Carrington, writer for Christ and Pop Culture, and even more importantly, a Christian living out Christian ideals.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • David Dunham

    Good thoughts Rich. I think this stimulus bill that Obama is promoting is ridiculous, but you are absolutely right that the alternative to Obama’s policies and procedures is not watch him fail…it’s find a way to make things work. Thanks Rich.

  • Bill

    I understand what you are saying about Rush… it is rather hypocritical for many of us evangelicals to so soundly support a man who is so proud, boastful, and vulgar, even though we may disagree on policy issues. However his point about hoping Obama fails is not directed to the person but the policy. Take abortion for example… all he is saying is that he hopes his abortion policy fails. Now apply that to the economy… Rush is only saying that he hopes Obama’s economic policy fails because he believes if it succeeds, it will harm America in the long run.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Bill, can you tell me how you get that impression? Did he clarify at some point?

  • http://www.sic-et-non.com Chris

    I think this discussion will get needlessly confused if one doesn’t take heed of the point Bill made — there is a BIG difference in saying one wants Obama to fail IN THE EXECUTION OF HIS POLICIES, and saying one wants Obama to fail IN LEADING THE COUNTRY WELL.

    If his policies are unwise, then of course we want them to fail. I would agree with Bill in positing that Rush was talking about Obama’s policies. He disagrees with Obama as regards nearly all of the policies he advocates. He believes — and he is certainly not alone — that Obama wants to grow government’s coffers and its reach in American society. And he wants those efforts to fail.

    I agree with the thrust of your post, Richard, that it is wrong for Christians to embrace the attitude of pundits like Rush and Hannity. We certainly need to use discernment. While I agree with a lot of conservative policy, of the kind advocated by these pundits, I also recognize that I cannot follow them in mocking or snidely criticizing our leaders (Rom. 13), whether conservative or liberal.

    Chriss last blog post..Government seeks to spend ‘More Than $1 Million Per Day Since Christ’s Birth’

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Why are we giving this guy, who Bill even admits is, “proud, boastful, and vulgar”, the benefit of the doubt? What we should be asking is what the regular listeners of his may have interpreted that to mean?

    The context makes it pretty clear. He says that rather than submit to an article his “hopes” for Obama’s presidency, he simply wishes that Obama fails. This is pretty obvious to me.

    Seriously, am I missing something?

  • http://www.sic-et-non.com Chris

    Do you listen regularly to Rush, Richard? Your comments would lead me to assume you don’t.

    I’m asking because there’ve been several cases when friends of mine who don’t often listen to Rush have criticized him without fully understanding a point he was making, and the reason they don’t understand him is because they’re really not very familiar with his repertoire.

    The most obvious that comes to mind is Rush’s use of Paul Shanklin’s parody, ‘Barack the Magic Negro’, which was actually poking fun at the way LIBERALS used Obama’s race for political reasons. My friends couldn’t believe Rush could be so ‘racist’, when actually the title of the song was derived from a liberal columnist, who called Barack a ‘magic Negro.’

    Christians who listen to Rush much can fall into the trap of mimicking his snide approach, but those who don’t listen, I’ve found, often assume the worst because they tend to believe the caricature of Rush painted by the (mostly left-leaning) mainstream media. Rush says a lot of good things, though he can be insulting at times. I don’t think he’s as proud as people say he is. When he speaks boastfully, he’s being tongue-in-cheek, I think one could argue. People who go on his show as guests often make a point to tell the audience that ‘in real life’, Rush is an extremely down-to-earth, humble person.

    My main point is that you can’t criticize the talk show guys substantively if you judge them based on soundbytes, instead of listening to the full context.

    Chriss last blog post..Government seeks to spend ‘More Than $1 Million Per Day Since Christ’s Birth’

  • http://bethefruit.com Bill Blair

    Richard, I think the thrust of your article is correct, but I would have to agree with the other guys that Rush’s hope of failure was specifically targeted at Obama’s policies. Here is a quote to add some context:

    “I’m not talking about search-and-destroy, but I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed.” From this: http://tinyurl.com/9dgs7v

    I totally agree with you about him lacking the fruit of the Spirit (on his show at least), but Rush was really targeting Obama’s plans and policies which Rush opposes. BTW, I long ago quit listening to him because of some of the reasons you cited, but we should be fair to the point he was trying to make.

  • http://jimrector.wordpress.com Jim

    Richard,

    As stated already, I think you totally miss the point of Rush’s comments. Now, I’m not a Rush apologists. I think he’s too much of a shill for the Republican including the good, bad, and ugly. But I get his point. When Obama attempts to socialize our country, I hope he fails because it would destroy America as we know it. When Obama attempts to weaken our defense against terrorists, I hope he fails because it will put us in danger. When Obama tries to get the FOCA passed, I hope he fails because it will result in more unborn babies being murdered. When Obama attempts to put activist judges on the Supreme Court, I hope he fails because it will cause us to be a nations of the latest opinion instead of a nation of laws. I coudl go on but you get my point.

    When Obama attempts anything that will hurt our country I hope he fails. That’s not being un-Christian, it’s being a patriot.

    Jims last blog post..Family Christmas get together – 12/25/2008

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Bill Blair: there it is, that’s what I needed. I apologize, I apparently didn’t originally have the full context when I thought I did. It’s weird, too. I thought I had watched the video unedited.

    I don’t think it changes the overall point of my post, so I’m leaving it up, but I’ll put a little change in there.

  • http://www.aaronhall.com/ Minnesota Attorney

    Conservatives should be upset with Rush. Some of his recent comments make you wonder what side Rush is on.

    Minnesota Attorneys last blog post..Will, Estate Planning, and Tax Attorney in Minneapolis, MN

  • http://micknick.wordpress.com Nick Keutzer

    I don’t listen to Rush regularly, but I do acknowledge that he is a smart man. However, he can be somewhat… radical at times.

    Nick Keutzers last blog post..Spasmodic Sylogism #3

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Wait. So let’s say I disagree strongly with Obama’s stimulus package and other plans to make America a better nation. And let’s pretend that they succeed. The stimulus package did exactly what I didn’t expect it to do. It saved the economy. In what world should I have hoped that the policy that I disagreed with didn’t succeed. Yep. That’s right. In a world in which I care more about being right than about the good of the world around me.

    Unless we’re not talking about successful policies after all?

    The Danes last blog post..20081119.ChurchLies

  • Denny

    Hello,
    You wrote above “Why are we giving this guy, who Bill even admits is, “proud, boastful, and vulgar”, the benefit of the doubt? What we should be asking is what the regular listeners of his may have interpreted that to mean?” Isn’t it exhibiting the fruit of the spirit by giving Rush the benefit of the doubt and to show peace and gentleness as you said above? Perhaps a better challenge is to pray for Rush to succeed?


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