Any reflections on how to speak about the faith of public leaders? I have two suggestions after the jump, but I want to raise my hand and say that I appreciate all the good Franklin Graham has done. I pushed back against him recently on this blog and find myself having to do so again. But, this is not about Franklin Graham; it’s about how to talk about the faith of our public leaders. I have two suggestions, what are yours?
“In Graham’s own, sly way, he managed to say that he believes Obama is a Christian because he said so, and then question if he’s really a Christian by suggesting that he’s just a guy who thinks if you show up at church makes you one. This two-step that Graham is doing is dangerous because all of a sudden he has become the arbiter of who is and who isn’t a Christian through the eyes of those in the media. By even asking him the question, we are affording Graham a level of respect that he doesn’t deserve. In fact, if anyone wanted to truly challenge Graham, all they would have to do is actually read what Obama has written on the matter. In his best-selling book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama wrote that he “felt God’s spirit beckoning me,” and as a result, “I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.” And he was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ in the 1990s.”
And TD Jakes said this: “I wish he had the diplomacy of his father, who brought the gospel to people without being nuanced by politics because when you do those things you offend people that you are actually called to save and to serve. And I would hope that he would see the rationale in apologizing for such statements — because if the president’s faith is suspect, then all of our faiths are suspect, because the Bible is quite clear about what it takes to be saved and the president has been quite open about his accepting Christ and him openly confessing it before men. And if it’s good enough for the Bible it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.”
Two points: Here’s a principle we ought to operate out of when it comes to making comments about the personal faith of public leaders, including Presidents: if they are of the opposite political party as we are, we ought to double-take, triple-take, and probably not say anything. Democrats were fond of denouncing Bush’s faith, and Republicans are now fond of denouncing Obama’s. It’s not coincidental.
The second one is this: it is one thing to speak into what someone says — as in questioning their theology — but it is entirely different to “judge” whether they are reconciled with God or not. The latter is judgment (read James 4:11-12) and the former discernment and seeking the mind of God. We ought to discern; we are not to judge.