Sacred Space: Honor Your President, Christian

Sacred Space: Honor Your President, Christian November 4, 2011

Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.

It is hardly a secret that conservatives do not approve of President Obama’s agenda. It is also no secret that most evangelicals are conservatives. Neither of these facts are problematic. What is problematic is how many in the church talk about the President of the United States.

I’m not thinking specifically of the “show me the birth certificate” controversy, or any other particular thing about the President. I am thinking in general of how evangelicals talk about President Obama. I will not write what I have heard him called, the names usually revolve around some variation of his last name that is insulting. I have heard him accused of being a closet Muslim, a closet Marxist, and I have heard Christians say that he is deliberately wrecking the economy in order to implement his radical leftist agenda. Such rumor-mongering and fear-mongering has no place in the church, and it is downright embarrassing that evangelicals participate in this kind of slander.

I’m all for evangelicals being bluntly against certain policies of the President and the Democratic party. But in our protest, we must always show honor to our elected officials. Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:1, 7). Barack Obama was chosen by the people of the United States in a fair election, but more importantly, he was appointed to that position by God. So when you talk about the President, be certain that you talk about him respectfully as one who has authority over you.

Here’s a good test you can use to see how your heart is toward our President. Do you pray for him? Do you pray that God will fill him with wisdom and insight? If you believe that he is not converted, are you concerned for his soul? Or when you talk about the President, is it mostly to disrespect him and to scoff at his policies? If your speech is normally disrespectful, you ought to repent from it. It is sinful, and you are bringing shame on the church.

By all means, vote your conscience. I encourage you to write your President and tell him, respectfully, about things that you disagree with in his policies. (I have written him before, and the response from his office has always been prompt and polite, even if I did not receive the answer I wanted to hear.) I wonder if the folks who are disrespectful have even bothered to write the President? I’d be willing to wager that most have been content with grousing over his policies with another disgruntled conservative. (That person probably hasn’t written the President either.) I pray that evangelicals will show the deference to the President that the office deserves, and I pray that whatever we say to others about the President, it will be evident to our hearers that we respect the man, that we care for him as a person, even though we may have deep differences with regard to our political beliefs.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Alan Noble

    In addition, these kinds of disrespectful words do a huge diservice to conservative politics by taking our attention away from real, substantive complaints about our president and by undermining the reputation of conservatives.

    I see this as a huge problem in the church; I’m still amazed at the influential, Christian figures that publicly mock our president and defend their language by citing examples of OT prophets or by dismissing calls for charity as capitulation to liberal “political correctness.”

  • Brad, I think this is the first time we’ve agreed on something.

    I’d also add: If you’re writing an elected representative (whether at the state, federal, whatever level), do it by email or phone. According to friends who have worked for Senators in the past, letter writing campaigns with physical letters might make the constituent feel better, but it ends up costing the taxpayers more in terms of manpower and supplies (because each letter has to be read, each envelope has to be printed and addressed and stamped, etc). My friend Joe remarked that this was often a particularly ironic process when the original letter was complaining about how much of their taxes are “wasted.”

    Just a bit of advice to tack on; it’s really neither here nor there.

  • Carol

    Bravo and thank you from an evangelical that doesn’t see a strong affiliation with either party. What I do believe in strongly though is that the office of the President (and any elected official) should be respected. It would go a long way to remove the poison from our national political discourse if citizens and politicians alike would treat each other with respect and charity.

    Just because a person disagrees with my political beliefs or policy leanings doesn’t mean that person is automatically anti-God, anti-America etc etc

    In all honesty – if some of my conservative friends would hold the hate and derision for a bit and actually research this President’s policies, I think they would find a lot to agree with him on.

  • Alan,

    I totally agree.

    Dianna,

    Yay! I am savoring the moment. :)

    I appreciate your advice on the email thing in particular. Every time I have made contact with an elected official, it has been by email or phone. This isn’t because I knew it was cheaper, it was simply convenience for me. But it’s good to know anyway.

    Carol,

    Research requires effort! Making fun of people is easy. It’s awful, but most of the bad speech I hear is just parroting of party sound-bites. No independent thought required.

    I should also say that I really hate it when motives are impugned. That is, it is one thing to disagree with a fiscal policy, it is quite another to say that someone is proposing that policy for nefarious reasons. It could be that the opposition really thinks that their plan will benefit everyone, and that they are proposing it for precisely that reason.

  • Carol

    “I should also say that I really hate it when motives are impugned.” You and me both, brother. Because if impugning someone’s motives is not judging writ large then I don’t know what is.

    But praise God anyways! All the times when my friends forward me ill informed and borderline (also sometimes, outright) racist emails about the President – it gives me a chance to exercise patience, forgiveness and gives me a chance to pray for them and remember my own faults and shortcomings. Judge not and you will not be judged.

  • Mason

    How could anyone of a Christian faith defend him. Forget the name calling and all that as that is just what people do when they lack knowledge to debate and I agree we should skip to the points not the name calling. But fear mongering by identifying economic agendas. Seriously this man has attacked Christian belief even though he calls himself one …since the day he walked in office, overtly! this is why this frustration has built up. No one should say that we should standby and let our “leaders do as they please” that was written for the citizen of Rome to not break the laws of the land. Yes, everyone should obey laws. However, this does not mean we must support the policies of the elected officials! And politics do have a place in the lives of every Christian individuals as of late we have stood by for to long and allowed our government to eat away at our belief crying the rhetoric “Separation of Church and State” Our founding father intended this to mean that the idea of Church or Religion was to be left alone by the state. Never should a Christian politician or citizen give up there beliefs while serving but use that for there foundation to run this country. Lastly, Obama was not chosen by God! Period! Do people assume that free will does not exist. Obama’s agenda has made it clear that he means to alienate Christians in the United States as bigots. “They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” -Obama talking in San Francisco about Western Pennsylvania (PS where I grew up yeah we cling to our Guns and Religion (of our choice) and allow other to do the same). It is hard for many to believe he is a servant of God hence the closet name calling when he attacks Christianity. It hard to say he not a closet Marxist for many when he attacks capitalism (which by the way we haven’t been since Franklin Roosevelt) (I’d also stated he is more for a socialist(market definition before everyone gets all huffy) agenda but the point is he’s action put him in that predicament to be called out on it is…well… American! Sorry for the rant but read it and could leave it alone. Also, all will be judged by God and to make a judgement is to make action to make action will lead success or failure. but at least idleness will not be our stress.Final quote on that: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
    Theodore Roosevelt- same guy who said “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”

  • Mason,

    You are exactly the type of person I am writing to. Thank you for demonstrating what frustrated, dishonoring rants look like for us in the comment section. Your protest demonstrates that you did not pay very close attention to my article or you would not have written this:

    Never should a Christian politician or citizen give up there beliefs while serving but use that for there foundation to run this country

    or this:

    However, this does not mean we must support the policies of the elected officials!

    No one ever suggested the first, and to the second I specifically said that people do not have to support the policies of elected officials.

    Finally, you err if you do not believe that God ordained Barack Obama to be the President. This is what the Bible says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed” (Rom. 13:1-2).

    I do not like President Obama’s policies. I abhor his position on abortion. I will not, however, disrespect him because it is sin. You are not allowed to love your politics more than your God. Remember that the next time you feel like going on a rant against the authorities that God himself ordained.

  • I think my fundamental issue is I don’t think Paul was making any sort of categorical statement of every person in power throughout the rest of time in Romans 13. Depending on when you date St. John’s book of Revelation either Nero or Domitian was charcterized as the whore of Babylon in his narrative. To me it seems that either St. John knew not of the letter to the Romans or Paul’s comments were addressing more the context within which is churches in Rome were in. I think the latter is more probable.

    Another stereotypical/extreme example for me would be whether we should honor Hitler? Was Hitler the servant of God as he administered his “final solution”? I don’t think so and I don’t know of any rational human being who would suggest as much either.

    So, on the grounds of Romans 13 I don’t find reason to treat Obama (or any president) with respect. I think Obama and every other president that we will ever have deserves to be treated with respect on the grounds that they are human beings. Jesus wasn’t revealing some grand mystery of community when uttering what is now known as the Golden Rule. We ought to love our neighbors and enemies as we would ourselves simply because they are just as deserving as I am.

    Anyways, this is a good article. Especially for those who would read this and forget their own past invocations of this passage to brow beat liberals when their guy was in the office. It’s convenient how this passage is really only used in evangelical churches when a republican is in the white house. Simply saying “I repsect the Office of the President but not necessarily the person in office” is an attempt to avoid the appearance of an all too obvious hypocricy. Your call to being consistent is a good one.

  • Daniel,

    Once you insert Hitler into the discussion, you pretty much end it. But I will go on record to say yes, Hitler was appointed by God to his position. After all, Paul was talking about Nero in his letter to the Romans. I know Nero isn’t the villain du jour, but he was quite the psychotic in his day.

    There is no wiggle room. You have to respect your President, brother. Even when you oppose him. Or perhaps especially when you do.

  • Brad,

    Just popping back into this to say I find the “Once you insert Hitler into the discussion, you pretty much end it.” comment pretty hilarious, considering our “abortion as Holocaust” disagreement a couple of weeks ago. Just saying.

  • Dianna,

    I didn’t say it wasn’t a valid comparison; I just think everyone is just sick of Hitler. We need to start picking on some other historical bad guys to keep the conversation interesting. Let’s use Stalin and Chairman Mao. People will be caught off guard.

    It would be interesting if we used them and someone still brought up Hitler. It must be the mustache.