In Defense of Barack Obama

Mark Driscoll, the often controversial pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, posts on his Facebook page today: “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”

I’m not a fan of Obama by any means and if I had to make a judgment about his faith in the Lord I’d be apt to agree with Driscoll. But that’s just it. I don’t have to make a judgment about Obama’s faith in the Lord. In fact, not only do I not have to make that judgment, I’m not supposed to. The New Testament is filled with verses against judgment, Matthew 7:1-5 one of the most widely quoted.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t point out evil deeds when we see them. It doesn’t mean that we can’t try to guide fellow Believers, or even unbelievers, toward righteousness. It also doesn’t mean that we should be so full of Grace that there is no room left for Truth.

What it does mean is that we should not judge what is in a man’s heart, and that is especially true if we’ve never even met the man. Perhaps if Driscoll was Obama’s pastor and had met with him on a regular basis he’d have come to a different conclusion. Or maybe not. But at least he’d know the man. As it stands, all Driscoll knows about Obama is what he reads in the news. And regardless of what sources Driscoll is reading, none of them are ever going to paint a full picture of what is in Obama’s heart.

Furthermore, acknowledging the fact that Obama has pushed for legislation which is clearly not Biblical, Obama’s secular actions may not be betraying his religious convictions. Case in point, I believe that abortion is a sin but I have also come to realize that making it illegal is not the best way to eliminate it. I also believe that Christ is the One True path to Salvation but that doesn’t mean I want to form a Theocracy. Doing so, in fact, would not only be bad policy from an earthly perspective, it would also be blasphemous.

I’m opposed to Obama because I am opposed to big government. I don’t have all the answers to the problems that plague society. In fact, I have so few of them that I don’t want to make those decisions, especially at the federal level. I think they’re better left to local officials or, better yet, the individual. But maybe Obama does have all the answers (all evidence points to the contrary; I’m just playing Devil’s advocate, pardon the phrase). Maybe if everyone did rally behind Obama and give him unlimited power we’d all be riding rainbow-powered unicorns and feasting on gumdrops and gingersnaps. Not something I want to try and I’m 99.99% sure it wouldn’t work, but the important thing isn’t whether I think it will work or not. The important thing is whether Obama thinks it would work.

If Mark Driscoll or I were to sit down with Obama for a completely candid conversation and learn that Obama agrees that none of his legislation will work and he’s only pushing it as part of a Machiavellian power grab so he can proclaim himself dictator and enslave the people, then I’d say Driscoll is right on the money. Obama is evil, doesn’t believe in the Bible and doesn’t know God. But if we were to sit down with Obama and learn that he really thinks everything he’s doing is helping to make the nation a better place, then I’d have to say that Driscoll is dead wrong. Certainly a good, Christian argument for ObamaCare and other social programs can be made; that we have a moral duty to take care of the least amongst us. It’s an argument I happen to agree with on its surface; I just don’t believe that the federal government (or any government, for that matter), should be the arbiter of that decision; that we’re given free will by God and it is up to us at an individual level to choose whether we help the poor or not.

And from a public relations angle, Driscoll’s post couldn’t have been worse. It’s probably safe to say that a large majority of folks who attend Mars Hill didn’t vote for Obama but there’s a reason that pastors don’t run for election and that the topic for the Sunday Sermon isn’t decided by a Gallup Poll. Pastors can and should speak to the issues of the day. I think it was completely justified for the Catholic Church to speak out against the contraceptive mandate or gay marriage initiatives. It has Biblical text clearly and definitively backing up those views. On the matter of Barack Obama though, the Bible is silent. (Yeah, yeah, for some folks Obama is the Second Coming and for others he’s the Anti-Christ. but those are fringe beliefs and not clearly backed up by Scripture.)

By bringing politics to the pulpit, Driscoll has alienated the very people he should be reaching out to (in the sense that I’m guessing he believes voting for Obama wasn’t the most righteous decision one could make). Jesus didn’t go around preaching to the folks He knew were already destined for Heaven. No, He spent His time with the tax collectors and the prostitutes. And while He was truthful about the sinfulness of their behavior, He always led with Love and Grace. I seriously doubt Jesus would have been impressed by Mark Driscoll’s post this morning and I’m guessing that Jesus’s Facebook page wouldn’t have carried those words either, even if Jesus knew that Obama wasn’t a Believer.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean I think Mark Driscoll is preaching some wayward Gospel or that he doesn’t know God. I’m going to take him at his word that he is a follower of Christ and believer of the Bible. We all struggle with sin and that is why we should always be very careful when pointing out the faults in others. Again, it is our duty as Christians (and humans, for those of us who aren’t Christians) to point out the shortcomings in others just as we wouldn’t stand idly by if a friend had a problem with alcohol or was cheating on his wife. But when we do counsel others we must do so gently, with Grace, and with the spirit of the Lord, for it isn’t we who will bring them to salvation (or Salvation), but the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Driscoll, I pray that we may all continue to valiantly fight in our struggle against the sins which are of greatest presence in our life; be we pastors, bloggers or politicians. Go in Grace and go in Peace, my Brother.

Feelings Are More Important Than Facts

I came to a bit of a revelation last night during my PR class. Actually, to be fair, I was brought to it. We had a guest speaker in to discuss branding and she began by showing a Ted Talk clip from Simon Sinek about the difference between the marketing or branding strategies of a great company (or leader) like Apple and most others.

To sum up the talk, it all has to do with where the message begins; with the why or with the what. Interestingly, this is a theory based on the biology of our brains. Our neo-cortex, the newest part of our brain, processes facts, figures, language and the like. It is our truly “thinking” brain. When most companies develop a marketing plan, Sinek says, they start by addressing this part of the brain with the what. They tell us about the car’s gas mileage and its handling or how its paper towels are the cheapest. This is all good stuff and necessary on some level. It may even lead a lot of folks to buy the product. But more important than the what is the why, the feelings behind the purchase, which are controlled by our limbic brains. When you present someone with all the best facts and they agree with them completely but still may not take action because “it doesn’t feel right” or their “heart just isn’t in it” this is the part of the brain that is working. Apple gets this. It’s why there is a whole culture behind its products. It’s why people will buy anything with an Apple logo on it. A lot of car companies, especially luxury brands, get it too. Volvo and BMW don’t sell cars. Volvo sells safety. BMW sells the ultimate driving experience.

What’s even more extraordinary about this is, once a company gets you to buy into its culture, its why, it has turned you not just into a customer but into an advocate. You’ll probably also excuse some less than satisfactory performance or service from time to time because, after all, the company is almost like family now.

Part of the reason I signed up for the PR certificate program was to be able to better communicate the message of limited government. This message is currently carried, as it has been for the last century or so, by the Republican Party. And despite all its faults, and there are many, the GOP is still the best vehicle to continue doing so. But it doesn’t appear to be doing very well, nationally or, especially, in Washington state.

There are several things I’ve pointed to in the past but these are all relatively small and, for the most part, the inability for the GOP to connect with voters has always perplexed me somewhat. Conservatives outnumber liberals 2 to 1 (40 percent to 21 percent with the remainder classifying themselves as moderate) yet Democrats and Republicans are tied in the electorate. I could never put my finger on why until last night (although, once I did, I knew that I’d known it on some level all along but probably just didn’t want to admit it).

I guess this would be the appropriate time to pause for the old saw about Republicans not having hearts. Ironically, it turns out, it’s true, at least in the above sense. Those of us on the Right tend to focus on the bottom line, the brass tacks, just the facts, ma’am; while those on the Left tend to focus on feelings. I wish this weren’t the case. I wish more people would listen to reason. But it’s not and Republicans better get with the program if we’re going to win any more elections.

We see this dichotomy perfectly evidenced in the current gun control debate. We are supposed to live in a nation of laws, not of man. What that means is legislation shouldn’t be the result of individual incidents like Newtown but the result of overarching need and based on fact. And when one looks at the facts it’s apparent that the proposed gun control measures, most gun control measures for that matter, wouldn’t prevent the overwhelming majority of incidents like Newtown. But that doesn’t matter to most people, probably even a lot of people who are Second Amendment advocates. Case in point, Wayne LaPierre, the Executive VP of the NRA, has advocated for armed guards in schools. And while this strategy would certainly be more effective than banning “assault rifles”, it’s still, largely, a solution in search of a problem.

What happened in Newtown was tragic and should never have happened but, sadly, people die everyday in this country as the result of evil or stupidity. In 2011, 211 children were killed as the result of drunk driving accidents but celebrities aren’t making videos “demanding a plan”, Obama isn’t signing executive orders seeking to limit the sale of beer and or cars to law-abiding citizens, and Andrew Cuomo isn’t shrieking about only needing 12 ounces of beer to kill a deer. As tragic as Newton is, the chances of it happening to any one person are about as likely as being struck by lighting and are, in fact, considerably less than they were in the 90s. None of this matters though because “guns are scary.”

Obama rode to victory on the mantle of “Hope” and “Change”, words that have nothing to do with facts and everything to do with feeling. He did it again in 2012 because Romney chose to focus on his record at Bain Capital and as governor of Massachusetts and Obama’s record as president. On paper, the choice was clear. Even a large majority of the electorate believed so with Romney favored 2 to 1 on the all-important question of who would turn around the economy. But when it came to the why, when it came to who voters thought identified with them more, Obama was the clear leader.

So what must Republicans do to regain the edge they had during the Reagan years? The answer is quite simple, senator. So many politicians on both sides of the aisle, Obama included, like to channel Reagan for a reason. He is one of the most beloved and respected presidents of the last century and this is in large part because he was able to connect with Americans on that why level. To regain the edge Republicans must speak less about facts and figures and more about feelings. And while we’re at it we must convey positive feelings. Yes, the economy is in shambles and it’s largely the fault of overregulation and high taxes. But this is all boring to the vast majority of Americans who are too busy cooking dinner and watching their kids’ soccer games to connect the dots between the Community Reinvestment Act and the mortgage crisis. They just want to know that their leaders care. They just want to feel good. Then, if the facts back up those feelings, all the better.

Just When You Thought the Madness Was Subsiding

The Nobel Peace Prize started its march toward ridiculousness in 1994 with an award going to terrorist Yasser Arafat; and while there have been some deserving winners since then, the zany group of Norwegians are looking more and more delusional every year.

This year takes the cake like none other. When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore two years ago “for his efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change” they may have been duped like so many others buying into the climate change hysteria but at least Gore was successful in his efforts, however misguided they may have been. But considering that Nobel Prize nominations close on February 1st, just 12 days after Obama was inaugurated, one wonders what he accomplish in so short a time other than gaining the worship and adulation of millions?

But instead of complaining about this idiocy I’ve decided I’m going to do something about it. Today I announce the creation of the Sound Politics Peace Prize. Nominations will close next Friday at 5pm. They can be someone famous or someone whose selfless deeds are known only to a handful of people.