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.