9/30/2009

Christians MUST NOT Participate in Demonizing Obama

As I read Thomas Friedman’s column today, chills ran up and down my spine. The Obama hating in our country is beginning to go off into a dangerous zone. Friedman writes,

“I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin…

…And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist” to calling him a “liar” in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want. I know politics is a tough business. But if we destroy the legitimacy of another president to lead or to pull the country together for what most Americans want most right now — nation-building at home — we are in serious trouble.”

As I talk with conservative Evangelical Christians in my church and in my community, more often than not they quote Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh when issuing their criticisms of Barak Obama. They are in a heated fever of hatred toward our president, fueled by the vitriolic rhetoric of these pundits in the Right Wing media.

As a devoted follower of Jesus, I have to wonder how we have allowed ourselves to be co-opted by the media’s far-right fringe. I wonder where in Jesus’ teaching we are supposed to hate those we disagree with.

As an American, I wonder what is going to happen to our great nation if we do not hold fast to our respectful dialogue in the public square. If we go about seeking to delegitimize the president, how can we possibly deal with the important issues of our day?

What we need is civility – the kind of civility that witnesses to the love of Christ for those we oppose in very real ways. Os Guinness has written a book on it, The Case for Civility: And Why America's Future Depends On It.

In a recent interview, Guinness talks about how William Wilberforce demonstrated civility.
“There are scores of lessons we can learn from Wilberforce, but take just one: his civility. As a follower of the way of Jesus, he loved his enemies and always refused to demonize them. At one time he was the most vilified man in the world, but while he never minced words in speaking about the evils of slavery, he was always gracious, generous, modest, funny, witty, and genuinely loving toward his enemies. When one of his worst enemies died, he at once saw to it anonymously that his widow was cared for adequately. Compare this with the religious right's demonizing of its foes. The latter is not so much uncivil as unChristian.”

We must not participate in the unChristian demonizing of President Obama. If this goes on, how will we not be culpable if some nut-case takes our words and puts them into action and attempts to hurt him?

31 comments:

Wickle said...

"I wonder what is going to happen to our great nation if we do not hold fast to our respectful dialogue in the public square."

I don't know ... maybe town hall meetings disrupted by shouting mobs? People showing up with guns to public discussions, including Presidential appearances?

Maybe even Census workers killed as if an effigy isn't enough of a statement ...

Seriously, I agree with you. Too many Christians seem to have forgotten that Paul and Jesus each made it clear that we were to live under the authority of those God appointed to lead. At the time of Paul's writing, he was living not only under the Roman Empire, but under NERO, of all people.

If anyone justified Christian rebellion, it was Nero! But Paul said the contrary. We really ought to remember that.

Byron Harvey said...

Yes, no, and somewhat. This is nothing new, frankly; the fever pitch is about equal to what George W. Bush was put thru by those on the left fringe (is there a Friedman column on that? Is there a Robinson blog post? Maybe so, I don't know.). Of course our political discourse has degraded in some respects; of course Christians ought to be very careful in what they say; of course there are, and always have been, loons on either fringe. Those on the right who post asinine polls are matched by those on the left who did similar things during W's administration.

Friedman's column, though, conflates some things that oughtn't be conflated. One man calls the Prez a liar--and he shouldn't have (said so on my blog)--and it's part of an orchestrated campaign from the "fringe"; calling Obama a closet "socialist"--which he certainly seems to be, at least potentially (and his associations with fringe elements are many--can anyone deny this?)--is linked with the nutcase posting the poll. I'm sorry...what's the difference between "hacking away at the man's policies" (of which Friedman approves) and calling some of the tendencies of the man "socialist"? Where's the line? Seems to me that that's what's happening.

Further, your characterization of Misters Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity as "idiots" doesn't help matters, and if you're going to accuse fellow Christians of being in a "heated fever of hatred", you'd better choose your words carefully and back them up. I don't hear hatred toward the President from any of the men you mention--from Beck, I hear similar words for Bush, though not from the others as much--what I do hear is opposition to his policies, perhaps opposition that is at times overblown, I grant, but I don't hear hatred. Does the opposition that some of these men engender hatred in some misguided souls? Certainly--but fringe nuts we'll always have with us, on both sides of the debate. At least I hear your "haters" continually pointing to facts and issues they consider substantive--whether they ARE or not is for listeners to decide--instead of just throwing out nonsense like Jimmy Carter, unsubstantiated race-baiting without much evidence, bashing without backing up. I don't listen to Hannity much, nor Rush for that matter, but I hear them constantly dealing with--harping on, sometimes--ISSUES. Isn't this what Friedman thinks is acceptable?

Your assumption of "hate" is out of line, it seems to me. Sure, there is some...and it's wrong...but it's nothing new, and nothing that didn't happen under the previous administration, for those who were paying attention.

Wickle said...

I have to disagree with you, Byron.

The Secret Service reports that death threats against the President are up 400%. That's more than just turnabout ... that's something far more serious.

Byron Harvey said...

Any idea what those raw numbers work out to, Wickle? That'd be interesting. I do think that there is a racist angle to the opposition to Obama that is higher than against Bush--but again, that's a far fringe element that doesn't belong in a discussion with Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, etc. I guess it's to be expected that the Klan types would come out of the closet. But that said, I'm not sure that in general, the rhetoric is any worse now than before.

Wickle said...

Off the top of my head, it's something like 30 threats per day.

I'll try to find that article and link for you.

At risk of hijacking the thread, you said that things are no worse than they were for Bush. However, I seem to remember a lot of the Right arguing that what happened to Bush was morally wrong (think Ann Coulter's "Treason," for example). If it was wrong then, then "it's no worse" isn't a defense.

However, the other problem is how Christians are supposed to act. Code Pink being hateful bothers me less than the Eagle Forum for a very simple reason -- the Eagle Forum claims to be a Christian organization.

I don't expect non-Christians to act like Christians. I do expect Christians to act like Christians.

Byron Harvey said...

I offer my comment not as a defense of hatred--I thought I made that clear--but rather to offer perspective; the things said about GWB from the left were at times horrendous. But certainly what's wrong for one is wrong for the other.

I agree that the standard for Christians ought to be the Bible and the Lordship of Christ, and that Code Pink doesn't have such standards. No argument.

But once again, to charge "hatred" is to ascribe motives, and we ought to tread very, very carefully when doing such things. I oppose nearly every policy that President Obama advocates. I believe them to be based in socialist tendencies and sensibilities--and I'm not even sure that's a particularly controversial thing to say.

But what do I wish/pray for the man personally? That he will come to a personal relationship with Christ. That his marriage/family life--which appear exemplary, I might add--would grow even stronger and be a source of joy for him. That he will live a long life here and spend eternity with Jesus. And so on. As to his governing, that he would do so in keeping with seeking the public welfare/good--based upon what really promotes that and not a far-leftist agenda.

When he is wrong--and I believe that his policies generally are--I will not hesitate to say so--and when he is right, I will say so as well (and have). That's the duty of a patriot. And to do so as fairly, even-handedly, and charitably as possible? That's the duty of a Christian. But it's not hatred to disagree--vehemently-with a person's policies.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, this is a travesty which more than turns my stomach. I actually end up defending him, even though I do disagree with him on at least one important issue.

Guinness' book is important.

For me Christianity loses all credibility when it is co-opted into this sort of what is nothing less than mania. And dangerous is the right word for it. I stand opposed to it, but hopefully in the spirit and reality of the war of the Lamb; I'm a wannabe to be more and more of that spirit and life in my life.

Bob Robinson said...

Wickle and Byron,
Hate to barge in on your conversation... Oh, wait. It's MY blog!

;-)

Byron,
Why not simply say that you, as a Christian, denounce any Christian from automatically drinking in the hyped up fear-mongering that the Right-Wing media is practicing these days? When Beck, Hannity, or Limbaugh say things that implicitly make Obama out to be an out-right evil that needs to be eliminated, we Christians should say, "Nope. Not drinking it. Not until I get all the facts."

Instead of Christians just saying, "Of course our political discourse has degraded in some respects; of course Christians ought to be very careful in what they say; of course there are, and always have been, loons on either fringe," maybe we should say, "To accuse the president of not being an American citizen is not Christian. It is gossip and slander."

Or why not say, "To call the president a 'liar' during the joint session of congress does not make Joe Wilson a hero. It shows that we have not only lost our civility in town-hall meetings, but that this incivility has leaked up into the most important place for reasoned legislation - the congress."

Or why not say, "Glenn Beck is dangerous. His apocalyptic manipulation of those who fear change has got to stop. To weep on TV and tell people day-after-day that the nation is being taken over by communists, to give ludicrous 'evidence' without anyone there to refute it that Obama is extremely corrupt and surrounded by 'radicals,' to say that the first black president hates white people and is a racist, to say that if we 'real Americans' keep being 'disenfranchised' by the president, we will need to take up arms and have a new revolution, to manipulate the worst emotions of fear in his viewers is inciting violence."

Why not say, "Christians, don't drink the Kool-Aid that the right-wing media is giving to you! Please do not let them manipulate you in these ways."

Brian said...

I love you, you know that - but you had to know you'd get a response from me on this. In fact your note actually insulted and disturbed me.

I agree completely that we can in no way incite violence or encourage hatred of a person. That is not Christian nor American. We are called to love our enemies, but I don't believe we are called to remain silent. I think being salt and light can have a political component to it, and that disagreements about our government should be engaged by thinking Christ-followers. There is no place for hate, but that command should not be used to keep Christians from standing up for what they believe in - and doing so passionately.

The poll quoted in this article on Facebook is ridiculous and should be censored. Anything inciting violence or insinuating murder should not be allowed. But linking this garbage to conservative politicians and commentators is absolutely ridiculous and untruthful.

To take this wacko facebook entry and paint all conservatives with that brush is offensive and in fact more demonizing than anything I have ever heard from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity say. In fact, I notice that while their names are lumped in with this "radical fringe", no direct quotes of them are provided.

I actually find this attempt to correlate an honest dispute on the policies of our government and current leadership to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin a tool of the left to restrict free speech and criticism of their policies. I have listened to Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity and never heard anything that came close to encouraging violence. I challenge you to provide me with examples that show otherwise.

Just to be clear, I do not feel referring to Obama or his policies as Socialist, Communist, or Marxist is any more inaccurate than calling a Beagle a dog. Clearly, our president has been influenced greatly by those he has surrounded himself with and is intent on radically changing America from from a nation based on capitalism and Judeo-Christian values into something more akin to a socialist society. If you don't believe me, just ask Fidel Castro, Muammar Khadafi, and Hugo Chavez - who can't stop praising Obama and claiming he should be our "President for life".

Brian said...

Let me clearly state several reasons I object to Obama and his agenda.

1) He is leading our nation toward socialism, and quickly. From the incredibly large increase in government spending, to the take over of a major American industries, to the attempt to create nationalized healthcare - nothing in this agenda squares with the founding documents of our nation or my Christian-conservative principles.

2) He appears intent on taking this nation even further away from God and our Christian heritage. In a speech to Egypt, he claimed America is NOT a Christian nation. His policies support the homosexual agenda. His previous voting record and current healthcare proposals show a wide support for the slaughtering of innocent babies through abortion. And finally, his snubbing of the national day of prayer spoke volumes to me.

3) He is destroying America and our allies with his foreign policy. His foreign speeches and his recent speech to the UN made it clear, that unlike President Reagan, President Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism. The only thing President Obama could find to praise about America is what he had accomplished in the last 9 months. The rest of the time, he pointed out our shortcomings and mistakes that he would work to correct. His position on Israel and the situation in Iran have left our allies of France, England, and Israel standing alone. It is quite a shame when President Sarkozy of France is left to be the firm voice on Iran and has to criticize and question US policy.

I could go on, but I won't. The point is, there is plenty to criticize Obama, and I don't think any of the above leads to assassination. If you haven't picked up Glenn Beck's latest book yet, I'm sure you'd find the back cover interesting. Here are some quotes on the back cover that I do find inappropriate:

"Only in his wildest dreams could an actual suicide bomber hope to do as much damage to this country."
"A frightfully strange man."
"A vampire... a 'death lover'"
"A lying sack of dog mess."

However, these weren't quotes about our president, rather they were quotes referring to Glenn Beck made by some of the same people clamoring about "right-wing" hate speech (Keith Olbermann, Tina Brown, Roseanne Barr, and Whoopie Goldberg respectively). I've found most people don't actually listen to the right-wing media shows, and rather rely on snippets and sound bites taken out of context to formulate their opinions.

Bob, I'm in favor of civil discourse and open dialogue. If there is anyone in this country trying to silence that, it is the liberal politicians and media, not the conservatives. I'm a Christian first and foremost and realize that I represent Him in everything I do - therefore, I try to be prudent with my words and actions. However, I also feel that I have a duty as an American to protect this country and what we stand for. I will do this peacefully, civilly, and through our established political process and protected free speech - but you can bet I will also do it boldly. America may someday go the route of once-great nations before it, but it doesn't have to go down on my watch.

Joe said...

I think it's wrong for anyone to “outright hate”. However, I think “Christians” are walking a fine line as well, when they assume that others (e.g. those mentioned in the article) are speaking hate instead of exercising their freedom to speak and disagree with another's ideology.

Jack said...

I listen to Limbaugh and Hannity (when my wife's not in the car), and I watch Beck and Fox (when she's not in living room).

The message they are all peddling is that we are all trapped. That the country has been taken over. Beck keeps saying we need to "take to the streets". Obama is evil and we are helpless to stop him.

Limbaugh yesterday had a caller, right after a commercial, who with a shaking, quivering, voice explained how she was simply a housewife who was helpless to stop the harm he was doing to her children, the country, any American hope. She went on and on, never stopping quivering. She kept repeating she was simply a housewife and helpless. She kept repeating: "What can I do? What are we going to do to stop this? What can be done until 2010?

She went on and on, going down a list of everything ever said about Obama and his policies and liberals. Pretty soon, it became obvious that she was going down a prepared list, even a script. Her voice never changed, she never paused, Limbaugh never interrupted. She went exactly from one commercial to the next - about ten minutes, I think. She did all the talking. She was a shill. A very good voice actress (to keep her voice quivering with desperation in her voice for that long.)

A very good script, but like most amateur writers they didn't know when to quit or how to trim out pet sentences. At first it was convincing, she was shook up she used vague charges, she acted paranoid. But the repeating of the lines and the going down the list betrayed the structured aspect of what she was doing.

Limbaugh's latest thing? Obama is not smart. Limbaugh used to peddle a "improve your vocabulary" for success. He told people that "a big vocabulary will make you seem a lot smarter than you are". He never wrote his books, "People" are investigating" this. Guess who did? - "Roger Ailes did" (the revolutionary). How diabolical!

In Rwanda the killing was started and kept alive by hate radio. To see a good depiction of this rent "Sometimes in April" watch it after kids are in bed. It's better than "Hotel Rwanda".

Today, while I listened, Hannity just went into the same pounding of all the charges in rapid succession that makes his audience think of Obama and liberals as the "other". As the "other" that we are helpless to stop. That will ruin our way of life. That are against all this country has stood for. What can we do? What can we do?

Like the right-to-life extreme, maybe the only thing we have left is to kill the doctors.

The Secret Service just shut down a web site taking a poll: Should we kill Obama? ___Yes. ___No. ___Yes, if he takes away my healthcare.

I firmly believe that Obama will have an assassination attempt before 2012. I hope it fails.

Wickle said...

Frankly, anybody who denies that Glenn Beck is engaging in hatred is either not listening to him or turns a blind eye to evil done by your own side.

Have you noticed his ongoing references to Nazis? The Weimar Republic? Living in Germany in the 1930's? Accusing the President of hating white people? The possible need for armed revolt? This isn't basic disagreement, this is outrageous. Christians who turn a blind eye to it are doing so willfully.

Limbaugh refers to Obama as a fascist and compares his health care plan to that of the Nazis. One doesn't make Nazi comparisons lightly.

Not does one throw his hat in with the Birthers, which Limbaugh has done (albeit in his usual, half-committed way that allows him to save face if he's proven wrong).

As for Hannity ... for the love of Pete, the man opens his show with this "America under seige" intro while playing the theme music from "The Omen," which is a movie about the Antichrist. He constantly says that production values are important, so one can gather that he relies on them ... he knows this.

If you want to claim that hatred is warranted, then make that case ... I don't see any way that one can argue honestly that it doesn't exist.

I disagree with well over half of Pres. Obama's agenda, I certainly didn't vote for him (then again, I haven't voted for a major party candidate since I was 19). I do, though, feel a certain obligation to stand up and call for integrity -- the same way I did when it was left-wing hatred under the previous administration.

By the way, the UK Telegraph has that article about death threats: a 400% increase brings us to about 30/day.

http://tinyurl.com/nzt95p

Byron Harvey said...

Bob (and Wickle as well, at the end),

I will not "simply say" some of what you'd like me to because I disagree with some of your premises. In fact, in doing so, I'm going to point out that you are yourself engaging, from my perspective, in at least a mild form of that which you (so correctly) criticize! For instance, you suggest that the Big Three "make Obama out to be an out-right evil that needs to be eliminated". I find that phraseology careless at best, implying something that they do not imply. I will continue, by the way, to separate Beck from the other two (and Wickle, this is part of my response to you): Beck is vehement in his condemnation of a lot of Bush's actions (the other two are as well, but to a much more muted extent). "Hyped-up fear-mongering" is a nice phrase, Bob, and perhaps there's some of that going on--but one man's "hyped-up fear-mongering" is another man's "sounding the alarm". I say that full-well cognizant of the fact that some things are overblown, but at the same time, it seems to me that what we as Christians ought to be encouraging is discernment (actually, that does seem to be the point of your first paragraph, now that I read it again).

Yep, to accuse the president of not being an American citizen is stupid; to question it (at the outset) was fine, but ample proof was supplied, and so to hang onto it at this point is, of course, wrong. Slander. Sure. With you on Joe Wilson too. Said so on my blog.

Disagree vehemently with you on Beck. Vehemently. I do not believe Beck is dangerous. I believe Beck gets a little carried away at times, maybe, but I think he's generally doing this country a great service. Does he "tell people the country is being taken over by Communists"? I don't think so--but he DOES point out the radical/socialist--and yes, even Communist (see Van Jones) ties that some of the folks very close to Obama have. "Ludicrous evidence"? I see him using people's words--in some cases, video clips of the very people speaking. I see him having some of the radicals on with him. I see him contacting the White House and asking them to answer his concerns (which they will not). Further, that quote about the president being a racist and hating white people is one I disbelieve, and I'll tell you why: my strong guess--and if I'm wrong, I'll retract, of course--is that whatever that quote was involved him using the satire which is a regular staple of his show. I'd bet good money that he didn't actually, seriously, honestly accuse the president of such. Maybe I'd be out that money, but I've not heard him suggest anything like that (in a serious vein); what I rather suspect is that those who'd destroy him are yanking those words out of their context. I'd ask for in-context quotes as well to substantiate some of the other things you say about Beck. Yeah, he tears up sometimes--he's a passionate guy, and believes the country is in deep doo-doo (as do I, frankly; we've elected a guy with significant ties to a radical fringe, who's in over his head because of his very limited experience, following on the heels of an administration that was extremely disappointing, and working with a Congress that seems without moral compass. The Washington politicians, with few exceptions in either party, are bankrupting this country with irresponsible spending. Need I go on?).

Byron Harvey said...

Part II - Wouldn't take all my comment...

Look, you don't like Beck's "fear-mongering"? Fine. But here's my back-atcha: America is not above the possibility of going down the path to full-blown socialism. We're not exempt "just because we're America". Socialism fails everywhere it's tried, because it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of man, among other things. I don't want that to happen here--and neither do the Becks of this world. I see Beck raising questions--that's what he does a whole lot of--questions that we can't count on the lapdog mainstream media to raise. If some of these questions aren't raised, and some of the radicals around the Prez are allowed to proceed quietly with their agenda, is it possible that we'll wake up one morning to an America that looks suspiciously like Sweden?

What I'd prefer to say is, "Christians, examine the claims that ALL media is making, right- or left-wing. Trace down the sources, when necessary. Use discernment. Don't find a bogeyman in everything the president does, or suspect his motives in all his actions; don't take the left-wing spin at face value either. If the Big Three claim he surrounds himself with radicals, find out why they say that, and then either dismiss their concerns as so much hype, or demand answers (ACORN didn't prove to be hype--AL FRANKEN voted to defund, for Pete's sake. Van Jones didn't prove to be hype. Cass Sunstein IS a radical, or at least has made some incredibly radical statements; that's not hype. Valerie Somebody, admin high-up, has some very dubious connections. Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright are radicals, and closer to Obama than the Prez would have you believe. And so on.). Learn the truth. Speak the truth. Always. In love, to boot. Stop racism in its tracks; refuse to jump on loony-bin bandwagons of right or left.

Finally, to Wickle, I completely disagree with your assessment of Beck; frankly, it sounds to me like it's you who's not listening to him. Seriously. "Hate" and "racist", to name two, are two words that are thrown around way, way too quickly, conversation-stoppers that take the focus off the issues at hand and serve to impugn characters and motives. That, to me, poisons the conversation. Doesn't deny that hatred and racism exist; they certainly do. But let's stick with the issues--and have more open, honest conversation--rather than squelching conversation by throwing out such words.

I rather like Powerline Blog's take on Friedman's column:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/09/024618.php

Byron Harvey said...

OK, just looked it up; watched YouTube video. Glad I didn't actually wager any money...yes, what Beck said was stupid and out of line. My guess--from the time line--is that his words came in response to the Prez speaking about the white cop/Henry Gates thing, and one does wonder what prompted the Prez to speak so "stupidly", to use his word. But no, Beck is clearly wrong to come out and jump to that conclusion; again, it doesn't help the conversation when anybody--Glenn Beck, Jimmy Carter, me, you, whoever--does that, assigns motives and assassinates character.

That does not mean, I would still maintain, that Glenn "hates" Obama--one can have the opinion that a person is racist without hating that person--shoot, my Grandma was obviously racist, but I didn't hate her. But it was clearly a dumb, uncalled-for thing to say.

Wickle said...

For the record ... I was listening to Beck up until about two weeks ago. I quit because he just disgusts me and I don't need to spend that much time disgusted. I know all I need to know to hold a solid opinion about him.

(Although I did hear him, Stu, and Pat discussing who was hotter -- Rep. Bachman or Gov. Palin -- this morning.)

You and I might simply have to agree to disagree on this one. I would argue that you're turning a blind eye to what you don't like because Beck is on your side ... you disagree. I'm not sure that we move from there. With that, I offer the last word (between us, on this topic ... not being my blog, I can't promise anything ; -) ) to you if you want it ... or we can go on, if you think there's merit in such.

Byron Harvey said...

Sometimes agreeing to disagree agreeably is the best we can do. I understand WHY you say what you do; we all tend to not want to see certain things, and it's certainly possible that you're right. I just don't see/hear hate, that's all. I'm real, real loathe to try to discern what's going on inside somebody's head, no matter who it is. My opinion is we ought, as believers, to err on that side, trying to reserve our judgment for words/actions (hence my willingness to agree that Beck's words were out of line).

That said, though, there certainly are people I can't stand to listen to--though they're on "my side". Michael Savage (along with Mark Levin) leaps to mind, but even he, I'd be slow to accuse of "hatred". I just don't know what's happening inside his mind.

By the way, Sarah is a little hotter... :)

Anonymous said...

As someone who considers herself a Christ-follower who happens to fall into the conservative, evangelical category, I find is somewhat insulting that Bob seems to classify us as all Obama-haters who quote Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh. I do watch/listen to these three, but I have enough discernment to make judgments for myself, and I feel it is my duty to pray for my President, no matter how deeply I oppose his policies. I also find it upsetting that he believes the right-wing media has co-opted people. As the wife of a veteran, I must share that MOST of the media (CNN, MSNBC, etc.) does NOT always report events accurately. My husband was in Iraq at a very significant point in the war, witnessed an important event take place, then went back to base and watched the news coverage. Every major network EXCEPT Fox news put a completely different spin on the event than what actually happened. Whereas I understand that Fox News looks to be right-leaning to many, please recognize that the rest of the media is guilty of not simply reporting the facts and events, but spinning everything in favor of a more liberal agenda.

Also, some have called Obama a liar. I hope in my life, if I do lie or mislead someone, people will call me out on it. As the leader of the free world, our President receives the most scrutiny, criticism, and time under a microscope. He should! EVERY President has and will. The fact is Obama HAS surrounded himself with folks with radical agendas, he HAS lied about wanting a single payer health system, he HAS been closely tied to Acorn. So, we should call him on it. As the American people in a democracy, we have the right to do so. We can do this without hate.

As a Christ-follower, I am deeply disturbed by the push that Christians should not use their voice in the political realm. I do worry about the direction this country is headed, and I CAN use my voice in a civil, loving way. It just seems that often we are called uncivil just if we disagree.

Finally, I want to comment on the important social justice movement in the country and the church. Whereas I believe there are fabulous elements and that it is necessary to work to end poverty, to care for those in need, and to pull kids out of at-risk situations, I also believe the church is in danger of losing the centrality of Christ in favor of this message instead. Social justice is popular (and important) but Christ was unpopular with many.

"Spreading the wealth," in theory is great, but it does not take into account the fallenness of man, the reality of our society, and the fact that we ourselves are to be generous and give deeply, not have the government decide it for us. There is something imbalanced when in one breath we cry for environmental stewardship, an end to poverty, and justice for all, and then are silent on issues of abortion, or more importantly, we lose our voice on the MOST important thing, that millions of people are dying without Christ.

Wickle said...

"There is something imbalanced when in one breath we cry for environmental stewardship, an end to poverty, and justice for all, and then are silent on issues of abortion, or more importantly, we lose our voice on the MOST important thing, that millions of people are dying without Christ."

I'd agree ... but that's a false choice.

Jesus called us to both ... not one or the other.

You know, we're also supposed to respect life on our own, not have the government decide for us. I don't hear any Christians using that as a good reason to repeal laws against murder.

Over and over, I hear people say that we're supposed to be generous, not let the government do things like universal health care ... where, exactly, are the Christian initiatives that rise to the challenge of millions of people who aren't adequately cared for?

I'd love to see churches do this. Frankly, I see the need for a welfare system as a harsh indictment of the Church. If we were doing our job, there wouldn't be any need for a welfare system or social safety net. But we're not.

Instead, there are millions of dollars being spent by Christians to make sure that we don't provide insurance to those who can't afford it.

Because, of course, Jesus hates high taxes, right? Could someone point out that verse to me, I can't seem to find it ...

(Sorry, Bob, I don't really mean to hijack your posts ALL the time, it just sort of happens ...)

Bob Robinson said...

Wickle,
Feel free to "hijack" all you want, especially when you give very cogent arguments that I agree with!!

To whoever "Anonymous" is --
I think that I SHOULD have titled this post, ""Christians must not Participate in Obama-HATING" instead of "Bashing," because I completely agree that it is absolutely legitimate to criticize the President. I am a staunch advocate that Christians (especially Christians who have done the hard work of developing a holistic Christian political philosophy) should offer their biblical insights into the public discourse on political policy. The title makes it sound as if I'm advocating silence from those who oppose Obama on policy. But that's not the intention of the post. I intend to argue that those who oppose Obama should do it with "civility," as Os Guinness says.

It is our American duty (and our Christian duty - which is a separate, higher thing) to offer our opinions on public policy. BUT Christians should offer disagreements without making the person we disagree with out to be evil. We should passionately debate without callously demonizing.

Maybe you've risen above the fray, but I witness many Christians being sucked into the Right-Wing Media's demonization of President Obama, which, as Guinness says, is "not so much uncivil as unChristian."

Anonymous said...

Bob,

Why must you add to the problem of left and right in this country by making it seem like the classic "right wing" has nothing to offer but Obama bashing? Dialogue is more useful when you are able to identify the good points made on either political side and the things you can agree on, then to point out all the things you hate about one side of the equation. We can have civil dialogue about the things we disagree about if people are willing to come to the table and respond to the questions and critiques from each other and LISTEN.

I find posts/articles like this simply add to the polarization of political sides in our country. Where are the Christians who will stand up for the TRUTH of the Gospel instead of feeling like we must constantly defend, defend, defend, an agenda?

And, to Wickle, totally agree it is not one or the other. You are absolutely right, welfare is an indictment on the church, for sure. But it is a supremely flawed system that for many enables them to live on not living up to their God-given potential. There has to be a better way to help people in need through programs that actually improve people's lives (not saying that welfare doesn't for some) and are good financial stewardship.

And, who knows what Jesus thinks about high taxes. All I know is that high taxes put a huge burden on most levels of society, and actually decrease the amount of money coming in to the government. All our earthly systems are flawed and there will never be a system in place before Christ returns that "works" according to his standards.

Maybe instead of going back and forth in a manner that in and of itself seems a bit snide or not necessarily loving we should stand up and call the church to do what it is called to do.

And, I in no way consider myself above the fray....I must daily wrestle with the Lord about all these things, and the struggles in my own heart. Do you not have the same struggles? I don't pretend to know it all, and you shouldn't either. There is something I can learn from you, and you from me.

Thanks for the comment Bob, on civil disagreement and your intent with the blog. I completely agree that bashing and hating is unChristian. I just hope this goes both ways. There was very little comment made (in general) about the bashing that President Bush received throughout his presidency, and the blaming and bashing he still receives from the current administration.

Blessings to you all!

Neil said...

I have just stumbled onto this site, and as an Australian, find the debate curious. Maybe someone can enlighten me. Firstly, I don't understand why some seem so scared of a national healthcare system. We have it here in Australia, and it is fantastic. 1% of my taxes go towards it, and everyone has equal access to healthcare. It never enters the Christian debate here about the evils of the public healthcare system; it is a given. Secondly, i have just read Obamas speech in Cairo http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/politics/04obama.text.html?pagewanted=8&_r=1
and I can't see where he said America isn't a Christian nation; he did say that he was a Christian.
Thirdly, as a Christian, i believe the rich should look after the poor, and in Australia, we have largely handed this responsibility over to the government. We have had unemployment, invalid, single parent pensions, cheap public housing for the poor, a national gov. owned bank and telecommunications system, gov owned electricity/gas/water supplies, free education all paid for the government since the late 40s/early 50s. Many people here have considered Australia to be a socialist country. However, since the late 90s, governments have been selling off some of these to private business, and guess what? Prices have shot up, and the poor are worse off, having to rely on church charities which can't meet the need. I read the Gospels, and see Jesus basically telling us to look after each other; I don't see Him saying that it is every man for himself.

Anonymous said...

So Jesus was wrong in Matthew 23 when He denounced the established leaders of His day.... i.e. the Sanhedrin, Sadducees and Pharisee's?

Geoff W said...

As an 'outsider' (a Christian in Australia), I must say we find some of the comments made by right-wing evangelicals about Obama as bordering on the bizarre. The comments about him being (even influenced by) "Socialist, Communist, or Marxist" ideas almost laughable. His support for for universal health care, even provided by the state, is accepted by all Australians (and I would expect 99% of all evangelical Christians) -- it is what Australia has had for decades. And our health care system (a combination of govt-run Medicare tax and rebate for basic health care provided by private providers, or at govt-run or private hospitals) is one of the best in the world. We look at your health 'care' (sic) system and just shake our heads: how can one of the world's leading democracies (and economies get it so wrong?). We see it as a matter of public justice for all citizens that they have access to affordable health care. If you want to go to a private hospital, with a doctor of your choice, then you may pay for private health insurance if you wish (for which the last conservative govt actually supported, to complaints from the left: more middle class welfare!)

Geoff W said...

I've just realised that the last sentence in my first posting doesn't make sense. It should read:

If you want to go to a private hospital, with a doctor of your choice, then you may pay for private health insurance if you wish. The previous conservative govt actually encouraged people to take out private health insurance by providing a rebate if you take out private health insurance, to complaints from the left: more middle class welfare! However, there is also an income-based Medicare surcharge if people above a certain income don't take out private health insurance -- a carrot & stick approach, I guess).

On another front, do those right-wing critics of Obama as running a "big govt" deficit complain about George Bush doing the same? Wasn't he responsible for the biggest federal govt deficit and highest level of spending prior to Obama, who inherited that deficit? Maybe they did. Just asking.

Byron Harvey said...

Geoff,

A few thoughts:

One, I'm not sure what's laughable about, at the very least, the idea that Obama has been influenced by Socialists. That pretty much seems a matter of public record, easily accessible without too much effort. Is he a Socialist? I'm not sure one way or the other; what I do know is that his own statements indicate his willingness and desire to at least head in the direction of socialism (he's on record preferring a one-payer system for healthcare; he made a famous statement about "spreading the wealth around" in an unscripted moment--he's great when he's on script, but when he doesn't have a teleprompter, he's fairly inept--and which says more about what he really believes?).

Two, I can't, of course, speak to your situation in Australia, but if you're happy with what you've got, then hey, I'm happy for you. But we have such out-of-control spending by a bloated, irresponsible, and inept government, which can't seem to do much of anything well or efficiently, that the idea of turning over our healthcare to it--depriving us of certain freedoms of personal decision-making and entrusting bureaucrats to do what's right by us (in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary) is unappealing, to say the least. Further, conceptually, socialism is a bankrupt way of doing things; it never works, and where we've adopted it, such as in our Socialist Security system, it isn't working; Socialist Security is a massive Ponzi scheme run by our government and supported (unwisely, IMHO) by people who are willing to trade freedom for "security" and who have their heads so far in the sand that they can't see the imminent danger of a system that will soon be out of money, necessitating some extremely unpleasant choices.

Finally, as to what the critics of big government say about Bush, we say a-plenty: what the major media in the U.S. has all wrong is that they say the Tea Party movement is a bunch of people who are partisan Republicans who just hate Democrats. No...we are people who believe (at least many of us) that Bush's presidency, particularly his second term, was a train wreck in terms of economic policy, and that Obama is merely putting his foot on the accelerator of an already-speeding-out-of-control train. I dropped my Republican affiliation in 2003 because of George W. Bush. He was no conservative, "compassionate" or otherwise, particularly in fiscal policy, and the sorry Republicans spent like drunken soldiers. The entire Congress of the United States, with a few exceptions, is basically a financial disgrace.

Bob Robinson said...

I find it interesting that the 1950s equation is still being used:
Socialism = nonChristian.

It's a relic of the cold war. Capitalism = Americanism = Christianity. Not a very nuanced equation.

To say that socialized medicine doesn't work ignores the evidence from around the world. The American capitalist medical system benefits health insurance companies and has created a bloated "medical industrial complex" that pays hospitals, doctors, and big pharmaceutical companies each time a test or procedure or a medicine is given instead of for preventative cures. This is one of the least effective systems in the world.

Byron Harvey said...

Let me take issue with your last paragraph first, on two counts: one, the false dichotomy you drew as though there were only two options: the one we have now, and one involving socialized medicine. What we have now needs major fixing at several levels (and if you want to suggest that the Republicans are being disingenuous now, putting forth a health care plan, when they did nothing during Bush's eight years, I'll be in your Amen Corner). But the choice doesn't have to be between socialized medicine and the current system; "change" doesn't have to be toward socialism, any more than the push toward "change" was any argument whatsoever for voting Obama (there are all sorts of "change", many of which make things worse). Two, I'd argue that one of the key problems we have in our health care system is that we don't have true market forces at work. If I have insurance, I don't give a rip what a drug or a hospital room costs, for instance. I'd suggest that we move in the direction of introducing more market-based reforms if we want to fix this thing.

Now, as to whether socialized medicine "works", I suppose that's in your definitions. To some people, Social Security "works", as do a lot of other government programs that I wouldn't hold up as an example of government "working". I'm sure that there are better, and worse, socialized systems in the world; I'm not sure we can compare apples to apples with other countries, though, for a variety of reasons; i.e., just because it "works" somewhere else, I don't think it follows that it likely will here; I won't get into reasons for that other than to say it's difficult for me to believe anybody can have a lot of confidence in this government doing much of anything well. More in next post, on point one...

Bob Robinson said...

Byron,
You assume that I assume that there are only two options. This is inaccurate. If you remember, I opposed the public option for reasons rooted in a neo-Calvinist political philosophy.

In my last comment, I was actually accusing YOU of a false dichotomy: that if we don't have a purely capitalistic health system, then we will have something that is clearly unChristian, since we have labeled it as "socialist."

What say you?

Byron Harvey said...

Thanks, Bill; I'll try, in my response, not to be a pinhead...

And I had forgotten your (laudable) opposition to the public option.

I missed the reference, Bob, because I hadn't used the term "Christian" in my previous comment, nor had I suggested that Socialism was un-Christian. That was not the argument I was making at all; I was puzzled as to whose comments you were even referring to. I do see how you suggested that I was saying that the Obama proposal was socialism, though that wasn't my precise intent; I probably should have made a paragraph break. It does move us further down that road, I believe, but it's not purely Socialistic, I understand.

That said, I can make an argument--and probably will--that Socialism does not comport with Christian principles nearly as well as does capitalism. But I'll save that for my next post.