I would not have voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and I wouldn't vote for him in 2012 if I was an American. But in many ways... it just doesn't matter when it comes to personal attitudes and the responsibility of the average citizen. If we've talked before, you know how passionate I am about respect for our leaders. You don't have to agree with them. You're also free to argue points. Honoring and respect seems SO difficult to people but to me is vital to provide civility, the context for legitimate democracy... and a clean conscience before God who says in 1 Peter 13-17:
"Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God's emissaries for keeping order. It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government."
This morning in America, they had their annual prayer breakfast. Barack Obama said some very important and powerful things that are very telling as a professing Christian who is both heavily lauded and criticized from within the church and outside too. Obama began down his road to public service AND is personal relationship with Jesus by serving the city of Chicago through his church. And he has had to hold on HARD to the things he knows are foundational through Christ in the struggle of leadership in a democracy. He has had to put up with people (quite literally) calling him the Anti-Christ based on little more than manic writings from unknown dissenters... and having to find to a way to sleep at night while making decision that have DRASTIC effects on the prosperity of nations. You give that a try :)
Here are some highlights:
My mother, whose parents were Baptist and Methodist, grew up with a certain skepticism about organized religion, and she usually only took me to church on Easter and Christmas — sometimes. And yet my mother was also one of the most spiritual people that I ever knew. She was somebody who was instinctively guided by the Golden Rule and who nagged me constantly about the homespun values of her Kansas upbringing, values like honesty and hard work and kindness and fair play.
There was, of course, Martin Luther King and the Baptist leaders, the ways in which they helped those who had been subjugated to make a way out of no way, and transform a nation through the force of love. But there were also Catholic leaders like Father Theodore Heshburg, and Jewish leaders like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Muslim leaders and Hindu leaders. Their call to fix what was broken in our world, a call rooted in faith, is what led me just a few years out of college to sign up as a community organizer for a group of churches on the Southside of Chicago. And it was through that experience working with pastors and laypeople trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods that I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace Him as my lord and savior.
Now, that was over 20 years ago. And like all of us, my faith journey has had its twists and turns. It hasn’t always been a straight line. I have thanked God for the joys of parenthood and Michelle’s willingness to put up with me. (Laughter.) In the wake of failures and disappointments I’ve questioned what God had in store for me and been reminded that God’s plans for us may not always match our own short-sighted desires
And let me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith. (Laughter and applause.) The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray. (Laughter.) Abe Lincoln said, as many of you know, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.” (Laughter.)
It’s also comforting to know that people are praying for you who don’t always agree with you. Tom Coburn, for example, is here. He is not only a dear friend but also a brother in Christ. We came into the Senate at the same time. Even though we are on opposite sides of a whole bunch of issues, part of what has bound us together is a shared faith, a recognition that we pray to and serve the same God. And I keep praying that God will show him the light and he will vote with me once in a while. (Laughter.) It’s going to happen, Tom. (Laughter.) A ray of light is going to beam down. (Laughter.)
My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years. All the more so, when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So my prayer this morning is that we might seek His face not only in those moments, but each and every day; that every day as we go through the hustle and bustle of our lives, whether it’s in Washington or Hollywood or anywhere in between, that we might every so often rise above the here and now, and kneel before the Eternal; that we might remember, Kaye, the fact that those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint.
When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people. And when I go to bed at night I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to forgive me my sins, and look after my family and the American people, and make me an instrument of His will.
I say these prayers hoping they will be answered, and I say these prayers knowing that I must work and must sacrifice and must serve to see them answered. But I also say these prayers knowing that the act of prayer itself is a source of strength. It’s a reminder that our time on Earth is not just about us; that when we open ourselves to the possibility that God might have a larger purpose for our lives, there’s a chance that somehow, in ways that we may never fully know, God will use us well.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He bless this country that we love.
I find this powerful. Those of us who are politically minded would do well to remind ourselves that our leaders are just normal people and none of the ideas and concepts that they come up will bring salvation to our land. Their job is to try and create the context for us to live freely in peace. There will never be a political savior (although if you're in the market for a savior... I know a good one if you need one). But we ARE called to wisely steward our resources and come up with ideas. I like to know where leaders turn for grounding, foundation and guidance. I like it when leaders turn to God. Most do at some point. Because the job of bringing prosperity isn't something that we "do". We just facilitate the coming of the goodness of the one who was called "Good" incarnate.
God bless the United States of America on this day and the days to come.
Here's the whole speech if you're interested