Over the last several months I have heard quite a few Christians question the authenticity of Barack Obama's Christian faith. The comments tend to fall along the lines of, "I don't care what he says, he can't be a Christian."
I understand where this comment comes from, but I think it reveals a flawed and destructive perspective. Barack Obama has made a profession of faith and since he attended a Baptist church I'm going to assume he has been duly baptized. His own theology may be deeply uninformed and full of serious errors, but no matter how you slice it, he has made a credible profession of faith. I have personally heard him say that his sins are forgiven by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We can't look into Barack's heart or the eternal mind of God and know whether or not he is "truly regenerate." No one can. However, we can see what God has given us to look at - and based on those things, we are called to extend a judgment of charity to him. Last I checked, he hasn't been excomminucated or put under any kind of ecclesial censure.
Barack's political philosophy is deeply problematic in my opinion. I think his position on "pro-choice" is a major, major problem to which he will be held into account. But that doesn't make him a non-Christian as far as I can tell. We should be very thankful that he is NOT a professing Muslim, atheist, or Wiccan. What we need to do is pray that he would seek God's wisdom through His word and come to greater Christian maturity.
If Obama suffers some series of major moral lapses or explicit denials of the faith, we'll have to take that into account at that time. Until then, let's pray for our Christian brother as a Christian brother.
I just read this, and felt compelled to give my own "white-anglo-evangelical-quasi-independent-male" perspective to the contrary. Voting for Obama is a serious mistake because:
Abortion - If there is ever a chance for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, it won't be with Obama. The greatest moral tragedy of our age will continue under his administration and Supreme Court appointments. True, a vote for McCain is no guarantee that Roe will be overturned, but let's at least get clear on the odds.
Poverty / Prosperity - Government doesn't create wealth. It can and does redistribute wealth ala subsidies and entitlements, but it doesn't create it. I don't think Obama understands this - at all. His policies will only make it harder for the poor to break into the middle-class.
Iraq - Obama's not going to pull out of Iraq until we're good and ready, and we all know it. We can't afford to leave a vacuum for Iran, Syria, and the rest to wade into. It sounds great to say he'll end it, but we're in for the long-haul and we all know it.
European Allies - Has anyone noticed that France elected conservative pro-American Sarkozy? Sure, Tony Blair was tossed-out, but that's no real surprise. What are we really concerned about here? That Europeans won't buy iPods? This whole angle is completely overblown.
Education - Obama is a pro-establishment, pro-teacher's union guy. Need I say more? Our system is totally broken and can only be fixed by free-market tools like vouchers to promote choice and competition.
I'm going to bed now, but I just had to respond to that blog post. It just blows my mind.
The word, "credit," comes from the Latin, "credere," which means, "belief / trust." To extend someone credit - or to lend money is to trust someone to pay it back. Our financial system is based on a belief that people will honor their commitments and fulfill their debts. America's "credit crisis" is therefore a crisis of trust and belief in our ability to make good on our financial obligations. Banks don't trust enough to lend to one another or to consumers, and consumers don't trust banks to safeguard their deposits. It is a meltdown of good faith across the system.
The background mechanics of our financial system have become very complex and are beyond the scope of this blog to untangle. However, I think we can wrestle with the foundational principles that are being exposed by the current credit crunch. Quite simply, personal responsibility and professional ethics have vanished in the face of greed. Lenders have extended too much easy credit on homes and unsecured debts because the rates of return look unbelievably rich. Getting 10% on a sub-prime mortgage or 15% on credit card debt looks like a great business to be in! Consumers have decided that failure to pay their debts back is no big deal because after all, the banks are gouging them anyway. So what if I don't pay my credit card?
Even though this doesn't characterize our whole system or even most of it - small problems have big implications because our financial system is so interdependent and over-leveraged. Our big toe is a small part of our body, but if the infection spreads to our leg, amputation and / or death may result. Time to stop with the creams and go to a major course of antibiotics. Kill the infection and make sure the patient takes care of his feet from now on.
I believe the bailouts of recent days were probably necessary and that a certain level of regulation is absolutely in order. No argument here. However, no regulation can fix the root issues of personal responsibility, professional ethics, and greed. Those are problems government CAN'T and WON'T solve. Our free-market system is utterly dependent on the "good faith" and trust of its participants. If our culture continues to drift towards Godless secularism, this will only continue to happen on a larger scale. The American capitalist experiment is ultimately dependent on the morality of its culture. As with so many issues, it is an issue of "credere." It is our collective crisis of faith.
This whole election cycle is even more interesting than I thought it would be. I still think Obama will probably pull it off, but McCain is going to make it much tougher than I ever thought possible. I had the opportunity to attend the Rick Warren / Saddleback forum two weeks ago, and McCain was surprisingly and undeniably strong at that appearance. He won over many conservative skeptics that evening and left at least some liberals shaken. I can say this because I was sitting around a handful of Obama supporters who kept looking over at me during McCain's part with a certain befuddled shock. They saw that McCain was a formidable and even likable opponent.
But on to more important matters - why would McCain pick Palin? I believe McCain acted according to his maverick leadership style and decided to reframe the debate around "reform" instead of "experience." If he would have picked a Tom Ridge type of character, the debate would have been about experience (McCain) vs. change (Obama). McCain clearly believes that this is a losing framework. In this political climate, change / reform is what independent voters are looking for. Experience in politics can work against you if it ties you to the status quo. McCain distanced himself from that argument by bringing on a VP that would focus the issue around who could bring real reform to Washington.
I think viewing Palin as cheap pandering to Hillary supporters is a simplistic half-truth. On the one hand, yes, McCain is targeting as many swing Democrats as possible. On the other hand, Palin is no Hillary. The personal differences between Palin and Hillary are enormous. I don't even know where to begin. 5 kids. Guns. Basketball. Beauty Queen. Governor. Ideological conservative all the way. This is not simple pandering, folks. No way. This is a bold way of reframing the issues and the identities that America has to choose from.
The election is riding on a razor's edge now, and the better campaigners and debaters will win. I have to give Obama a slight advantage, but not much. The Palin choice makes a lot of sense... And check-out the McCain ad after the Democratic Convention. Genius.
The symbolism of the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing was unmistakable - "We're going to blow you away because we're going to work together as a unit. Watch out rugged individualists."
No, I'm not a Commie. Give me a break. BUT. I was left asking myself, "Could we pull something that spectacular off in the United States?" Maybe we could. Maybe I am just not enough of a showman to understand how that stuff works. But maybe we all need to sit up and pay some attention to what's happening in China. It is not business as usual over there and the opening ceremonies underscored that for me. They were sending a message, and the message wasn't "Welcome Friends." The message was, "World, here we come." Yowza.
I am fascinated by organizational design and culture in business, church life, and wherever else I stumble upon it. Watching the way people behave as individuals within their working context is very revealing at many levels - and trying to change organizational behavior is even more interesting. I had to do a fair amount of reading on this during my MBA program so while I am not an expert in this area, I have developed a high appreciation for those who spend their careers trying to make sense of it all...
Yesterday I picked up a book called, "Tribal Leadership," by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright. The paradigm that they are asserting is based on years of research on "twenty-four thousand people in two dozen organization, with members around the world..." What they have discovered is that people operate in tribes of 20-150 people. Each person in the tribe and tribe itself is characterized by the language they use to self-assess as seen in this table:
For whatever it is worth, I think this is truly insightful and brilliant. It totally resonates with my experience. I haven't digested the whole book, but the goal is to chronicle how people move through the stages with tips on how to be an effective tribal leader. I can't wait to dive in deeper.
Think about this for a moment as it applies to church. How rare is it to find a "Stage 5" church? Rare indeed. The church is full of victims, warriors, and pockets of tribal pride. We need more tribal leaders in the church to lead us back to the heavenly experience of "innocent wonderment" where "life is great."