Monday, September 6, 2010

The Presidency

Today I caught the last hour or so of the movie "The American President". For those unfamiliar with the storyline, Michael Douglas plays the president who is in his third year of office. He is facing declining popularity numbers as well as an aggressive candidate who is using character attacks to position his own presidential run. One of the main attacks involves the fact that Michael Douglas (a widower) is seeing Annette Bening, an environmental lobbyist. There are a number of topics touched upon in the story, but the one that always sticks with me culminates in the scene where Michael Douglas finally decides to confront the Richard Dreyfus character who has been questioning his family values (for sleeping with Annette Bening while raising his daughter) as well as his patriotism (he is a member of the ACLU). In the scene, Michael Douglas is addressing the White House Press Corps and he summarily dismissed those character attacks while discussing the nature of both the Presidency and American Democracy. Of course, the movie has a Hollywood ending and we are left with the feeling that Michael Douglas will re-elected and will go on to govern in the people's best interests as opposed to governing to stay elected.

After the movie concluded, I immediately though of our current president, Barack Obama. I would think that most people would agree that he possesses a strong intellect. I am no expert on the presidents but I would imagine that his IQ, college and post graduate degrees and ability to command the English language, would rate him in the top 25% of presidents, if not higher. And I would also like to think that most people would agree that he worked as hard or harder than anyone to attain the measure of success he has achieved. He was certainly not born into privilege! To me, his story is an example of what most would consider one of the strengths of America; anyone can be president. His story is not just incredible from the historic standpoint of being the first African American President, but to have a Muslim father as well? It is truly a testament to both American Democracy and the voters who were able to look beyond what makes him different and connect with what makes him similar. Finally, I would like to think that most people would acknowledge that he has a vision for our future. His progress with a more universal health care system, his commitment to reducing nuclear weapons in the world, his push for cleaner energy sources and reduced environmental damage all point to a deep love for our country and its citizens and, on a bigger stage, the world and all its inhabitants.

So all that being said, why has his presidency been so fraught with pitfalls. Why are people still questioning his birth, his religion, his dedication to family values, his very patriotism? I certainly believe there is a tinge of racism involved, but we proved we can get beyond that ugliness by voting for him, so there must be more to it than that.

Perhaps the answer is that he is governing to not lose the next election rather than as a reflection of his beliefs. Like the American President, he has stopped listening to his heart and mind and is paying too much attention to polls and critics. Perhaps he needs to answer the voices of dissent by taking positions that he believes in as opposed to positions he thinks we want to hear.

For instance, when he first said that he thought that the Islamic Community Center should be built in the area of the 9/11 tragedy, he was reflecting a constitutional belief in the separation of church and state. But then he backtracked.

When he says he believes that gay marriage should be legal, he is reflecting his belief in the words of the Declaration of Independence which say that all men are created equal and have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. But then he backtracks to a water downed version of civil unions only.

When he advocates equal access to health coverage and care, he is reflecting his Christian values that profit should not be more important than the health and welfare of people. But then he cuts deals with the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

When he negotiates historic treaties to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons and admonishes those rulers and countries who use war and violence to get their way, he is reflecting the basic teaching of love; do unto others... But then he escalates the war in Afghanistan and authorizes more drone bombings in Pakistan.

For me, I know Barack Obama will be a good president, certainly better than our last. But the first sign indicating that he might not be a great president occurred when he disavowed his promise to only use matching funds for his presidential campaign when it became clear that he would be able to raise even more money without that restriction. His first compromise, in this case the ideal that money should not be the source for one's ability to be elected.

Until President Obama internalizes the concept that great presidents are not defined by their longevity but by the principles from which they govern, it won't matter how the next few years transpire.

I know there is a risk to this strategy. In may be decided, in both the November 2010 elections and/or in the 2012 presidential election, that the American electorate are not in agreement that his vision matches their own. But if that be the case, wouldn't it be better that a lost election be about the American publics rejection of a clearly defined set of beliefs and vision as opposed to a lost candidacy due to an attempt to fashion the message in the least controversial way.

While I am disappointed with the percentage of registered voters and the actual voting rate, I still believe in both our system of government and the American voting public. While we may not always make the right choices we generally make them for the right reasons. Perhaps both President Obama and all those seeking election should show they believe in us as well by stating their positions, defending them with words and deeds, and allowing us to prove the strength of our beliefs and vision.


  1. "When he says he believes that gay marriage should be legal, he is reflecting his belief in the words of the Declaration of Independence which say that all men are created equal and have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness."

    Do you also believe that those who act homosexually were "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" to perform sodomy on one another? You have a secular humanist view of the Declaration of Independence. Your view is at odds with our Founders' Christian worldview of Natural Law principles. If God gave us our liberty, then we might have the choice to sin, but we don't have the right.

    "But if that be the case, wouldn't it be better that a lost election be about the American publics rejection of a clearly defined set of beliefs and vision as opposed to a lost candidacy due to an attempt to fashion the message in the least controversial way."

    I agree with you. When liberals really show who they are and not lie to the American public, America rejects that failed philosophy. 2010 elections demonstrated that in a big way. A very good observation on your part.

  2. Thanks for the comment. May I ask how you found my blog?

    I took the liberty of reading some of your thoughts. You may want to think more deeply about the role you wish religion and the bible to play in our government and our legal system, especially when religion is used to isolate those with viewpoints, perspectives, lifestyles that are different from the mainstream. It is one thing to make something illegal as laws evolve and can be changed but once you attach the added stigma of morality it is much harder to correct.

    As an example, one could argue that the Jim Crowe laws that existed only a few generations ago were eventually altered when the link between those that believed the bible condemned interractial marriage and supported the inferiority of the black race was severed by those that realized that this religious viewpoint was wrong. You see, once you associate ones belief that God commands that a specific law is right, it makes it too easy for the advocates to claim divine inspiration and even easier for them to condemn those that disagree as non-believers. At that point there is no rational debate. That is why the founding fathers created the constitution rather than just referring to the bible.

    Aren't we engaged in a war in Afghanistan against a group who rejects secular laws for religious ones? Don't you think they believe they are adhering to their God's will? I am sure it bothers you to hear them call all that oppose them infidels. That is the danger of allowing religion to dictate your laws and decide who is right/moral and who is wrong/immoral.

    As for the claim that America rejected the failed liberal philosophy in the 2010 elections, I would ask if you also believed that America rejected the failed conservative philosophy in the 2008 elections? And, what will it mean when President Obama wins re-election in 2012?

    Finally, I take it you believe that homosexuality is a chosen gender preferencece rather than a natural or born trait for if people are created homosexual then what is your opinion of a God that would create such a person then automatically condemn them to "sin" whenever they express their physical love for their partner? I assume also that you equally condemn heterosexual partners who engage in anal sex. Should these acts be illegal again as they once were?

    Again, thanks for the comments; feel free to comment again if you wish.


  3. I don't remember how I got to your blog. It was through some search terms found in this article. Either something to do with the separation of church and state or inalienable rights.

    Believe it or not, as a conservative Christian I believe in a concept of the separation of Church and State. But I do not believe it in the way secular humanists or liberal Christians (which I argue are the same anyway) do. I believe God has created government with its sphere of authority and the Church with its sphere of authority. But I believe Christian principles should be applied to government. Our Founders referred to scripture more than any other document in their independence and Constitutional discussions. They believed that, in order for our system of government to work, the people had to be virtuous. Religion was the only sure support to provide the people with an inner moral restraint. If the people did not have that inner moral restraint they would need an external one.

    Government has the "sword" to punish evil doers in the world. Romans 13:4. The Church cannot execute criminals. That is the job of the government.

    Pure and undefiled religion is to visit the widows and orphans in their affliction and to keep oneself from being polluted by sin. James 1:27. Charity belongs to the sphere of the Church and not to government. Government shouldn't be mandating we pay taxes to take care of the poor just like it shouldn't pass laws to force everyone to attend Church.

    You assume that "Truth" is unknowable since some people misuse or misinterpret scripture or come to different conclusions on the same information. I disagree with that. I believe that Truth is knowable. Because we are fallen and tainted by sin, we imperfectly reason through the information or revelation we have.

    Once you remove God from the lawmaking process, you remove the only objective criterion for making laws. Laws then simply are based on the morality of the majority. And the whims of the majority change with every new majority. Some laws that have been rationalized with scriptures have been bad for humanity, but nothing like the laws rationalized by some secular humanist philosophy.


  4. As far as our war on Muslim extremists: Since I believe Truth is knowable and that all religions do not contain Truth, we can separate other religions from Christianity. It is a fallacy to treat all religions the same simply because they all claim to "know" the Truth. Test their tenets out. See if their scriptures are reliable (i.e. consistent within itself, consistent with outside sources, consistent throughout the eras of time.)

    When you look at the reliability of the Christian scriptures with Islam's, it is clear Christianity stands and Islam falls. Whose tenets are better for humanity? Whom would you prefer I imitate: Muhammad or Jesus?

    (I for one believe that a Muslim can practice his religion peacefully if he ignores certain parts of the Qu'ran and Muhammad's example. But, Islam is not a religion of peace.)

    I haven't concluded yet that America rejected conservatism in 2008. 1. John McCain was not a conservative candidate. 2. Obama pretended he wasn't a radical liberal. 3. People were tired of the Republicans acting just like Democrats only spending, taking liberty, yielding American sovereignty a little bit at a time.

    The problem with Obama is that he hasn't failed. He has succeeded in ruining the economy, taking over automakers, banks, student loans, health care, oil industry. That is why Rush Limbaugh stated he hoped Obama fails. The problem is Obama hasn't failed.

    As far as homosexuality: I do not believe people are born to be "homosexuals." They merely "act homosexually." I understand that people cannot help what they are tempted by. They are accountable for yielding to sin. There is a reason God proscribes homosexuality as well as adultery and fornication. (Sexual promiscuity spreads disease, has a greater chance of leading to mental illness, shatters relationships, destroys families, creates poverty....) As far as anal sex, I am not sure the Bible directly proscribes it. Sex within marriage is a vast playground. Biblical principles must be used to enjoy sex. First, it is wrong for a married couple to bring anyone else into the marriage bed (sexual surrogate, threesomes, swapping, orgies, pornography). Second, sex shouldn't involve harm. The male part was not meant to fit in the "back end" of the woman. So, indirectly, I do believe that anal sex is not part of what God planned for sex.


  5. Chris,

    thanks again for the comments. I appreciate civil disagreement and, we certainly disagree on many fronts.

    I won't go into an attack on Christianity and cite all the horrible wrongs that have been visited on humanity by Christians throughout history. I assume you are not blinded by your faith to ignore that people have committed horrendous deeds in God's name and that those people have claimed faith in all the major religions.

    Your conclusion that Islam is not a religion of peace disturbs me. You are aware that there are about 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today? Over 2 million in the United States? You seem to be basing your views of this huge population (almost 1 of every 4 people on Earth) on the actions of the few who practice Jihad. I am sure you would be disturbed if I based my perception of Christianity on the small percentage of Christians who act upon their belief that God does not favor homesexuals and therefore it is OK to beat or murder them. Are the proposed laws in Uganda which would make homosexuality illegal, OK? Gods' will? Again, religion gone amok which is why we need that separation of church and state.

    I do agree with your point that for government to work, people must be virtuous. You seem to believe that this trait can only be fostered through religion and you focus on the concept of orginal sin to prove that man is "fallen" by nature so needs religion to gain morality.

    That may be the root of our disagreement. Man is certainly born with the ability to do good and to do evil. Perhaps you should consider that the institutions of religion are meant to merely guide us as we choose which path to take. Religions reflect mankinds humanity, they don't create it which is why mankind engages in so much violence in the name of religion.

    What you call virtuosness, I call spirituality. In either case, I agree that we need much more it. But to think that only people who agree with your particular religious bias cannot be spiritual is misguided at best, a bit arrogant at worse.

    Spirituality transcends religion, transcends nationality, transcends race, gender, and I daresay, sexual orientation. Everone can be spiritual if they choose, not because of the particular religion that they practice but because it is a part of are human nature.

  6. You seem to be getting mixed up with what people do in the name of religion rather than at the tenets themselves. People have done many evil things "in the name of Christianity" (perhaps starting with Constantine.) Let's say, for argument that someone argues that burning witches is acceptable.

    The Old Testament states "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus 22:18. Some have used this scripture to justify killing of witches. However, if you actually read and study the scriptures you realize: 1) Exodus 22:18 was for the nation of Israel that was a theocracy under the harshness of the pre-redemptive law. (By pre-redemptive I mean before Jesus' sacrifice on the cross where he said "It is finished.") 2) It is clear in the New Testament that the authority to put someone to death is the role of the State and not the Church.
    3) The practice of witchcraft is still condemned and forbidden by God. Churches can warn their members to avoid the practice and can shun members that do practice witchcraft. But, the Church does not have the authority to deprive someone of his life or limb for being a witch.

    Let us look at Islam's tenets: Surah 4:34 "Take the disobedient woman aside and beat her." And regarding "tolerance:" "Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme." "Fight them until there is no persecution and the religion is God's entirely." - Surah 2:193 and 8:39.

    Try this: "Believers! Make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you. Ye who believe! Murder those of the disbelievers...." Surah 9:123

    The tenets of Islam are violent and vile. That Muslims practice Islam peacefully is more of a testimony of the dominant Christian influence than magnanimous Muslims.

    The life of Muhammad is just as vile as the passages in the Qu'ran. The Muslims' own Hadith records Muhammad as a murdering, marauding, thieving pedophile.

    My question remains: Whom would you prefer I imitate, Muhammad or Jesus?

    My point is that people have misused Christianity and done evil but people have followed Islam and have done evil too. Christianity and Islam are not the same simply because people reference them when they commit evil. Islam is a religion of hatred and violence even though most Muslims prefer not to follow the tenets of their own faith. The tenets of Christianity bring life.

  7. We don't need the separation of church and state because "religion has gone amok." We need that separation because people are wicked, even the most revered saint has a sinful nature. Religion is a problem if it is man's way to reach God. Christianity is different in that it is God reaching down to man.

    What do you get when you have a society not governed by the tenets of secularism? You get Social Darwinian master races. You get morally relativistic socialism or communism. The common thread between Social Darwinian master races and morally relativistic socialism/communism are the tens of millions murdered. Secularism has done more evil in just the last century than religion has done throughout the centuries.

    I don't believe in following a "religion." I do not believe there are many paths that lead to God. I believe there is objective Truth and that Jesus demonstrated that he is the Truth. I believe, as Jesus claimed, that he is God and that there "is no other name by which men must be saved."

    I have no problem with people adhering to "religious" views different than mine if it provides them an inner moral restraint which is necessary to live in a land of liberty. The problem is that everything else besides Jesus ends up in eternal tyranny. I strongly oppose secular humanism because if it is followed by the majority of the people, it will destroy that inner moral restraint free people need. Also, secular humanism (and liberal theology) is at war with Christianity. I am not fearful that secular humanism will vanquish Christianity. I lament that a society dominated by secular humanists will destroy liberty and will not be a lovely place to live in.

    So, although I believe Mormons are wrong theologically, their belief system provides (at least temporarily) an inner moral restraint. I can join with them politically but spiritually we worship different Gods. So I can join with Glenn Beck politically since our beliefs lead to the same conclusions on most policy issues, but when he talks about returning to God "whatever god that is to you" I have to part ways with him. His theology is wrong and leads to an eternity away from God.

    I do believe we are all spiritual beings but there is a revealed Truth that points to a loving Creator who chose to redeem his creation by becoming one of us and dying in our stead. The evidence of that wonderful news is why I have a relationship God and am not religious.

  8. That last post should read "What do you get when you have a society governed by the tenets of secularism?"

  9. Chris,

    I am glad for you that you are so devout in your belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God. As this belief seems to have provided you with the moral restraint that you feel is necessary for men to live amicably in society, I am most happy for you.

    If I were to say to you that I too have achieved this same moral restraint without believing that Jesus was the creator's son incarnate, and without believing that man is wicked but because I believe in the goodness of man and in our evolving spirituality, am I wrong? Is my path to God less true than yours? And how can you possibly have any way of knowing you are correct?

    Again, rejoice in your faith and your relationship with God. Who I prefer you to imitate, Jesus, Muhammad or your local pastor is not for me to answer. I guess that is my point, true "believers" seem very intolerant of others' beliefs. So, while I gather that your beliefs are leading you down a good path, I still think you should be careful of judging others' paths, Mormons, Islams, humanists, etc. The Creator may someday admonish you for such an ego centric vision of who can and who can't attain spirituality.