Monday, May 14, 2012

He's Our Nation's President, But Not Our Nation's Pastor (And I Pray for Him)

I have always understood that the chief duty of all real Jesus-followers, regarding our political leaders, is to pray for them. Paul instructs Timothy: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Remember that Paul writes this as he lives under a government that is far, far, far from the values of Jesus. Yes, there is the Pax Romana, and Paul prays it will be sustained, for he is free to preach the Gospel. All who love the Gospel and desire to share it now can give thanks to God for the Pax Americana.

Why, then, do some who say they love Jesus engage in ad hominem bashing of political leaders who do not stand for the values of Jesus (or do not support their own personal political, earthly kingdom preferences)?

So, regarding President Obama and Vice President Biden, join me in praying for them.

Perhaps you will also join me also in disagreeing with them. We can pray and disagree at the same time. We can do this lovingly, and with gentleness and respect. If you are an American, as far as I can tell President Obama is still our President. But he's not our Pastor. He's definitely not my preferential Theologian. In terms of understanding the Jesus-walk no president has authority over me, no matter what his pronouncements from his place of power may be. In this way the Church has a prophetic responsibility over their nation and even the world.

Sadly, President Obama, this past week, made biblical and theological pronouncements in support of same-sex marriage. Therefore I, and others in my place, must speak out. I shudder at people being influenced by our President's theological reasoning.

Today I read that President Obama is calling pastors, especially African-American pastors, to "explain himself." (See "After Obama’s Decision on Marriage, a Call to Pastors") "He had struggled with the decision, he said, but had come to believe it was the right one. The ministers, though, were not all as enthusiastic. A vocal few made it clear that the president’s stand on gay marriage might make it difficult for them to support his re-election."

The President and his staff are now doing "damage control." Why, I wonder? He has stated to the world his position. It seems clear. He is not going to appease me by explaining this. I have for years studied this issue biblically and theologically (as many pastors have). Probably, I have considered all possible explanations in theological defense of same-sex marriage. There is nothing President Obama will to add to this. Indeed, his comments last week, which supposedly came "after much reflection, introspection and dialogue with family and staff and close friends," strike me as unreflective and relativistic. I think he was not prepared.

My protest is grounded in this. Yes, there are many other important issues on the table. But I don't view them as all being equal. I view moral issues as foundational to other issues. There is (from my theological vantage point) a principle I see running throughout Scripture, which is: Turning away from God and His moral commands leads to weakness and failure. (Even the Italian atheist Marcello Pera can see this. See Pera's ironic, prophetic call for secular, relativistic Europe to return to the moral foundation which Christian theism provides. See: Marcello Pera On the Moral Necessity of Assuming the Existence of God. President Obama, please take note.)

So, it's on to "damage control."

"The president’s strategists hope that any loss of support among black and independent moderates will be more than made up by proponents of gay marriage. But Mr. Obama’s aides declined to comment and opted not to send anyone to the Sunday talk shows for fear of elevating it further."

It's elevated and moving higher as I type.

See today's CNN report -  "Across country, black pastors weigh in on Obama's same-sex marriage support." The article begins by quoting Dr. Charles Wallace, a friend and person I taught under at Palmer Theological Seminary. "Addressing his large, mostly black congregation on Sunday morning, the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith did not mince words about where he stood on President Barack Obama's newly announced support for same-sex marriage: The church is against it, he said, prompting shouts of "Amen!" from the pews." (The Obama's spent last Easter Sunday in Charles's church in Washington, D.C.)

Let us pray...

Here are a few things I have written that relate to this.

"Arsenokoitais" (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.)

Desire-Denial Is Not Only For the Homosexual Who Chooses Purity

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

Charisma Magazine on Homosexuality

William Lane Craig on Homosexual Behavior

(I'm working on a longer, more detailed piece on this issue, which may appear months down the road.)