Just before Barack Obama became president of the USA, I had a surreal conversation with a mature Christian friend that made a lasting impression. It happened in the early hours of the morning while we were out Street Pastoring. We were discussing the forthcoming US presidential elections and my friend made a statement to the effect that he quite liked Obama and could identify with his values. I quipped: “do you believe in infanticide then?” Rather horrified, he asked me to explain myself. I did, pointing out that not only did Obama support abortion but he had voted to allow babies born, after a failed abortion attempt, to die. I can’t recall how the conversation ended but we remained friends. Recalling some of the rhetoric at the time, I was of a view (and still am) while the USA needed a black man at the top with an agenda for change, Obama was the wrong black man espousing the wrong change.
The relationship of Obama and matters Christian has been a recurring theme. Even in the past week, two separate articles considering that relationship have been posted on my Facebook page and, when I did a “Google search”, I came up with many hits, which if I were to follow them up would take me in all sorts of directions, with opinion divided as to whether Obama is a friend of Christians or not. I get the impression that a number of my British Christian friends, like my Street Pastor colleague all those years back, rather liked Obama and preferred him to his predecessor George W. Bush, although just as most Americans do not understand British politics, the reverse is also true.
I remain ambivalent regarding the relative merits of past US presidents, partly because I reckon that I do not know enough, tending to the view they each had both good and bad traits, often limited in what they can do and beholden more to vested interests than is healthy. Yet I can not ignore that being the person at the top they could and did influence for better or for worse the mood of the people and the affairs of state and, given USA’s leading position on the world stage, that also. If I were to study what my right (fundamentalist) leaning American friends are saying about Obama, I would no doubt come up with a long line of grievances, several of which I have no doubt valid. Similarly, if I were to study what my left (liberal) leaning American friends have to say, there will be things Obama has said and done that might lend themselves to praise. Rather than pontificate over-much on the matter, I give this to Almighty God, who is in control, however dire things appear.
When it comes to Obama’s legacy though, I cannot help observing that concerning the marginalization of biblically orthodox Christians within the culture, he has done a lot of harm through his antipathy to their concerns, and in his discussions with less savoury foreign regimes he has done a disservice by not bringing up the matter of human rights abuses, especially when it comes to religious freedom, in his negotiations. Yet he has challenged the status quo in a number of positive ways, even if the merits or otherwise of his solutions to social justice and related issues are debatable. Making healthcare affordable and accessible to the poor, coming up with robust yet compassionate solutions regarding the millions of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Latin America, and elements of his Middle East policy, which include seeking to find common ground and agree a peaceful accord with Iran and challenging Israel over its human rights abuses, are but three examples.
I have no doubt there are culture wars happening in the USA and the wrong side appear to be winning. While I have no doubt that the fundamentalist leaning Christians (of which there are a good many) do not always get it right and sometimes show attitudes that are detrimental to the cause of the Kingdom, they are often seen to be under the cosh and subject to increasing attack and vilification. I have gone on record as being a supporter of the Manhattan declaration with its threefold emphasis on the sanctity of life, dignity of marriage (as traditionally understood) and freedom of religion, all of which have come under increasing attack under the Obama administration, even if the president was not directly involved. The recent removal of the Ten Commandments monument under the cover of darkness is symptomatic of the culture wars that are taking place with (at least from this blogger’s perspective) with the once generally held Christian consensus losing more and more ground to notions that are wrong, and there appearing no sign of any let up.
Recently, I blogged about the late David Wilkerson, who I regarded as a prophet. One of the themes he returned to several times is that the USA is liable to incur the judgment of God by disobedience and needed to repent (and if that sounds melodramatic, consider the Hebrew prophets, who did much the same). One of the Facebook postings that caught my attention was an hour long video that sought to relate current events with end time biblical prophecy, and it related to Obama. In sharing the link, I need to add a cautionary note given over the years I have heard many prophecies and most have not been entirely accurate and many have been false, yet there was stuff shared here that has got me to think. It equated “Babylon” as described in the book of Revelation with the USA, given its enormous influence in the world, and the King of the North overcoming the King of the South that helps bring about Babylon’s destruction is Russian president Putin and USA president Obama respectively. While weighing this interpretation and especially the what to do in the light of this message that ensued (I really disliked it trying to sell a survival package at the end – something that true prophets did not entertain), I am inclined to think the message that I would need to give to the USA (and to the UK), if called upon to do so, is one of repentance in the light Gods imminent judgment.
As for Obama, while there is much with which I disagree (as well as some things, perhaps surprisingly, I agree) I realize my views are nigh irrelevant. I realize there is such a thing as Christian values that need to be upheld and a culture war where these are increasingly coming under attack. While this appears rather daunting, I am reminded of Jesus’ words: “Peace I give unto you”. As for me, I am called to be a watchman as well as to respond to the great human needs in our society and, again, referring to the words of Jesus, I need to “watch and pray” (and encourage others to do so also).