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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pray for Obama to Be the Most Successful President Ever? Well, No.

There was an op ed of sorts in the religion section of the N&R today by Reverend Joseph Moore entitled "Will Conservative Christians Pray for President Obama?"

Rev. Moore rightly reminded Christians of the necessity and requirement that (among other things) we honor our leaders - in this case now President Obama. He cited 1 Peter 1:17, rightly noting our habit (going back to our founding) of ignoring the last bit:

1 Peter 2:17 "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."

And yes, this includes honoring leaders of all parties. Why? Because the civil authority is ordained by God. It is ordained with a purpose by God (Romans 13:1ff). Therefore I will pray for that purpose to be realized.

The last two Presidents have each been dishonored to such a degree it has been shameful. It is hard to dishonor the person without dishonoring the office, and, in either case there is a requirement incumbent upon the Christian to honor our leaders, even leaders like Nero.

As I have written on several occasions it is the duty of the Christian to pray for all who lead and exercise authority over men. We have been doing this in our church for fifteen years, for Republicans and Democrats alike.

This is explicitly commanded in Paul's letter to Timothy, 1 Timothy 2:1-4:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

I have recently written myself about the need to pray for President Obama. The problems before him are stupendous in magnitude, and it is in all of our interest that he do well in addressing them.

But I take issue with Rev. Moore's closing comments:

"Our obligation is to pray fervently that that President Obama will be the most successful president in history. Our civic duty requires no less. Our religious faith may require much more."

Well, to say the least, that closing exhortation goes well beyond the requirement of the passages cited.

I will pray that President Obama have wisdom, strength, and safety. I will pray that his administration fulfills his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States of America. This is the oath he will take. I pray that he will do as he will vow to do.

But pray for his success? What does that mean? Am I to pray that he succeeds in his stated intent to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act? Am I to pray that he succeeds in his stated intention to reverse the ban on Partial Birth Abortion? Am I to pray that he succeeds in establishing a domestic security force? Am I to pray that he succeeds in re-instituting the Fairness Doctrine? I could go on and on.

Well, I cannot possibly pray such things. The only way I can pray that he be the most successful president in US history would be for him to have a radical reversal of many of his stated intentions and policies. So, yeah, if praying for his success means such a reversal, then fine.

I think it is right that all Americans give their presidents an opportunity to reveal their intentions and to have a crack at our common problems in a way consistent with their own political philosophy. I have been ashamed at how most Presidents in my lifetime have been disrespected. This goes back to the first President I voted for - Jimmy Carter.

Obama has huge challenges ahead, the primary one being the economy. Yes, of course I hope he can do some things that will help us all in that regard, but Presidents have less power in controlling the economy than is generally assumed, in my opinion. Obama will have huge pressure to "deliver" for the Democratic Party base, which is its more liberal side. I cannot possibly pray that they, working through him, will be successful.

I will pray that Obama successfully upholds his public oath of office, and I will pray daily and sincerely for his wisdom, strength, and safety.

But, no, I cannot really pray for Obama's success in the manner in which Rev. Moore exhorts me to do. And neither is that my obligation.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Joel. It was clear to me also that our Christian obligation does not extend quite as far as the author suggested.


Joe Guarino

Betsy said...

Right on! Note that latter half of that Timothy passage is specifically referring to us living a peaceable life, and if his stated agenda were fulfilled, the outcome would be just the opposite.

Anonymous said...

I too am praying for President-Elect Obama, that he maintains (or rather restores) the integrity of the office. Also that he learns where "the middle" is, and finds his way there. The hope I hold is realistic, and I will not be surprised, only disappointed, if he fails in this aspect.
Part of me is afraid he will begin his 4-year reign taking the Oath by resting his hand on a book other than the Bible. It would be kind of like having your fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

Another thing, Joel, I saw your photo with the little league team, Custom Cleaners. I was playing that same year for the last place, Belview Drugs. I think we got everyone the other teams did not want!