A letter to my cousin about his "Christian" case against President Obama

Dear Cousin:

Today I read your Facebook post about the Christian argument against President Barack Obama and I'd like to give a few words in response. I appreciate you saying that disagreements over abortion, homosexuality, legalized drugs, and so on are not at the core of this Christian objection, and that arguments over such topics go endlessly in circles without ever reaching a conclusion.

I understand why you said this. In our world of instant news and instant gratification, it often seems like people on all sides of any issue have replaced discussion with attacks. That we now wear our opinions on our skins like obscene tattoos so we can showcase exactly what we believe and why everyone else is wrong. 

Tragically, there have always been people who behave this way and there always will be. The simple truth is that the screamers of the world attract far more attention than is their due, and there are also always people who desire to bludgeon others with their opinions.

The good news, though, is that those who continually scream out or beat up others are forgotten as soon as someone with an even louder voice – or a bigger stick – comes along.

No, the people who scream and beat don't win the debate in the long run. Instead, what changes people's hearts and minds are the actions of those who still see discussion and debate as a pathway to true understanding. When someone says they believe in something and then lives their life along the lines of that belief, only then do others pay attention. Only then does a discussion begin to change minds.

And that's how the world truly changes.

Which brings me to your comment that "the fundamental case Christianity has against Obama is that his big, liberal government attempts to position itself as a substitute for God."

I strongly disagree with this. In all my time as a citizen of the United States I have yet to meet a person who desires our government to be a substitute for God. Are there people who see government as a way to help others? Yes. As a tool for justice and equal opportunity? Yes. As a means of creating a basic level of safety and protection so people in our society can reach for their dreams? Yes.

In fact, if you look at the preamble to our Constitution, you will see these desires so eloquently expressed:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Naturally, people will disagree on the route to achieve these goals, but that's a good thing. As I mentioned, when debate and discussion is combined with how a person lives their life, true change results.

Which brings me to the life and words of Jesus Christ, whom you use to object to our current president.

According to the Bible, Jesus truly lived the words he spoke. When asked for the greatest commandment, he agreed that is was "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And that the second commandment was “Love your neighbor as yourself."

Jesus also had many other things to say about how people should live their lives, including the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and the famous "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Jesus also has many things to say on helping the needy, being charitable, not judging others, and quickly settling matters with anyone your disagree with.

But nowhere does Jesus take aim at government or liberals.

This doesn't mean Jesus didn't talk about political issues. In fact, Jesus was extremely revolutionary in his political statements. His statements that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" remains as controversial now as it was two millennia ago. He also condemned corruption and had little use for those who abused their authority. 

One of the few statements Jesus ever made about government is also, in fact, one of the most quoted: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." And when Jesus speaks of Caesar he is actually talking about a governmental head who believed he was a god. But instead of attacking Caesar for this obviously false belief, Jesus basically said there is a place for both government and for God, but don’t forget which is greater. And that's in reference to a government which did see itself as a god lording over its people, as opposed to the United States where we practice, in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, "government of the people, by the people, for the people." 

Which brings me to your comments about the United States government and its proper role in society. Since you are using Jesus to condemn what you see as big government and those you see as liberals, I must ask what would Jesus do if confronted with the challenges of our modern world. Would Jesus want health insurance companies to deny people coverage for pre-existing conditions, or to drop their coverage when they became ill? Would he want corporations to pollute our world or steal the life savings of people? Would he want to cut Social Security or Medicare so we can keep our defense spending at a level higher than the next ten highest spending countries combined?

Or instead, would Jesus support sensible government regulations and a common-sense approach to dealing with our budget problems?

I’d like to think we could agree on what Jesus’ answers to those questions would be. But I also know that people can disagree about the meaning of Jesus’ words.

But what we can’t disagree on are the actions of Jesus’ life, and how these acts can be applied to our current day political debates.

The Bible is very blunt about the people Jesus associated with – he actively sought out the sinners and outcasts of that time and place. Adulterers. Tax collectors. Samaritans. And even Roman Centurions. This doesn’t mean Jesus agreed with all these people or the lives they led. But he was friends with them and discussed life with them and didn’t pretend that the artificial walls we throw up in in this world must forever keep us apart.

If Jesus could find common ground with those whose lives didn’t mesh with his teachings, why can’t we do the same with those we disagree with? I know you mean well, but when you say Christianity is opposed to Obama, are you doing like Jesus did and reaching out to others, or are you building more walls to keep up apart?

We can disagree on the proper role of government, but always remember that our government is made up of us – the people of the United States. And Jesus had very pointed statements on how people were supposed to treat other people.

I don't expect you to change your mind about President Obama. But if we want our country to have a bright future, we must all work together and find common ground. And that means we must bring everyone together – be they of the same or different religions, religious or not, gay or straight, rich or poor, happy or hurting, optimistic or despairing.

Because the alternative to coming together is to continually scream at and beat each other up with our opinions. And we both know that is not a path Jesus would have chosen.