Category Archives: Barack Obama

Random Thought Thursday: July 16, 2015

President Obama is being treated unfairly by the news media.

obama-press-conference-deal-cuts
Ok.  Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain why I feel the need to defend the president.  I watched his press conference yesterday on the nuclear agreement he and other countries signed with Iran.  He made a good case for why he agreed to it, and his critics are making a good case why he shouldn’t have.  I have my opinions about this, but that’s not the point of this post.

In addition to being concerned about a rouge nation like Iran having a nuclear weapon, I’m very concerned about the 4 Americans being held as prisoners there, especially American Pastor Saaed Abedini who is being held because of his Christian faith.  So, I watched the news conference, and sure enough, a question about the 4 prisoners was brought up to the president…and this is when things got ugly.

CBS News’ Unfair Question

During the conference, CBS News’ Major Garrett asked the president this question: “Can you tell the country sir why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscious of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”

It was apparent that the president was annoyed by the question – not just about the words – but about the tone of the reporter’s question.  And I was too.  To insinuate that the president is “content” with these 4 prisoners being in Iran is unfair.  He is not, and his composed response was a far calmer response than I would have given.

The president responded, “I’ve got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I’m content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better.” Then Obama reminded everyone at the conference and viewers that he has met with families of some of the Americans held in Iranian custody, and that his administration is “working diligently to try to get them out.”

Obama explained why tying the release of the Americans to the nuclear deal would not have been an ideal plan, and it made sense to me.  He said, “Nobody’s content. And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try and get them out. Now, if the question is ‘why we did not tie the [nuclear] negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly Iran realizes, ‘you know what, maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.'”

Even Pastor Saaed’s Wife Agrees

Naghmeh Abedini House Foreign Affairs Committee FduZZ9VHlYRl
In an interview by Leonardo Blair of the Christian Post,  Naghmeh Abedini, Pastor Saaed’s wife, said that she supported the president’s decision saying it “makes sense” and that she knew all along that her husband’s release would not have been a part of the deal and she also made it clear that she never asked that her husband’s release be a part of the nuclear deal.

She said, “I’ve never asked for Saeed to be part of the deal but I’ve hoped that on the sidelines that his release would have been secured as we still have some leverage with the Iranian government and that has been my hope that his release would have been secured even on the sidelines.”

Fox News Not So Fair and Balanced

Despite the president’s explanation and Naghmeh Abedini’s words, Fox News published an opinion piece by Jay Sekulow entitled: Iran deal: Obama leaves Pastor Saeed, Other Americans Behind.  In it he writes, “The worst case scenario has happened. The Obama administration has signed a deal with Iran – a deal that failed to secure the freedom of American Pastor Saeed Abedini and other Americans who remain imprisoned in Iran. It is unconscionable that the United States would ink a deal and leave Americans behind. But that’s exactly what has occurred.”

Really?  He’s leaving them behind? That’s nonsense.

At the press conference yesterday, Obama said, “That’s why those issues (the prisoners and the nuclear deal) are not connected, but we are working every single day to try and get them out and won’t stop until they are out and rejoined with their families.”

Naghmeh Abedini confirmed this.  She said, “I know they (U.S. diplomats) have also been talking to the Iranian government on the sidelines. Again, it does make sense that he was not part of the deal but I was hoping on the sidelines as they were reaching a deal they were also securing the release of Saeed and the other Americans. But his explanation does make sense. I’ve never wanted my husband to be part of having to give up something, our government and the rest of the world, for their release. And I didn’t want that to be used as part of the deal.”

Why does this bother me?

I’m not a huge fan of the president – nor have a been a huge fan of any president for that matter.  Politics are messy, and truth is hard to find within politics.  There’s so much gridlock and posturing that I’m pretty skeptical and cynical when it comes to politics – especially politics on a national level. So, why go to the hassle of writing this – especially when politics and pastoring are not a good mix?  Because on the issue of Pastor Saaed and the other 3 prisoners, President Obama is being treated unfairly.

I have read how many presidents from the past were ripped up by Americans being held hostage on their watch.  I know that Jimmy Carter was consumed with grief about the Iranian hostages during his presidency, and I believe that President Obama is no different. Sadly, many people will simply watch or read the unfair and hateful things that news outlets like CBS, Fox, and others are saying about the president on this issue and believe it.

But on this one, will you please give President Obama the benefit of the doubt that he actually does want to secure the release of these men – not just because of the political gain it may win him but simply because he’s a human who is genuinely concerned for the welfare of these lives?  And will you please continue to pray for him and for the diplomats that are working to secure the release of these 4 men.  May God bring these men home safely and soon.

Obama the Anti-Christ?

I’m not a huge fan of politicians.  My cynicism won’t let me root for anyone running for a big-time elected office because of the corruption and deception that it often takes to get there.  Therefore, I’m not a big fan of Barack Obama, but what I just read in the latest Harris Report is ridiculous.

2,320 adults were surveyed online between March 1 and 8, 2010 by Harris Interactive.  24% of Republicans polled believe that Obama may be the Anti-Christ and 22% believe he wants the terrorists to win.  Again, I’m not a big fan of politicians, and I’m certainly skeptical of anyone who is elected president, but this is over-the-top.

Call President Obama what you will, but I highly doubt that he wants the terrorists to win, and I just don’t think he’s sinister enough to be the Anti-Christ.  If Adolf Hitler wasn’t the Anti-Christ, then I just don’t think Barack Obama is either…although 38% of Republicans polled think he’s doing many things Hitler did.  Really?!

Sad.

The Ridiculousness of Obama Extremism

I don’t like IMG00008it when people speak and act in extreme ways.  I never liked it when my toddlers threw themselves on the grocery store floor in front of the gumball machine after I said “no,” and I can’t stand it when my teens say ridiculously extreme things like, “All my teachers are dumb and don’t know what they’re talking about.”  Extreme actions and statements like these are tiresome, frustrating, and very unendearing.

I’ve been quite turned off recently by those who call themselves “conservatives” who are acting like President Obama is the second coming of Satan.  On a recent road trip, I passed a guy with this extreme Obama message on the back of his truck.  I found it humorous because he was brave enough to put it on his business truck, and I wonder how many would-be customers he has turned away because of it.

And then there was the extreme over-the-top reaction by many on the right to the announcement that President Obama would be addressing the nation’s students today.  I even saw a mom break down into tears while being interviewed on CNN.  She just could not fathom what might happen if her kids were to hear the president’s words.  Might they turn to salt?  Might they go blind?  Might they grow a third arm?  Or even worse yet: might they actually be inspired by the president’s words?  For that mom – and many others across the country – the risk was just too high.  Their kids would not be allowed to partake.

Personally, I’m skeptical of all politicians.  I’m not a huge fan of Obama (although I’d love to sit down with him on the White House lawn and have a drink like that police officer did a few months ago).  But I’m not a huge fan of ANY politician for that matter.  I only voted last November because – as a pastor – I think not voting might be considered by some as a sin only trumped by blasphemy.  I’m not a big fan of politicians, but I’m even less of a fan of the way people use scare tactics and extremism in response to them.

I – for one – am glad the president decided to speak to American students.  Many kids today need all the encouragement they can get to stay in school and work hard while there.  I hope my kids were able to hear his message at school, and if not, I’ll make sure they do on the Internet.  I read the transcript and could find absolutely nothing wrong or (even political for that matter) with what he said.  Here are some of his words that I found especially inspiring in his speech today.

He inspired students to work through the difficulties they are facing and spoke of his own difficulties.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

He encouraged students to ask questions and was vulnerable about his need to do the same.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

He boldly raised the bar of expectations on American students.

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

All in all, this was a good speech.  The president has a right – and even a duty – to speak to the youth of our nation and call them to a higher standard than what many of them are called to by their peers, the media, and even some of their teachers and parents.  It’s unfortunate that even something as good, inspiring, and politically neutral as this speech was faced with so much ridiculous extremism and criticism.

It’s time for conservatives to cut President Obama some slack on things like this.  It’s ok to speak out and provide checks and balances in the realm of politics, but if he wants to encourage our country’s students on the first day of school, then leave him alone and let him do it.

Arizona Pastor Wants President Obama Dead

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…but my kingdom is not from the world.”  (Jesus Christ; John 18:36)

Tempe PastorIt’s been really hot lately out here in the Southwest, and evidently, the heat is starting to make some say and do crazy things.  Take for instance Pastor Steve Anderson from Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ.  On August 16th, Anderson delivered a sermon titled “Why I Hate Barack Obama.”  In it, Anderson admitted he prays for the president’s death saying, “If you want to know how I’d like to see Obama die, I’d like him to die of natural causes. I don’t want him to be a martyr, we don’t need another holiday. I’d like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer.”

Many locals are offended by Anderson’s comments, and the Secret Service is investigating him, yet many of the church’s members are defending their pastor’s opinion of the president.  “If (Obama) thinks the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are obsolete, it would be better if (Obama) wasn’t here,” said parishioner Renee Houlihan.

One of the parishioners at the Faithful Word Baptist Church is Christopher Broughton who actually moved to the area because the church “is preaching the message I believe in.  I concur (with Pastor Anderson). I think we’d be better off if God would send (Obama) where he’s going now instead of later,” said Broughton. “(Obama) is destroying our country.”  When asked if he was advocating violence against the President, Broughton said he wouldn’t answer the question directly.  “I don’t care how God does it, I’m not going into further detail than that,” he said.

I’m not sure what kind of gospel Pastor Anderson thinks he’s preaching, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus lived and ministered under the oppressive Roman Empire with its corrupt and God-less leaders at the helm, yet He never once advocated violence toward them.  As a matter of fact, it seems as though He didn’t pay much attention to them nor give much credence to those who were in political leadership over Him.

Furthermore, the type of “conquering” Jesus did was not done with swords.  The night he was arrested, the Scriptures say that Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers.  Jesus responded by putting the guy’s ear back on and saying to Peter, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

Jesus conquered death and hell and ushered in His Kingdom not with a sword…but with a cross.  He allowed the government officials of His day to arrest Him, beat Him, and kill Him by hanging Him on a cross.  After He told Peter to put away his sword, Jesus said, Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”  On His command, scores of angels with swords could have been released to deal with the bad politicians of Jesus’ day, but Jesus would have none of it.

Pastor Anderson is among a growing number of Christian leaders today who are mistakenly equating the gospel of Jesus with the warped gospel of violence.  He joins the ranks of Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell who both have publicly made the same mistake.  Four years ago, Pat Robertson told his 700 Club audience, “We have the ability to take Hugo Chavez out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.”  And before he died, Jerry Falwell said, “I’m for the President to chase (terrorists) all over the world.  If it takes ten years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.”

This kind of talk sounds painfully similar to the ideology that led to the Crusades, where soldiers with the cross of Christ displayed on their shields killed hundreds of thousands of people “in the name of the Lord.”  It’s true: there is power in the name of the Lord, but that power is not the power of the sword…it’s the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.

The United State Secret Service is speaking out about an East Valley pastor who is praying for President Barack Obama’s death

Spokesperson Darrin Blackford said Monday, “We are aware of Pastor Anderson’s comments and an appropriate follow up will be conducted.”

Parishioners leaving the Faithful Word Baptist Church Sunday carried not just their Bibles, but guns as well.

Pastor Steven Anderson said he and his congregation have received death threats after a controversial sermon earlier this month.

“Guns are a great deterrent,” said Anderson.  “We haven’t had any violence because people know if they come down here swinging a baseball bat, we’re ready to protect ourselves.”

On August 16th, Anderson delivered a sermon titled “Why I Hate Barack Obama.”

In it, Anderson admitted he prays for the president’s death.

It is a position he reiterated Sunday.

“If you want to know how I’d like to see Obama die, I’d like him to die of natural causes,” said Anderson.  “I don’t want him to be a martyr, we don’t need another holiday. I’d like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer.”

The sermon so incensed Bill Demski he traveled from his home in Glendale to picket Anderson’s 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning service in Tempe.

“A man of the cloth wants to kill the president, how sick can you get,” asked Demski.

Yet members of the Faithful Word Baptist Church defended their pastor’s opinion of the president.

“If (Obama) thinks the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are obsolete, it would be better if (Obama) wasn’t here,” said parishioner Renee Houlihan.

But Anderson said despite the threats, he has no plans to change his message.

“I’m not going to back down, I wouldn’t be worth my salt as a preacher if I let popularity determine what I preach,” said Anderson.

To listen to Anderson’s sermon “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” click here.

One protester who didn't want to give his name was walking around with a rifle – in full view.

One protester who didn’t want to give his name was walking around with a rifle – in full view.

One of the parishioners who attended Sunday night services at the Faithful Word Baptist Church was Christopher Broughton.

“I actually moved to the area because this church was preaching the message I believe in,” said Broughton.

Broughton had an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle outside President Barack Obama’s speech to the VFW at the Phoenix Convention Center earlier this month.

MORE: Man who brought gun to Obama rally worked with Libertarians

The night before the speech, on August 16th, Broughton listened to Anderson’s “Why I hate Barack Obama” sermon.

“I concur, I think we’d be better off if God would send (Obama) where he’s going now instead of later,” said Broughton.  “(Obama) is destroying our country.”

When asked if he was advocating violence against the President, Broughton said he wouldn’t answer the question directly.

“I don’t care how God does it, I’m not going into further detail than that,” said Broughton.  “It would be better now than later.”

Barack Obama and Rick Warren

The headline on cnn.com this morning reads: Obama’s Inaugural Choice Ignites Outrage.

The headline is followed by these words: Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents are criticizing President-elect Barack Obama for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month. Warren opposes gay marriage and abortion rights, putting him at odds with many in the Democratic Party.

Forget the liberal groups and gay right proponents…I wonder how the Christian right will respond to this. Rick Warren has been a lightning rod among Christians for years. Talk about in-fighting…Warren has been the cause of a lot of fighting among churches, leading ultimately to numerous church splits.

It was partly because of him that my home church lost over 100 people…many of whom had helped build the church with their own hands some 35 years earlier. When the leadership decided that the church needed a massive refocus, they decided to use Warren’s Purpose Driven Church as a guide.

You should have seen how many of the older crowd at the church laid eggs and had cows. Fueled by a ridiculously hateful and lie-laden web site, these people consider Warren the anti-Christ. Some even brought in brochures and articles from the web site “proving” their point. Warren just about ruined that church.

Warren is a lightning rod…and that’s why I love him! He’s a lightning rod because God is using him in some pretty phenomenal ways, and when God moves, people on the left don’t like it, and sadly, people on the right don’t always like it either.

What God is doing through Rick Warren doesn’t fit inside any one’s box.

Through Warren’s ministry, God is unifying the fractured American church (Warren is a huge proponent of churches breaking through divisive denominational lines and coming together) and bringing help and hope to those devastated around the world by AIDS (this is where much of his money and time are going these days). Warren has sold millions and millions of books over the years, and God is using his elevated status in the world to bring the message of peace, reconciliation, and hope to those who need it most (hardened, crusty Christians and those suffering with AIDS).

And for those who think he compromises the non-negotiables of the gospel, I beg to differ. I saw him a couple of nights ago on Fox’s Hannity and Colmes. Hannity was trying to interview him about his new book, The Purpose of Christmas, but Colmes wanted to spar. He asked Warren if he really believed that there is only one way to God, and on national TV, Warren replied by saying, “This is not what I say. This is what Jesus said. He said that no one comes to the Father but through Him, and I have no reason not to believe Him.”

Colmes then asked him if he really believes that every person needs to be saved, and Warren replied, “If God says we do, and if He sent His Son, Jesus, to do it, then I believe we all need to be saved.” Warren didn’t back down at all in the face so some pretty tough and pointed questions.

I – for one – am thrilled that Rick Warren will be participating in Obama’s inauguration. In a culture where so many Christians give Christ a bad name, Warren is a breath of fresh air. His humanity, authenticity, love for others, and desire to make Christ known to all people makes him someone I can stand behind.

The Faith of Obama (in His Own Words)

“I’m a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”
Chicago Sun-Times
April 2004

“Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher. And he’s also a wonderful teacher. I think it’s important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.”
Chicago Sun-Times
April 2004

“There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell. I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”
Chicago Sun-Times
April 2004

“What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing. When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.”
Chicago Sun-Times
April 2004

“Let’s make clear what the facts are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in with a Bible. I pledge allegiance [to the American flag] and lead the pledge of allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate when I’m presiding.”
Times Online
January 2008

“It is a precept of my Christian faith that my redemption comes through Christ, but I am also a big believer in the Golden Rule, which I think is an essential pillar not only of my faith but of my values and my ideals and my experience here on Earth. I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know…I do not believe she went to hell. My particular set of beliefs may not be perfectly consistent with the beliefs of other Christians.”
Newsweek
July 2008

The Church and the State: Who Should Do What?

On Sunday, I did something I thought I’d never do. I talked about politics from the pulpit. I did it because the Scriptures actually have a lot to say about our current political situation. Regardless of how we voted, the Scriptures make it clear that God is the One who has placed Barack Obama in the position of president-elect. Romans 13:1 says, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. I was sure that the discussion in the Engage Class would be lively, but the direction it took was not what I expected.

I thought my words about Barack Obama would incite a very lively (and maybe even controversial) discussion, but a set of questions were asked about what the role of the church should be and what the role of the government should be. Are we expecting the government to do too much? Are we expecting them to do things that the church should actually be doing? And with those questions, we were off. We spent the rest of our time talking about this.

The consensus was that the church – in fact – should be doing more, and we seemed to all agree that we should not expect so much from the government, but we really didn’t come up with any specific answers. Just a lot of brainstorming and thinking out loud. On Monday, I came across the blog of a friend of mine who is serving as a pastor in Indiana. He has been exploring these same questions with his congregation as well. Here’s what one of his bloggers had to say, and I hope that his words can get the conversation going on this blog as well.

You mentioned that we should be voting for the candidate that will most likely bring “up there down here”. I keep mulling that over in my head, and I guess (and maybe it’s semantics), but I guess I just don’t think that that’s the job of government—bringing “up there down here”–and I think that if that’s what we’re counting on we’re going to be sorely disappointed. Instead, I think we should vote for the candidate who will most likely keep order (punish evil-doers), and preserve our basic freedoms (things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), so that we, as the church, will have the ability to keep working on bringing “up there down here”.

What do you think? Who should do what? Are we expecting too much of the government, and do those expectations lead us to view the results of elections with undue jubilation and/or sore disappointment? Is the church doing all that God has called it to do, or is it content to allow the government to handle things?

Let’s talk.