Critiquing a speech that is delivered by the President of the United States that serves as a statement of deeply held beliefs is a task that should be carried out with respect. A quick search of the columns I have written about Senator and now President Obama will attest to the depth of my profound differences and difficulties with his policies and his core values. Because I know where the president stands on issues such as a the sanctity of life (he is a fervent supporter of abortion), the sacredness of marriage (he has instructed his Attorney General to refuse to defend the Defense of Marriage Act), and the cherished right of religious freedom (Obamacare tramples the conscious of those who are opposed to abortion); I am reluctant to give him any benefit of the doubt when it comes to his address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
However, before I discuss the areas where I believe the president demonstrated a poor understanding of hermeneutics I want to point out some areas where I resonate with what he had to say. He opened by saying:
"At a time when it's easy to lose ourselves in the rush and clamor of our own lives, or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us. They remind us that no matter how much responsibility we have, how fancy our titles, how much power we think we hold, we are imperfect vessels. We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him."
It is certainly easy to lose ourselves in the cacophony of life. Voices cry out from all directions, some encouraging but many bring stinging words of rebuke and pain. When Jesus wanted to teach His disciples He would lead them away to a quite place away from the noise of the world where they could hear His voice and focus on His words. God's Word tells us when He called the twelve, "He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him" (Mark 3:13). Later, when Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the parables He used in His teaching Mark tells us, "He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples"(Mark 4:34).
We all need to find a place where our time with God is a special time of speaking and listening to Him.
Another point of resonance comes where President Obama acknowledged, "We can't leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that had held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union."
That's true as far as it goes but it falls far short of the ideal. Our founders spoke often about this "moral glue" that holds our nation together. But leaders like Benjamin Rush went far beyond the neutral idea of values to the bedrock foundation of morality that flows from the Word of God. Rush wrote, "The only foundation for useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object of life of all republican governments." The president needs to understand that just any set of values will not do. Americas' values, the kind that have the power to hold a society together cannot be thrust upon a people after being crafted in the mind of man. They must spring from the living water of Truth that pours forth from God through His Word and through our relationship with Christ.
President Obama would place the values and teachings of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and the writings of Plato on the same level with the Truth of God. That might work in a make believe world where truth is a concept determined by the majority but it fails miserably in the real world where Truth both is and is found in Christ.
The president quoted Proverbs 31:11, which says, "Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed." I would ask President Obama if he believes this passage why he refuses to speak up for justice for the voiceless unborn who die daily at the hand of the abortionist. None are more dispossessed than these who are most innocent and deserving of life.
Finally, the president spoke of being willing to give up some of his tax breaks in order to help those who are less fortunate. But having the government take our income and give it those who meet the governments definition of needy removes any reward we might gain from our generosity. If President Obama wants to help the needy, he might want begin by setting the example of personal giving to the poor rather than waiting for the government to force the gift for the poor from his hand.
Quoting a portion of Luke 12:48 the president said, "For unto whom much is given much shall be required." The full context of Luke 12 tells the story of unfaithful slaves who ignored the will of their master even though they had full knowledge of what he wanted them to do. It is a story about knowing and doing the will of God and has nothing to do with material possessions. Jesus was not calling His disciples at this point to take from others in order to have more to give away but was calling them to be prepared in the day of His coming by knowing and doing His will.
If the president would like to use a bible story that parallels his idea of how government treats other people's money he would have done well to chose a well-known story from John 12. Six days before the Passover, Jesus was in Bethany with Lazarus when Mary took a pound of very costly perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus and then wiped His feet with her hair. John then tells us that Judas Iscariot protested saying, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" But John tells us the real reason for the piety of Judas. "He didn't say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it."
Most of those who would like to have the government play Robin Hood and rob the rich to give to the poor like this arrangement for same reason Judas liked it. Once the money is in the bag (or in the government coffers) it is easy pickings for those who would use it for their own gain.
That is a much better match for what happens when government decides to "spread the wealth around."