On Obama and leadership

Obama, Obama, Obama. This man elicits highly charged responses depending on which side of the racial, spiritual, and political divide one stands. He is the world’s most ignorant leader according to some, or the smartest we have ever seen on the international stage in our generation. He is an antichrist to some and a Christian, even a saint to others. He is highly divisive to some and a uniting force to others. With Obama, there is no neutral ground. He is like marmite. You love him or hate him to bits. 

My Christian brother has a very obvious stance on Obama. He likes him as a person, his charm and intelligence and is vehemently opposed to his ideas. As you can gather, he is a conservative and Obama is a liberal, and as usual, these two don’t see eye to eye on a wide range of issues. Obviously then, Trump is his man. Although he doesn’t highly rate his Christianity, Trump has kept his word and fulfilled his campaign promises. For this reason, Trump’s misnomers are just shrugged off. In his own words, “When I see him pull off one of his crazy moves I just scratch my head, shake my head and move on!!”. He continues, “I’d rather have a flawed man who makes a fool of himself in front of the whole world acknowledging God than a polished, smart, politically correct democrat that will be used to unleash wickedness in the land”.

A point my Christian brother made repeatedly was that I loathed Trump and at some point, I had to refute it. I don’t loathe Trump. Loathing Trump would be going against a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith, love.  I repeatedly emphasized the point that it doesn’t bode well for the church when we support Obama or Trump, that the Christian faith stands above politics and politicians.

Our back and forth was about how leaders with Christian convictions should lead in the marketplace—marketplace being anywhere else apart from the church. So this was my response.

On Obama 

Barack Obama exemplified to a certain degree (emphasis a certain degree, not all the way) how it is to be a Christian leader in a secular environment. That’s if you (my Christian brother) believe Obama was a Christian. Many claimed he was Muslim and yet he supported ideas that were anti-Muslim. If so, the Muslim world should have called a fatwa on him for bringing their faith into disrepute. Unless he was the antichrist as many in the Christian world suggested and yet he didn’t fit the anti-Christ description. I’m still waiting for him to be assassinated and rise from the dead as the book of Revelation depicts (Revelation 13:3)

Obama led as a Christian in a secular environment. Was he right all the time? No. I didn’t agree with Obama on various issues. One of them was when he went to African countries and tried to impose his brand of American democracy without considering the various contexts. Rwanda is an example. Did he accommodate divergent views? Yes. And this is what a Christian does in public spaces. You accommodate other views because your views are not the only ones on the table unless you are in a THEOCRACY.

YES, again I agree with you. We need righteous leaders that counter and resist wicked laws not to be enacted. But we will not do it fighting over presidential power, and we also have to accept that we don’t always win. Like you said, someone else will come and unravel everything Trump has done, just like he is unraveling everything Obama did. This is what democracy looks like and this is how it functions. Why? Because we live in a fallen world. When Obama says democracy is messy and slow, this is it. 

You made mention that Obama “didn’t personally subscribe to the Christian principles”. By Christian principles, what do you mean? Bush is a Christian, and led the US and the world into a fake war in Iraq, right? Obama is a Christian and yet ordered the use of drones that killed 168 children and 500+ civilians. Trump is a Christian, and he is slanderous, a mocker, harsh, mean, boastful, proud, and even racist. And yet in your eyes and in the eyes of his supporters, Trump can do no wrong? The point is this bro, we will always be disappointed if we tether ourselves to “Christian” leaders. If their only ticket into our hearts and votes is Christian (Trump), and if we reject other leaders because they are not Christian or Christian enough (Obama), we are setting up ourselves for failure. 

Bro, Obama’s inclusivity, and precisely this quality is what brought him the most criticism. The left criticized Obama. Obama actually became a centrist to the horror of liberals. They didn’t want him to reach over to the Republicans. They wanted him to impose liberal exclusivism which he refused. In this article by Ryan Lizza, Obama argued from the start that he was anti-ideological, that he defied traditional categories and ideologies. Obama’s aides often insist that he is an anti-ideological politician interested only in what actually works. If this is true, then, of course, he got stick from both Republicans and Democrats, from both conservatives and liberals. Why? Both sides push for a definite stance – you cannot be a centrist, you cannot go with what works. You are black or white. There are no grey areas. This is a futile position for any leader with Christian convictions to hold in the public square. You cannot be a purist, whether you are a conservative or liberal. I write to the horror of both conservatives and liberals. You have to be in leadership to know what I’m talking about. Leaders are always faced with situations that require them to reach beyond their own idea bubbles. And when they do that, they will be called many names. This is the price the Christian leader must pay if they will be of service to all. 

Obama was practicing Christian principles before the whole world and what he got from Christians was venomous criticism. In his inaugural speech, he said he would be the president of Black and White America. What happened? Black America felt excluded because they had expected him to serve Black people only. If he would have gone down this route, they would have tagged him a “racist” and “exclusive”. He was right. He was the president of all Americans, Black, and White. 

What Trump is doing is not inclusion, it is exclusion. He is telling everyone else that if you are not an evangelical Christian, “You are not in. You are out”. Loudly and clearly he has told the world that the Christian faith he espouses doesn’t include immigrants, refugees, black people, transgender people, children, and women. His faith doesn’t receive the weak, sick, poor, prisoner, and widow. His faith is for the strong, powerful, rich, and those on top. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! This is anti-Christian faith. Please consider 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 and read who God calls into the Christian faith. 

So even if Trump is the law and order candidate which is a very good thing. (Nations devoid of order inevitably capitulate). His brashness, hostility, meanness, pride, and corruption blur the Christian message he purportedly espouses. What if he did what he did with compassion? What if he explained his positions with intelligence, passion, and justice? What if he disarmed his opponents with kindness and ate with his enemies? What if he fought to protect religious freedom for all – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, etc? What if he advocated for the unborn and for the poor mother who kept the child? What if he considered African nations as God’s creation and not shitholes? These are Christian ideals that would serve his greater vision well and any leader for that matter. 

That’s what grace looks like.

Photo by Stephen Mayes on Unsplash