Obama & the SBC: When Words & Actions Conflict

“For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us – that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it – because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.  America, this is one of those moments.  I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I’ve seen it.” (“The American Promise,”  Acceptance Speech of Sen. Barack Obama, Delivered at the Democratic National Convention on August 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado)

Change was coming, alright.  Unfortunately for a large number of independents, moderates, Blue-Dog Democrats, and disaffected Republicans, the radical change that came — courtesy of the “Hope and Change” President — was surely more than they bargained (or hoped) for.  Soaring rhetoric, read from a teleprompter, is one thing.  Enacting radical agendas that fundamentally alter who we are as a nation is something altogether different!  It is tragic that so many are so easily fooled.

Obama’s latest action, which should shock no one, reveals the President’s dissembling when it comes to the issue of gay marriage.  In his Denver Acceptance speech, Obama had one throw-away line about same-sex marriage:

“I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.”

Most of us would agree about hospital visitation rights, but that is such a red herring when it comes to this issue.  What differences did you really mean, Mr. President?  Why did Obama, the candidate, not say what he really thinks about same-sex unions?  Why does he, even to this day, try to keep up the appearance that he is somehow conflicted about this issue?  If actions do indeed speak louder than words, then the President’s decision to direct the Justice Department to withdraw its defense of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should lay to rest any questions about Obama’s beliefs about gay marriage, his new Press Secretary’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding:

Spokesman Jay Carney said Obama has always opposed the Defense of Marriage Act as “unnecessary and unfair.” But Carney said there’s no change to how Obama views gay marriage itself.  Obama said in January that he is still wrestling with whether gay couples should have the right to marry. He said his feelings on the issue continue to evolve but he still believes in allowing strong civil unions.  (full article here)

Can anyone, other than someone who still believes that O.J. Simpson did not murder two people, still believe that the President’s “feelings on the issue continue to evolve?”  We can be reasonably sure that Obama has always been in favor of gay marriage, but has never had the political courage to say so.  Why?  Because he knows that there are many people in this country — including a sizable segment of the Democrat Party — who would never vote for a person who openly advocated same-sex marriages.  But, let there be no doubt.  Obama, with his actions — not his words — is doing all in his power as President to see that gay marriage is legalized and legitimized in this country!

Words are powerful.  They can be used to stir just about any human emotion.  People, no matter how smart or sophisticated they think they are, can be fooled by soaring rhetoric.  President Obama has become a master at the art of using words, not in a literal way, but in a manipulative way:

“When a president delivers a major address to the nation, standard operating procedure would be — we’ve done it in the past — to come in here and play key elements, key points, analyze ’em, parse them.  But in this case the speaker was Obama.  The words are not intended to be taken literally.  They’re just words, words that you want to hear.  They’re not for analysis.  They are for feelings.”  (Rush Limbaugh, “Obama’s Speech:  Just Words”)

I am proud to say that I was not fooled by Candidate Obama’s rhetoric nor have I been fooled by President Obama’s disingenuous words (Bill Clinton is an amateur compared to the current President) since taking office.  That’s why Obama’s subsequent actions regarding gay marriage, abortion, the War on Terror, Israel, and any host of other issues have not surprised me.

However, I wish I could say that I have never been fooled by the words of others.  I have.  Some words have more power to ignite my emotions.  Some speakers have greater ability to affect my feelings.  I find myself particularly susceptible to religious words spoken by religious folk.  I am probably not alone in my susceptibility.   

As a one of those folk who speak religious words every week, I must always be on guard to make sure that the words I use in preaching and teaching not only speak to the heart, but to the head.  The best way to accomplish this goal is to use the Bible as the foundation for my message. 

As I use Scripture, I must work hard not to misinterpret, misapply, or otherwise abuse the Bible for my own purposes.  (I would like to say that I am perfect in this regard, but no one is.)  When we speak God’s Word to advance our own agenda or when we so twist Scripture to make it say what we want it to say (not what it clearly says), we run the risk of damaging our own credibility and in the process turning off those hearers who we are seeking to persuade.

While Southern Baptists may have been immune to the words of political leaders like President Obama,  many of us cannot say that we have likewise been immune to the words of religious leaders.  Looking back, some of us might even admit to having been fooled by religious words that turned out to be at odds with subsequent actions. 

The disconnect between words and actions in the politics of our country over the last two years bears a striking similarity to the disconnect between the words and actions in the politics of the Southern Baptist Convention during that same time frame.  From breaking promises of transparency to ignoring the will of the people to implementing radical agendas to the establishment circling the wagons, the seeds were sown for the rapid growth of the Tea Party movement that made its voice heard loud and clear last November. 

In all the same ways, the seeds have been sown for a Southern Baptist version of the Tea Party movement.  The kerfuffle over this year’s Pastor’s Conference is a clear sign that the movement is growing — larger and wider.  The SBC establishment, just like the Washington establishment, ignores the signs at their own peril.  Check back on Monday for a detailed analysis of how the SBC’s growing grassroots backlash started and where it is likely to go from here.

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