Eulogy for the Obama Presidency

According to polling data, I am not supposed to like President Obama. I am white, I live in the South, I am an evangelical, and I am a conservative. But contrary to these demographics, I have always had a a measure of personal appreciation for the President. I am no fan of his politics, but I have always felt positively toward him as a person. Maybe it’s because our childhoods were so similar (his father was also absent and he was raised in part by his grandmother as well). Maybe it’s because he is a huge college basketball fan like me. Or maybe because, by all accounts, he is a faithful husband and devoted father. I judge politicians on a personal level by the “could I envision going to a ballgame and having a good time with him/her” test. And on that test, President Obama passes with flying colors.

In view of the final day of his presidency, I wanted to offer some reflections on his time in office. I thought about entitling this post Thinking Through Faith as a Citizen. But there are broader issues to discuss regarding Christian citizenship, topics I hope to address in future articles. Instead I decided to call this post Eulogy for the Obama Presidency. I am a preacher, after all, and writing eulogies is part of my job. Literally, eulogy means “good word.” And I intend to say some good words about the President’s time in office. But eulogies are usually delivered at funerals, a time of great sorrow, and a sense of sadness pervades my thoughts about the Obama presidency as well.

So, let me begin with some “good words.” On foreign policy, I think President Obama’s instincts have been far more prudent than the neocons and the neoliberals who control both parties. His biggest mistakes have occurred when he ignored those instincts (such as his intervention in Libya and his “redline” pronouncement in Syria). But on his extraction of most U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, his containment strategy for ISIS, and his negotiations with Iran, traditional conservatives are more likely to appreciate the President that the hawks in each party.

On domestic policy, President Obama made some tough calls that I think were correct. For instance, while the bailout of the auto industry did cost the American taxpayers $9 billion, it saved state and federal governments from over $100 billion in lost tax revenue, unemployment benefit costs, and other long-term liabilities. That kind of judicious use of government is the sort of humane economics traditional conservatives can appreciate (even if they would have opted for a different solution).

But as I reflect on the last eight years, for the most part I feel a great deal of sadness. Much of this melancholy is not the President’s fault, but the fault of some fellow professed Christians and conservatives who have lost all sense of decorum and decency when attacking the President. “He was born in Kenya!” “He’s a Muslim!” “He’s a Muslim terrorist operative who intends to bring down America!” “He’s the antichrist!” “Some old boy should shoot him!”

I have actually heard people who are supposed to love Christ, care about the truth, and respect the government, say these sorts of things. This is a cause for mourning. And these sorts of hysterical and unfounded attacks only undermine the very legitimate criticisms that should be brought to bear against the President.

Rather than bringing Americans together, President Obama instead succumbed to the suffocating stranglehold of radical ideology and needlessly alienated devout religious adherents. He did so with the clumsy, heavy-handed HHS mandate, all in the service of radical feminism. And with the onerous edicts from the Department of Education regarding school bathrooms, all in the interest of the radical transgender movement. Instead of working toward mutually acceptable solutions, President Obama has been almost tone deaf in his treatment of religious freedom.

But my greatest criticism of the President is for what he has not done. Just as it took an ardent anti-communist in President Reagan to establish peace with the former USSR, and just as it required a southerner – Lyndon Johnson – to push through civil rights legislation, President Obama was uniquely positioned to speak to the African-American community about the problem of fatherlessness. Every social pathology facing that community (and the white community as well) can be traced to the lack of fathers. And earlier in his administration, the President spoke forcefully to this issue.

We can all agree that we’ve got too many mothers out there forced to do everything all by themselves.  They’re doing a heroic job, often under trying circumstances.  They deserve a lot of credit for that.  But they shouldn’t have to do it alone.  The work of raising our children is the most important job in this country, and it’s all of our responsibilities — mothers and fathers…

We’re also going to help dads who get caught up — we want to make sure that they’re caught up on child support payments and that we re-engage them in their children’s lives.  We’re going to support efforts to build healthy relationships between parents as well — because we know that children benefit not just from loving mothers and loving fathers, but from strong and loving marriages as well.

But then the President shifted his views on marriage, and herein lies the problem. President Obama said that children need “loving mothers and loving fathers.” But in same-sex marriages, children do not have loving mothers AND fathers. They have two mothers or two fathers, but not both. But children don’t need interchangeable parental units – they need what mothers and fathers uniquely provide. Sadly, the President yielded to the demands of radical ideology, and in so doing, eliminated the very rationale for fatherhood he once espoused.

My hope is that once he is unencumbered by the demands of political pressure, the President once more will feel free to speak about fatherhood as he did so eloquently in the past. Imagine the powerful influence he could have in black communities which desperately need an advocate for and a model of what good fatherhood looks like. If he will devote himself to this cause, then his legacy will extend far beyond his eight years in office.

 

2 Comments

  1. Hi Shane,
    I saw your above blog because it was shared on fb. I am disciple worshipping with a congregation of the Lord’s church in Lincoln, RI, and would also consider myself a conservative politically…even leaning a bit toward the Tea Party.
    Anyway, I appreciated your thoughts on the departing president, but wanted to suggest that there is some evidence that he is (or at least was) a Muslim. I write that because of things he has said and written. I will admit that I have not read his book(s), so this is not stated from first hand reading, so I will also add that I’m not sure of the context. He has written, however, that he “embraced” his father’s religion…Islam. This, I think, is from his first book.
    A bit more to the point, and I assert-more revealing, was what he has spoken. I think it was during his campaign for his first term that he was being interviewed (by George Stephanopoulos?), and during the interview said something about “…my Muslim faith…” The interviewer went on to correct him, saying something like “…you mean your Christian faith…” Obama went on to change what he was saying, then using the word “Christian”…
    Personally, and I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist, it seems that such would jibe with some of his policies and executive actions involving refugees and involving the American military.
    He did say, right from the beginning of his presidency that he was going “to transform America.” I know I make his intentions seem a bit more ominous, but the topic does cause me to think about Dinesh DeSousa’s film 2016…if you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend it.
    Frankly, I am glad that the continuation of liberalism from the executive branch of our government has been stayed, at least for now, since, thankfully, efforts of the likes of Hillary Clinton have been frustrated and hopefully even defeated in the long run!

    • Shane

      January 19, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Jerry, thanks so much for your comments. As to whether the President is a Muslim, his statements have been very clear. He believes in the atoning death of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (see this clip, for instance). No Muslim could ever profess belief in these central claims of Christianity, which are explicitly denied in the Quran (see Surah 4:157). As to the clip of the interview with Stephanopoulos, the President did not say he was of the Muslim faith. He said that John McCain had not accused him of being of the Muslim faith (you can read bout this here). Further, since many Christians supported providing shelter for refugees here in the US, the President’s support of this policy is just as much proof that he is a Christian as anything else.

      Besides, if Muslim Americans can fight and die for our country (which they do every year), why can’t they run for office?

      In any event, the President is not a Muslim, and discussions like this only distract from the real issues that should be debated, in my opinion.

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