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Why keep doing it?

January 15, 2013

Warning:  The following post will contain comments that may be construed as favorable to President Obama.  If you are offended by this feel free to stop reading now.

I’ve been thinking these past few days about the uproar that developed over the choice of Rev. Louie Giglio to give the benediction at the Presidential inauguration and the subsequent revelation that, in examining his extensive sermon file, somebody found out that he thought homosexuality was a sin.  Rev. Giglio graciously withdrew so this issue would not overshadow the ceremony.  OK, fine.

Of course there is uproar among many conservative Christians that think he should not have withdrawn accompanied with anger toward Obama in that his committee accepted the withdrawal.  This acceptance is cited as “proof” that Obama hates Christians.  But I think there is another question that needs considering.  Why does Obama keep reaching out to conservative Christians?

If you recall, back in 2008, at his first inauguration, he asked Rick Warren to give the invocation and a similar uproar took place then.  Progressive groups were offended by the Warren choice and complained.  In that case Obama stood by his choice and Warren delivered the prayer.  I am happy to recall that there were no catastrophic results of that prayer.  Warren did not use the occasion to promote “hateful” views.  I am fairly comfortable saying that, had he gone ahead and prayed, Giglio would not have done so either.

Obama is a liberal, mainline Protestant Democrat.  Yet in both his inaugurations he chose a conservative evangelical to pray.  (If you are going to join the chorus of Christians who complain that Giglio is not evangelical enough, please do so elsewhere.)  Both times his choices offended other liberal, mainline Protestant Democrats.  In neither choice did he endear himself to conservative evangelicals.  So why does Obama keep reaching out to a voting group, evangelicals, who solidly opposed his election?

Is it because he is a closet evangelical and this is his way of cautiously testing whether we are willing to accept him as one of “us”?  I tend to doubt it.  If that is the reason it is not working.  I don’t know of a single evangelical who has decided that maybe he isn’t such a bad guy after all.  Even Warren has gone on to declare that Obama is “hostile” to religion.

Is it because he can’t find any liberal mainline Protestant Democrats who are willing to pray for him?  Obviously not, he is one of them.  And, indeed he seems to be aggravating those who agree with him.  One supporter recently said “Can’t he find an LGBT-affirming clergy…?”

Actually, he gave us the answer as to why he does this on election night in his victory speech.  He said:

“I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”

I believe that it is this principle that drives him to keep trying to reach out to evangelicals, one group that has done an outstanding job of giving him “all evidence to the contrary.”  So, as an evangelical, I ask myself “Is his attitude Biblical?”  Is it consistent with the admonition to turn the other cheek?  Is it consistent with the call to forgive seventy times seven?  Would Jesus, who from the cross said “Father, forgive them”, think this reaching out is a good thing?

I have no illusions that, should evangelicals respond favorably to his outreach effort, Obama will promptly cease to be a liberal, mainline Protestant Democrat.  I have no illusions that he agrees with all, or even many, of my political views.  I do get troubled however when he seems more gracious than many of my fellow evangelicals.

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