Camp season is over! Well, sort of over — there are always loose ends here and there to tie up, and my wife and I were already discussing plans for next year yesterday and this morning. But the intense part of the work is done, and life can get back to normal for a while.
After some catching up, that is.
A lot has built up over the last month or so, and if you are among those who have tried to get a hold of me and wondered if I dropped off of the face of the earth, please forgive me. I think I did better than normal this year in keeping up with other things during the whirlwind of camp days, but, to be sure, there are things I am only now getting to. I am not the most organized person in many areas of my life (“Duh,” rings the chorus of millions), but I am working on it.
Among the things that I am working on is catching up on some reading and news analysis. I had saved a link for myself to the July 4 WSJ opinion piece “The Daydream and the Nightmare” by Peggy Noonan–one of my all-time favorite contributors (even gave some of her speech-giving advice to campers in my Speech class at Teen Camp this year)–concerning her analysis of President Obama’s behavior in recent days. Under the subtitle was the blurb, “Obama isn’t doing his job. He’s waiting for history to recognize his greatness.” It seems to me that her column is spot on in its insightful summary of the president’s mindset. You can read it for yourself here: “The Daydream and the Nightmare” (my apologies if it is behind a paywall).
She makes the following comment concerning the president’s abysmal approval ratings:
We all know the reasons behind the numbers. The scandals that suggest poor stewardship and, in the case of the IRS, destructive political mischief. The president’s signature legislation, which popularly bears his name and contains within it the heart of his political meaning, continues to wreak havoc in marketplaces and to be unpopular with the public. He is incapable of working with Congress, the worst at this crucial aspect of the job since Jimmy Carter, though Mr. Carter at least could work with the Mideast and produced the Camp David Accords. Mr. Obama has no regard for Republicans and doesn’t like to be with Democrats. Internationally, small states that have traditionally been the locus of trouble (the Mideast) are producing more of it, while large states that have been more stable in their actions (Russia, China) are newly, starkly aggressive.
That’s a long way of saying nothing’s working.
Which I’m sure you’ve noticed.
Indeed, surely everybody has noticed. The world certainly has. But she points out that what everyone may not be noticing is the weird way in which the president is reacting to all of this.
I won’t go into all of those details–she lays them out nicely. She points out that it comes across like someone in a football game who is running out the clock, except that instead of running out the clock because he’s winning, he’s running out the clock while he is losing. Then she explains why, she believes, he is acting so oddly, and I think her insights are spot on.
Some of her comments:
Barack Obama doesn’t seem to care about his unpopularity, or the decisions he’s made that have not turned out well. He doesn’t seem concerned. A guess at the reason: He thinks he is right about his essential policies. He is steering the world toward not relying on America. He is steering America toward greater dependence on and allegiance to government. He is creating a more federally controlled, Washington-centric nation that is run and organized by progressives. He thinks he’s done his work, set America on a leftward course, and though his poll numbers are down now, history will look back on him and see him as heroic, realistic, using his phone and pen each day in spite of unprecedented resistance. He is Lincoln, scorned in his time but loved by history.
He thinks he is in line with the arc of history, that America, for all its stops and starts, for all the recent Supreme Court rulings, has embarked in the long term on governmental and cultural progressivism. Thus in time history will have the wisdom to look back and see him for what he really was: the great one who took every sling and arrow, who endured rising unpopularity, the first black president and the only one made to suffer like this.
That’s what he’s doing by running out the clock: He’s waiting for history to get its act together and see his true size.
Makes sense to me, and fits the picture pretty well painted by the actions of the man in the Oval Office, both during his time so far as president and even before. And Noonan’s comments about the dangers to the country in having a president with such a mindset also seem to me to be right. Again, the article is worth a read.
I would like to add a couple of my own observations.
I’ve known some that see large, malicious, conspiratorial plotting behind some of the president’s decisions, as if his personal goal is to leave the North American continent a smoking ruin, put on a bejeweled turban, and then fly off to live in a palace in the Middle East with college buddies from ISIS for the rest of his days–or, perhaps, to complete his initiation into the Illuminati in 2016 by offering up to the inquisitor the caged souls of everyone who didn’t read the “I give up my soul” fine print before signing on to Obamacare.
However, rather than insufficiently supported ideas, to me a comment attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte has always seemed much more likely to apply:
“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”
Over the last almost six years, the president has not struck me as a particularly competent individual when it comes to governing. I don’t mean that as a critique of him as a human being, just as a leader. And believe me, I’ve been incompetent at a lot of things, before, so I know it when I see it. (Please no agreement with that in the comments. Just pretend with me that I am being funny and not accurate.)
He seems caught up in a vision of a politically progressive America–lessened and humbled for the reasons he believes it should be lessened and humbled (not the same as God’s reasons, by the way) and in the ways he believes it should be lessened and humbled, but still able to become the generally-religion-free, academics-and-the-state-know-best, no-one-too-rich-and-every-one-taken-care-of “dream nation” he and many of his philosophical persuasion have always felt it could be. Their own version of a “city on a hill.” As Ms. Noonan describes, I think the president believes strongly that he has set the country on such a course, and that is what is most important to him. The rest is just sort of “meh.” The pesky trifle of a major airliner being downed, murdering 298 people in the Ukraine? A distraction. 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram? Bad timing. After all, if the goal is to teach the world that America won’t swoop in and save you, it doesn’t do the cause any good to, you know, save anybody.
The mundane explanations fit best. No dramatic, secret plans to round up and murder America’s Christians, as I saw recently claimed on the Internet, for instance. Rather, it’s all a lot more mundane: the dream of a Supertolerant Nation™ in which everyone is enlightened enough to tell such Christians to shut up and keep their moralizing to themselves — all in a spirit of Supercivility™, of course. Rather than darkly conspiratorial, it’s sadly mundane. It’s a simple-to-understand ideology, and it’s more than sufficient to explain the horrendous state of leadership we are currently experiencing. (Though it isn’t the whole story, as I’ll eventually get to.)
And it fits prophecy. God says that Israel (not just modern Israel, but the U.S. and the U.K.) will lack even halfway decent leadership before it topples, and do we ever. Read Isaiah 3:1-7. It describes a people desperate for a decent ruler–anyone. Yet, God says that there won’t even be a “diviner” (v.2) available. Even the sorts of leaders who may have been heathens but were at least competent will be unavailable. And as for “children” being the people’s “princes” (v.4), I must say that–without saying that the verse doesn’t have a certain literal meaning to it–I don’t know when the leaders of my nation have ever seemed to me so childish in all of my life. And I mean that for both parties.
We are experiencing quite a leadership crisis. And it is far from over.
Still, that’s a lot of words, and I said I would mention two observations. Here’s the other one.
More important than the matter of competency, the president has furthered the sins of the nation.
On one hand, I’ve seen some Pretend Prophets claim that the current president is “apocalyptic” and I get it: Repeatedly using a word like that makes for increased Internet hits and book sales (however sad and ineffective those hits and book sales remain, it is at least a higher number of sad and ineffective hits and book sales). It makes for sensational titles and headlines and sounds end-of-the-worldy. Sensationalism sells. Duh. But it also adds to “prophecy burn out” and is done in a misleading spirit, however well-intended. Yes, indeed, this president has helped moved this country along the path to further spiritual disease. Presidents Bush and Clinton before him did their fair share, as well. And the next president (Mrs. Clinton? Mr. Bieber?) will likely do the same. God’s prophecies deserve to be treated with more respect than that, and, in the end, for each person grabbed by an (inevitable) parade of such abusively provocative titles and overused/misused adjectives like “apocalyptic,” two or three more will be turned off by the shallowness of such desperate pandering. It grabs the attention while simultaneously lessening the impact and doing more harm than good. Still, common sense isn’t rampant in the Self-Appointed Prophet crowd (or even uncommon sense–or any sense, at all, really), so I don’t seeing it let up anytime soon.
On the other, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some vomitously sinful decisions made during this administration’s tenure. And that’s what concerns me. Politics is politics. Progressivism, conservatism, liberalism, capitalism, Republicans versus Democrats, Pirates versus Ninjas, whatever… God can make even the goofiest decisions work if the nation is seeking Him and His way above all else.
And the worst missteps of this presidency aren’t political. They are moral. The powerful support given to the abortion industry. (I do note the wish-it-were-funny irony of seeing some who decried Vietnam vets in the 60s as being “baby killers” now in office making baby killing our official government policy.) The endorsement of homosexual “marriage” from the highest office in the nation. This is increasingly an immoral government (and not just in the Executive Branch). Its distance from God is increasing, and its velocity along that trajectory is increasing, as well.
Concerning politics, let the nation do what it will. God asks His people to step aside from that. But not to sit on their hands–rather, He asks them to focus on those things that matter more: the nation’s relationship to its God. And this president has been a big supporter of severing that relationship–as weak and tenuous as it was, already. Not that this has been his official policy, but a policy’s meaning and intentions can’t be divorced from its effects.
Returning the nation to the Constitution is not going to return it to God. Getting a Republican (or a Democrat, or a Libertarian, or a Conservative, or a Liberal, or a whatever-Ron-Paul-is/was) in office is not going to return it to God. Let others wage those fights–they aren’t God’s fights. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
Our task is not to explain to the leaders of this world, including our current president, how his government of this world falls short of the ideals of America’s forefathers–who also, by the way, crafted a government of this world. Our task is to show them, and everyone, how it falls short of the ideals of the government of the world to come–how it falls short of the ideals of the Forefather of that government.
Yes, a politically competent president who had the ability to see at least a little more accurately what his decisions and non-decisions are doing to the United States, and to the world, for what will be very little gain in the end would be nice. But competency isn’t enough. The nation needs a leader who desires to seek God in all of his decisions. And we haven’t had that in a long time. Frankly, we won’t get that until Christ returns to be that leader.
And, still, a more moral, God-seeking leader would not be enough. We need a moral people who desire to seek God in their lives. Those who stack a world of blame on the president are missing the point. One of the nice things about a real democracy (OK, a republic, for you sticklers out there) is that the leaders tend to reflect the people. And concerning our current president, I personally find him pretty reflective of the people he and those around him in the halls of power so poorly govern–at least in the ways that fundamentally matter in the end.
Should a leader arise amongst the citizenry of the United States actually proposing to turn this nation to God in a serious and meaningful way, the ways God is looking for, is there any hope that this people would elect such a one? Is there any hope that this people would allow the radical changes such a one would promote?
That’s the beauty of the New Covenant. People aren’t just forgiven of their sins and rebellion and left otherwise as they are. They are transformed from the inside out (Hebrews 8:10), so that the world will have a godly leader (in fact, God) and they, themselves, will become godly people. It takes both. As Deborah and Barak sang: “When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the LORD!” (Judges 5:2) — it takes both. (And, I should note: That was Barak, not Barack.)
Yes, Israel is suffering from a leadership crisis. But it’s not without cause (cf. Prov. 26:2). And the cause isn’t deep, vast, global conspiracies or the Illuminati or FEMA or even Wall Street “fat cats.” The cause is us. And it isn’t our lack of political savvy or our bad public policy or our forgetting about the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or our ignorance of secret government plots. It’s our sin.
It’s simple. No need to complicate it. No need to add to it. And no excuse for being distracted from it.
Want to fix the country? Address the sin.
All other efforts are little more than band-aids on a severed limb.
And, wow, what was meant to be a simple “Hey, look at this nice Peggy Noonan article” blog post has turned into a bit of a rant. My apologies! If you weren’t counting on such a long post, feel free to stick to the stuff above about the WSJ article. 🙂
Please pray for the country, even as you “sigh and cry” for it (cf. Ezek. 9:4). Pray for our leaders, including the president, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:2). I know I need to be forgiven for the times I have forgotten to do so.
And let’s do our part, individually, to avoid adding to this nation’s mounting sins, and, collectively, to support the preaching of Jesus Christ’s message to this world–about its current state, its coming reckoning, and the hope of the kingdom He is bringing to replace it.
End of rant.