How do we judge the character of our President?
I was sent an email in 2008 by a “prayer warrior,” charismatic, Catholic friend. The gist of her email was that our president hated white people and America and would stand with Muslims if they were threatened and was engaged in a secret plot to dismantle our “christian” country and create a space for “sharia law;” all assumptions based on the interpretation of text from books written by Barack Obama himself and the misinformation and lies provided by political pundits and radio personalities. All based on cherry picked text meant to support a preconceived paranoia driven bias. All text taken out of context.
The following is my response to her plea that I respond to the perceived evil and vote accordingly.
“I bought and have re-read both books you mentioned. I did not see what you saw. I saw a worldly, scholarly, deeply personal reflection by a brilliant man. Both books seemed overly “academic” and a little bit boring. He sounded like a professor lecturing instead of a person telling a story, but that was ok with me. Having several college degrees, I have heard my share of professors droning on in college classes.
Perception Is Relative:
You see negative because you want to see negative. I teach my students in science about the analysis of information and how to avoid, “bias” in their interpretation. We all have our biases and it is very difficult sometimes to avoid them.
First Impressions: When I bought the books, I had no idea who this man really was. He was just a senator from Illinois and all I had heard were nasty things about him. So, being a scholar and a scientist, I did my own research. I carefully looked over the allegations against him by my pro-life friends. I carefully and methodically looked at him with great skepticism. To my surprise, I found him to be a brilliant legal scholar, who sounded very much like Bobby Kennedy in his views on “social justice.” As an advocate for social justice, I was profoundly interested in his community organizing and was very impressed with his work with the poor in Chicago.
Who was his mother?
Who was this young, American, white woman, who married a black man, during a period of time when such a union was a serious taboo in many world cultures, especially if you were from mid-west America. She was more than just a mere white girl from Kansas, who was swept off her feet by a black man from Kenya. She was a brilliant scholar in her own right. She was particularly brave and extraordinarily kind. His father was a different story and I’m not as impressed with him, but his mom? Wow. No wonder he has such a great sense of humor and is able to look at all situations from a global perspective.
A Singular Woman: In the book, “A Singular Woman,” by Janny Scott, she met and fell in love with President Obama’s father, while she was working on her PhD in cultural anthropology. She was a uniquely progressive woman of great kindness. Her values and those of her parents helped to shape the man that he is today.
This great American, our president, has a well formed “world view” shaped partly from his growing up in a home of mixed race and by a mother who was a cultural anthropologist.
A young man caught between two worlds, two races: He struggled with his identity and with who he was. His struggle is not unusual for young people trying to find their “place” in society. Children born to Cherokee women, who married white men, had similar struggles. They were “half-breeds” and didn’t fit into either race or culture easily. I read a journal entry once by a young Indian woman, who was ashamed of her indian heritage. She changed her name and dress to help her appear more “Anglo.” She felt a deep shame for having “indian” blood in her veins. She hated that part of herself. Later in life, she felt shame for having denied that part of herself and giving up all future rights for her children and their children.
He grew up in a culture where he didn’t fit in as a black man or a white person. If you watch the movie, “Australia,’ you will see a story told by a little boy, who was half aborigine and half Caucasian. He was called “creamy.” He didn’t have a nation. He didn’t have a culture. He didn’t have a race. He was half and half.
My Final Evaluation: After my extensive research on the man, I find him to be very logical in his problem solving, very global in his view of how to approach a problem, very pragmatic in his decisions and most of all, Christian, in his views on social justice and dignity of the human person.
He is clearly christian. He is more Catholic, with the exception of being “pro-reproductive” rights, than many Catholics I know. He strives to derive solutions which include diverse view points and opinions. He is able to approach problem solving like a scientist with limited personal bias.
Biased and Unbiased Conclusions: You and I have read the same material and drawn completely different conclusions. I saw him as an unknown and I reserved judgement until I finished with my data collection. You read the books with a firmly rooted bias. You were indeed looking for fault.
You have seen him as “of the devil” since you first starting sending emails in 2008. I ask you to please consider the fact that this man is a human being. He has dignity of person. He is a fellow christian. He has been honest in his reflections on himself as he went through the “self-actualization” process.
What Would Jesus Do? Jesus loves this man, just as he loves you and me. As followers of Christ, we must also love him and afford him the same dignity and respect as any other human being formed in God’s image.
You don’t have to agree with his politics. You don’t have to like him, but you are called to love him.
What To Do? Trust in God! God is in charge. He is especially in charge of President Barack Obama. Do not fear. Pray for our president, don’t judge him based on biased information. Do not become a party to the sin of character assassination.
It is God’s job to judge. It is our job to love as Christ would love.