Obama and Revelation

Kevin Wilson has a post up discussing the recent trend for people to associate a certain presidential candidate with the antichrist. Perhaps Kevin is merely karma whoring, but regardless his post is worth a read.

I find two things quite fascinating–first, that any time there is a political race in America, one of the contenders (normally the democrat) is labeled the antichrist. I personally remember Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and now Barack Obama being labeled the antichrist at one point or another during their various campaigns. Oddly, I don’t seem to recall John Kerry being called the antichrist.

The second, and far more interesting thing, that Kevin’s post brings up is that evangelical Christians tend to read Revelation as a sort of guide to the future. I used to do the same. Thank God that one of my professors in college helped me understand that prophecy isn’t about predicting the future. Quite the opposite, its about impacting your behavior now. “Repent!” said the ancient prophets; I’m fairly certain St. John would agree.

The difficult thing becomes communicating this to evangelical Christians today. I speak specifically of students, though the problem applies across the board. There are students in my youth ministry who could not even tell you the number of books in the Bible, let alone their names, yet they all share this common misconception that Revelation tells us the future and that one should read it to know “what is going to happen.” How is it that such a thing even possible? My perplexity increases when some declare that “Revelations is my favorite book.” Oh yes, because one normally mis-names their favorite book (Kevin, I share your pet peeve).

Perhaps I should bring myself back from the brink of senseless complaining for a moment and propose something helpful. This is a primary reason why I heartily support pastors (including youth pastors) getting themselves a good education. The first step to this is, of course, learning Hebrew and Greek. Then reading some critical commentaries on the prophetic literature might be helpful. To be honest, many of my classmates from Davis, which is itself a quite dispensational school, at least understand that Revelation is not meant as some kind of roadmap. That’s not to say all my classmates understand that, or even the majority. But many of them do.

So, now that I have meandered from politics to the Bible to youth ministry and finally to personal reflection I think I’ve covered every area that my blog commonly deals with, excepting video games. Of course, the Left Behind video game doesn’t even deserve mentioning.

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James Dobson on Obama

A few disclaimers before I begin. First, my candidate didn’t make it past the primaries. As for which of the two viable candidates (yes, two. I may have some libertarian ideals, but they have no chance at this presidential election) I’m leaning towards, I think it makes little difference to this discussion.

CNN has an article regarding some things Dobson has said about Obama. Personally, it sounds to me like Dobson is raving. His arguments and jabs are half-baked at best. That works for Ice Cream, but not so much for logical discussion. I try to keep politics off of my blog. But I really can’t stand aside at this point.

First, Dobson criticizes Obama for saying that we can’t use the Bible as the sole document regarding how we govern. As evidence for this Obama puts forth Leviticus and Deuteronomy. To be sure these are some tired arguments. Obviously, a proper understanding of those two books makes them far less offensive than they might appear at first glance. But that is neither here nor there. Obama is right we can’t govern based solely on the Bible. Our world is not the Ancient Near East. It’s not even the modern middle east. Obama is also right when he says, “So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bible now. Folks haven’t been reading their Bible.”

Dobson’s response to this? According to CNN, “Dobson said Obama should not be referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament.” Now, this isn’t a direct quote. So one must be careful. But I really, really hope that Dobson didn’t say anything remotely close to “[certain Old Testament books] are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament.” If that’s the case then I don’t think it is Obama who has no clue about how to read and interpret the Bible. CNN also reports that Dobson said the following (direct quote): “‘I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,’ Dobson said, later adding that Obama is “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.'” Again, I don’t think Dobson has any clue here, nor does he have any business being the arbiter of what is or isn’t “biblical understanding” or “confused theology.”

CNN reports that Obama also asked a, in my view, legitimate question concerning what brand of Christianity one might govern by. In this case the Senator from Illinois actually mentions Dobson, “Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s?” I think that is exactly the issue. Now, of course, Focus on the Family came back with some argument that Obama was calling Dobson a racist. I don’t think that’s what Obama was doing at all. I think he was legitimately pointing out that we have Dobson on one extreme and Sharpton on another, and they will probably never agree on which brand of Christianity should be taught in schools, or which brand should be used to determine policy. He wasn’t comparing the two of them, he was contrasting the two of them. It’s a common practice, in rhetoric.

The solution? Christianity should stay out of politics and instead focus on helping the poor, blind and lame. After all, what could be more pleasing to God than taking care of widows and orphans? I hardly agree with everything Obama has ever said about faith, but I certainly find myself agreeing more with him than the self-appointed arbiter of Evangelicalism.

Democratic Presidential Debate

So Mandy and I watched the presidential debate tonight on CNN.com. A few thoughts:

1. What was up with John Edwards. He didn’t answer any questions, he just bashed Hillary.
2. How is it that Hillary could answer the question “Are you playing the gender card?” in the negative and then proceed to tell a story about how a 95 year old woman was just “so pleased she was running…” and “wanted to live long enough to see a woman in the white house.” Honestly, if you’re going to play the gender card — fine. But fess up to it.
3. Biden was in good form tonight. I really enjoyed some of his humor.
4. Why is it that none of the candidates were willing to give specifics on what they were going to do to make their plans happen? The largest offenders here were Edwards and Clinton. The candidates who I felt actually gave specifics on what they would do were Biden and Obama. Of the others, the only thing that I know for sure is that Kucinich wants to impeach Bush. Movie at 11.
5. I’m really curious to know how Senator Clinton is able to say that the “middle-class” somehow makes more than $100,000 per annum. I think Obama thrashed her over that argument, and rightly so.
6. Bill Richardson had a few moments…but overall didn’t give me enough specifics. Some good sounding vision…but, meh.
7. Er…Dodd?
8. I want my libertarian candidate!