Good afternoon dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. I was interested in listening to President Obama who gave his farewell address this week. He spoke from a convention center in Chicago, less than four miles from where he gave his 2008 victory speech. Listening to his address on U-Tube, I was struck by two contrasting themes.
One: Mr Obama clearly wanted to claim success for his last eight years in office. I suspect every president leaving office wants to do the same. It is a natural way to consolidate gains & celebrate progress. At the end of his speech, he repeated the familiar "Yes we can!" from his 2008 presidential campaign, followed by "Yes we did!"
Two: The president wanted to cast his vision forward, clearly setting the stage for confrontations with the Trump administration & its competing agenda. He cited a laundry list of contentious issues, from climate change to discrimination to health care, & made it clear he is not going to fade from view. His party has no clear leader & could face even more congressional losses in 2018. It seemed to me Mr. Obama was not only framing his administration now ending, but also making a campaign speech for his future new beginning.
Accordingly, I have been thinking about his farewell speech & more specifically, the right spirit in which to respond. Consider a lesson from the recent election. In the current edition of Newsweek, Michael Wolff notes1 the establishment media was so surprised by the Trump success because they were so out of touch with Trump's America. Their alignment with liberal values & cultural elites made it difficult for them to see other worldviews coherently or objectively.
Those of us who embrace fundamental values must be careful not to do the same. For instance, I know pro-choice supporters who are personally opposed to abortion but believe the choice should be with the mother rather than the government. However, I feel need to understand their position before I can persuade them to change it. Denigrating them as "baby killers" is I think offensive without any appreciation of their position.
We can be "culture warriors" or we can be “cultural missionaries”, but we cannot be both. There are times when we must defend our position, as is well documented elsewhere 2. There are also times when we should build relational bridges over which to lead people our way of thinking 3. Finally, by engaging in gracious conversation can led to the conversion of many to your way of thinking 4.
As I reflect today on the farewell address from President Obama, I do so in a way of respect, both to his office 5, & his person 6. Let us stand for truth, but let us do so in love. Let us value the people we influence more than the debates we win 7.
Goodness, what valuable lessons these leaders can teach us my friends. Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again. I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes for your week ahead.
2 1 Peter 3:15
3 Matthew 23
4 John 4
5 Romans 13:1
6 2 Timothy 2:24