By Norman Jameson
When I was young, the mantra parents and teachers voiced to encourage students that anything was possible with enough work and focus on the task at hand was to say, “You could grow up to be president.”
To be president was the highest possible office for which to aim. Achieving that office would accord the holder instant and universal respect. We all knew the president held the best interests of the nation at heart and that we, as school children, were important to the nation — and that from our ranks would one day rise the person to take his place.
Each of us was encouraged to believe, “It could be me.”
It is natural for our president to hold such a position of respect. I don’t normally write about secular politics in my editorial space for several reasons, including the conviction that secular politics simply are not as important as the everyday labors of Christians who are loving their neighbors toward faith in Christ.
But I’ve been so discouraged the past couple weeks at the awful, divisive, hateful rhetoric about the president in the public forum that I cannot in good conscience ignore it — especially because much of the vilification comes from those who justify their mean, negative, divisive rhetoric by claiming they are merely vilifying the president in defense of their “Christian” beliefs.
But even Al Mohler, the very conservative president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in response to President Obama’s Sept. 8 speech to students, “Conservatives must avoid jumping on every conspiracy theory and labeling every action by the Obama administration as sinister or socialist.”
The president encouraged students to stay in school, set personal goals and make a difference in society. Conspiracy theorists took the simple — and not unique, since two recent Republican presidents also addressed nationwide groups of schoolchildren — fact that the president was going to speak directly to students to incite fears of him having sinister intentions.
There was some controversy over the study guide administration officials put together to recommend to school districts and teachers, intended to help students understand what they had heard. Such a guide is good teaching process. But some paranoids think there is something sinister about the study guide asking students to write letters “about what they can do to help the president.”
There is nothing sinister about helping the president reach the goals he outlined in his address, because his goal was that students work hard to achieve success in their lives. A student helping the president reach his goal is helping himself or herself. What’s socialist about that?
I’ve never seen such an anxious, uneasy populace during my lifetime. And it seems those most frightened are those who claim the name that “casts out all fear.”
There are sects who believe Christians must use whatever means necessary to gain control of the “seven mountains of culture” that loom over any society so we have the financial means and political influence to dominate the culture. Some even claim the president is the Antichrist. And reporting in recent years has cast light on the longtime existence of a “family” of behind-the-scenes influencers in Washington who manipulate the money, the agenda and yes, your opinion, believing that any means justifies the end of a “Christian society.”
Whose name do we bear? What does Christ ask of us? The culture into which Jesus was born was dramatically different from the life he proposed for his followers. Yet he emphasized the personal, spiritual life they were to lead as followers of his, not how they were to band together to change and control the elements of their culture.
I’m reminded of the wizard in the land of Oz, revealed when Dorothy and her traveling companions finally pushed their way into the chamber from which the balloon-headed Oz ruled the Emerald City with much bluster, hissing air and smoke. They discovered that image was simply a front, an elaborate and amplified alter-ego manipulated by a frustrated old man in a closet, pulling levers and making big noises through a microphone.
When that man saw that his charade was exposed, he said into the microphone, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
If we as Christians operate in the public forum with the bluster of Oz on one hand but exemplifying his weak, fearful frustration on the other, those in the life arena where we seek eternal influence will have every right to say about us, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”