And Coming...

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden" is an allegory for children of all ages, written and illustrated by Ellen Gillette. Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at

Friday, February 15, 2013

Respect for Others, Including the President

The morning after President Obama gave his State of the Union address, I posted this on my Facebook page:

Seeing a lot of anti-president posts this morning. President Obama isn't the king - he presents policy to us, he doesn't singlehandedly make it. He'll be gone in four years. We're told to pray for those in authority over us. I'm thinking that THANKING God for our president will be more effective than focusing on everything one doesn't agree with. I know we all have a need to vent when we are angry, and I understand being angry about many of the issues in America today. But. How will we teach our children and grandchildren to respect us, teachers, law enforcement, employers, etc. if we do not show respect for those in authority over us? The Bible tells us that GOD raises up leaders and that he is at work, always always always for the good of his people. Do we trust that or not? I guess I needed to vent a little too!

A friend shared it on HIS page, with some edits. His share generated lots of comments. My original post generated lots of comments. Some were in agreement, some weren't. One in particular called into question the character of another man based on his support of the president. I know this man, better than I know his critic, and he is a committed Christian who just happens to disagree with me on a lot of political issues. His response was this:

No president is perfect. And I certainly have my own problems with some of this president's policies. This thread is not about agreeing or disagreeing wholeheartedly with the man, it's about doing so with respect. And with all due respect to you, judging me the way you just did — simply because I defended our president against disrespect — is part of the problem. You don't know ONE THING about me, yet you pile on all sorts of assumptions. Civilized discourse is dying. I hope it can be revived, or I don't see much hope for us.

Civilized discourse. What a novel idea. It reminded me of debate - I had to take a side with which I didn't agree for a debate exercise in's challenging. Also effective. We need to know how to present information clearly and accurately, and stand up for the things in which we believe strongly. We also need to be able to listen to others and keep an open mind, at times.

Here's what wikipedia says about debate:

Debate is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than deductive reasoning, which only examines whether a conclusion is a consequence of premises, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case, or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion. Though logical consistency, factual accuracy and some degree of emotional appeal to the audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting a superior "context" and/or framework of the issue, which is far more subtle and strategic. The outcome of a debate depends upon consensus or some formal way of reaching a resolution, rather than the objective facts as such. In a formal debating contest, there are rules for participants to discuss and decide on differences, within a framework defining how they will interact.

I'm 55, and I regularly write guest opinion columns for the newspaper, so I'm not likely to get my knickers in a twist if someone disagrees with something I say. I was tempted to delete the entire thread when my friend was criticized so strongly, however, but he assured me that he's gotten much, much worse. 

And, to be honest, he's able to dish it out -- I've gotten it from him, on occasion! He has no problem receiving criticism, but he does wish people could share their views in a respectful, lively setting. 

Proverbs 27:17 says that " As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (New International Version). If you share your views with me, it may solidify my own differing viewpoint all the more. Or it may plant a new thought -- why DO I disagree with this? Is it valid? Am I operating solely on emotion, or does my view of the issue reflect facts. Even more importantly, does it reflect truth? (Truth and facts are often very different.) Either way, our ability to hear what others are saying and be willing to acknowledge that we may not have all the answers is so important!

As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that in the past I was much more of a black-and-white person. I saw the absolutes so clearly, and there was a time when that's about ALL I saw. Some would say I've compromised, grown weak, gotten waffley. Even...gasp...more liberal. I choose to think of it as learning that I am not God. That you are not God. That my idea of God is extremely limited, as is yours. That I'm more comfortable thinking maybe it's better to err on the side of tolerance and inclusion than the alternative.

I was talking to a friend recently about codependency. She's learning, as I am learning, that it's okay to say no. It's okay not to be the glue that holds it all together. It's okay to take care of ME, so that I'm better able to help others (maybe) but mostly, so that I'm able to maintain the necessary degree of emotional, physical, and spiritual equilibrium within myself.

She commented that much of what she's hearing contradicts the Bible. I disagreed. I think it contradicts what we have interpreted. Yes, we are to serve others. Submit, honor, defer, etc. But Jesus' bottom line is "Love your neighbor as yourself." Most of us try to love everyone else because we don't like ourselves and think we'll feel better if we make THEM happy. But we can't, and we don't, and they resent us trying.

What does that have to do with political debate? Just that two Christians can disagree on any issue and still be Christian in their belief. There are some people who have been taught that anyone who commits suicide goes to hell, because a sin has been committed without time to ask forgiveness. I think that's wrong, and a horrible burden to place on the shoulders of those who have died in that manner. Salvation isn't based on how we die, but on what we believe.

The same could be said of many things some of us spend so much time and energy arguing over. Yes, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) because he loves US and wants us to be loved, fulfilled, at peace. That doesn't mean that divorce is always wrong. In some situations, it is the only path TO love, fulfillment and peace. Salvation doesn't depend on who you're married to, either, or even with whom you're sleeping.

There are times, certainly, for stubborn, non-wavering insistence. Jesus comes to mind. If you try to convince me that Jesus didn't exist, or he isn't God, or that he was just a good teacher, you're going to get an earful. On just about anything else, however, I'm willing to say that while I THINK this or that, and I BELIEVE this or that at this point in time, I may or may not be 100 percent correct. 

Back to President Obama: he's not the king. He's not a Hitler or Amin or Stalin. He's not perfect, either. His cabinet isn't perfect. The whole dang government isn't perfect. Nor is the citizenry. But we still have the "more perfect" union, the most successful experiment in democracy, and a nation that --while perhaps no longer even wanting to be known as a "Christian" nation -- is at least Christianized. There remains a strong Judeo-Christian influence at work, no matter where you go within our country. In the schools, in the marketplace, in government, there is still an underlying adherence to basic principles of hard work, decency, honesty, justice. That isn't what we always get, but we all know that those things are Best. That can't be said of everywhere on the planet.

And I believe that when the Bible says that God raises up leaders and uses all things for his glory, that it's true. I may not understand it. I may have voted for someone else. I may be looking forward to the 2016 election. I may despise many of the policies that this country operates by. But I believe that God's purposes cannot be thwarted by a simple election. I believe that he will use anyone...even President Obama....even me!...for his purposes and for his glory, and that no one...not even President Obama...not even me! powerful enough to mess things up.

That doesn't mean things can't get worse or that they won't get worse. It just means that God's got it all under control. And in the meantime, I think we can talk about our differences in beliefs, politics, issues, fashion, choices, favorite movies and music, whatever, with a lot more respect and sense of humor than I saw this week on Facebook.

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2013