Thoughts on Presidents’ Day

th-28We live in a time of unprecedented partisanship, and animosity between factions. The thing that makes America great — the freedom to hold differing views and debate one another with honor and civility — is rapidly diminishing.

Case in point was a recent article in the newspaper about how the heat has been turned up on the discussion of the vaccination issue. So much so that online forums and private Facebook pages where mothers are used to sharing such topics as “finding a good nanny and the safety of raw milk,” are being increasingly closed to the topic of whether or not to vaccinate their children. Opposing feelings run so high that to even allow the topic to come up opens the forum to what can quickly become personal and hurtful. So to even bring the subject up is to get yourself banned from the site. In other words, they’re not going to allow the discussion because no one seems to know how to behave themselves in the face of differing opinions.

It sounds childish, but it’s as true in social contexts as it is in political and religious ones.

In the same newspaper on the same day was an article that spoke of a 70% gap in approval ratings for President Obama between Republicans and Democrats over his sixth year as president. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats approved of the job Obama was doing while only 9% of Republicans approved. The article also pointed that the same 70% gap existed in President Bush’s sixth year, only the other way around.

“In the last half-century, the only years that showed more polarization than Obama’s sixth year were his — and Bush’s — fourth and fifth years.” In other words, this has been going on for some time. The whole idea of respecting the office of the President of the United States of America regardless of party, and learning to work together for the good of the country, is a vanishing concept. And Christians have been among the worst offenders.

All of this is to indicate a cultural trend that we as followers of Christ need to avoid whenever possible. If our biggest concern is for people to know the saving power of Jesus Christ, then we want to avoid making enemies over social, political or even religious issues. We should be those filled with grace for those with differing opinions. Jesus told us to love our enemies. What good is it to love only those who agree with us; everyone does that. If we want to show that we are children of our heavenly Father, who causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, we will treat those who differ with us with the same love and respect we want for ourselves (Matthew 5:43-47). They have a right to their thoughts and beliefs just as we do. It’s only in the common support of those freedoms that we can have a reasonable and civil discussion. Let’s be known as those who can diffuse these volatile powder kegs, versus setting them off.th-31

Today is Presidents’ Day, honoring two of our great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. As we honor their memory, let’s also honor the office of the president and lend our support for President Obama, not because we agree with him, but because he is our president.

For more on this topic, click here to listen to our fascinating BlogTalkRadio interview with Os Guinness, author of The Global Public Square.

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6 Responses to Thoughts on Presidents’ Day

  1. And let us remember that Jesus is Lord over all authorities (Colossians 1:16) and His kingdom will crush all others (Daniel 2:44). Let us pray for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10) and all earthly kingdoms come under His everlasting dominion (Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13-14).

  2. As a youth and in my early career, both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays were celebrated as separate national holidays. All schools and many employers took both February 12th and February 22nd off out of respect for these two remarkable Presidents.
    Later, the holidays were combined into a singular President’s Day and designated to be on a Monday to allow for a three-day weekend and, officially, still to honor both of these men; obviously, there were political and economic considerations involved in the change but that’s not the point here.
    As years passed, apart from TV commercials and newspaper ads, Washington and Lincoln were basically relegated to a dusty back shelf and the holiday eventually focused more on all of our Presidents rather than just these two individuals – which, may be is as it should be.

    Both Washington and Lincoln would probably be the first to admit that they weren’t without their faults, and would probably be very uncomfortable knowing that they were singled out and even idolized (or ‘deified’) for many years prior to the single Presidents Day. They might have even balked at the notion of a day set aside to honor any mere mortal who, for a brief period, led this country to our present point in history.
    However, I think Washington and Lincoln might have felt that there should be a dutiful display of respect by America’s citizens in setting aside a day of recognition for the Office of President, not necessarily its occupants – but the Office itself and what it’s meant to stand for and symbolize.

    Without the Office of President, and its overly-burdensome demands, it would be impossible to speculate what our country or world would look like right now. Personally, I am given over to think that things in our hemisphere and across the entire planet would be much, much worse than they are had it not been for our Presidents (ALL of them) as well as our patriots.

    Unfortunately though, nowadays, many Americans look to our national Holiday’s solely as a reason to get those three-day weekends, or to take advantage of terrific savings on their new appliance, or to party hearty under the guise of celebrating our liberties and freedom.
    Presidents Day, too, has fallen into that same misguided category for many of our countrymen BUT with a little extra politicizing at play: A lot of present-day couch-historians – amazingly – believe this day is set aside to honor the current sitting Chief Executive – kind of like a Monarch’s birthday or Coronation day celebration!
    So, based upon their own political allegiance they’ll either emphatically promote or vehemently protest the mere elected mortal sitting in the Oval Office rather than recognize the value and honor of the Office of President itself – thereby disrespecting the Office due to their own convoluted ignorance or mind-set. They can’t seem – or maybe don’t want – to separate the Office from the man or vice-versa.

    Yes, political haranguing has been a part of our national ‘dialogue’ since long before April 30, 1789 – and president-bashing not too long afterwards (and ever since) – so it’s nothing new; but the sad fact that so many followers of Christ – and other normally-docile faiths – get so caught-up and rabidly involved with the mud-slinging, stone-throwing, and outright hatred is very disturbing.
    If we – I’m specifically addressing Christians here – really want to see Christ glorified and positive change made in our spheres of influence – and more than just politically, I might add – it would do us well to remember the words of of our 16th President: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

    When it comes to our history, our heritage, our celebrations, and our future:
    it is incumbent upon each of us individually, whether American or other nationality, to know the true reasons why we celebrate what we celebrate when we celebrate (relate to Exodus 12:26).
    And what better time to do that research than on the day set aside for such a remembrance and learning opportunity?

    I suspect George and Abe would also agree with John’s exhortation above – I most certainly do:
    “… let’s also honor the Office of the president and lend our support for President Obama, not because we agree with him, but because he is our president.”

    Some parting words, now, from two of our most beloved, cherished, and respected Presidents:

    “… my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.” – George Washington (April 1, 1789)

    “The Presidency, even to the most experienced politicians, is no bed of roses; and General [Zachary] Taylor like others, found thorns within it. No human being can fill that station and escape censure.” – Abraham Lincoln (July 25,1850)

    • jwfisch says:

      Wonderfully done, Bob. I hope many take the time to read this. You certainly put some time into writing it and I appreciate it. I too remember two distinct holidays and drawing pictures of cherry trees and axes and things like that. Thank you for these excellent thoughts. (Part 1 came today.)

  3. TimC says:

    I must admit that I am very human and the best that I can do is: if I can’t say something supportive, then it’s better to keep my mouth shut. But I also must admit that all too often I fail at that. It’s really hard to shut up when I see things that I can’t support. Sometimes I have just have to walk away.

  4. David Amster says:

    Historically the position has always been to show respect for the Office of the President even if one cannot support the president. But, when the president himself does not respect the Office, it is very sad. Bret Stephens has written an insightful piece in the February 17 WSJ titled “President BuzzFeed” which I encourage you read.

    While it is, at times, very challenging, it is possible to show respect for an individual while still vigorously challenging his/her views and actions. For the sake of the Republic, we must always do this regardless of who is sitting in The White House.

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