Throughout the 20th century it has been popular – especially among more theologically liberal Protestant denominations – to deny that Jesus was actually divine, but to agree that he obviously was a good man who presented excellent moral teaching: e.g., alms for the poor; render unto Caesar; judge not; love one another; etc. Some adherents of other religions have averred something along the same lines, although there is not monolithic agreement within any of the major world religions that this characterization of Jesus is correct. Muslims used to say that Jesus appeared to be the only perfect man who ever lived – but lately, not so much. People who lack knowledge of the New Testament constitute most of those who say Jesus was just a good man. Those who know the Christian Scriptures in greater depth tend not to say this.
C. S. Lewis – a former agnostic who became one of the 20th century’s greatest Christian apologists – is famous for his many insights into Christianity. One of the most brilliant of these was his demolition of the claim that Jesus was “just a good man.” He wrote:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse.
“You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
In other words (if any clarification is needed), Jesus was God or a lunatic or a very bad man. But he was not simply a “good man” who made some absurd claims about himself that we can delicately ignore.
I thought of this fairly profound theological debate recently when I reflected upon the blazing career of Barak Obama. (Relax, I don’t think he’s either a new Messiah or the Anti-Christ, but I think it is important for us to describe him correctly.)
Mr. Obama came seemingly from nowhere to take the country by storm in just a few short years. I recall listening to a radio report, just after the elections of November 2004, when this virtual unknown had just dazzled the Media on his way to winning a U. S. Senate seat. The reporters were discussing the possibility that the brilliant, articulate new senator might have presidential ambitions. As I recall the conversation, one reporter thought it was a little early, since Mr. Obama hadn’t actually done anything yet. Another thought people would believe that he could do the job because he looked like he could do the job. Ultimately, the election of 2008 confirmed the correctness of the latter view.
The wild adulation after President Obama’s election had a messianic feel. I heard grown women in the grocery store gushing, “…he’s just wonderful – so well-spoken and well-dressed, such a beautiful family,” etc. Young people expected him to change the country. It wasn’t clear exactly how he would change it. But who cared? Whatever the change turned out to be, they seemed to believe that it would help the country and would be good and advantageous to them, personally. Schoolchildren sang “hymns” to their new president, in a rap cadence. (“Ba-rack Hus-sein – O-ba-ma/mmm! mmm! mmm!/He said that all must lend a hand/To make this country strong again/ mmm! mmm! mmm!”)
Mainstream Media reporters and pundits were giddy with anticipation over the most “transformative” presidency in American history. The M-word (messiah) was on many lips; even the G-word: Newsweek Editor Evan Thomas said, “…in a way, Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God.” It was an amazing time to be an American. Verily, it seemed too bad that the Inauguration couldn’t have been held on Easter Day to confirm the messianic story.
Nearly a year ago, old college friends scolded me for my dour predictions of what Obama’s “hope and change” would bring to the country. (The One had just stiffed the GM bondholders, so I was a little sensitive about where he was heading.) The friends said I just needed “to give him a chance” – that there was more than one way to look at these things. (Translation: it wasn’t their ox that had been gored.) They huffed back to their state of residence – a bastion of liberalism that went overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama.
What a difference a year makes. I don’t know what those college friends think about Mr. Obama’s first year in office, but it’s pretty clear that a majority of voters is under-whelmed. Whatever they hoped Mr. Obama’s “change” would be, what he has produced is definitely not it. I hear 30- and 40-somethings calling in to local talk-radio shows to say, “Well, sure, I voted for him, but I never thought he would do stuff like this…” – and variations on the theme. People out of work for months are scratching their heads and saying, “What the heck is he doing? Who cares about @#$&*% health-care reform when there’s no work?” (Apologies to Joe Biden – this is a family publication.) Others are simply “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”
Following passage of the Health-care Reform bill, Democratic pols have been soiling their britches and squealing about hateful phone calls from constituents. (“They said mean things. Don’t they know who I am?”) Instead of a happy face when he signed his precious Health-care Reform bill, Mr. Obama acted like he had a bad case of hemorrhoids. Federal agencies are on high alert for possible “domestic terrorism” from pants-suit-wearing housewives and 80-year-old grandmas. (Watch out for those knitting-needles.)
Many true believers wonder when Mr. Obama will start being truly “transformative” – evidently not comprehending that he already is. Some seem to think that his actions so far have only been gestures to his far-left political base – or maybe they’re just honest mistakes. (Don’t we all make mistakes?)
In other words, he can’t really mean all those things he has said about evil corporations, greedy insurance companies, and unprincipled doctors unnecessarily yanking out tonsils and hacking off limbs so they can make more money. He can’t seriously be planning to raise taxes while unemployment is bumping 10%. Surely he’s a good (if somewhat flawed) man who just wants to help the country. Yes, he looks a lot like a socialist, but he can’t really be one. Can he?
Jesus claimed he was God, so by C. S. Lewis’s analysis either he was God or he had to be (pick one): nuts or self-deluded or seriously evil. Just so, we’re coming round to the same basic choices about President Obama. He can’t be just a good man who has made some mistakes – OK, some really big mistakes. (He is obviously a smart guy; nobody makes that many “mistakes.”)
So with “good man” crossed off, what are we left with? That he’s crazy or self-deluded or evil; or he’s who he claims to be. Call me old-fashioned, but I won’t call someone “evil” unless he’s in Stalin’s league. (The Bible says only God can see the heart, so I’ll leave this call to Him.) That leaves crazy, self-deluded, or true socialist as the other possible labels for our young president. What say ye?
I admit that this wasn’t an easy choice for me. After all, Mr. Obama has done some things that looked pretty crazy. A year of pushing legislation that will bring 1/6th of the nation’s economy under federal control – while 10% of our work-force stands idle – looked insane to me and many others. He got his health-care bill, but it might by a pyrrhic victory, dooming his party to a crushing defeat in November. Assuring Dems that it’s worth sacrificing their careers to get health-care reform does not seem sane.
Also, I harbor a nagging fear that the man might be seriously self-deluded about his personal ability to change the country and its politics. This isn’t quite the same as being crazy – more like having a short circuit in your wiring. The Greeks called it “hubris.” It is not a valuable trait in a leader.
Ultimately, I had to conclude that Mr. Obama is exactly what he looks like and what he has said he is – albeit, in only a few unguarded instances, like his unscripted conversation with Joe the Plumber in the 2008 campaign. Mr. Obama is a true socialist who believes government bureaucrats can manage the country’s economy and the health and education of its people better than the people can. He believes that the individual cannot really make it without “government help” (a 20th century oxymoron as ever was). He believes the playing field must be leveled to achieve “social justice” – a construct wherein winners in the Great Lottery of Life subsidize losers. These beliefs have far-reaching consequences, as we are now finding out. Voters who thought Mr. Obama was just posturing for his far-left base, but never thought he would go this far, have had their five-o’clock surprise. More will follow. (Enjoy!)
Actually, I don’t mean to poke fun at voters who got snookered. We all make mistakes. As my old dad liked to say, the trick is to learn from mistakes and not repeat them. Millions of voters made a lulu of a miscalculation in November ’08. Now they have buyer’s remorse, but their timing is poor. Some things can be corrected in November, but we’ll still have The Obamster at the helm. We shall need a will of steel to turn the Titanic. If we don’t, we’re all going down – whether we have universal health-care or not.
And just for future reference – when the next buff, silver-tongued dude wearing a $2000 suit comes along talking about “social justice” and “change,” let’s try to remember the lessons Obama has taught us. If we’ve learned from his presidency, it won’t have been a total waste.
Maybe next time we won’t have to go through all the “fun” before we grasp what is being promised. As Ronald Reagan liked to say: “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…” Well, you know the rest.
Special note: I ask my readers who are so inclined to offer prayers for the health and full recovery of our Herald Editor, Allan Dean. Allan has undergone heart-bypass surgery in recent weeks, bringing great concern to all who know and love him. An 80% arterial blockage was discovered in the nick of time. Bless the Lord for His mercy. Please pray for his wife, Jacque, and their son, Cranston, also. These are very special people who have enriched the lives of many. (WZ)