Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's Debatable

Last night, I watched 90% of the presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.  In my estimation, Romney was the clear winner by a large margin.  Most of the spin reading I've done this morning confirms my observations, but observations are just that: observations.  Sometimes observations are not reality because we miss the big picture and see only a small part.  It is to that bigger picture that I wish to turn now as I reflect upon why it seemed Romney did so well and President Obama so poorly.

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War:

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

Four years ago, then Senator Obama had the opportunity to attack John McCain in the field.  McCain was seen as a Washington D.C. insider who was part of a corrupt system that had led to the great recession of 2008-2009.  People were crushed by high gas prices, a declining housing industry, and a skyrocketing unemployment rate.  They were also frustrated by ongoing wars and a lot of negativity flowing between a Republican President and a Democrat Congress.  Folks were looking for change.  They were looking for a positive boost in the midst of a lot of darkness and negativity.  Senator Obama's rhetoric offered both.  The situation made it very easy for him to attack and attack and attack.  In not so many words he also said, "Elect me, and things will be different!"  It was almost too easy.

Now, things are the same, but different.  The economy is rolling very slowly.  Few people have really seen anything change.  Most are still concerned about their jobs.  Income has declined.  Gas prices are high.  The negativity in Washington D.C. hasn't decreased.  Both sides continually snipe at each other and cast blame.  Several pieces of legislation have been passed in the President's four years, and while some contain some much needed reforms and laws, there's plenty of negative stuff that's been included in those laws as well.  Folks are still looking for hope.  They are still looking for change, but now President Obama isn't in the field attacking.  Circumstances have changed for him in that he is now the insider and must defend what he has and hasn't done in the past four years.  In a figurative, but very real way, he is besieged in a walled city.  In the debate last night, he was very much on the defensive.  And unless you are facing a very superior opponent, it is much better to attack than defend.

In my opinion, that's exactly what happened last night in the debate.  Romney was on the attack this time, and the President had a tough time trying to defend.  This is why, as many pundits either decried or reveled in, he seemed detached, bored, smirky, and fidgety.  This is why, I believe he lost.  I'm not sure he realized his best defense is a good offense--at least in this case.

Now for some "churchy" stuff.  I would contend that there are many who work to put the Church on the defensive.  They are quick to point out all the faults and failings of the Church and its failures to live up to its promises and the things the Lord calls it to do and be.  They are quick to dismiss faith as irrelevant compared to science and reason.  They are quick to point out the extremists in the Church and link all Christians to the few.

And very few Christians today are able to defend, weather, and deal with such attacks.  Too many have left behind or haven't been exposed to authors like C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, Dallas Willard, Richard John Neuhaus, et. al.  They do not have good answers to critiques and criticisms.

Neither do they have a good "offense" or "attack" strategy.  It almost seems wrong to say such a thing given Jesus' teachings of turn the other cheek, praying for one's enemies and blessing those who persecute you; yet, I stand by the comment.  I believe we must factor in strategy and debate into our commission to "make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I (Jesus) have commanded you."  (Matthew 28)  Our calling is a calling of engagement, not to sit behind wall cities (or behind the four walls of our church buildings).  Yet, our engagement is not one of "attack" to conquer.  Our "attack" is through service, humility, and conviction that we have the Truth--Truth centered in a man who was willing to die for even His enemies.  And when we remember this, perhaps were not really attacking but standing firm on the promises of God.

Does such a thing work?  It has in the past.

Will it work today?

It's debatable.  But I'm prepared to go at it.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

You must see by now that you are in an impossible position. You complain about Christians today who cannot defend the "Truth." Then you list some authors -- Protestant and Catholic.

You are the one who does not have good answers! (I say this with a :-) friendly smile.)

You do not define "Church" -- except to say that it has to do with service. Let me remind you that Adolph Hitler, at first, gave great service to the Germans. The trains ran on time.

The Lutheran Magazine this month has an absolutely insane feature article about gay marriage. I'll send you the link. This is not "extremism" -- this is ELCA policy.

There is a photo on the ELCA website of some Chinese women (the ELCA has no churches in China). The article is about helping the Protestant effort. (I guess the ELCA sees these women as future Lutheran Priests.) Point is: What do non-Christians think when they hear Protestant vs. Catholic??? You guessed it. After 500 years of miserable division, it is high time for "Martin Luther's Great Halloween Night Adventure" to come to an end.

Where do you stand?