“In the United States the word ‘Pilgrims’ usually refers to the European settlers of New England, who celebrated the ‘First Thanksgiving’ with the Native Americans in 1621,” says one Internet source. I’m not talking about those “Pilgrims.” The same source also says: “A pilgrim is one who undertakes a pilgrimage, literally ‘far afield.’ This is traditionally a visit to a place of some religious or historic significance; often a considerable distance is traveled. Examples include a Muslim visiting Mecca or a Christian or Jew visiting Jerusalem.” No, I’m not talking about religious pilgrims either. I’m talking about someone who has undertaken a pilgrimage of sorts, “far afield” of where he’s been, or where anyone like him has gone before.
Yes, I’m talking about the political pilgrimage of one Barack Obama. But the trek is not without its critics. Both Obama and his wife, Michelle (the next First Lady?), have been accused of not being ‘patriotic enough,’ or, “insufficiently patriotic”—whatever that means. In fact, how is “patriotism” defined? How is it “described”? There is a difference betwixt the two. A definition is supposed to be objective. A description smacks of subjectivity. But, more about patriotism in a moment.
Several weeks ago my column carried the title, “Jesus Christ and Worldly Politics.” In it I showed that, were he here today, Jesus Christ would not be involved in the political process of any country. He abstained from worldly politics then. He’d abstain from worldly politics now. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee concurred when he said: ‘Jesus was too smart to run for office.’ But, while not engaging the political apparatus of the time, did Jesus and his disciples at least discuss politics? (The Greek word for “city” is “polis,” pronounced just like “police,” from which we get the English words “police,” “policy,” and “political”; all obviously having to do with city government.)
In short, political abstinence did not preclude Jesus and his disciples from discussing politics; being politically astute; or even making certain critical observations of a political nature. Long before Muhammad Ali screamed that he was “The Greatest,” Jesus apostle’s argued among themselves as to who was most deserving of that title. Knowing this, Jesus displayed his fascinating knowledge of the internal political workings of foreign governments: “The kings of the non-Jewish people rule over them, and those who have authority over others [politicians] like to be called ‘friends of the people.’ But you must not be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the leader should be like the servant.” (Luke 22:24-26; New Century Version)
Neither did he shun partisans who tried to trip him up: “They sent some of their own followers and some people from the group called Herodians. [Footnote reads: “Herodians [were] a political group that followed Herod and his family.”] They said…’Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’” (Matt. 22:16, 17; New Century Version) Of course, Jesus’ brilliant answer was: ‘Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.’ (Matt. 22:21, 22; See also Acts 5:29) They were ill-equipped to respond to this devastating logic.
In assessing all that’s involved in becoming a disciple of Christ, Jesus used the example of an adept military tactician who used ambassadors to sue for peace, thereby betraying His knowledge of war strategies. (Luke 14:25-33) The apostle Paul, in taking a cue from Jesus, compared the undistracted Christian life to the intense dedication of a Roman soldier. Several Bible translations illustrate the point: “Soldiers on duty don’t work at outside jobs. They try only to please their commanding officer” (2 Tim 2:4; Contemporary English Version); “To please the recruiter, no one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of everyday life” (2 Tim 2:4; Holman Christian Standard Bible); “A soldier does not take part in things that don’t have anything to do with the army. He wants to please his commanding officer.” (2 Tim 2:4; New International Reader’s Version); and finally, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs; rather, they try to please their commanding officer.” (2 Tim 2:4; Today New International Version) Obviously, it was not taboo for first-century Christians to discuss military strategies and duties of soldiers.
Even the nuances of politics were familiar to Christians; and physician Luke, who was also a Christian historian, had no problem writing about such things. In the book of Acts (Acts 1:1-3), he records that an unscrupulous politicians was hoping for “a bribe” from Paul (Acts 24:24-26; NIV); and that another politician was “playing up” to his constituents while “ignoring justice” in the process (Acts 24:27; The Message). Luke noted that Paul respectfully acknowledged that one Roman politician was “an expert” in the socio-political affairs of the Jews. (Acts 26:2, 3; NASB; NWT) And Luke showed his own awareness of “Roman law” or “Roman procedure.” (Acts 25:16; New Living Translation; New Life Version; NWT) But what about Obama?
Well, whether he has a Christian and/or a Muslim heritage, his “patriotism” has been assailed. Regarding not wearing an American flag lapel pin, Obama lashed back at Republicans: “A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans’ benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary? That is a debate I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism.”
Michelle Obama caught hell when she said: “For the first time in my adult lifetime I’m really proud of my country.” Sure, the Obamas said that “she simply misspoke.” He explained: “What she was referring to was [that] this was the first time she has been proud of politics in America. That’s true of a lot of people who have been cynical and disenchanted. And she’s spoken about how she has been cynical about American politics for a very long time, but she’s proud of how people are participating and getting involved in ways that they haven’t in a very long time.”
White republicans aren’t the only ones disagreeing with Obama’s choices these days. Tavis Smiley made news because of ‘disagreeing’ with Obama. Roundly criticized by Black Obama supporters, many see Smiley as a proud man who because of his noteworthy accomplishments entertains megalomaniacal fantasies of omnipotence.
Whether it’s Obama or Osama, Al Qaeda or Al Sharpton, Black people seem to get the short end of the stick as some see it. Patriotism, what’s that? America, what’s that? Many will answer, “America: ‘The Land of the freed slave, and former home of the Indian Brave.’” As for me, I leave it to people smarter than me to figure it all out. Peace to you all…Amen.
Dr. Firpo Carr n can be reached at 800.501.2713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.