And the award for the longest blogging distance traveled, goes to David A. French:
Hello all, and greetings from Diyala Province. I sent Nancy this email because I sometimes have blogging withdrawal symptoms. On most days, I have internet and email access and can keep up with at least the larger developments in the political world. There’s a couple of thoughts I wanted to leave with you.
First, I saw that one of Governor Romney’s prominent lawyer-supporters, Pepperdine law professor (and former Reagan and first Bush administration official) Douglas Kmiec, has actually endorsed Obama. Kmiec is a respected advocate for religious liberty, the rights of the unborn, and judicial restraint. Interestingly, he does not support Obama because Obama actually agrees with him within his areas of expertise. In fact, he acknowledges that he and Obama have profound differences. So why take Obama over McCain? It seems that he agrees more with Obama’s position on the war. Well . . . This makes Professor Kmiec’s endorsement a complete and total non-event. If Professor Kmiec had any special insight on Obama’s thinking within the Professor’s areas of expertise, I would have been at least interested in what he had to say. I daresay, however, that even the Professor would acknowledge that he has no particular expertise or insight on Iraq over and above any other well-informed citizen. He’s entitled to his opinion, certainly, but when Pepperdine Law Professors opine on the proper policy course for this war, I tend not to think their views should be given any extra weight. I listen carefully when Professor Kmiec speaks about constitutional law. The man knows what he’s talking about. As for his thoughts on this war? I’m not sure that I am particularly interested, and I’m not sure that anyone else should be, either.
Which leads me to another point. In our culture, we have a temptation to believe that simply because someone attains prominence in one area, that they are worth listening to in others. On the left, we’ve got a spate of entertainers who seem to think that there special gifts in acting, singing, musicianship, etc. also give them particular insight into geopolitics, climate systems, etc. On the right, we do much the same thing with our own “celebrities,” small and great. While it is certainly true that through prolonged study and involvement that some celebrities can attain real knowledge in other areas (no one doubts that Bono has put in real work on African issues, for example, and on the right, Dr. Dobson has invested huge amounts of energy into studying and understanding how legal and cultural changes impact our families). Such time investments, however, are the exception, not the rule. I’m sure that Professor Kmiec has put in more time than the average person thinking about the Iraq War. Has he put in more time than me? I doubt it.
As a blogger, this email is definitely the pot calling the kettle black. So in the interests of full disclosure, let me state the following. When it comes to the First Amendment, I know considerably more than most. I also have a lot of expertise in the video game World of Warcraft. Aside from that, I’m a guy who reads a lot, likes to talk even more, and whose ideas should be considered persuasive only if they are logical and persuasive entirely on their own merits. The phrase, “David French says . . .” should only cause a mild turn of the ear when dealing with the First Amendment or the Greatest Computer Game Ever Created. Aside from those two areas, my education and background don’t give me any additional insight over and above any other reasonably well-informed individual. (The sharp-eyed reader might notice that I did not include the War in Iraq as one of my areas of expertise. To be honest, I feel like I know less than I did when I left. And it is so hard to judge a situation without the benefit of some distance and perspective. I have to think more and pray more about this experience before I give any conclusions . . . Right now, in the immediate aftermath of losing friends, my feelings are just too raw).
Next, I find the entire Pastor Wright controversy absolutely fascinating. I don’t think Obama believes the anti-white things that Pastor Wright teaches. I honestly believe — based on the available evidence — that Barack Obama is a good and decent man, a genuine believer in Jesus Christ. He also happens to be wrong on virtually every issue that matters to me. I think Ross Douthat has it right, Obama is trying to be a Democratic Reagan. I don’t want a Democratic Reagan.
Here’s where I’m going to disagree with many of my conservative friends about Obama and Wright: It is not the case that if Obama profoundly disagrees with his pastor on these political issues (which I think Obama does, and nothing from Obama’s record suggests that he is a disciple of Wright’s extremist political views), that he should necessarily leave the church. We are not consumers when we look for churches. We are servants of God who should go to church where God wants us to go. And God may put us in a church with an extremist pastor, or a church with an incompetent pastor, or a church with a philandering pastor. He may put us there for any number of reasons . . . Because a church is more than just a collection of a pastor’s disciples.
When conservatives criticized Obama’s comparison of his pastor to his grandmother (because, you know, “you can choose your pastor but not your family”), they were actually more wrong than he was. We should not be choosing our churches. We should be seeking God’s guidance and follow his leading as best we know how. And the Body of Christ represents a bond that is actually tighter than the family bond. Jesus was quite clear about that.
Did Obama join that church because he felt God’s clear and unmistakable call? Only Obama and God know that. But that should be the basis upon which we choose our church, and we Christians should work hard to cleanse the poisonous consumerist (and pastor-focused) mentality that plagues modern evangelicalism. Why on earth should we be encouraging the idea that we sit in our pews as judges of the church leadership, ready — even eager — to stand up and walk out when we’re offended?
I think Pastor Wright is about as wrong as a person can be about the Middle East, about the AIDS, about 9/11, about . . . Well, you name the political topic. Does that mean that Obama should be judged as less fit for the presidency in the absence of any evidence that he shares Wright’s views simply because he is a member of Wright’s church? I think not. Let’s make our decision based on the fullness of Obama’s record in office and all that we know about his personal integrity (which seems to be formidable). On that basis, I can never support him.
But that is because I think he’s a good man who’s wrong on the issues. Not because of his pastor.
Finally, can I just say how sick to death I am of reading about people being so so so “outraged” over the words exchanged during this political season. It’s almost as if people need a sense of righteous indignation before they can even get out of bed and start to work. In my own life, I’ve been repenting of the number of times I myself have been “outraged” by the political, cultural, and religious comments of my fellow citizens. I may disagree with them, and I may believe — to the marrow of my being — that their ideas are wrong and have terrible consequences for our culture, but I can work against those ideas (and for my own) with a more charitable spirit.
As for things that truly are “outrageous” . . . You should see some of the things that al Qaeda does.