In case you've somehow missed it, S.C. Representative Joe Wilson, obviously a Republican, heckled President Barack Obama during his health care speech the other night, loudly shouting "You lie!" while the president spoke. He has since apologized, and Obama has accepted his apology. (Of course, all this makes Obama look better, so it was in his best interest to take the high road-just a little aside there.)
I believe Joe Wilson's conduct illustrated an ongoing issue for Conservatives, one that was present during Clinton's presidency but has been pushed to new heights during the current administration. I am referring to something I call the Respect Dilemma.
Very simply, what does it mean to express respect for someone who constantly acts in despicable ways? Where is the line, and how far is too far to go? Frankly, I fully agree with Joe Wilson. I believe President Barack Obama is a liar and a lot of other things that would sound equally pejorative on the floor of Congress. The question is, where is the overlap between telling it like it is and giving proper respect, and can one cancel out the other?
For Christians, I believe this is a valid question.
We serve a Lord who, though He was a common carpenter's son, called the religious and political leaders of His day "whitewashed tombs" and whose anointed cousin called them a "brood of vipers" to their faces (Matthew 3:7 and 23:27)
Sort of makes "You lie" sound pretty tame.
We also serve a Lord who inspired the Apostle Paul to write, in Romans 13:1: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established."
Clearly, the biblical norm is submissive cooperation with leadership that God has put in place.
Big however. As I was reading that passage to include it in this post, I noticed something very interesting in the final verse.
Romans 13:7 "Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." What, exactly, incurs that debt of respect, and can anything negate it?
So here are some questions, question to which I don't have concrete answers:
Do we owe Obama respect, or can a person's actions remove the debt of respect?
Was Joe Wilson's outburst even disrespectful in the biblical sense?
If it was, does Obama's his position warrant respect no matter what?
What do you think? I would really love to see some opinions.
Edit: My friend, who is an expert on House rules (a real one, as in, she works as legal counsel for the House of Representatives) said that the House chamber has a specific rule (since the founding fathers) against saying pejorative things about the president on the floor and that calling him a liar is strictly prohibited. On that ground, I definitely believe Wilson should have kept his mouth shut. I still want to hear other people's opinions on the overall issue.
Very well argued, on both side. I also read Romans 13 and consider our current administration...and yet I also lately think of Israel pestering God for a King in 1 Samuel...and what God said to them as he gave them Saul, telling them all the things a king would do to their country. But the Israelite's response? Always "we want a king so we can be like the other nations." As for respecting Obama...consider now David's respect of Saul. Even when Saul was launching spears at David, or hunting him down in the countryside, David never turned to fight back. He woudn't even say a bad word against Saul...because Saul was put in place by God. And if ever a man had cause to kill another, then David...harassed, chased, and annointed to be that king's successor...had that right. Or perhaps just excuse.
I see your point-made in Romans 13:7, but as President, I think we do owe our Mr. President the respect and honour due his position, despite what he does while in that position. God will judge President Obama for his life's works, just as God will judge us. I see how David constantly respected and honored King Saul...and I think there's a lot to learn in his example.
Wonderful post; my sister should read this and really, really take it to heart. A lot of Conservative Christians should. --Laura
Yes, this is a difficult issue when we are under authorities that we disagree with. I think that even though Rep. Wilson's statement (explosion) was probably true, the circumstances and emotion that he expressed himself with were not respectful and were inappropriate. I believe that respect is always due to those above us, but I also think that we should confront authority figures about their wrongdoing. Respect is always in order. Jesus was very confrontational and stinging in His rebukes, but He never yelled at Herod.
I recall Jesus turning over the tables of the thieves in the temple. Don't see a lot of respect there.
Honestly, I am troubled by this because I believe that the system of government in our nation is too damaged to function any longer. God establishes and powers but Ephesians 6 also says our battle is against earthly powers, which seems to be a conflict. What I'm thinking is (haven't worked it out in my head yet) is...somewhere in the neighborhood of ... when God decides that an earthly power has lived out its usefulness, how has he accomplished its change? He used the armies of the Israelites, we saw that. He used the armies of other nations against Israel. And in our own nation, he used a bunch of lawyers, doctors, farmers and craftsmen "with a firm reliance on the providence of God" to accomplish a change. None of these changes was "respectful" or even peaceful.
I do not think that the rules and bylaws established by men should overrule the laws established by God. Calling someone a liar does not necessary mean that a person is being disrespectful and dishonorable. In fact, if this were the truth, there is not disrespect or dishonor at all because the foundation for true respect and honor is the truth, Who is Christ, Who is the ONLY foundation on which things are built. Hence, whatever we owe anyone, we owe it only insofar as it is true to the true foundation which it stands, true to Christ Jesus Himself. Anything else is worthless because it is sinking sand - Christians should not be owing anything to sinking sand.