What Adventism (and Christianity) Can Learn from President Obama

Last night at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama gave one of the most fascinating political speeches I have ever heard. I am trying to refrain from the realm of hyperbole, but I truly believe that this speech will be remembered after President Obama has long left the political scene. As I sat ruminating on what commentators from both sides of the aisle described as a great speech, I began to see connections between what President Obama so deftly accomplished tonight and what we as Christians attempt to accomplish as an element of our faith. Now certainly President Obama has different goals from the church. President Obama was seeking to sell us on his legacy and the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton as the keeper of that legacy. Christians are seeking to sell people on the gospel and Jesus Christ as someone whose legacy should be followed. But as I thought about the President’s speech, I realized that much of Christianity could learn a thing or two from our President about how to share the gospel.

1. Acknowledge that life is hard – I saw this in two places last night. The first was in the introductory video before President Obama came on stage. What struck me in that video, in addition to the President’s resolve, was how much pain so many people have endured during this Presidency. From multiple mass shootings to job loss and recession, people suffered. The second place I saw this point made was within the speech itself. On at least two occasions the President doubled back to acknowledge that our society is not where any of us would want it to be. As he said, “We’re not done perfecting our union.” As Christians we should never run from the pain of present reality. It is in connecting with that pain that we meet people where they are.

2. Remind people of their blessings – Especially in contrast to the Republican National Convention last week, President Obama’s speech was a reminder that not everything is bad in this country. Violent crime is down in aggregate, although you wouldn’t believe it to hear the pessimism of some. Unemployment has generally been falling since it peaked at 10% during the Great Recession. Over the last few weeks I have been dismayed by the unjustified murders of African-American men at the hands of the police. As soul-crushing as this time has been personally, last night was a reminder to me of all the good that is occurring in the life of our nation as well. While Christians should never run from the pain of the present reality, we also must guard against being fully consumed by that pain. I believe sometimes our presentation of the gospel attempts to paint this world as entirely negative. I think we do that because we want to cast Jesus as a stark contrast from this sinful planet. To do that, however, is to ignore all the blessings that fall on both the just and the unjust and to paint an inaccurate picture that actually hurts our witness.

3. Be willing to help improve current reality – President Obama’s recommendation of Hillary Clinton was a testament of not only her willingness to help some of the least among us, but also an acknowledgment of her eagerness to do the work necessary in order to help people move beyond their present station in life. He gave example after example of her work with children, 9/11 first responders, and women, showing how Secretary Clinton spent her life in public service “in the arena,” fighting or the improvement of people’s lives. Helping to better people’s current circumstances is an important element of the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ is not only about the success of His salvific mission, but also the story of the good that He did for people while He was here. Every miracle recorded in the gospels is a story of Jesus’s desire to improve the current reality of someone and His willingness to do the work necessary to bring about that change. People occasionally accuse Christianity of being so heavenly-minded that it is of no earthly good. If as Christians we have allowed ourselves to stagnate in this way than we have failed in presenting an authentic picture of the Savior we serve.

4. Present the hope of a better day – Hope. It has been the singular theme of President Obama’s time on the national stage. Last night he spun the idea of hope, as he does from time to time, back towards the American people as both the engine and the destination of the hope that resides within in him. For the President, hope in the American people is what has, as he said, “fueled [his] dogged faith in our future.” That future of course, is a future that fits the goals that he has for our nation – better economic stability, healthcare for all, peace and security internationally, and justice for all here at home.

Our hope, however, is even greater than the hope the President describes. We are sharing what should be a living faith, a living hope that believes in not just national peace and prosperity, but truly universal peace and prosperity. A hope that transcends all petty human divisions under the banner of a loving Savior who sacrificed so much simply because He loved us. We believe in not just the coming of a better day, but the coming of a perfect day. The heart of the gospel is this hope.


1. A couple of notes before we begin – First, I realize that everyone who comes to this page may not be a fan of President Obama, his political philosophies, or his presidency. I fully admit that I am. However, the strength of the argument I’m making here does not rest on whether any particular person agrees with the President, but rather on our ability to examine the rhetorical skill, regardless of whether we agree with the conclusions of the case the President lays out. Second, it would be virtually impossible for me to examine the entirety of this speech to illuminate all the potential connections, or even some of the places where it may fall short on the very scale I’m using. My case is simply that there are rhetorical elements here that would be useful for Christians to consider in their presentation of the gospel.
2. I’m not sure I need to say this but I’ll say it anyway – No one should take this paragraph to mean that I am equating either President Obama or Secretary Clinton with Jesus Christ.

Jason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues atwww.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7576

Well Jason,
I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the RNC. I thought Trump and his articulate impressive family and multiple other speakers were very optimistic. I also appreciated Rudy Giuliani who said after referring to Black, Asian, White, Hispanic Americans, “What ever just happened to being an American?” The DNC is a tool of divisiveness NOT unity…in my not so humble opinion.
What Trump and others don’t wear is “Rose colored glasses.” Problem solvers must identify and name problems before they can be solved despite the fact that “some” may feel that doing so is unloving/ or a harsh tone etc… I can remember when the US national debt was less than a Trillion. It is now above 20 Trillion. So I have see the blessings and curses that politicians, special interest and monetary polices has caused to this nation.
It seems to me that the ones most desirous of creating a “secular church state/political” union are those who seek “to perfect” the world by their own utopian vision. This was, by the way, the vision of Christian Liberals at the beginning of the 20th Century and their magazine was Christian Century.
I too believe in attempting to make this world a better place. Presbyterians call that the “cultural mandate.” It isn’t a dominionist view that I believe is ultimately hoped for by the "religious/secular globalist."
So what I hope some Christians heard from Trump…and I think a lot did is we must recognize our problems before we can optimistically hope to solve them. They also heard that one of the primary responsibilities of government is to protect the physical well being of its citizen from foreign and domestic enemies. So you who claim the 1st Amendment, I suggest you let the State bear the sword to make the evil fear AND let the church bear the “sword of the gospel of Christ.” that divides the thoughts and intents of eveyones thoughts that all might seek forgiveness and salvation which is alone in Christ made possible “through faith” in what occurred at the Cross. Utopia comes at the 2nd coming and not before because at least on this George Vademen was correct…this is “A planet in Rebellion” and politics won’t solve that.


Great article! Fully agree.
More comments on it, and a discussion, will be held in the “LoungeGate” as soon as it is posted there.


Obama is anything but Christian or a liberal either.Obama is guilty of the cold blooded murder of Osama bin Laden and countless others some “suspected” terrorists other just innocent bystanders colatteral damage from drone strikes.

Bin Ladin may well have been guilty of terrible crimes but he was captured and disarmed before he was executed without due process.

When one descends to the level of the terrorists one opposes the terrorist has won.

So this is a tough one for me. I get the points that the author is making. And as with sermons, people making a spiritual point often find the best way is to use a germane and current secular topic.

Having said that; as is clear from the comments by ptravis - each convention is viewed through the lines of one’s own perspective worldview. A political liberal will view the GOP convention as articulating the world as a dark and horrible place and the Democratic one as a place of work, but great hope and promise. A conservative might see the GOP convention as an articulation of strength against forces that would hurt us and a place (or person) to turn to for help, and view the Democratic convention speakers as people who ignore our real problems and manufacture others in order to give themselves power.

And that’s why that although I’m very politically aware and interested I am a strong supporter of the separation of church and state.


So what do you say of targeting a suspected military site and killing scores so of people in it? No attempt is made to arrest any individual in it and several non-military individuals working there or living in the vicinity are killed. To suggest that a surgical drone strike makes Obama not a Christian or a Liberal is appears to be an anti-Obama statement rather than a realistic one, unless you are similarly describing all American presidents who have ever gone to war.

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We can learn from Obama. He gives away America he doesn’t own.

Thank you Jason for your contribution. Love the parallels you pointed out in President Obama’s speech. You are a rare and brave person in this culture!! My heart is saddened at some of the comments that have been posted in the last few weeks regarding race. Every Sabbath I attend church and hear sermons that the greatest of all is LOVE. One can pay tithe, keep the Sabbath, but if there is NO LOVE for their fellowman then what is the point?!! I have been an SDA all my life, attended church school and even taught in church school. If I didn’t love the Lord and know Him like I do I would have left the church long ago. Racism is rampant in the SDA world and politics comes second. May God help us all to be the people He would want to have live with Him in His kingdom. Amen


This is posted in the Lounge.
Come join us.

LOL! LOL! Apparently the author of the article has NOT see the Documentary — Hillary and the Democrat Party since the time of Andrew Jackson to the present day. Includes the Obama Administration.

It is clearly NOT “unjustified murders of African-American men at the hands of the police”.

These cases are a disregard and indifference to the timeless advice Almighty God has given mankind via the Apostle Paul:

Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. The powers that are ordained by God. Whosoever resists their power resists the very ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For the police is a minister of God for that which is good. But if you do that which is evil be afraid; for he beareth not the gun in vain. He is a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Pay ye tribute to these Godly ministers. Give them their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; respect to whom respect is due. Romans 13.

Not only does the Bible command us to respect those in authority under Caesar, but our own American Supreme Court has strongly supported the right and the privilege of police officers to use whatever force necessary to protect themselves and to maintain law and order.

One may be black, white, brown, yellow…it doesn’t matter. If you make law enforcement feel threatened, you will most assuredly reap the whirlwind.

A Christian by definition has nothing to learn from politicians. A Christian only has one Teacher. It seems like the author sees Obama as a post-type of Christ. Maybe he was crying when B.O. took the stage the other night…

Well, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

For me, Obama has been a disappointment in terms of foreign policy and a very mild non-disappointment domestically. I think he did as well as could be expected with congress, and I can’t fault the killing of Osama Bin laden. But the drone stirkes killing innocents is a great evil, one that is not wholly balanced by his attempts to avoid war in general.

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I disagree with the author in that flowery speeches are easy to make.
If Obama was a principled man and governed as he campaigned then you could have made the point you are attempting.
Rather you make the point in reverse.
When someone makes a speech and says If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor and when they said raising the debt ceiling is a failure of leadership when someone else is president and then double the entire national debt on their watch we have a problem.
Rhetorical elements are the last thing people should aspire too. In fact it defines the current poor state of affairs.

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Well, of course, responders have chosen to attack political viewpoints, rather than appreciate the points you have tried to make, Jason. But I do have to agree with what you said about Obama’s speech. There is much we could learn from it, as Christians, and perhaps the first, at least here on this site, is his articulate way of expressing our highest ideals that resonates with so many people.

Suggest the author see “Hillary’s America” and then see if you can vote for her, much less democrat.

To Pat Travis:
Will just add that Obama had the opportunity to unite this nation regarding race considering he is the first black president but a mix of two races. Instead he chose to focus on his father’s race (and religion) as victims and vilify his mothers and so tearing this nation apart via race and his affinity for Muslims.

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Each time I read this I’m more inspired. Thank you Jason.
Happy Sabbath to all.

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By looking at the last 15 comments:
Either the world is better or trashed.
The president is a Christian or the worst Muslim / Satin …
Hope or no hope…

Is there any one left in the middle? The world is OK, could be better, could be worse.
What is it that makes people binary? (black/white, on/off, grand/evil)
We all see the world so very different.

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Democrats Should Ask Hillary Clinton to step aside.
By John Kass
Chicago Tribune
Published Nov 1, 2016

Please another mention of Obama brings the synonym Enema. …

The notion that Obama vilified white people and Christians is just not consistent with reality.