Although typically Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and host to his self-named radio program, focuses on specific issues floating around in the media on a given day, once in a while he pops up with some heavy-hitting, large-scale discussion. Friday was one of those days.
On the show, Mohler seeks to get discussion going from a theological perspective. As a Baptist, he brings one particular bias to the table, which is the belief that the Bible is utterly infallible. Take it or leave it (I take it), Mohler is able to get some heavy discussions going on which often turn out with unexpected conclusions. He rarely offends, always promotes thinking and discussion, and never, in my experience, spouts traditional conservative political rhetoric. Rather, he tends to ascribe to the more traditional conservative viewpoint that government should be reasonably limited, and that those “conservatives” who would seek to control every facet of life are dangerous.
In the case of Friday, however, he did an episode which brought up another similar issue: Just what we expect from a president. Drawing on a statement by Barack Obama in his speech following his victory in Minnesota, Mohler speculates on the balance of power and influence in the hands of a US (or any other) President.
Have a listen for yourself. The real discussion begins around 11 minutes in, if you want to skip over the general discussion he begins the show with. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Now, one obvious fact comes forth, and that is: This is an outstanding public speaker. His ability to use his voice and to use the English language to effect has not been matched, I would argue, by a presidential candidate probably since 1980, the rise of Governor Ronald Reagan running for the office of the President of the United States.
But I was also struck by one line in particular out of this, where I had never heard, in all my days of listening to politicians, I had never heard anyone say what Barack Obama said on Tuesday night, when he said “this was the moment when the rise of the ocean began to slow, and our planet began to heal.”
Now, with all due respect, I just can’t imagine that anyone is going to look back to June the 3rd of 2008 and say yes, that was the moment when the planet began to heal.
Just what do we expect from a president?
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think a president can make the oceans rise or fall, or heal the planet. I think this is not only soaring political rhetoric, I think it leaves us with a question whether we have any kind of rational conception of what the office of the President of the United States is all about.
There’s lots to talk about here. I won’t go too much further into the arguments that he makes, although I would like to draw out one important point. He comments later on that one of the key roles of a leader is to be a teacher. He draws upon the example of President Bush (the second) as a failed teacher, arguing that he agrees with his views on marriage, but is appalled by how Bush failed to attempt to teach the nation about his reasoning. I think the image of a teacher-president is an intriguing foil to the image of the booming, powerful, warmongering President that has come to be expected from the United States — an foil that’s all the more interesting to me when I consider the ultimate teacher, Jesus Christ, and how those booming presidents claim to be his followers.
Listen to the rest if you wish. Either way, I think it’s worth opening up some kind of discussion. What do we expect of world leaders? What should we expect? Can we side with Obama when he says that the world has begun to heal? As with the radio program, I would prefer to forego most of the semantical issues. I’m not asking whether we think the President should ban or permit gay marriage, so much as whether he should be the one pushing forth that agenda whatsoever.
What say you?