President Obama Unfairly Criticized for Easter Prayer Breakfast Remarks

Poster-sized_portrait_of_Barack_Obama_OrigResPresident Obama spoke at the White House on Tuesday, April 6, to an invited assembly of religious leaders. The occasion of his remarks was the annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast. Since then, news outlets, the blogosphere, and social media have erupted with claims that the President “condemned” Christians whom he characterized as “less than loving.” One headline read: “Obama BLASTS Christians at Prayer Breakfast.” Having taken the time to listen to all of the President’s remarks, I believe most of these criticisms are unfair.

Before I defend the President, let me agree with one very serious criticism of his remarks, which is that he declined to mention the slaughter and persecution of Christians taking place in the world today. During his Easter remarks, he does take the time to “veer off” (his words) to briefly address some of the “less than loving” rhetoric coming from Christian circles, but says nothing about the persecution and wholesale slaughter of Christians in Africa and the Middle East. This was very disappointing. And even in the President’s previous expressions of sympathy for the victims of overseas atrocities, he repeatedly declines to acknowledge when the victims were Christians targeted by radical Muslims. This is indeed very disappointing, and I join with others who have expressed their criticism of President Obama on this point. However…

The criticism that Obama “blasted” or “condemned” evangelical Christians at the Easter Prayer Breakfast is frankly overblown. It’s not fair, and if we (as evangelicals) are to have any credibility, we need to be fair in how we handle such situations. We should give credit where it is due and be very tempered, reasonable, and godly when we feel the need to offer constructive criticism.

Sadly, many conservative Christians have been conditioned to frankly detest and despise President Obama to the point that anything the man says or does is viewed as suspect (at best) or sinister (at worst). Too many people have a knee-jerk revulsion to the man. The fact is that not every single thing President Obama says is wrong. Some of what he says is right and good. And I feel I must remind many of my fellow Christians that Barack Obama is a human being fashioned in God’s image – and for whom Jesus died on the cross! We are commanded, my fellow Christian, to love him and to pray for him. And we should be fair toward him when it comes to our criticisms.

The President spoke for several minutes during the prayer breakfast, and most of his comments were very good. Some of them were pretty funny, in fact. (I love what he said, for example, about the slim menu at many prayer breakfasts. And what parent can’t relate to his remarks about his girls growing up?) But the comments drawing the most attention were from when he (by his own admission) veered off script. And what were those off-script comments? Here they are….

“On Easter I do reflect on the fact that, as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes, when I’ve listened to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned.”

There’s no condemnation in these comments. He uses the word “concerned.” He says nothing about condemning anyone. And, contrary to the headlines from several news articles, he doesn’t call any Christians “less than loving,” he characterized some of the “expressions” coming from some Christians as being “less than loving.” This is an important distinction. And here’s the biggest point of all…he’s right. Some Christians have been “less than loving” in their “expressions” on certain issues. That’s a fact.

Now, it’s possible that President Obama may have a wider net in mind than some of us do in characterizing certain expressions of belief as “less than loving.” When a North Carolina pastor talks about putting gays and lesbians behind a fence until they die off, that’s certainly a “less than loving” remark worthy of condemnation. But is the President going beyond that? Is he implying, for example, that it’s “less than loving” to oppose (even politely and respectfully oppose) gay marriage? Is he suggesting that it’s “less than loving” for Christian wedding photographers to politely decline to service gay weddings because it is against their biblical convictions? If so, then I would say that President Obama is overstating things. It’s not “less than loving” to disagree with someone. You can truly love someone and yet not agree with or support everything that person says or does. But….while I would like the President to better define his remarks and give some examples, I will reserve any criticism of them for the time being. The fact is that President Obama did not give any specifics, and it would be speculative for us to do so. I’ll simply take President Obama’s comments at face value – and move on.

What I find the most interesting about the President’s remarks is how so much of what he said is being ignored by evangelical critics! At the breakfast, President Obama sounded a bit like a preacher when he said: “With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Savior. We reflect on the brutal pain He suffered, the scorn He absorbed, the sins that He bore, [and] this extraordinary gift of salvation that He gave to us.” President Obama reminded his audience that the “story didn’t end on Friday,” but continued on Sunday “with the glorious resurrection of our Savior.” If you’re a Christian, you’ve got to admit that’s good stuff!

I don’t know the President’s heart. I don’t know the specifics or nuances of his personal faith, but his remarks (as quoted above) are very much appreciated. Let’s not ignore or dismiss them. I for one am glad that the President of the United States publicly acknowledged that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. No matter the President’s faults (and I disagree with him on a lot of things), let’s give credit where it’s due. In these comments, President Obama aptly described what Easter is all about. If only more people did so.

**You can watch the President’s remarks at by clicking here.  

Do You Doubt Jesus’ Resurrection?

Every Easter, we’re treated to a cacophony of articles, exposes, books, TV programs, Internet videos, and even (sadly) some sermons, which purport to either deny or cast serious doubt on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And most of these skeptics couch their pontificating in language along the lines of “Most Christians don’t know this….” or “Many people would be surprised that…” or some similar wording designed to sow seeds of doubt in those who embrace traditional Christianity. Even though some of these skeptics possess academic degrees, teach at prestigious universities, or even hail from seemingly “Christian” seminaries, denominations, or churches — don’t be fooled. And don’t let their skepticism cause you to waver in your confidence. The evidence is solidly on the side of those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth walked out of that tomb 2000 years ago – and changed the world forever.

For tens of millions of Christians around the world today, their faith in the Bible and personal experience with God is enough for them to believe in Christ and His resurrection. There are others, however, who don’t believe the Bible or who harbor doubts. These folks want a little more evidence than simply “the Bible says so.” Assuming such a request is reasonable, is there evidence we can show them? The answer is “Absolutely.”

In order to ascertain whether Jesus rose from the dead, we must first establish some key facts about Jesus, including:

  • Jesus of Nazareth is an actual historical figure – specifically, an itinerant teacher who built up a following in first century Judea
  • Jesus was crucified by authority of Roman governor Pontius Pilate

If we’re willing to grant the above two facts, then we have a starting point for discovering whether there’s sufficient reason to believe (intellectually and logically) that Jesus rose from the dead. The case for Jesus’ resurrection rests essentially on the following historical facts (and I say “fact,” because there is strong evidence backing each one of them):

  1. Jesus died on the cross and was buried in a known tomb.
  2. Jesus’ followers were despondent (and many went into hiding) after the crucifixion.
  3. The tomb was later discovered as being empty by Jesus’ women followers.
  4. Within a very short time after the crucifixion, Jesus’ followers began claiming they saw the risen Jesus appear to them.
  5. The body of Jesus was never produced by Jesus’ enemies or his follower’s enemies in order to disprove these appearances. This proves that the tomb was empty, for if it weren’t empty, the Romans or the Jewish leaders could have easily trotted out Jesus’ remains and finished off Christianity as it was getting started.
  6. These appearance claims galvanized the early church and soon the entire Christian community rallied around the declaration that Jesus rose from the dead.
  7. The early Christians took it upon themselves to move the Sabbath to Sunday and make that the primary day of worship. The Resurrection is the most logical explanation for these devout Jews to so clearly “break” the Mosaic Law.
  8. Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) as well as Jesus’ half-brother James both made dramatic 180 degree turns from hostile skeptic to devoted follower. Some kind of life-changing event must have occurred to account for that change.
  9. The Apostles, including a converted Paul, staked the entire Christian faith on the claim that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. See I Corinthians 15. Yet it would have been much easier to posit a “spiritual resurrection.”
  10. Jesus’ friends and family were in a position to know (not simply believe or “have faith,” but know) whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. And they all spent the rest of their lives proclaiming that He, in fact, did rise from the dead. Many of them suffered torture and death because of such claims. How many people willingly die for what they know is a lie?

A majority of credentialed scholars in the fields of archaeology, history, ancient literature, and New Testament studies (including non-Christian scholars) will attest to the above facts. And the best explanation for all of the above facts is that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.

Many will scoff at the above and say that it’s ludicrous to believe that a dead person can be reanimated to life after three days. But if God exists, then miracles are possible. And if miracles are possible, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ is possible.

Still not convinced? Check out these videos….

…or these books….

Happy Easter!

3 Ridiculously Stupid Reasons to Reject Christianity

Truth is better than a fantasy when it comes to questions about God and Life.

Truth is better than a fantasy when it comes to questions about God and Life.

Those looking for reasons not to believe in God or Christianity would do well to avoid the crazy, ludicrous objections or excuses mentioned in this article. These are not valid reasons to reject Christianity (or any religious claim for that matter). Yet they unfortunately reflect the shallow and simple-minded way of thinking far too many people bring to the table today when it comes to matters of religion, culture, sexuality, or politics. If you’re not a Christian and it’s because of one of the following reasons, you owe it to yourself to evaluate your psyche or cognitive skills.

“Christians are annoying”

Yes, Christians can be very annoying. Being deeply immersed in Christian circles for most of my life, I can attest to the fact that a great many Christians are obnoxious, moronic, irritating, irrational, overly judgmental, hypocritical, and/or downright silly. Of course, there are many more Christians I’ve had the privilege of knowing who are loving, intelligent, kind, gracious, compassionate, generous, and quite enjoyable to be around. But even if you are of the (false) opinion that most Christians are annoying, that has no bearing whatsoever on the merit of Christianity’s central claims.

“Christians are judgmental”

Yes, many Christians are indeed judgmental – and harsh in those judgments. In fact, many are quite selective and hypocritical in their judgments. This is in spite of Jesus’ warning that we will be judged by the same standard we judge others (Matthew 7:1-3). But the fact that Christians make judgments about people’s beliefs or actions doesn’t mean their judgments are always wrong. People make judgments all the time. For example, do you agree or disagree with Indiana’s recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)? Whether you answer “yes” or “no,” you’re making a judgment. Is Barack Obama a good or

Jesus never said not to judge. He said to be careful how and when you judge.

Jesus never said not to judge. He said to be careful how and when you judge.

bad President? Answer that and you’ve made a judgment. The fact that you personally may find some (or even all) Christian attitudes or beliefs objectionable, discriminatory, or nauseating does not obviate the reality that everyone, including you, is at times judgmental. Your distaste for Christian judgmentalism also has no objective bearing on the correctness or falsity of those judgments. There are times, after all, that some people’s assertions turn out to be correct, even though we don’t like them.

“The Bible is hateful”

This is quite simply a stupid assertion. It’s based on the fallacious, yet tragically persistent, premise that Love = Agreement and Affirmation. If you disagree with someone or disapprove of what that person is doing, then (so goes this flawed logic) you “hate” that person. It’s ludicrous. Absolutely crazy. But it’s a lie that our society has increasingly embraced. The truth is that the Bible shows God to be a God of both love and justice. God loves everyone (Psalm 136; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; I John 4:8), but God does have standards. When we deviate from God’s standards, we engage in sin. And sin must be punished. That is not hate. It is judgment, and God has the perfect right (and, given His nature, duty) to make such judgments. That’s not hate. It’s reality.

Is Christianity True?

It ultimately doesn’t matter whether you like Christianity or whether you agree with Christianity. What matters is the truth. Is Christianity true? That’s the only question that you should consider when it comes to whether you want to be a Christian or not. And to get at that question’s answer, you should start with these questions:

  • Does God exist?
  • Was Jesus an actual historical figure who claimed to be God?
  • Did Jesus rise from the dead?

If the answer to the above questions is “yes,” then the dominoes fall into place. If God exists, Jesus walked the earth and claimed to be God, and then Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is true. And if Christianity is true, it’s in your best interest to be on the side of truth, no matter your personal preferences, tastes, or opinions. And no matter what your friends, family, society, or celebrities may think of you.

Embrace the truth. Only the Truth will set you free.

Check out Perfect Peace: God’s Amazing Gift for the Human Heart by Brian Tubbs

Thanking Gays and Lesbians (and Their Supporters) Who Truly Stand for Tolerance

I want to publicly commend those individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and yet who are standing up for genuine tolerance and civility in America today. My thanks extends to all supporters of same-sex marriage and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) rights, but who are speaking out against the death threats, intimidation, coercion, persecution, and outright hate being manifested towards so many people of faith (especially evangelical Christians) in our nation today. In this expression of appreciation, I’m thinking of people like…

  • Courtney Hoffman, a self-described member of the gay community who gave $20 to Indiana’s beleaguered Memories Pizza which was forced to close – their owners driven into hiding – because of a vicious wave of death threats, slander, and egregious misinformation. In her public GoFundMe donation to the pizzeria owners, she apologized for the “mean-spirited attacks” on the owners and their business, and spoke for many like-minded gays and lesbians who are “outraged at the level of hate and intolerance” directed against Memories Pizza.
  • Andrew Sullivan, the prolific British author, editor and blogger living in the United States, who has long supported same-sex marriage. Yet Sullivan too understands the mean-spirited and, in his words, highly “illiberal” nature of much of today’s left-wing activism. In a January 2015 piece titled (appropriately) “The Left’s Intensifying War on Liberalism,” Sullivan describes the gay left’s contribution to the demise of freedom as follows:

“…the struggle must not ease up with success after success, but must instead be ever-more vigiliant against hetero-hegemony. So small businesses who aren’t down with gay marriages have to be sued, rather than let be; religious liberty must be scoffed at or constrained, rather than embraced; individual homophobic sinners must be forced to resign or repent or both, and there is no mercy for those who once might have opposed, say, marriage equality but now don’t. The only “dialogue” much of the p.c. gay left wants with its sinners is a groveling apology for having a different point of view. There are few things in a free society more illiberal than that.”

  • Newspaper columnist Gil Smart, who (like Sullivan) was arguing for same-sex marriage over a decade ago (back when a majority of Americans, including President Obama, opposed it). Even though he’s glad his side has won, Smart laments that “now we’re shooting prisoners.” Smart lays it out clearly in a recent column: “‘My side’ is not being magnanimous in victory. ‘My side’ isn’t content to live and let live. ‘My side’ seeks to punish those who dare hold opposing views.”
  • Jonathan Chait, who in an insightful piece for New York in January 2015, warned against the rise of political correctness in an America now immersed in social media. Chait describes political correctness as “a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate.” Neither the United States at large, nor liberalism specifically, should welcome such infringement of freedom and discourse in our society today.
  • Bill Maher, with whom I often disagree. Maher routinely ridicules Christians and conservatives, so I am rarely in agreement with him. But Maher recognizes the scorched-earth Culture War being waged by many (most?) of the LGBTQ community (and their supporters) against conscientious Christians today. In an April 2014 Real Time With Bill Maher, while discussing the unfair treatment of Brendan Eich (forced out of Mozilla because he donated $1,000 to fight gay marriage in 2008 when Barack Obama was also opposed to gay marriage), Maher said: “I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked. I really do.” I appreciate such honesty. We need more of that in today’s debate.

While I differ with the aforementioned individuals (and many like them) on a great many points, I nevertheless deeply appreciate their voice of reason and call for civility in today’s social and political climate. I’m grateful that there are still people – however few – who welcome constructive, civil, peaceful, and fair discussion in our society today, even on highly sensitive and important issues. To such people, I say “Thank you.”

The Schuller Legacy: What Evangelicals Should Learn From Robert Schuller

Robert Schuller was not perfect, but he addressed unmet needs in our society.

Robert Schuller was not perfect, but he addressed unmet needs in our society.

Many years ago, as a teenage college student, I was in a dark place. The mother of one of my friends, in an effort to encourage me, gave me a copy of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do. Having grown up in a strict fundamentalist Baptist environment, I had never been exposed to this “positive” side of Christianity. For me, it had always been about the “Thou shalt nots” – the list of which went beyond The Ten Commandments and included, in the passionate opinion of the Independent Fundamental Baptist preachers and lay leaders I was familiar with, prohibitions against dancing, rock music, going to the beach, seeing movies in the theater, watching pretty much any television program, and using any Bible translation other than the King James Version. As a result, I was a clean-cut, fairly upright, generally honest kid with strong values and a deep commitment to the Bible. But I also suffered from a tremendously low self-esteem, poor social skills, and lots of confusion and discouragement concerning my future. To be fair, there were some people (even in that strict background) who poured love into me and were a blessing to me, but the Schuller and Peale books my friend’s mom gave me were a tremendous blessing. They helped me immensely. In fact, they were a turning point for me. And thus, while I agree with some of the evangelical criticisms of Robert Schuller, I can’t bring myself to condemn him. On the contrary, I appreciate him just as I appreciated the late Norman Vincent Peale.

With Robert Schuller’s passing, many Christians are now debating how we should remember his legacy. At the top of people’s minds is the fact that Schuller built an enormous media and cultural empire centered around his “Hour of Power” television broadcast and the both famous and infamous Crystal Cathedral — only to see that empire crumble in his twilight years amid family disputes, scandals, and bankruptcy. But I’m not going to address the rise and fall of Schuller’s ministry, nor am I going to go over his biography. Instead, I want to address what evangelicals can learn from his legacy. How should evangelical Christians remember Robert Schuller?

After reading Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do (along with Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking), I went to my pastor at the time to tell him of my breakthrough. And when I told my pastor about it, he was less than enthusiastic. Instead, he criticized Peale and Schuller, and gave me the book The Seduction of Christianity by Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon. While I agree with much of what Hunt and McMahon say in their book, hearing my pastor at the time and reading their book served to pour water on the encouragement I was feeling. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it actually set me back a bit in my emotional growth. It was as if I took several steps forward by reading Peale and Schuller, only to be jerked several steps back by my pastor and the book he gave me. In fact, for years afterward, I began to see God as a bit of a kill-joy. And I felt like I couldn’t get excited about anything unless it was approved by all the preachers and teachers from my fundamentalist Baptist background.

My story fortunately doesn’t end there. I joined Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, while at George Mason University, and met Christians who were outside the Baptist fold. (That included my now-wife). God-honoring, devout Christians who weren’t KJV-toting fundamentalist Baptists with strict rules of conformity? It was something of a culture shock for me at the time. And I soon began to realize that the fundamentalist Baptist churches I grew up in were sometimes wrong. And, as the years went on, I realized that the entire evangelical world (not just the strict fundamentalist Baptist movement, but the entire Bible-believing conservative culture) has quite often MISSED THE BOAT when it comes to addressing (let alone meeting) the emotional and physical needs of many believers in Christ (not to mention those outside the Christian community).

There are, in fact, enormous gaps in our churches when it comes to teaching the “whole counsel of God” – large areas of emotional and relational needs that are tragically un-addressed by many pulpits. And many people are falling through those gaps. Say what you will about Schuller and Peale, but they recognized those gaps and tried to fill them.

This is not to say there weren’t problems with Schuller’s ministry and teachings. As a Bible-believing evangelical, I often found myself troubled and even alarmed by many of the things I heard from and about Robert H. Schuller over the years. He brought non-Christians and heretics into his pulpit and made many comments himself in interviews, sermons, and writings that (to put it charitably) seemed to contradict and distort the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Robert Schuller leaves behind a mixed legacy.

My point in writing this article isn’t to hold up Robert Schuller as an exemplary evangelical preacher who never compromised or who always spoke biblical truth. Schuller was wrong about many things – both in word and in deed. My point is simply that, wrong as he was on some things, he was also right on some things. That part of his legacy shouldn’t be lost. Consider these nuggets of wisdom and encouragement:

  • “Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.”
  • “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.”
  • “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.”
  • “Problems are not stop signs; they are guidelines.”
  • “When you can’t solve the problem, manage it.”
  • “Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.”
  • “Winning starts with beginning.”
  • “Leadership does not belong in the hands of part-time thinkers.”
  • “Sin is a condition, before it is an action.”
  • “As we grow as unique persons, we learn to respect the uniqueness of others.”

Not only should we accept and learn from the wisdom in many of his sermons and much of his writings, but we should acknowledge that Schuller’s area of focus (meeting people’s emotional needs and encouraging them to think positively), while not anywhere near as crucial as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is important and valuable. And it is, when biblically grounded and properly understood, not contradictory to the Gospel of Christ. And it’s something that many “good” churches and preachers ignore or downplay – or, in some cases, even preach against!

Think about how many hurting people have been helped by Robert Schuller. People like myself many years ago. And when those hurting people hear sanctimonious evangelical and fundamentalist critics call Schuller a “false teacher” (or worse), what does that say to them? Even if Schuller’s critics do care about the hurting people Schuller helped, that’s not what most of those people will hear or feel. If I’m hungry and someone comes along and gives me food, and then I hear people attack the very person who cared enough to help me, I’m going to side with the person who helped me! And understandably so. Bible-believing evangelicals need to keep this in mind – not only when it comes to Schuller, but also Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and other Christian teachers and authors today similar to the style of Schuller and Peale. This isn’t to say that we can’t or shouldn’t point out errors or heresies, but it is a call for sensitivity, awareness, and discernment.

Recently, I took part in a medical missions camp in India. That weekend, the Gospel of Christ was shared. Christ was held up the entire weekend, in fact. But we also addressed the physical needs of those who came. We didn’t just tell the people about the Great Physician; we also put them in touch with a trained earthly physician to help with their current, physical ailments. It wasn’t an either-or. It was a both-and approach. Our churches need to do the same when it comes to emotional needs.

Rather than focus our energies on publicly condemning so-called “self help preachers” like Schuller, we – those of us who are Bible-believing evangelicals – should invest our efforts and energies in PLUGGING THE HOLES in our own churches and families. There are unmet needs in our churches. Rather than simply condemn authors, preachers, and teachers who are trying to meet those needs, let’s learn what we can from them and then strive to meet those same needs ourselves. And let’s do so while preaching the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s Word. By doing that, we can put the mixed legacy of Robert Schuller to positive use and, in the process, build healthier, stronger churches and more effectively advance God’s Kingdom.

**Read Perfect Peace: God’s Amazing Gift for the Human Heart by Brian Tubbs