Barrack Obama, the junior senator from my state of Illinois, is presently the most talked about politician in America. I am not sympathetic with some of the political philosophy of Barrack Obama. If he is nominated for the presidency in 2008 he will most assuredly need to present a thoughtful expression of his views on many issues, something he has yet to do. Having said this I must confess that I actually like Obama a great deal and I find his credibility as a person quite compelling.

I expect many conservatives will quickly say to me "No way I can listen to Obama, he is a liberal Democrat." I would say, "Before you assume the worst about him, and there is much to disagree with that can be seen in his senate votes to this point, read the man’s story. Listen to what he says and how he says it." Obama’s expression of how he came to Christian faith (in this week’s TIME magazine excerpt from his new book, The Audacity of Hope) is quite moving to me. Frankly, Obama is someone who compels me to listen to him and to take him seriously in a way that I find surprising. Only two, or at most three, leaders on the present political scene fit this description for me.

Besides the various questions that Obama must answer to become a viable candidate for president, if he does choose to run, I would ask a question that is rarely asked in partisan debates: "What consitutes true leadeship and how much does this matter in a president?" I would argue that in the twentieth century presidents like Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagain were true leaders. (Most fair-minded people agree that Abraham Lincoln was the best such leader we have ever had. I can hear the anti-Lincoln crowd saying "No" even as they read my words!) Such leaders, regardless of their politics, compelled people to listen to them and to believe them. They had vision, perspective, conviction and an ability to show genuine impartiality. They also had unique communication skills, intellectual curiosity, genuine empathy and the ability to listen to others before they made up their minds. They could also face negative poll numbers and hold their ground if they felt they were right in principle.

I found it interesting that TIME noted that Barrack Obama makes white people feel that they are not responsible for "collective guilt" about the nation’s race struggles. We have been impacted by race as much as any Western nation. I am interested in anyone who can help us further the national healing that is desperately needed. I do wish the church would play a much larger role in this healing process but we are still segregated in the Christian community and will not admit it or face it.

Does Obama have these qualities of real leadership? We will find out if he runs for president, or at least I hope we do. He has a lot to offer to a nation that hungers for a new kind of leadership.

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  1. Reformissionary October 27, 2006 at 10:01 am

    President Obama?

    John Armstrong sees presidential potential in Barack Obama. Interesting.Does Obama have these qualities of real leadership? We will find out if he runs for president, or at least I hope we do. He has a lot to offer to a

  2. Jay Rogers October 29, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    Obama — the champion of “live-birth abortion” — a Christian? Have you lost your mind?

  3. John H. Armstrong October 29, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    So, let me get this right. One’s view on the political questions of where the governmenent should stand on abortion determines whether or not they are Christians. And, if a profession of Christian conversion does not fit our language patterns and use of terms, and thus embrace openly our “evangelical” paradigm, we should be suspicious. I guess I do live with a very different world view and with a very different kind of attitude toward people I do not agree with completely.
    I figured commenting on Barrack Obama positively, even though I expressed real reservations about his views, would generate such a response. This is a blog afterall, so this is why this medium is so interesting.

  4. Ken Pierce October 31, 2006 at 7:06 am

    Dr. Armstrong,
    I am not sure what world-and-life view allows us to consider abortion a negotiable issue, but I don’t see any recognizable Christian one that does (Roman Catholic, Kuyperian, Schaefferian, etc.).
    The only exception might be the quietism of confessional churches in GErmany during the Nazi ascendancy that led otherwise fine theologians like Althouse to support Hitler.
    If we make abortion a negotiable, then both Dachau and Darfur are negotiable. Only abortion has accounted for many times the number of deaths in Hitler’s Europe and Darfur combined.
    If we fail to uphold the sanctity of life, we have ceased our prophetic voice.
    One of the great things the Christian message does is free us from the gleeful slavery of the world to death (think of the gospel’s impact on the Waodani(Auca) tribe, for instance).
    I agree with what I take to be your underlying point. We need some fresh, principled, charismatic leaders.
    YEt, we must not allow personal affability and charisma to trump public policy decisions.
    If Obama were a private citizen and a believer who was pro-choice, we might say that he was simply inconsistent, or didn’t have a fully formed world and life view. Ideally, the teaching in a faithful church would gradually make that change.
    But, Obama is a governing official. And, like Manasseh, he is sanctioning some wicked things. As Christians in a republic, we have a (albeit limited) choice in who we elect. Obama must be held accountable for his public decisions, not the sincerity of his Christian commitment, or his personal likeability.
    If Obama were really a new sort of liberal, and wanted to be courageous and bold, he would be an outspoken proponent of the sanctity of life. That is the position that takes real courage.
    And, if he did that, all other issues aside, and his opponent was a libertarian-leaning pro-choice Republican, with whom I agreed on every issue save abortion. Obama would have my vote.
    Abortion is the chief moral issue of our day. To put it in the realm of equivocation is the height of folly.

  5. Adam Shields November 1, 2006 at 9:23 am

    This isn’t really a discussion about abortion, but I don’t know of anyone that has a truly universal pro-life position. To have a completely pro-life position you would have to be antiwar, anti death penelty, anti abortion and then you would need to have a significantly different position on poverty, AIDS, drug and medical research and a host of other things than what the traditional church has. While I am pro-life, I think that there are a variety of things that we should consider when voting and voting only on pro-life as the issue has gotten the church into a party that has not really done anything about abortion, while doing a lot of things that I find questionable and just as dangerous if not more dangerous. We live in a fallen world and we are fallen people. If we only vote for perfect people we are not going to vote.

  6. Ken Pierce November 1, 2006 at 10:55 am

    I agree with your assessment RE the current batch of Republicans.
    And, as you say, all life oriented issues ought to be dear to the Christian, however we might think solving things like AIDS or healthcare ought best to be done.
    We cannot be universally “pro-life” in the sense you say, because the Scripture is not. The state bears the power of the sword to punish evildoers –that is, taking life in just war (and we might debate what wars, and methods of warfare are just), or as the ultimate sanction for heinous crimes, are Biblical positions to hold.
    Yet, all of that pales in comparison to the issue of abortion. One could argue that Hitler was good for Germany –he helped it recuperate from economic impoverishment, etc etc., EXCEPT for the fact that he had a real penchant for killing one particular class of people.
    I happen to believe that his penchant for killing all extant Jewry more than negated any “good” he might have done.
    With abortion it is similar. A man can be “right” on every other issue, and wrong on this one, and what happens? Babies die. Sorry to be that blunt, but that’s the unvarnished truth.
    And, if an “evangelical” Christian begins to equivocate on abortion, he has totally become the stepchild of this wicked present age. He has totally lost prophetic credibility.

  7. Michael Sense November 1, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    Dr. Armstrong- Thank you for your comments on Obama…I found them to be well articulated. Is there a Republican face that seems like a breath of fresh air to you? I must say that I have taken a liking to Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Any thoughts on him or any other ’08 frontrunners?

  8. John Armstrong November 2, 2006 at 8:49 am

    I do not see a similar young and fresh face in the Republican crowd. They do not need one to win in ’08 but they will need to campaign on their issuess well if Obama is the candidate since “attacking” him will not work the way it will with Sen. Clinton.
    I like Huckabee but I also like John McCain, who is hated by many on the Right. I understand why McCain is hated but I also think if you read his story, follow his career, and listen to him carefully, he remains a live option. I am not endorsing, just commenting!
    By the way, the Chicago Tribune did an article on Obama yesterday re: his purchase of a lovely $1.3 million home on the south side of Chicago. A neighbor/friend, who bought the adjoining lot, is being indicted (and our governor is potentially implicated in this problem) for some type of corruption and he has been a friend to the Obamas. As you read the article you can see Barrack Obama has taken every proper step in his dealings so that there is no credible case against him that could bring a charge of impropriety. Again, his personal dealings seem honest and his persona remains clean.
    One of my points in talking about him was to ask, “What leadership qualities does he possess?” The response of some to this post shows they are not hearing my question but reacting to his views. Such will not help in a national eleciton if he is nominated. For one reason, younger adults are energized about Obama and they will reject polarizing arguments as phony and mean. Conservatives had better do a much better job if he is the opposition. What happened to ideas like “The Contract with America” that won them the Congress in 1994?

  9. Ken Pierce November 2, 2006 at 9:03 am

    Dr. Armstrong,
    I am not sure how leadership qualities can be separated from views.
    So, what leadership qualities does he have? Charisma, affability, a compelling personal story. IN short, he may be more like Saul than David.
    As the child of postmodernity, I know that the good thing about we postmoderns (by generation, not necessarily conviction) is that we look for substance over style. WE are most willing to consider new ideas in the realm of politics, and to eschew empty rhetoric.
    I don’t see Obama advancing any new ideas. Indeed, his message seems to be one of the tired old liberalism with a fresh face. Don’t get me wrong, there is a tired old conservatism, too (and this is personified by the current republican Congressional leadership)
    Postmoderns are not likely to be carried along by another pretty face in the world of politics.
    If Obama is truly a new fresh leader, please show me the evidence for it. Buying a house in an honest fashion (which millions of Americans presumably do every day) is not enough.

  10. Adam Shields November 2, 2006 at 10:45 am

    The evidence for a leader is the people following him. If you look for the evidence of that then there is a lot of evidence that Obama is “The” up and coming new leader. When was the last time that a political book author was featured on the cover of three major weekly magazines? The sheer number of blog postings and news columns show that people are excited about him. He may not be ready for the attention, but if you are looking for whether he has the ability to get people excited and motivated (I believe the prime job of a leader) then he has leadership. Ideas come from staff, not the politician, the ability to carry the ideas out comes from the leadership.

  11. Michael Sense November 2, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    Dr. Armstrong-
    It is really hard to tell if someone “posseses” leadership qualities. How do you exactly quantify this? Something I said as a first time voter in 2000 was that if you didn’t like the man, at least like him for those he surrounds himself with (actively, not just followers or fans). Powell, Rice, Wolfy, Fleisher, Card, Bolden…they have seemed like great people who have aided the administration well. Conversely, Donnie Rumsfeld and others have seemingly not been that great. I do realize that each one of those people could be up for debate as far their effectiveness.
    However, there is a difference between looking at a President who will put people in places of leadership and, as Adam pointed out, people who are following them. To be honest Adam, I don’t really care about how many people are “excited” about him. People and press alike would be excited if George Clooney decided to run…doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Ophrah is really excited about Obama…………………………………………………so?
    What is she excited about? The color of his skin? The eloquence of speech? The good looks? His affable personality?
    I think it’s much too early to declare him as a great leader being that many of his Illinois folks aren’t terribly pleased with his lack of action. Many like him because he is different, which I understand. I guess if Nader would get plastic surgery done then he would also be a viable option due to him being “different”.
    By the way, as Charlie rose points out in a interview with Obama, the book lacks ANSWERS. Is this not a major, major problem of the Democrats? Very good at pointing, but terrible at tangible direction. Where are the “1000 points of light”? Where is the “Contract with America”? Where is Newt’s brilliance? Obama doesn’t provide vision and/or answers in his book.
    Huckabee has a book coming out in January titled “12 STOPs To Restoring America’s Greatness”. I can’t promise anything, but it seems that this will be a vision-casting book that will hopefully propel Mike into a place of national prominence. Very good dialoge men. Thanks for bringing it up Dr. Armstrong…I hope to hear from you on my post with what you think.
    Also, how did Obama handle the entire Jack Ryan situation?

  12. Ken Pierce November 2, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    The evidence of a leader is people following him. In a sense, that is true. Is that evidence of a good leader, though? Saul seemed pretty popular, and David seemed, at times, grossly unpopular. Many world leaders were wildly popular among their own people, but desperately wicked. I am not implying that Obama is wicked, but rather that popularity is no measure of the man. Nobody was more unpopular than Harry S Truman when he left office, and yet history puts him among the great leaders.
    Just because three newsweeklies that tend to march lock step ideologically decide that now is a time to push Obama to the fore does not mean he is popular.
    And, if he were popular, that would not make him right.

  13. Ken Pierce November 3, 2006 at 6:34 am

    Dr. Armstrong,
    It is hard to see how taking issue with a person’s positions is phony or mean-spirited. That is confusing personal attack with argument, which, granted, is often done in politics, and seems especially nasty this election cycle.
    But, thus has it always been (witness Adams v. Jefferson). I agree that such meanspiritedness attracts no-one.
    But, it does not therefore follow that we may not disagree, and disagree heartily, with a man’s positions, no matter how decent a fellow (think Joe Lieberman) he might be. That is not mean-spirited, and it certainly is not phony.

  14. JACKLINE OLUOCH November 21, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    I have followed your debates , with much interest . From my perspective , I think for one to have people following them is a sign that they are doing something right .whatsoever it is might not be as important . But they are having people listen to them follow thier path and drawing attention to themselves in a positive way. secondly the thought of Barack Obama in teh American political landscape is a fresh relief and something new and different. Some of you might say he doesnt have a vision for the U.S but please show me one hones American politician who has . i think credit should be given when it’s due . On the issue of his religous leaning and his stand on abortion is his prerogative . He is representing public policy but so are those people who are commisioning the Iraq war , sanctioning for the reintroduction of drafts and unfair trade practices .Abortion is not the only way that a politician can kill people . Policies that are unfavourable to people kill people albiet indirectly . for instance President Bush commisioned a fund for AIDS relierf in Africa called the President’s Emergency fund for Aids Relief PEPFAR but insisted that the fund caters for abstinence programs only .This is in a setting where violence against women exist poverty and a myriad of problems . That is definately killing people .Just because abortion is explicit ( and dont get me wrong ,I decry abortion ) It doesnt mean there arent other ways of killing people .Back to Barack Obama , he is the moral and ethical compass taht america needs right now.He neatly approaches race issues and does have a vision for the country as much as itis not bound in a booklet and I hope America realises this sooner or later

  15. nancy January 21, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Why is it the government and its leaders want to be MY moral compass? I think I can think and decide for myself what to do with my body and why it is a man’s business who is sitting behind a desk who does not know me is beyond me. I am so tired of what the government is telling me I cannot do I am starting to think this is becoming more of a dictatorship than a democracy. Do our votes even count? The Electoral College elects the president not the people

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