President Obama and Hasty Vows

>> Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hello all!

Today, while reading (and watching) some material covering questions of whether President Obama has been as transparent as he promised during his campaign, I was struck by a few things that I would like to “throw” out for y’all to take or leave. :-)

Without getting into all the nitty-gritty details of the charges and response (which I will admit I am not as familiar with as I would like to be) I believe that during the campaign Senator Obama made more than a few rash vows, and as a result I think the accusations have a lot of merit.   However, with that said, I also can easily understand and agree to the statement made by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that, “Not everything the President does is for the cameras and for the press.”  

To my thinking, the real problem here is not that the President isn’t allowing the media to cover all the things they want to cover, or think should be covered, -- the real problem is/was the rashness of the vows made by Senator Obama on the campaign trail.  As a Christian, I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that a rashly made oath is foolishness.   Leviticus 5:4-5 clearly teaches that rashly making an oath, be it for a good purpose or with a good intent, is a sin: 

“Or if a person swears thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good in whatever matter a man may speak thoughtlessly with an oath, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty in one of these.  So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned.” 

Proverbs 20: 25 says…“It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” and after the vows to make inquiry.” 

I believe that the promises made by Senator Obama were in large part good and I understand that in a campaign you are trying to paint a best case picture of what your administration would be and would do.  However, Senator Obama should have more prudently and/or thoroughly considered the ramifications of his rash vows and considered whether the promises made by 'Senator Obama' could be upheld by 'President Obama'.  His promises of transparency were clearly more than could have or should have been reasonably promised.   Perhaps the problem is that President Obama has never differentiated between the things that should require transparency, the things that ought to be kept and done out of the view of the public and simply promised over-arching transparency in general.   I can see this being the case, but at the very least the President created an impression (purposely, I assume) and never clarified or defined the exact intent and extent of his stated purpose and goals. 

Probably no segment of our society demonstrates the ease and carelessness with which rash promises are made (and broken) more than the political world.   As Christians, it is our responsibility to clearly advocate for integrity and prudence in vow making and then to hold our elected officials to their word.  Most importantly though, it is up to us, in accordance with God's word, to demonstrate the integrity and prudence in our own lives that we expect of people around us and representing us.  

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Carin Polczynski March 25, 2010 at 7:08 AM  

Very wise and gracious thoughts, Mark - which I think, reflect the heart of a merciful Savior Who suffers long. Thanks for the perspective. It is a very serious thing indeed to make a vow and God's word says it's better to never vow than to make a vow and break it.

Andrew Davis March 25, 2010 at 9:37 AM  


I frankly am not disappointed that President Obama broke the majority of his campaign promises; partially because they were disastrous in scope, but mostly because I never expected him to try.

He's a politician*. He said the things that would make people vote for him, and for the most part without any serious intent to fulfill his promises. He still does that; in his campaign to pass the healthcare bill, he went from group to group promising the bill would do whatever each group particularly wanted it to. Truth was unimportant.

*(DEF: Politician: One who tells lies to gain power. Not an excuse, just a description.)

He is a politician; I expect him to say things he doesn't mean, abuse his office for personal gain, hand out political favors to his supporters, and use every trick in the book to gain more power. He hasn't disappointed me.

Why should we expect him to keep his word? Expect rather that he will not, and be surprised if he ever accidentally does.

All politicians are corrupt; that's my starting place when dealing with any of them. I expect anyone in power to be a debauched power-hungry liar, and I am sometimes (very rarely) pleasantly surprised to find one who is not. But that doesn't mean that I'm supposed to be their conscience. Just because I recognize the truth doesn't mean that I should always be going around pointing out everyone's deviations from it.

As Christians, do we have the responsibility to coerce everyone else into telling the truth and walking uprightly, or do we have the responsibility to be an example of the same to the (fallen, lost, and morally debased) World?

I would submit that, as Christians, we should be honest ourselves; willing to tell Herod that he should not have his brother's wife, but not setting ourselves up as moral guardians to the state, That way lies insanity; ask Savonarola.

And pray for our rulers; not that they will reform, but that they will let us live and worship our God in peace.

Andrew Davis

Eric Novak March 25, 2010 at 11:20 AM  

I very much agree, however, the fact is that when dealing with politics vows aren't taken very seriously. Politicians make promises that they never keep all the time and it's become statuesque.

Not only because we are Christians, but also because we are American citizens, we should fight for fair politics and for accountability within government.


Mark Hutchins March 31, 2010 at 9:49 PM  

@ Mrs. Polczynski: thank you very much! Your gracious words are much appreciated and very encouraging. :-)

@ Andrew: perhaps my wording was not clear enough. When I said “I believe that the promises made by Senator Obama were in large part good” I meant only those promises relating to transparency in the legislation process. I didn’t mean that I agreed then (or now) with his espoused philosophy and policies…only the things he said regarding the process.

I largely agree with your analysis of President Obama. I also think he treats truth lightly. But I do object strongly to your definition of a politician. Did you make that up?

Honestly, I think your reasoning and thinking is more negative than it need or ought to be. I don’t think our starting place should be to assume that all politicians are corrupt. Rather, I suggest we evaluate each politician (or political candidate) by their words and actions. Each person must and should be given a fair chance to prove themselves for better or worse and need to be held accountable. Vigilance is the greatest tool we have for accountability outside of voting itself, and to assume that each politician is corrupt seems little better than to assume that all are not corrupt, I believe. In the case of President Obama, I’m sorry to say that a “fair hearing” leads me to also be surprised when he holds to his word. I don’t distrust him because I assumed that he was dishonest from the first…I distrust him because he was given a chance and consistently broke his word.

As Christians we don’t have the responsibility to coerce people and I don’t advocate that. But we do have the responsibility to advocate certain causes, and if that sometimes means that we have to coerce certain parties in the interest of our cause then yes, we should coerce. It’s not about the person though…it’s about the cause. A politician that has to be coerced is far from the kind of person I want to represent me but I can’t choose all the people I might be called upon to coerce at some point. You are also correct that our most sure responsibility is to be a Christ-like example to the world. I certainly agree with you there…

I agree with your concluding remarks too, btw. :-)

@ Eric: I fully agree that vows aren’t taken seriously in politics and that it’s somewhat of a problem. The broader point of my post was to address that issue. :-) Speaking for myself, I prefer to vote for an honest man that I agree with on 70% of the issues (assuming we agree on the most essential, like abortion) then a man of questionable honesty that I agree with on 90%. If nothing else, I know that the former will be more trustworthy than the latter, who can’t be counted on to stand up when things are hot and on the line.

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