Accept the Blame, Give Away the Praise

Photo by hobvias sudoneighm

During President Obama’s press conference yesterday, there seemed to be a recurring theme. It wasn’t the main point he was trying to make, I think, but I picked up on it nonetheless. Whenever he talked about an issue where he perceived there is a problem he said something along the lines of “the minority in the Senate is being stubborn,” which basically meant I heard him say “it’s not my fault, blame the Republicans.”

Whether or not it’s true that the Republicans in the Senate are just being stubborn and trying to drag things down is not what I’m most interested in. I’m not a huge fan of politics in general, but I am a fan of leadership and learning leadership lessons. And since the President is the most visible leader in our country, and possibly the world, I think we can learn significant leadership lessons from him.

What I saw him doing yesterday was blaming others for the country’s problems. I don’t think that’s good leadership. Again, it might be true that it’s someone else’s fault, but when you’re the leader and you blame someone else it comes across as immature to me.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discussed this concept in what he calls the window and the mirror. According to his groups study, great leaders look in the mirror when there is a problem. They are the first to say “I was wrong” or “I could do a better job.” The reason for this is that ultimately the whole organization rises and falls on leadership on one level or another.

On the other hand, if there is praise to be given a leader should look out the window to the people in his organization. When people praise great leaders respond by saying things like “I’ve got a great team” or something similar. This shouldn’t be done with false humility, but it’s an honest assessment of the situation. Without a great team a great leader won’t accomplish much.

It was a good reminder to me that it’s easy to slip into the opposite attitude. When things aren’t going well we point the finger to blame someone else. We’ve been doing this as humans for a long time. But when things are going well our egos tend to puff up and we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.

So, accept the blame but give the praise away. It’s the best way to lead others.

Is God a Republican or Democrat?

I’ve heard more discussion about this year’s election than I’ve ever heard in my entire life. This might be because I’m getting older and my ear is tuned more to politics, but it could also be an indicator that our nation is more interested in this election than any other time in recent history. There have been numerous stories of record early vote turnout and the expectation that there will also be long lines at the polls today. If the 75+ people that were lined up outside the church building this morning at 6:55 am are any indication this is no doubt true.

Being a full-time Christian minister I’m privy to a number of conversations that I most likely would not have otherwise heard. I’ve discussed and heard discussions about this year’s election from a number of different angles. I’ve heard people say things like “If you’re really a Christian you will vote Republican.” I’ve heard someone say, “I’m a Christian so that means I’m voting Democrat.” I’ve also heard people say that neither candidate is really worth of the Office, so they’re either not voting or writing in another person. This election is being hotly debated for sure.

The Bible has some things to say about the role of Christians in politics. It talks a lot about being submissive to earthly rulers:

  • “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-2).
  • “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3:1-2).
  • “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13-15).
  • “My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise” (Proverbs 24:21).

Christians are also instructed to pray for our leaders: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). One of the coolest ideas I’ve seen lately related to this concept is for us to “Pray Backwards” (, which basically means to pray for God to bless the other candidate(s) that you did not vote for with wisdom in leadership. This is a valid idea and it also teaches us a dose of humility, since our way always seems the right or best way.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about praying that a particular candidate is elected President.  I’m not opposed to praying bold prayers (see Luke 11 & 18), but I also know that God will accomplish his will on earth regardless of who is in office. He’s done it before and he will do it again and again. As Christians, our hope is built firmly on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and His Kingdom alone, not the Office of the President nor any earthly kingdom.

So, should you move to Canada, France, Mexico, or another country if your candidate is not elected? Absolutely not. Will America be more of a Christian nation if a particular party is in power? No. Our Founding Fathers may have been religious people, and possibly even Christians, but it’s most likely that they were Deists. The laws they established may have biblical roots, but that is where the connection ends. Their goals was not to establish another Christendom. It was to establish a county with religious freedoms.

History has shown us that when the church has too much power it can become corrupt and unspiritual (think about the Crusades) and lose sight of its mission. When the church is in power it’s easy to get comfortable and forget that Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We should be involved in politics, but our primary allegiance is to God and His true Kingdom: the church.

So if you’re hoping and praying that McCain will be President, but Obama wins, or if you’re pulling for Obama and McCain wins, don’t lose hope. Also, don’t get too confident if your man wins. They are earthly leaders and are prone to sin (Romans 3:23). Place your faith, hope, and trust in the unchanging power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Interesting reads related to this topic:

Are lower gas prices good for America?

A couple years ago I blogged about ExxonMobil having record 3rd quarter profits because of higher gas prices. Since then almost every major gas company has had record profits every quarter. It hasn’t just been hurricanes driving up prices. The actual price of oil per barrel has shot up, too. It’s been a trend that has been no fun, but I’ve gotten used to it.

My former response was to get mad, but I don’t really get angry anymore. It’s not that “Big Oil” has won, I just have a different perspective thanks mainly to my brother-in-law, Chris. He helped me realize that the only real way that we’ll see any significant changes to our nation’s policies on drilling for oil and building refineries was if there was an outcry from the entire nation. I believe that time is finally coming.

You see, as much as Barack Obama wants to believe that keeping our tires properly inflated and cars well maintained will reduce our dependence on foreign oil it really won’t. There will be more people in America driving more cars for the foreseeable future. While those cars will probably get better has mileage they will still use gas. Even with a reduced dependence on foreign oil their will still be a dependence.

The only way that our country will truly be able to make significant strides in having a sustainable plan for energy indepence is to start tapping into the natural resources that are available within our borders and to build more refineries to turn those resources into usable fuels. I heard a guest on Glenn Beck’s radio show comment that the very reason that we purchased Alaska in the first place was becuase of the resources (oil) that were available there. I don’t really know if that’s true or not, but it’s a good place to look.

Turn on the drills and let that black gold flow!!!

The Presidential race is officially heating up.

It’s been a busy week in the political world. Barack Obama officially announced that Joe Biden would be his running mate, the Democratic Party held their national convention, and John McCain announce that his running mate would be Sarah Palin would be his running mate.

Normally I don’t really pay a whole lot of attention to politics. In fact, I didn’t watch ANY of the coverage of the Democratic National Convention. One thing that I did find amusing was that Kevin Kiley, co-host of the Michael Irvin Show on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio in Dallas, was outraged by the Cowboys decision to not postpone their final pre-season game in order to not distract from the historic moment of Barack Obama’s nomination acceptance speech. I personally don’t have a problem with the Cowboys decision. While the first African-American to be officially nominated by one of the major political parties is an historic moment in the history of our country, it’s not a big enough moment to have the whole country come to a stand-still. The logistical nightmare of shuffling the game made it worth proceeding as scheduled.

I do know for a fact now that Joe Biden’s son is either a liar or a lunatic. I saw him being interviewed this morning on one of the major news networks and referred to Delaware as being the “greatest state in the country.” I’m all for state pride. Being from Texas it kind of comes with the territory, but come on! It’s Delaware!!! This is the same state that gets made fun of in TV shows and movies ALL THE TIME! It’s just laughable to even consider it being in the top 10 list of greatest states.

The biggest news of the day, of course, was that John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his VP running mate. This was historic as well, since she will be the first woman to have ever been on the ballot for either major party could be the first female Vice President (I obviously don’t know my political history: see Geraldine Ferraro, thanks to the commenter). I really don’t know much about her, so I won’t get into whether or not she’s qualified for the position (which she appears to be from initial reports), but I do want to comment on what I think is somewhat hypocritical in how some of the conservative voices have reacted.

When Hillary Clinton was still in the running for the Democrat nomination I heard multiple times from multiple people that you should not vote for the president based on the person’s gender or skin color, but on their character and whether or not the are qualified for the job. The rationale was that African-Americans should not vote for Obama just because he’s African-American, nor should women vote for Hillary simply because she’s a woman.

This makes sense and I think I agree with it, but now that McCain has picked Palin as his VP I’m hearing the other extreme. I’m hearing conservatives point out that he’s capitalizing on the women who probably would have voted for Hillary who might now vote for McCain because of Palin. This is probably true, but I think it’s hypocritical to condemn one group for using that strategy in one regard, but then speak positively about it for the other.

It’s not surprising, however, because this is politics. As much as both candidates are talking about bringing a change or shaking things up in Washington, when it’s all said and done it’s going to be business as usual. One side of the aisle will bash the ideas of the other side, political backstabbing will take place, and both McCain and Obama will throw dirt at each other in an attempt to win the office. It’s been this way since as long as I can remember and it will be this way as long as our political system is in place.

Faith & Politics

These days it’s not popular to talk about religion or politics. That makes the email I got today so odd. Rick Warren, Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church in California, will be interviewing both presidential candidates for a nationally televised forum. The email he sent was soliciting questions to ask and prayer for wisdom.  This will be a blend of both faith and politics, which should make it a very compelling thing to watch.

Pastor Warren will have to walk a tightrope as a representative of a non-profit organization, which just so happens to be a church, too. As such he cannot officially direct people on how they should vote or he would jeopardize the church’s non-profit status with the IRS. There are some practices that are allowed, but others that are not (see this article for more details). Since Pastor Warren will be interviewing both candidates he should be safe, but you know that the ACLU and other politial watchdog organizations will be keep close tabs on what is said.

I do think it’s important for Christians to be politically active. We’re instructed to pray for our government officials, pay taxes, and submit to laws of the land. It’s valuable to have Christians in positions of influence that can enact positive change for our nation and its future citizens.

Check out the email below:

Dear fellow pastor and church leader,

This next Saturday, August 16, 2008, I will interview Senators John McCain and Barack Obama for an hour each at our nationally televised Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. The following morning I will be preaching a message entitled “The Kind of Leadership America Needs.”

I’d value your opinion and feedback. What question would you ask BOTH candidates if you had the chance?  Please frame your question in a way that it could be asked of both candidates (to be fair) and email it to me at This would be a great help to me.

We’re in this together.  I also ask you to pray I’ll have the necessary wisdom. This will be an historic event. Never have the two candidates been interviewed by a pastor in a church. It will be a great day for all churches, showing the importance of the local church being at the civil table.

I thank God he has called you to serve Him.  For the global glory of God.

Rick Warren
Saddleback Church
Purpose Driven Network
The Global PEACE Coalition

Political Buzz

I’m starting to think that whoever ends up being the Republican Party representative (John McCain) might be doomed from the start. Not only does he have the negative associations that a lot of people have with George W. Bush, but no one is talking about him. Here in Texas, every commercial break on tv has an ad for either Barack or Hillary.  They’re gearing up for the primaries next week. I can’t remember seeing any commercials for McCain or Huckabee.

This lack of advertising doesn’t matter much now, November is still far off, but I know there is a saying that goes like: “There is no such thing as bad press.” People who don’t have ties with either party might be starting to make decisions about who they will vote for, so buzz now might pay off later.

I’m wondering if McCain’s team has recognized this and manufactured the “smear campaign” last week to bring people’s attention back to him. Probably not, I would hope, but American politics is dirty in election years.