Dear Mr. President;
One of the things I teach as a pastor, a father, a grandfather, and a volunteer basketball coach is that we need to respect our national leaders. I believe that this is Biblical, moral, and a necessary ingredient of a healthy democracy. As a result, I teach both Republicans and Democrats to respect you because of the office you hold as the President, and I have taught them to do so whether they voted for you or not and whether they agree with you or not.
This is not a new teaching for me. I taught the exact same thing when President Obama was in office. I will continue to teach that we offer respect to Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, Judges, other leaders, and all people. I will teach these things to my congregation, my children, my grandchildren, and my community as long as I am able, regardless of the political situation.
Respectfully, however, I feel compelled to tell you that you are making my job much tougher.
Your continued disrespect for others in your choice of words leads to diminished respect in all avenues of American life. Words used by you recently (like “horseface” and “Pocahontas”) are merely the latest in a long line of insults that you seem to enjoy and that escalates a growing level of disrespect across American culture.
I am not claiming that this disrespect started with you. I am very much aware that many Americans refuse to give you the respect a President deserves, so I will continue to teach respectful behavior to the best of my ability.
I’m asking you, though, to set a much-needed example of respect.
Remember the words of Jesus to “turn the other cheek” when disrespect is offered to you. Remember also the words of the Apostle Paul, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” A stronger example of respect coming from the oval office would make it much easier for all Americans to live respectfully.
You are the president, my president. I will continue to respect you because of the office you hold. And you have my continued prayers that you will lead our nation with great wisdom and ability. But I also respectfully request that you live by a higher standard of decency and that you offer others a higher level of respect.
I’m not asking you to do so for political purposes. It may or may not lead to higher popularity, more votes at reelection time, or a better chance at getting the results you want.
I’m asking you to do this because it is the right thing to do.
Pastor Jack Marslender
I have been besieged with requests to boycott the NFL. And to buy burgers at In-N-Out. (Except that other people have asked me to stop buying burgers there.) I’ve been told that I need to support Chick-Fil-A, while others are offended if I do. I’ve been told that I need to avoid Starbucks. I’ve been asked to burn my Nikes. Today, I even received a request to boycott Willie Nelson music because he’s singing at a fundraiser for a democratic politician.
The requests, boycotts, and demands are based—in every case—on the politics of the business, the business owner, or the entertainer.
I don’t want to offend you, but I typically ignore these requests.
I don’t make business decisions based on the political status of the business. I recognize that many people agree with my politics. And many do not. I’m okay with that, so I won’t make business decisions based on politics. And neither will I be offended if you decide to do so.
One of the things I love about America is that we have freedom. The freedom to take a stand. The freedom to state our opinion. The freedom to affiliate. The freedom to do business with those we choose.
And so my choice is simple. I won’t boycott you or ignore you or stop doing business with you based on your politics. My political disagreement with you doesn’t mean that I must separate myself from you or your business.
If I decide to drink coffee, I will choose it based on taste, price, and convenience. (That means, usually, that I make it at home.) If I decide to buy a burger, I will choose a burger place with good food, good service, good prices, and a good atmosphere. I don’t care if the business owner gave money to the Republicans or the Democrats. I will buy chicken based on the same factors.
I will watch sports or listen to music when I find it enjoyable and when I have the time. I won’t watch or listen (or refuse) because a politician asks me to do so. I know that there are good people on all sides of every political viewpoint in every business, sports league, and musical genre.
If I bought shoes, I bought them because I liked them, I could afford them, and they do what I need them to do. I’m not going to burn an otherwise good pair of shoes because of an advertisement. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that I’m too cheap to burn money.
Understand, I won’t judge you if you do boycott. Please don’t judge me if I don’t.
That’s enough writing. I’m going to buy an In-N-Out Burger AND some Chick-Fil-A nuggets and sit down with a hot cup of coffee. And I’m going to put on my Nike shoes, my Adidas shirt, and my Reebok socks and listen to Willie Nelson while watching the Oakland Raiders.
Don’t judge me.
And I won’t judge you.
The words of a prominent Southern Baptist leader (made several years ago but brought to public attention in the last few weeks) has caused a firestorm of anger, accusations, debate, and defense. The leader essentially said that in the case of physical abuse, a woman should rely upon prayer and the help of the church and stay in the relationship.
He was wrong.
I believe in marriage and the family. I believe in prayer. And I believe that the church can and should help strengthen marriages.
But I also strongly believe that a woman should get out of a physically abusive relationship immediately. And she should stay out until her spouse has sought and received real help. I’m not counseling divorce. I’m saying that a woman in an abusive relationship needs to protect herself. There will be time later to talk about reconciliation, but she shouldn’t be reconciled until there is real evidence and an established pattern of change.
An apology is not enough. Tears and deep regret are not enough. Promises are not enough.
The truth is that in a huge majority of cases–even when apologies, tears, and promises are offered–the pattern repeats itself and the abuse becomes a cycle. And usually the cycle grows worse each time around.
Women, my advice is simple. Get out of an abusive relationship until help from outside the family is sought and received. It’s good that you want to believe his apology. It’s appropriate to believe his tears are real. It’s loving to believe his promises. But an abuser needs to do more than apologize, cry, and promise to be different.
Men, my advice to you is also simple. I know that your apologies are sincere, your tears are real, your shame is genuine, and your promises are heartfelt. But you need outside help. Start with your pastor. Go to the classes and counselors he suggests. Join a men’s group. Make deep and honest changes–before you try to talk your wife into coming back.
My prayer is always for reconciliation. But no woman should feel that she has to stay in an abusive relationship. It’s not the right thing. It’s not the Christian thing. It’s not a helpful thing.
My advice to this Christian leader at the heart of this firestorm is also simple. Rethink your words and your advice. Repent of your remarks. You’ve backed down somewhat from your original statements, but you didn’t go far enough. No woman should feel like her church is leading her to stay in an abusive relationship. And as a leader, you need to make that abundantly clear.