It used to frustrate me a lot to hear people constantly running down George W. Bush when he was in office. It wasn’t the people who had differences of opinion with him on policy that bothered me—it was those who felt it was appropriate for them to launch ceaseless personal attacks against the President of the United States.
Fast forward a few years, Barack Obama is in office, and the personal attacks continue (albeit, from a different portion of the population). Instead of calling him stupid (which they did with Bush), people call Obama a Muslim or a Communist, or accuse him of hating America.
As with Bush, a basic lack of respect is shown for the President on a daily basis. I think that is unfortunate, but maybe not particularly surprising when you consider that people treating one another with respect isn’t really a defining characteristic of our culture these days.
One of my favorite scenes in Band of Brothers (which, by the way, I highly recommend) revolves around an interaction between Major Richard Winters and Captain Herbert Sobel.
At the beginning of the series, Sobel had been Winters’ commanding officer during training camp, and he was a difficult officer to work with—cruel, vindictive, and incapable of reading a field map. There was no love lost between Sobel and Winters, his executive officer. As time progressed, Sobel proved himself to be an inept officer and was transferred out of the unit, while Winters received one promotion after another, eventually becoming a major and a battalion commander.
Later on, Winters and Sobel cross paths again, but now, Winters, and not Sobel, is the senior officer. Sobel tries to walk past Winters without really acknowledging him or saluting, but then Winters forces him to do so and says something I absolutely love:
Winters’ point is well taken, and ultimately, it’s one that I believe applies to Presidents as it does to superior officers—we owe them respect, not because of what we think about them personally, but because of the office they occupy (of course, it’s easier to respect admirable people, which is one reason why I think personal character is an important issue when it comes to choosing leaders).
Interestingly enough, this is a biblical idea as well. In Romans 13, in the context of talking about the Christian’s relationship with the government, the Apostle Paul says in verse 7,
“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
Later, in a similar context, the Apostle Peter conveys a similar message in 1 Peter 2.17:
“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
I point out these scriptures because, unfortunately, Christians—from both sides of the political aisle— are often just as guilty of treating the President with disrespect as anyone else. I have some profound idealogical differences with our current President, and occasionally I’ll speak about those differences, but if I ever do so in a way that is disrespectful, I need to hear about it. Because it’s not right.
Honor the emperor, whether you like him or not.