Bill Clinton on love.
For a while, he was most beloved to me as a caricature. Darryl Hammond's spot-on impressions of him on Saturday Night Live comprise many of my favorite SNL skits and memories. The charming inappropriateness, the biting of the lip, the wispy Southern drawl...When I thought of Bill Clinton, I thought, "Hilarious!"
Lately, he's taken on a different role to me. I have to admit that I'm fascinated by the man, to some extent. A few years ago, both my father and I became much bigger fans of Bill Clinton than we ever were during his presidency. A lot of his politics was making sense to me. Not all his politics, but at least more of his politcs than when he was in office. As a kid who was bred a conservative, and a religious conservative at that (though I wouldn't call myself a conservative today), hating Bill Clinton during his presidency and the Lewinsky scandal was very easy, nearly an instinctive reflex, and being years removed from that debacle made it a bit easier for him to show a little more of what he was about and for me to listen.
The man certainly has his flaws, and I'll get to some of that in Part 2, but he certainly is captivating as well. I've been following Bill Clinton's recent appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman and The Daily Show hosted by Jon Stewart (by the way, the best part of the Late Show appearance is Chris Rock's interview which followed Clinton's). The Daily Show appearance was much more accessible, and I think a large part of that is due to the direction in which Jon Stewart took the interview.
On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart brought up how people criticized Bill and Hillary for not showing enough support for Obama, or as Stewart put it, "Would you reach the bar of love?" And Bill Clinton started to talk about this idea that it doesn't matter about who "loves" Obama right now--the election is the hands of those that need to know that Obama loves them. Here are two quotes from Bill that emphasize the point:
"Let's get real here. The purpose of this election is to win. We need to do what gets votes. We already got all the people that love us on this side. We need to get some others--we need to love them, not expect them to love us."
"The people that hold this election are the people who think that [Obama] is on their side, and he loves them."
Now if you've been waiting for me to make some great political commentary (or dreading that), then you may be disappointed (or relieved). What I do want to do is extract the spiritual "juices" that I found in what I saw and communicate them.
There's a profound parallel between what Bill Clinton was talking about and what Christians need to be aware of. When I look at those quotes from Bill Clinton, I see the big picture of my goal with the gospel. The gospel is not focused on cozying up to those we're already cozy with. My days should not be spent creating a dome of Christian comfort around myself, or worrying about stepping on the toes of other Christians. There are people who need to be loved, who need to know that I love them. And when they know that I love them, they're a step closer to knowing that God loves them.
Therein lies the big picture of the gospel--not convincing people of our opinions, but convincing them of God's love for them. And God's love for them is far greater than our opinions. To the regular Joe who isn't a Christian, there is no shortage of reasons to not become one. Maybe someone can't reconcile his science to God. Maybe someone can't make the incredible leap over the hurdle that is required to believe that someone can come back from the dead. Maybe someone can't tell what the difference is between God and Buddha, or Allah, or Shiva, or Tom Cruise, or the Patriots. Maybe someone just can't figure out why, why in the world, would a loving God let her mother die of cancer. Why would he let this happen to me?
I believe...that any of those obstacles to faith can be overcome the moment that a person realizes in their heart, in their spirit, in their being, that God is on our side. God loves us. When the reality of that sinks in, there is no scientific theory, no belief, no politics, no pain that can stand in the way.
So why are Christians trying to "convert" people in all these crazy ways? If you ask most of them, they think they are doing the right thing. And to be honest, I don't know which way to endorse as the best way, and I don't know which to condemn. Unfortunately, there is no book titled "These are the 7 God-endorsed Methods to Spread His Sunshine and Love." Yet. (You never know with the Christian book industry...) But I hope that in our efforts (no matter how flawed) to be what Jesus Christ would like us to be, we act with the spirit of allowing people to see, to hear, to feel, to realize, to know that God is on our side, and he loves us.