First there was President Reagan’s former speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, previously sympathetic to President Obama:
The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen.
Then prominent Obama supporter Maureen Dowd turned up the volume with Once more, with feeling:
President Spock’s behavior is illogical. Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it…
Instead of getting Bill Clinton to offer Joe Sestak a job, Obama should be offering Clinton one. Bill would certainly know how to gush at a gusher gone haywire. Let him resume a cameo role as Feeler in Chief. The post is open.
James Carville’s rage about the President’s lack of response to the oil spill provoked this analysis from Ruben Navarette:
Americans don’t want a president with ice water in his veins. Whenever there is a disaster, whether natural or man-made, they want a leader who takes decisive action and speeds up the recovery. But they also want someone with passion who sees an injustice and the suffering it caused and reacts with a range of emotions — including, when appropriate, rage.
In some ways you cannot but feel sorry for President Obama. Being President can be a thankless task. Journalists previously criticized both President Clinton and President Bush for lacking control of their feelings (though in different ways!). President Obama was going to be different, they told us. He was going to be calm, rational, thoughtful, and reasonable. And now when he is calm, rational, thoughtful, and reasonable…we want more FEELING! Public opinion can be so fickle, as Jesus Himself noted when comparing the people’s critical response to both “detached” John the Baptist and His own “over-involvement” with sinners (Matt. 11:16-19).
However, the current criticism of President Obama does remind pastors of the huge importance of of empathy in human relationships. The most “successful” pastors I’ve come across have been those who were able to weep with those who weep (and rejoice with those who rejoice). In times of crisis and catastrophe, often the best thing we can do is let a (real) tear roll down our cheeks. That micro-ounce of salty water can comfort people in a way that no amount of words can. And, of course, that tear, that empathy, also creates a context in which our words (God’s Word) will be heard better.
One of the reasons why we listen so carefully to Jesus’ words is because He is “acquainted with our grief” and “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He truly is “Feeler in Chief.” And His under-shepherds should reflect this as they help His suffering sheep. Instead of “having ice water in our veins” we have Christ’s Spirit in our hearts. That, surely, must produce passionate, involved, emotional, and sympathetic pastors.