What goes on behind the scenes of a presidential debate or a nightly news show? Most people are unaware of how dependent journalists and candidates are on teleprompters and talking points.
During breaks at the presidential debates, candidates rush to the bathroom, chug lots of water and make a beeline to family, friends and political consultants. Carly Fiorina may be told she's coming across too stern in her attempt to appear authoritative. Ben Carson may be encouraged to be more assertive. Moderators and candidates review talking points so they are prepared for the next segment.
Likewise, nightly newscasters like Megyn Kelly, Bill O'Reilly and Pat Robertson appear extremely articulate and spontaneous when actuality much of what they say is on a teleprompter and in their talking points. Cameramen are skilled in focusing away from these TV personalities as they scan points on the desk or on the screen in their interaction with guests.
When Pope Francis sits down for a private session with President Barack Obama, you can be assured that he has talking points prepared for their conversation, in addition to the spontaneous moments they will share. I'd like to suggest three talking points the pontiff should consider for a fruitful time of dialogue. The White House stresses it is a pastoral, not political chat. So let's go down that path.
Three Pastoral Talking Points for the Pope
1. "Do you understand what it means to be Christian? Are you one?"
When Obama ran against John McCain he was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC news and said, "my Muslim faith." When George pointed out what he said, he backed up and rephrased it, "my Christian faith." Watch it on YouTube if you don't recall this revealing moment.
Jeb Bush recently stated he thought Barack Obama was a Christian. Franklin Graham said, "I don't know if he's a Christian." Ted Nugent said, "If Obama is a Christian, I'm a gay vegetarian pirate." Jesus stated, "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit. But a corrupt tree bears evil fruit" (Matt. 7:17).
Here's the deal: From a moral perspective, there has been a truckload of "bad fruit" from President Obama's presidency. Maybe with some pastoral correction our nation's leader can start getting back on track.
Remember, Barack Obama states, "I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. We are all children of God." The one the Catholic Church recognizes as the "Vicar of Christ" has a solemn duty to address this error.
Tell the president the Bible clearly teaches there is salvation in no one except Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) and while all people are loved by God, created in God's image and are to be treated with dignity, only those who repent and put their total trust in God's only begotten Son are saved and designated "children of God" (John 1:12; John 14:6). This may not be popular or politically correct, but it's a fact according to divine revelation in Scripture.
Idea: tell how Jesus Christ told a prominent, religious leader, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see [or enter] the kingdom of God" (John 3:3-5, comment added). Obama may recall that years ago, Charles Colson, White House special counsel for President Nixon, was radically transformed when he was born again. He repented and became an authentic Christian when he yielded his life to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. His bestseller entitled Born Again shared his experience. Suggest Obama read this fascinating story of the late prison reformer.
Jesus emphatically stated, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). Emphasize that this focus is not merely a declaration but a demonstration—obedience to God's Son and His Words as revealed in sacred Scripture.
Seize this opportunity to speak frankly about the spiritual condition of Barack Obama's soul. This is certainly an important pastoral matter. If he stiffens at this point and says, "Hold it! Religion is personal. That's disrespectful. Doesn't the Bible state, 'Judge not'?" Simply say that the Bible actually tells us, "Judge fairly and righteously" (John 7:24) while cautioning us to avoid anything hypocritical, mean-spirited or unredemptive.
2. Jesus taught the mark of a Christian is obedience to God's Word (see John 8:31). Skillfully inquire why the president holds many unbiblical positions and does he realize the serious consequences of teaching people contrary to God's ways? Quote James 3:1.
Point out as a spiritual shepherd that it was deeply offensive to see the guest list of his White House visit included LGBT activists, a homosexual "bishop" and abortion-advocating nuns. Possibly ask why he does things like this that are very hurtful and embarrassing.
It's imperative to remind Obama that it is the natural tendency of broken humanity to reject and drift away from God's revealed ways unless challenged by the truth of God's immutable Word. There has been a serious lack in Catholicism of clear scriptural teaching on many issues, so multitudes have drifted into dangerous secular ideas. This has also happened to other Christian denominations.
USA Today just revealed a national poll of Catholics with shocking revelations. Fifty-four percent believe it is fine to live a lifestyle of fornication or to live together outside of marriage! Almost 40 percent believe it is OK to engage in homosexual behavior. Forty-six percent recognize homosexual marriage as normal, not sinful. And a recent Quinnipiac poll showed only 42 percent of self-identified Catholics believe abortion should be illegal.
If the president can see how Catholicism has drifted from biblical doctrine, hopefully he can identify and humble himself to recognize how severely he has strayed. In a gentle way, challenge him by quoting Proverbs 19:20, "Listen to advice and accept discipline and at the end you will be counted among the wise."
It may prove beneficial to share with Barack Obama that you took your name from the historical figure, Francis of Assisi. Like Obama, in his early days he gave himself to carnal pleasures. When he was genuinely converted, he passed by an old, collapsing church where he knelt to pray and heard the audible voice of God tell him three times, "Francis, go and repair My house, which as you see is falling into ruin."
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