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Obama nomination of Susan Rice sparks firestorm

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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President Barack Obama confers with Samantha Power, left, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs, and Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, before they attended a wreath laying ceremony at the memorial for United Nations staff killed in Iraq at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, N.Y., on Sept. 23, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama named U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his new National Security Adviser.  A Rhodes scholar, Rice received a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Oxford following her undergraduate work at Stanford.  But her career has not been without significant controversy.

After the Benghazi tragedy, Rice claimed that the riot was the result of a spontaneous demonstration by Muslims angry about a video that insulted Mohammed.  We later learned that the attack was launched by Islamic terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11.  Critics alleged that Rice was part of a cover-up by the administration.  As a result, she eventually withdrew from consideration for Secretary of State.

Unlike Secretary of State, her NSA appointment requires no Senate confirmation.  However, it is already drawing criticism.  Sen. John McCain tweeted, “Obviously I disagree appointment of Susan Rice as Nat’l Security Adviser, but I’ll make every effort to work [with] her on issues.”  A second senator responded, “Judgment is key to national security matters.  That alone should disqualify Susan Rice from her appointment.”  Another critic claims that she is being promoted to shield her from congressional inquiry over the Benghazi attacks.

This firestorm is the latest example of partisan politics on the most divisive level in memory.  My wife and I were in Washington, D.C. last weekend for meetings.  When I asked people who live there how things are, they consistently said that the town is more divided and vitriolic than ever before.  “Where is the art of compromise?” one asked.  “Where have the statesmen gone?” another lamented.

The stress in Washington reflects the angst in our culture.  According to recent studies, Americans are among the most unhappy people in the world.  It seems that the peak of life satisfaction in the United States was in the 1950s.  That’s no surprise: In the 1960s, the “postmodern” assertion that truth is personal and ethics are subjective began taking hold.  Without objective standards by which to measure right and wrong, we’re back in the period of Judges, when “everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).

What does God want his people to do now?  Let’s learn from the example of Daniel and his friends in the pagan land of Babylon.  They learned the culture they were to influence (Daniel 1:4) while refusing to defile themselves by its ungodly practices (v. 8).  As a result, God caused Babylon’s leaders to “show favor and sympathy to Daniel” (v. 9) and gave them “knowledge and understanding” for their ministry there (v. 17).

In what ways are you influencing our culture for the Kingdom?  In what ways is the culture influencing you?  It’s good when the ship is in the ocean, but bad when the ocean is in the ship.