The clip, which is now viral, only lasted a few minutes but was full of refreshing wisdom.
He told the crowd in Chicago, "This idea of purity, and you're never compromised, and you're always politically woke, and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly,"
He later added, “I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of, ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough’.”
His comments were widely praised.
Obama’s words strike a nerve because people feel increasingly bullied into silence. Gone are the days when people were protected, and ideas were debated. In our culture, to criticize someone’s views is to devalue them, making civil discourse impossible.
We live in polarized times. People with differing views rarely speak to each other, outside of internet commenting. Though ever-shifting and highly subjective, there is a prevailing mindset and “code of conduct” that is fiercely enforced. If you are brave enough to hold views that diverge from it, you risk your reputation, job, and even your life.
Obama’s simple message bridges the political divide and reflects a rising felt need - to be imperfect and still have a voice. We are all flawed human beings, and recognizing this will foster the kind of humility we could all use more of right now.
As followers of Jesus, we need to be especially careful that we do not contribute to the polarization of our times. This means we see success not as winning arguments, but modeling our lives after the One who saved us. We need to likewise recognize that “scoring points” by making someone look foolish online only contributes to the growing tribalism in our culture.
There are great advantages to the technology of our day, but grave dangers, as well. One thing is clear—change doesn’t come from soundbytes or social media posts, but the truth spoken in love. Interestingly enough, Obama concludes the interview by paraphrasing the Bible, when he says, “If all you're doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far.”
It seems Jesus’ words are as true as ever.