Secular Chaplain Guest: President Obama

Obama and Lama Obama and Pope

(After his meeting with Secular Chaplain, the President met with Less Important “Spiritual” Leaders)

*The following interview was held today in a secret outdoor location.  No cameras were allowed.

Welcome Mr. President.

Good to be here.  Wouldn’t have missed it.  I’ve been a reader of Secular Chaplain for years.

I’m humbled, Sir.

No, it’s I who feel deep humility.  

Excuse me, Sir.  But I’m the most humble person I know, and proud of it.

Um.  I think you may be a little confused, Chaplain.

Maybe, Barack. . .can I call you Barack?


Alright, let’s get to the questions, shall we?

In your interview with Thomas Friedman this week (“Obama on the World”) you said of the factions in Iraq,

“We cannot do for them what they are unwilling to do for themselves.”

A few moments later you told Friedman,

“We can help them and partner with them every step of the way.  But we can’t do it for them.”

Do you stand by your words?

Of course.

Do you SIT by them too?   Just kidding.

(Mr. Obama rolls his eyes)

Mr. President, are you aware that this approach to foreign policy equally applies to Chaplaincy?

I hadn’t thought of that.  What do you mean?

Well, Barack. . .I mean Mr. O. . .that is, Commander-in-Chief Sir. . .

What I mean is that for Chaplains who are inside prisons or hospitals, out on the streets or in the military, as well as those serving companies, cities, non-profits or schools, people are asking for help–or not–and we have to decide how to help–or not.

I think I follow you.  Say more.

Thank you, Sir, you’re a good listener.  You’d make a good Chaplain.

No, I don’t think so.

Yes, I think so.  You should think about that for after you leave the White House.

Go on, please.

Ok, so Chaplains have decisions to make every day as they face person by person and need by need.  Sometimes there are factions and fights; little wars between people or even within individuals.  “Can I be of some help here?” is a constant floating question.

I like where this is going.  Say more.

Yes, Sir.  I’m impressed you’re taking notes!

Michelle and the girls may want to hear this.

Oh, um, then I’ll get to the point here.

Unlike missionaries, who want to impose their own beliefs and sometimes their own cultural biases on other people, Chaplains (the Best Chaplains, in my “humble” opinion. . .)

(The President winces)

Sorry, but the most effective Chaplains, in my experience, are the ones whose intention is much like what you say.  They want to help others when help is asked for and when its appropriate.  But a Chaplain can’t do for another person what they are unwilling to do for themselves.  As you say, “we can help them and partner with them every step of the way,” but we can’t do the hard work they have to do as free-thinking human beings with personal choices to make.

That makes sense.  Now I have a question for You.

Oh, uhh, I’m not sure, but, well, ok. . .

As a Secular Chaplain, I guess you wouldn’t pray for a person or hand them a bible or take them to church.  So, how can you “partner” with them without sharing your beliefs?

Good question.  Oh, of course, I expected a good question from you, Sir.

First, a Secular Chaplain has no “beliefs” to share.  Opinions and ideas and thoughts and experience, yes.  But, first and foremost we learn by listening and exchanging stories and ideas.  That way we learn what the person is really living through, what they are really thinking and feeling.  Only then can there be a mutual decision if help is welcome, or even necessary.

Holy Shit!  Sorry.  Please don’t print that!*  Excuse the profanity, but that’s a wonderful way of putting it.  I’m going to talk this over with my security advisors and my family.  Joe and John will appreciate it too (Vice Pres and Sec of State).  

Pardon me, Sir.  I wasn’t finished.

Oh, my bad.  Please go on.  But could you make it brief, I have some appointments.

Absolutely, Chaplain President.  Sorry, just had to try that out.

(awkward silence)

All I was going to say is that “partnering” means spending valuable time being “present” with a person.  Sometimes simply sitting or walking with them.  “Showing up and being there” is the general rule.  Then and only then can a Helper really “help” in any effective, meaningful way.  This kind of “presence” is essential, but most people don’t have the time, or they’re too caught up in their own wishes for the other person.  And even some Chaplains are under too much time pressure to take and make that time.  And I would say, in conclusion, the greatest part of being present with another human being is to encourage them to take care of themselves, to take control of their own lives and to be the best people they can be.  Not what I want them to be.

My Gawd, that’s well said!  Sorry, I mean, My Good!  I almost feel you’ve been a Chaplain for ME here today!  Thank you.

Oh, come on, Sir Barack Man. . .Damn.  Sorry about that.  I’m happy you feel that way.

So, thank you very much, Mr. President, for coming out here by the river today to speak with Secular Chaplain.

Thank You for having me.  It’s beautiful out here.  Sorry for the secret service guys up in the trees.

(Laughing, The President shakes our hand, walks down the trail, turns and waves)

You’ll make a perfect Secular Chaplain!

(Big smiles and the President waves off the comment.  We think we hear him call back over his shoulder, “Maybe someday; maybe someday!”)

*Note:  Secular Chaplain chose to print the President’s momentary outburst to reveal his most unguarded and human expressions.  With no disrespect, we think this whole interview was a Holy Shit moment!

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2 thoughts on “Secular Chaplain Guest: President Obama

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