Did Andy Stanley Really Mean Obama Is 'Pastor in Chief'?
I'm sitting there on my couch watching this, thinking,How is he doing this? I would be exhausted after a single interaction with a family. All these classrooms. And he sits through all that, and then he gives his speech. I turned to Sandra, and said, "Tonight he is the Pastor in Chief, isn't he?"
[At the pre-inaugural service,] I knew that I didn't want to get up and just launch into a sermon. When you're in an environment where you have no personal connection with anyone in the room—and I certainly didn't—as a speaker, you want to find a personal connection. I thought,Well, here is something that I felt deeply and here we have all these clergy on this stage.
So I said something like, "Mr. President, I don't know the first thing about being President, but I know a bit about being a pastor. And during the Newtown vigil on December 16th after we heard what you did—I just want to say on behalf of all of us as clergy, thank you." And I added, "I turned to Sandra that night and said, 'Tonight he's the Pastor in Chief.'"
So that's the context. I wasn't making a declaration that he's our Pastor in Chief. But I can understand how that got reported.
Some of your critics assume that by preaching on such an occasion, you are associating yourself with the President's policies, that you are onboard with his views of gay marriage, abortion, and health policies.
I think the President should be more concerned about being associated with my policies! I've been preaching for 17 years every single Sunday; he's only been President for 4! I'm kidding, of course. The whole idea of fear by association [is a problem].
If Jesus had felt that way, he would have never come to earth—right? He would have never left heaven to become a human. So I do not make decisions based on guilt by association. I grew up in a culture that was all about that.
One time another friend of mine was asked to pray with President Obama, and he asked Billy Graham, "Dr. Graham, should I pray for the President?" And Dr. Graham looked at him and said, "You're a pastor. That's what you do; you pray for people. Yes, you can pray for the President.'"
So I felt like, Okay, they asked me to preach. That's what I do. Why wouldn't I go preach to the President?
Your friend Louie Giglio got caught in the firestorm precisely because someone in the administration was embarrassed to be associated with him. Did that affect your participation?
It impacted me in this way: Louie and I are, as you mentioned, the best of friends. We talked about this extensively, but I didn't counsel him. He did not need counsel. He's so wise, and he has great people around him. But we talked about it. I believe he made the right decision by choosing not to go. It's like if you invite me to your wedding, and suddenly I become known for something that is a concern to the guests. The right thing for me to do is to call and say, "It's your wedding. If my presence is going to be a distraction, out of respect for you, I'm choosing not to attend."