President Obama may not be the first president to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but surely the first to be nominated after less than two weeks in office. The nomination deadline for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was February 1, 2009. Obama is to receive the award for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
According to FOXNews.com, “The Nobel committee said its decision to honor the president was motivated by Obama’s initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.” Perhaps “intentions” would be a more appropriate word regarding his first twelve days in office, only eight of which were weekdays.
Michael Binyon of the Times Online proposes the decision makes a mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize, saying “the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.” Binyon expects this award will create quite the stir, and even cause “deep embarrassment for the President himself.”
In his comments today regarding the award, Obama said he “was both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision.” He tried to deflect the personal attention to his broader agenda, explaining that the prize is used at times to give momentum to a set of causes. He said the prize was not just reflective of the efforts of his administration and “must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity.”
His tone today should be appreciated, especially in light of the recent derogatory statistic reported by Dan Gainor of FOXNews.com on September 23, 2009, that President Obama had referred to himself 1,198 times in the 41 speeches to that date. How thankful I am no one is counting my words.
By nature, humans are self-centered. We are driven by selfish desires toward selfish goals. Most of us spend more time admiring ourselves than the One who made us. Technically, this is what is called narcissism. In psychiatry, it is considered a personality disorder, but in theology it is called sin. All of us struggle with this “disorder” to some degree. It can only be overcome by falling in love with our Creator and worshipping Him instead of ourselves.
But as of this writing, the facts do not suggest Obama’s latest award is the direct result of selfish goals or self-promoting strategies. Nor did his public response reflect a heart of self-love. According to Ben Smith of Politico.com, DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse said Obama did not seek the peace prize for himself, yet many are criticizing him in light of today’s announcement. Woodhouse said it is “an honor in which every American can take great pride,” unless you are of a certain political persuasion.
How sad that such an issue would divide our country further. I must question the motives of those who would strive to demean the president for being on the receiving end of an award he did not give to himself. Whether we agree or disagree with his tactics as a leader, whether we laud or question his motives, criticizing Obama in this instance seems misguided. If criticism is due, surely it should be directed toward the Nobel Foundation.
As Christians, let us seek to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we discern the events of our world. We are of a religious persuasion, not a political one; although I will be the first to argue that our faith should inform all our decisions. But let’s avoid jumping on bandwagons. Our overarching charge is to proclaim truth and promote peace as the Lord directs us. Let us be careful to give credit where credit is due, and criticize only that which deserves criticism. Christians do more harm than good when we speak from a bitter heart. As far as we know, the man we call our president had little to nothing to do with this award, and today he purposed to share it with the world.
Last July, Mark Pfeifle proposed Twitter as a qualified nominee for the coveted prize. The former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and global outreach at the National Security Council argued in favor of Twitter and its creators in an opinion posted on the Christian Science Monitor. He said, “Twitter and other social media outlets have become the soft weapons of democracy”, linking the entire world, and therefore “worthy of being considered”. As an active member of the Twitterverse, I like his idea. By affording the Nobel Peace Prize to Twitter, those of us tweeting God’s truths and saving grace could give all the glory to the one deserving recipient, the Prince of Peace.