Reflections on the 2024 State of the Union Address

Last night, the President gave his State of the Union Address. The speech is more than tradition, it is a responsibility laid out in the US Constitution, Article II, Section 3, wherein the President must “give to Congress information of the state of the union.”

But today, with hours of TV coverage before and endless “spin” after the speech, it all begins to look and feel a lot like performance theater. More a political exercise for the party in power than communicating information between branches of government, the State of the Union has become an opportunity to recount past successes, attack opponents and at best, outline future priorities or agenda items.

After watching last night’s speech, here are a few of my takeaways for those of us seeking to cultivate the mind of Christ on all things.  

The President said, “history is watching.”  

What does that mean?  How is history watching? History is not personal, but God is. And God is most certainly watching.  

Consider 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have war.” What does this mean? There are some ways we are accountable to those who have gone before us. And we will be held responsible for our actions by those who come after us. Ultimately, though, it’s not the vague “history books,” but God’s account of our life that matters  

The President accused others of trying to “bury the truth.”  

There is not one politician or party or cause that owns the truth.  Why?  Truth is a person: Jesus. And truth has a witness: Jesus. John 18:37 “”For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” The truth is its own witness and Easter testifies to the Truth that although people try, the Truth will not remain buried for long. 

The political division was palpable, but so was the grief in the room.

Several people were removed from the House chamber for disrupting the speech and yelling at the President. One was the father of one of the Marines killed in the August 2021 attack outside the Kabul airport during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.  

When one member shouted, “Say her name,” the President responded by holding up a button bearing the name of Laken Riley. He addressed her parents who were in the House saying, “my heart goes out to you.” Laken was a Georgia nursing student murdered two weeks ago by an undocumented man who had been arrested in two different states on two different occasions but never deported. 

Even given these weighty, grievous realities, the President gave little hope of a future without death or crime. That kind of future is real— and really coming when Christ Himself returns to consummate the kingdom he purchased with His own blood. This is the righteous and just government of peace we have been promised, and for which there will be no end (Isaiah 6:9).

When the President talked about the future he said he was optimistic. 

In fact, he said he’s “never been more optimistic about our future than I am now.” Really? His optimism is rooted in a list.  

  • “I see a future where we restore the right to choose and protect our freedoms — not take them away,”  
  • “I see a future where the middle class finally has a fair shot and the wealthy have to pay their fair share in taxes.  
  • I see a future where we save the planet from the climate crisis and our country from gun violence.” 

Said differently, the President sees with optimism a future where more American children die in the womb and the manufactured rights of some are pitted against the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of others. He sees, with optimism, a future where “we save the planet,” not a future where we set ourselves collectively and with humility before the One who alone is the Savior of the World.   

Is that really right? Are we the hope and saviors of the world? Thankfully, not. Surely our actions matter— primarily before a watching God— but as I said yesterday, the State of our Union as a nation matters little compared to the state of our union with Christ.