October 20, 2014

In the Wake of the Election

Whether your guy won or lost on Tuesday (mine came in second) you have to marvel at this very exceptional nation called America. And, indeed, the whole world is doing just that. In an editorial, the Times of London described the election as a “Masterclass in Democracy”:

The world has been fascinated and profoundly moved by this election most of all because of what America is — a nation founded on universal aspirations, and thus a mirror to humanity. For two centuries that mirror has seemed irreparably cracked by the legacy of slavery and segregation, a pernicious and enduring racism that remains a factor in the blighted lives of so many of the poor blacks among whom Mr Obama launched his political career. He is not the last role model they will ever need, but he is the most powerful proof his country has produced that it is ready to judge them by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin.

The world watched as 121 million Americans peacefully went to the polls and democratically elected a new leader in Barack Obama. John McCain conceded to Obama in a speech that the Telegraph described as one of “striking grace and generosity.” He will succeed President George W. Bush who immediately and graciously promised a smooth transition.

In his acceptance speech in Chicago, Obama talked about the “values” we share:

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

Of course, as Christians, we are more concerned — or should be — about illumination by the Truth than we are about any competition of “values.” Even atheists have values, don’t they? In the coming weeks and months, we shall have hard evidence about how Obama plans to “heal the divides.”

John Mark Reynolds, in “Morning in America” over at the Scriptorium, properly promised to pray for Obama. No talk from Reynolds about Obama not being “my” President.

In our system, President-elect Obama is also the head of government. In those terms, I am part of the loyal opposition. I will support President Obama when his policies are sound and give forceful reasons to oppose them if they lurch to the left. A loyal opposition is always hopeful that the Other Party will govern better than they have promised—the real world often tempers messianic dreams, but is ready to quip and quarrel if not.

The battle for the right to life for all God’s children will continue as will our defense of the family. We should ignore the temptation to read too much into elections. Pundits get paid to pontificate, yet they lack the anointing of pontiffs let alone of prophets.

At the Traveling Priest Chronicles, Fr. John looked at the “aftermath” of the election and reminds us that “we must recover our ability to proclaim our ideas not simply as traditions passed on for their own sake but rather as practical wisdom intimately related to a way of life that is truly beneficial and human.” And what of the government’s increasing role in our lives? He says:

… we need to take personal responsibility. For too long many devout Christians have turned to the government, to business, to the institutions of culture to do the work and to take the responsibility that belongs to us. To vote pro-life, for example, is good but those votes won’t make a difference in this life or the life to come if the woman in the house across the street from our parish is pregnant, without hope, and none of us are willing to cross the street to meet her needs. If we want the moral transformation of society we cannot abrogate our responsibility for creating it to anything, or anyone but ourselves. We have to live this life. We must speak our truth. We must build the values we want in our children and our communities by our active participation. We must build our culture up in the same way it has sunken so low, the transformation of one person at a time.

There is much more to comprehend about this election. In future posts on the Observer, we plan to look at how the religious vote played into the results, how the marriage and abortion proposals fared (God bless our Orthodox hierarchs in California for their support of the successful Proposition 8) and what we may expect from an Obama administration on social questions that are important to Orthodox Christians. Your comments and contributions will be an important part of this discussion here.

For now, anyone looking for balance and perspective on faith and politics should give Fr. Thomas Hopko’s series on “Church and State” on Ancient Faith Radio a listen. You might even begin with the last installment (Part 8) on what it means to be a Christian in America today.

And, tonight, say a prayer for this great country.

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