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Christian Leaders Avoid Post-Election Extremes

Jim Tonkowich | The Institute on Religion & Democracy | Friday, November 7, 2008

Christian Leaders Avoid Post-Election Extremes

November 7, 2008

Chuck Colson at BreakPoint is fond of saying, to the disappointment of some, “The Kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One.”  It is also true to say, to the disappointment of others, that the Apocalypse will not arrive on Air Force One either.  The woman who commented that once Barak Obama is president, she will no longer have to work to buy gas or to pay her mortgage will be disappointed.  So will the owners of the numerous websites associating Mr. Obama with the Antichrist.

After President-elect Obama’s victory on Tuesday, it was good to hear Christian leaders and commentators on both sides of the aisle avoiding these extremes.  Some were disappointed with the election results while others were delighted, but I heard little that demonized or divinized Obama.

Most of what I found instead was sensible thoughts from Christian leaders and Christian commentators beginning with the obvious observation that, for all the accusations of racism on a massive scale, America just elected an African-American president.

Former Bush aid and Washington Post columnist, Michael Gerson painted a thrilling picture:

An African American will take the oath of office blocks from where slaves were once housed in pens and sold for profit. He will sleep in a house built in part by slave labor, near the room where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation with firm hand. He will host dinners where Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 entertained the first African American to be a formal dinner guest in the White House; command a military that was not officially integrated until 1948. Every event, every act, will complete a cycle of history. It will be the most dramatic possible demonstration that the promise of America—so long deferred—is not a lie.

Southern Baptist commentator and seminary president, Albert Mohler wrote on his blog:

That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans—not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama.  As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again.  Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States.  The President.  The only President.  The elected President.  Our President.

Calls to pray for the president-elect and his leadership came from people as diverse as Mohler, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Chuck Colson, and pastor John Piper who believes we are called to be “Grateful for (Almost) Any Government” (and, given the history of the world, we should be). 

Prayer for Mr. Obama is even more crucial in light of observations by Gerson and his White House colleague, Ethics & Public Policy Center scholar and IRD board member, Peter Wehner.  Gerson writes:

There is a tremendous sense of history and responsibility that comes with serving in the White House. You gain an appreciation for the conflicted choices others have faced—and for the untamed role of history in frustrating the best of plans. It becomes easier to understand a president’s challenges and harder to question his motives. Ultimately, I believe that every president, and the staff he hires, feels the duty to serve a single national interest. And, ultimately, we need our presidents to succeed, not to fail for our own satisfaction or vindication.

Wehner carries that thought further:  “One of the things that troubled me most during my time in the White House was that among some of the President’s critics, their hatred of him was so strong and ran so deep that one sensed they hoped the country would fail in the hope that Bush would as well.”   Schadenfreude, the sin of taking joy in the misfortune of others, or seething with what Wehner has called “Obama derangement syndrome” (the mirror image of “Bush derangement syndrome”) are not godly, useful, or wise ways to engage in the public square.

The Institute on Religion & Democracy is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform our churches' social witness, in accord with biblical and historic teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.  IRD depends on support from people like you.  Click here to learn how you can help support IRD's mission.