Congrats to President Obama and a Challenge to My Fellow Evangelicals

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincerest congratulations to our new president Barack Obama on what is a most historic achievement:  becoming the first ever black man to hold the highest office in our country.

Now, allow me to come clean.

I voted for Obama.

Deal with it, people.

Why did I vote for Obama?

This was a very disappointing election cycle.  If I had my way, I would have stayed home and not voted for anyone.  I was not impressed with McCain, and I had ever-increasing reservations about Obama the more I heard about him.

I know all about Acorn, Ayers, Apgar, Awana, and all of the other crazy things that Obama is supposedly mixed up in. I know all about Jeremiah Wright, that Muslim extremist group over in Kenya, and all of those other questionable things that Obama supposedly has ties to.  I know all about Joe the Plumber and Obama’s tax plan.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like Obama’s apparently staunch commitment to a Keynesian economic philosophy that history has soundly refuted time and time again.

On the other side, there was McCain, who couldn’t articulate any semblance of a coherent message about anything except the fact that we should not vote for Obama.  There was the POW thing, which he beat on over and over again until there was nothing left of it to beat on.  And then there was Sarah Palin, who came off looking completely and totally like the dumb blonde who just happens to have brown hair.  (I realize that part of this is due to the poor handling which she received in the media and the way in which the McCain campaign mishandled her, but part of it is also due to her own inexperience.)

There was nothing in particular to endear me to either candidate.  If I could have stayed home and sat this one out, I would have.  But staying home is not an option.  The exercise of one’s constitutional right to choose one’s leaders is too precious and important a thing to pass on, especially considering that there are parts of the world where people feel so strongly about the right to vote that they are willing to endure hardships unimaginable to anyone here in America in order to exercise this fundamental freedom.

So in the end, I decided to hold my nose–and my stomach–and vote for Obama.

The tipping factor for me was the fact that throughout the duration of his campaign, Obama stayed on message.  It was a simple message, and a very compelling one at that.  Obama is very young and inexperienced, to be sure, but he came across as someone who had at least done his homework and given serious thought to the issues that he would be facing as president.  You may disagree wholeheartedly with the conclusions which Obama has come to as a result of doing his homework, but you can’t argue with the fact that he has done his homework.  Unfortunately I could not say the same about Sarah Palin.  Again, much of that may be because of poor handling of her by the media and the McCain campaign.  But a large part of that is due to her own inexperience.  And the impression that I got was that Republicans criticized Obama for his inexperience but were willing to give Palin a pass because she was white.  That was not something that I could go along with.

Now then.

There are a lot of doom and gloom scenarios coming out of the Christian right about what an Obama presidency will be like.  As Exhibit A, let me present to you this juicy morsel from the good people over at Focus on the Family.  Some of you may be familiar with Focus on the Family; they used to do quite a lot of good work until the fear of homosexuals drove them completely and totally over the cliff with an entire busload of supporters in tow.

But I honestly think that the election of Obama is perhaps the best thing that could ever have happened to us as evangelicals.  Because this will force us to come to grips with the failure of our ideas of advancing the kingdom of God by forcing our way in the political/social arena.

I, for one, am tired of being arm-twisted by political goon squads such as Focus on the Family, who insist that opposition to abortion and gay marriage is part and parcel of being a Christian and that this opposition automatically signs me up for a whole host of other shit that has nothing whatsoever to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am tired of groups like this insisting that their message is part and parcel of the gospel of Jesus Christ when, in reality, it is an entire universe away from anything that we are called to do or to be as Christians.  I am tired of liberals accusing us evangelicals of being second- and third-rate intellects who are ridiculously gullible and easy to manipulate while groups like Focus on the Family and their supporters prove them right by offering them all the evidence they could possibly desire.

Let them rant and rave and yell and scream about Obama and about Christians who would dare to support him all they want.  I, for one, am looking forward to the show.

Folks, it’s not about politics.  It’s not about trying to win the culture war.  And if our abject failure in regards to winning the culture war is what it takes for us to realize this, then I am glad for it.

Yes, there will be challenges if everything that Focus on the Family talks about in their nasty little missive comes to pass.  (Heads up, people:  It probably won’t.  The odds of three Supreme Court justices retiring in only four years is ridonkulously small.)  Yes, it will probably be quite unpleasant for us if abortion and gay marriage are legalized, if conservative talk radio is abolished, if healthcare is nationalized, if the right to bear arms is restricted, if homeschooling is curtailed, and if those “See You At the Pole” thingys are abolished.

But this season in our political existence also presents us with a supreme opportunity–the opportunity to send the world a new message.  A message which says that though we as Christians may disagree politically we are united in the mission of representing Jesus Christ to a world which is desperately in need of Him.  A message which says that we are perfectly able and willing to accept our brothers in Christ who have thought through the political issues presently at stake and have come to conclusions different from ours because we are united in serving a God whose agenda transcends any political agenda known to man.

That’s change–change we can believe in.

We see this almost every Saturday during this time of year, when at the end of college football games players from both teams come together to kneel at the center of the field, symbolizing their commitment to a God who transcends the colors of the team they represent.

Here is the challenge to my fellow evangelicals:  Let us take our cue from this.  Let us send a new message to the entire watching world–a world that is weary of seeing us try to ram our political agenda down their throats as a means toward advancing the kingdom of the God we claim to represent.  Let us send a message to a hurting world that is desperately in need of Christ that we are here to serve them, not to require them to serve us by submitting to our political and cultural agenda.  Let us send a message that we accept our brothers and sisters in Christ who think and believe differently from ourselves with regard to politics because we serve a God who transcends all political agendas.

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