Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Election: Can You Feel Your Hands & Toes?

Something has shifted in the republic.

Polls had steadily predicted that the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama was overwhelming the cause of Senator John McCain. Experts speculated that some Anglo voters, in the privacy of the voting booth, simply could not bring themselves to vote for an African-American for such a high office. So the polls predicted an Obama win but experts cautioned us that the results might be much closer than predicted.

By 9:30 or so in the evening, Eastern Standard Time, voting results showed that the citizens of the United States were electing a non-Anglo to the office of President. (Note: everyone refers to Barack as "African-American" but his mother was Anglo. So I'm not sure what criteria folks are using to designate him as African-American. Honestly, as the lines between the races continue to blur in America they are going to do just that....blur. We will all, as Barack said this week in referring to himself, be some kind of "mutt.")

Something has shifted in the republic.

As someone who follows politics closely, and who studied political science at IU, it is clear to me that something profound has happened. Voters have taken America to a new place, and none of us yet quite understand what this all means for our present and our future.

As a Christian pastor, who works very hard to keep any kind of political perspective out of the pulpit, writing this requires some degree of caution. However, it is wrong to let this moment in our history pass without some kind of comment.

I've noticed some things. I've noticed that a fair number of my Republican friends are very anxious about what an Obama presidency may mean for our country. They fear a sharp turn to the left. I tell them my sense is that the man is thoughtful, surrounds himself with strong people, and will do everything humanly possible not to put our nation "in the ditch."

I've noticed that even many John McCain fans sense a decency in Obama which they admire, and they see his candidacy as a good thing for our country. Even those who do not welcome an Obama presidency see his candidacy as a sign we are moving towards justice and equality racially. Many of us who lived through the civil right's struggles of the 1960's knew this day would come -but it has come with surprising quickness and even those "right of center" see it as a hopeful and good thing.

Something has shifted in the republic.

I wouldn't pretend to understand all the factors that led to Senator Obama's overwhelming victory. Certainly the economic meltdown and uncertainty meant that any Republican candidate was going to be swimming upstream. And, certainly, people are weary of a war on two fronts that has drained us of our treasure -in lives and dollars- while failing to defeat the Islamic extremists who attacked us on 9/11.

Do you know why I believe the American people have elected Barack Obama to the presidency? I believe it has to do with his repeated reminders that we are one people -despite the attempts of political experts to break us down into competing demographic groups. I believe his election has to do with his reminder that we are not a nation of blue states or red states but that we are the United States of America.

Our citizens have lived through nearly 25 years of the politics of division. People on the right were bitter and unrelenting in their attacks on the Clintons, and people on the far left have mocked and demeaned George W. Bush. Talk radio and tv has descended into shouting matches. Bill Maher is caustic, anti-faith, and hostile to middle America. Rush Limbaugh seems to have stopped thinking rationally and uses every broadcast as an opportunity to say one more outrageous, mean thing.

We're weary of it! We're tired of it!

So there is something in us that responded to the repeated statements of the tall, junior Senator from Illinois about being one people...about working together...about claiming one another. One political commentator says he watched Barack Obama speaking in inner-city Philadelphia to a rally made up mainly of lower income black families. The one comment that drew the largest roar of approval was Senator Obama's statement about being one people...working together...not being a collection of competing red states and blue states.

Paul, in Corinthians and Romans, reminds the early Christians that we are all a part of one body in Christ. There is this human temptation for the eyes to write off the feet as unimportant, or the brain to think the arms don't count. The early Christian missionary pastor reminded Jesus-followers that we are connected...we have been given one another as a gift from God. And, Paul says, each part is important. Especially the ones we think, at first glance, really don't matter.

"Can you feel your hands and toes?" Paul was asking. "Do you realize how connected you are to one another?"

Barack, although apparently a man of deep, personal Christian faith, didn't put it quite like this, but he was asking the same question: "Do you realize how connected you are to one another?"

Something has shifted. We are in a new place as a nation. It's a good time to pray...and prepare ourselves for the hard work ahead.

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