Nov 4, 2012
In education we have – or we once had – the three Rs. In discussions of campaigns and elections, we can divide discussions into categories of the three Ps – Partisan, Political, and Patriotic. There should be no negative connotations to any of them, as long as understand the sources and purposes. Citizens might grow tired of partisanship, yet in such contentions policies are formulated and governance achieved. Even our founders quickly adopted party identification; and The Federalist Papers argued for the positive roles of lobbyists in policy debates.
Then there is Politics, which (apart from corruption and mean manipulations) is also a necessary ingredient in the recipes of civic management. Patriotism, is, of course… “the last refuge of scoundrels!” is the old phrase that leaps to many minds. And so it has been. But it must always be what is its essential component – the noble motivation of citizens and their representatives. If it is honored more in the breach, so be it. The efforts of patriots are still worth the troubles and the muck.
In the campaign just ending there are few among us who would wish that the infernal phone calls and competing polls and annoying television commercials and cards and letters would continue. Gee, can’t we have, please, another five or six months of all this? And, maybe, six or eight more debates? I don’t think so; nobody does.
So I have promised election predictions. A couple paragraphs to the south, here, I will issue a dead-certain prediction. But first, some observations from the “patriotic” point of view – not that I would consider contrary forecasts unpatriotic. I just mean that my thoughts are as dispassionate as I can make them, with national and broad interpretations, and not partisan or political.
They all have to do with religious considerations. And I am struck by the fact that very few polls and scarcely any commentary this cycle has confronted the role of the Christian voter. In several elections the so-called Evangelical Bloc determined outcomes of local and national elections. Christians were courted. And profiled. And polled. They accounted for Bush’s victory margins; they were relatively lukewarm to McCain. This year I have observed several significant currents. They have been largely neglected by pollsters and commentators. The little device known as the “blog archive” and the major tool known as Google will soon determine whether I have fine-honed instincts or a case of late-term election overload. Anyway:
1. The reluctance of Christians to support Romney on the basis of his Mormon religion has largely evaporated. Many of my friends, six months ago, were resigned to “staying home” on the presidential vote, voting for the undercard but not endorsing what many Christians regard as a cultist. There is probably more opposition to Obama than affection for Romney; but, anecdotally, I see a voting bloc showing up at the polls that has been relatively quiet about its intentions.
2. I had the feeling when the abortion-and-contraception mandates, even for Catholic hospitals and charities, were announced, that the president’s campaign reckoned they were appealing to their base and not about to jeopardize votes they never had. And divert a week or two from discussions of the economy. But a sleeping giant was awakened. Again, anecdotal evidence: I have many Catholic friends, some of them very liberal, devoted to traditional Catholic charity work. I have heard many of them, in various degrees of heartache, say that they are otherwise totally committed to candidates from president on down… except – finally – they feel they have to draw the line on the abortion issue. “Despite everything else,” a friend told me recently, “I simply cannot vote for someone who excuses murder.” Multiply these feelings by millions; add the unprecedented sermon and pamphlet appeals by Catholic clergy; and we have, once again scarcely polled and concentrated in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, a voting bloc that might seem to rise from nowhere.
3. The Black Church. Once again, to America’s shame, blacks are taken for granted. By their party of choice, always; by pollsters, this year. But I have not seen one poll of the black church community, which is indisputably a pillar of the large African-American population. Blacks are understandably proud of the first black president. But while white liberals ascribe racism to opponents of the president, some leaders of the black church itself have been mobilizing their own opposition to the president. Several organizations, representing hundreds of congregations, have been formed by leaders of the black church, upset with ineffective economic policies, bureaucratic patronization, drug policies, but most notably abortion stands and, especially, “their” president’s policy on homosexuality, “gay” marriage, and so forth. I think voters from inner-city churches in battleground states will surprise many analysts on the morning after.
So much for the under-the-radar predictions.
The certain, sure-fire, dead-certain, no-doubt prediction, however, is that whoever wins the popular and electoral votes on Tuesday night – or, if Hanging Chad makes a return engagement, a month from Tuesday night – whether Obama or Romney “win,” God is the victor. He cannot lose. He is in control. Our faith should be in Him, not candidates or platforms or campaigns.
Is this good news? Christians should rejoice over the truth of it. But truly, those who claim Jesus Christ and long for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, might correctly wonder whether to dance in joy, or tremble in fear.
If God truly wins – that is, not just the truth of His Lordship, but the timing and application of His justice, for He cares little about evanescent campaigns and politics – America is in for a shock. How long can He withhold His hand? Are we about to exhaust His mercy?
I have often wondered whether soldiers, looking at the flag they defend, see something symbolized in each of those stars. We all can ask the same question. Count them off: does that star represent legal abortions of millions of babies? Does that star represent the shameful prevalence of drugs in our country? Does that star represent the nightmare of widespread of child abuse? Does that star represent the breakdown of the family unit, no less among Christians than the general public? Does that star represent the acceptance homosexuality and enshrinement of deviant lifestyles, in the law? Does that star represent a shallow failure to protect Christians around the world who are being persecuted? Does that star represent… God help us if the list reaches 50 stars. But I am afraid it could number more than 50 offenses to a righteous God.
What can committed Christians, in clarity and humility, do in a democracy? Well, we are all of us building blocks. Essentially, we can act, and vote, with integrity. We can affect our circle of friends and family. That might be enough… if there are enough of us. We can be little more than foundation stones, but with enough of us we can rebuild a mighty edifice that once stood for God.
Besides, Jesus was the “foundation-stone that the builders rejected.” And see what He won. Not an election, surely, but He won our salvation; and defeated sin and death and the fetters of the world-system.
My early projection is to call this election for God.
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As another, possibly more resonant, national anthem, “America the Beautiful” is just fine for millions of Christian patriots. And I will cast my vote for Ray Charles signing it. Here, with a slideshow of American scenes.