The Morning After P.I.L.L.

On the morning of November 5, 2008, I took the liberty of recording several post-election Facebook status updates for posterity. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “The world as we know it is coming to an end.”
  • “Good bye, America.”
  • “An Obama Nation is an abomination!”
  • “We may not have a country left in four years!”
  • “We’ve just elected the Anti-Christ.”

Sound familiar? You might call it the Morning After P.I.L.L. (Posting of Irrationally Lugubrious Lamentations).

Listen, I get the disappointment and frustration. I’ve been there (I just tend to experience it during the primary season rather than in November). What I don’t get is the weeping and gnashing of teeth that inevitably follows every election.

Yes, elections have consequences. Serious ones. But let’s not overreact! America is not going to disappear just because 3 million more Americans voted for Obama than Romney, just like it didn’t disappear during the last four years. There’s no reason for panic or name-calling!

Here’s something I wrote four years ago that is still true:

Am I disappointed that Obama will be our next president? Yes. Am I surprised? Not really. Am I worried? Not at all. I do not agree with his policies, but… he is my president, too. I would still rather live in an Obama America than any other country in the world. I pray for him, and for the decisions he will make. My president has no bearing on my ability or my requirement to live according to the Spirit. I will fail; my God will forgive.

I don’t doubt that the next four years will be hard ones (as these last four have been), but the occupier of the Oval Office has no bearing whatsoever on the way I am to live as a Christian. Might faithfulness require more sacrifice under some circumstances than others? Of course! For those Christians disappointed with the outcome of the election, it’s time to double down on our commitment to preach the gospel, to meet the needs of the poor and needy, to raise our children to know Jesus, and to seek the welfare of our nation, praying to the Lord on its behalf (Jeremiah 29:7).

Further election reflection can wait. I would, however, like to take a moment to affirm everything my buddy Jeff Wright wrote this morning, and to add one thing to it. I think it would go a long way toward improving the state of political discourse in America if we could more charitably attribute good motives to our political opponents. I don’t buy the rhetoric that Barack Obama “hates” America. I think he has very wrong ideas about what is best for our country and her citizens, but I don’t doubt that he genuinely wants to see America and Americans prosper.

Even if I’m wrong about the President, I know that’s how many (and likely most) of his supporters feel. Let’s start giving each other the benefit of the doubt and find ways to work together on the many areas where we can find some common ground. In the meantime, we can start figuring out how best to prepare for the next round of elections.

Over the next couple days, I do want to write a little bit about some of the down-ballot things that happened yesterday around the country (e.g., legalization of pot & gay marriage), but that kind of post deserves more thought than I can spare today.

“The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.” ~ Dan 4:25

2016: Obamney’s America

Many of you have seen the film 2016: Obama’s America (you know, the recent propaganda hit piece written by a dude who’s been travelling the country with a woman not his wife spreading the gospel of America’s moral superiority), but for those who haven’t, it’s one man’s attempt to portray what our country would look like after four more years of an Obama presidency.

With today being election day, I thought I’d give my own forecast of some things that might happen in the next four years depending on who gets elected President today. As a guy who doesn’t like either of the Republocrats at the top of the tickets, I still see some pros and cons either way.

If Obama Wins

I’m a socially conservative, libertarian-minded registered Republican, so it’s probably safe to say that I see far more bad than good that could come of an Obama second term. I don’t anticipate Fox News-level horrors, but four more years of out-of-control spending, warmongering, disregard for civil liberties, and anti-life agenda is not something I particularly want to experience.

The silver lining to an Obama win is that maybe — just maybe! — it will provide the shock that the GOP needs to stop nominating neo-conservative big government Keynesians and provide voters with a real alternative in 2016. Also, regardless of what happens in the presidential election, I think that liberty candidates will continue to be elected to the Legislature, providing a hedge against what the President can do. The Revolution will continue, likely even faster in an Obama second term.

If Romney Wins

First of all, I don’t want to completely white wash these two guys by saying they are “exactly the same”. They aren’t (and yes, I realize that I’ve used that bit of hyperbole before in this election cycle, but I’ve since thought better of it). While their positions are virtually identical on things such as foreign policy, they do differ — if only marginally — in some very important areas.

Seen in isolation, I’d say without a doubt that I would prefer four years of Romney to four more years of Obama. I don’t think a Romney administration would be substantially different, but the differences that did exist would be good ones.

The problem is, though, that we don’t have the luxury of thinking about the future in only four year increments. A Romney win largely maintains the status quo, and puts real change further off into the future. Here’s why:

I believe a Romney presidency would be just conservative enough to make most people who already identify as conservatives feel that progress is being made, but not enough to do much real good… convincing many that “conservatism” doesn’t work. His big-government, pro-war policies are bound to continue (if perhaps incrementally slower) our nation’s debt spiral and erosion of civil liberties. He has already promised to make extensive use of the executive order to grow the power of the President (which is apparently fine with “conservatives” as long as it’s a “conservative” who’s doing it), which is only going to frustrate and alienate more lovers of liberty. All this would very likely result in handing the Oval Office (and probably both houses of Congress) back to the Democrats in 2016, perhaps to someone even more liberal than our current President.

Listen: If Romney gets elected, I really hope I’m wrong. If he comes through as a real savior of our economy and champion of liberty, I’ll gladly eat as much crow as you like. I just don’t see it happening.

One last thing: As much as all the pundits say that the economy is THE issue in this election, I feel that most conservative evangelicals are still voting primarily based on the issue of abortion. Christians have been feverishly trying to convince themselves that they are pro-Romney (as opposed to only anti-Obama) since he won the GOP nomination, because they feel (rightly) that abortion MUST be stopped. But they’ve got an awful lot riding on how Romney will handle abortion. How will they feel if Romney is up for re-election four years from now and abortion is still legal?

Closing Thoughts

Of course it’s easy to say all this stuff now, especially knowing that at least half of what I’ve said will never be able to be reviewed for veracity. And though I’m skeptical about either man’s ability to lead well, I remain, on the whole, optimistic for my country’s future. People are beginning to wake up, and I believe the next few decades will be an exciting time of positive political change. And no matter who wins the election, Jesus Shall Reign.

I leave you with the remarks of Doug Wilson (seen in context here), a pastor in another solidly red state who believes Romney will win in a landslide. While he says he “would greatly prefer a Romney presidency to another round of… Obama”, he chose not to vote for Romney for pretty much the same reasons I did:

I am not voting for him for three reasons — he doesn’t need my vote here in Idaho, he doesn’t need my vote if this turns out to be the landslide I believe it will be, and he does need my opposition (and that of all my fellow teabots) from day one of his presidency. And in order to provide that opposition, I need to be gearing up for it. I am gearing up for it by not voting for the man I believe will win handily.

Not voting for him places me in a better position to say, on day one, that not only did I not want Obamacare, I don’t want what Romney is going to replace it with.

Whoever wins today will need accountability and prayer, and will get both from me.

Jesus Shall Reign

During this evening’s worship service, our church spent time praying for Southern Baptist church planters in all 50 states, as well as elected officials from each state and our national leaders. To follow up on this, I wanted to share a passage on which I’ve been reflecting during this week’s final run-up to the big election on Tuesday. From the ESV, here is Psalm 72:1-7:

  1. Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the royal son!
  2. May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice!
  3. Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness!
  4. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the children of the needy,
    and crush the oppressor!
  5. May they fear you while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
  6. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth!
  7. In his days may the righteous flourish,
    and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

While in many ways this passage (and the rest of Psalm 72) is messianic, pointing ultimately to the future eternal reign of Christ, it was also a prayer for an earthly ruler. It’s a good reminder that we should pray for our leaders, but also that our final hope lies in Jesus, not in a political leader (Psalm 146:3).

Regardless who wins the presidential election on Tuesday, I pray that the next four years would be a period in which Americans may be judged with justice. I pray for righteousness and prosperity for all people, and that our nation’s poor would see their needs met and their oppressors crushed. I pray that many will be saved, coming to know and fear the Lord. May God’s people flourish, and may peace abound!

Here is an excellent arrangement by Enfield of an Isaac Watts hymn based on Psalm 72:

No Easy Solution to the Mystery of Election

From According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy:

Election is a principle that is developed throughout the biblical history, and we should be careful not to misunderstand it or try to reshape it by human logic into a more acceptable doctrine. We cannot solve this mystery by resorting to easy solutions such as suggesting that God foresees the faith of those whom he subsequently, and on that basis, elects. Nor may we erect false, if apparently logical, objections to the doctrine such as saying that election based on God’s free grace reduces us to robots or puppets on a string with no wills or power to make choices.

The Purpose of Government

With the political season in full swing, and my own state’s primary coming up in three weeks, I wanted to take the opportunity to write about how I approach political issues and the philosophy of government in general. Consider it an exercise in thinking in public. I welcome you to join me and to share your own thoughts as I go. 

The Purpose of Government

Let’s begin by taking a giant step back from the world of debates and sound bytes to look at the big picture. What is the telos of government? What’s it for? When we consider this question — specifically with regard to the United States government — there are some “high ideals” that I think nearly all Americans share, whether they identify as conservative, liberal, libertarian, or anything else.

I hope that we can all agree that in an ideal situation, each of our citizens would be healthy, prosperous, well-educated, and able to live at peace, safe from threats both foreign and domestic. Our nation would be internally united, well-regarded in the world, able to defend itself, but at peace with all other nations. Our leaders would be honorable statesmen who would rule justly, and predictably. And we would want to know that our children and grandchildren would be able to enjoy these same blessings.

Indeed, these are the very ideals that are explicitly stated in our Constitution. That document’s Preamble lays out its aims: “to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Before launching into a series of posts in which I’ll be sharing my own thoughts on how best to secure these blessings, as well as weighing in on a few of this election’s “hot button” issues, I believe it’s important to state two things that may be less obvious than they seem.

The first is that people disagree about the form that government should take to reach these goals. We’ve all seen political debates, of course, and we realize that some of these disagreements are vehement, but I think we too easily lose sight of the fact that these are actually very difficult issues to work through. It’s natural that some disagreement will arise (and great men have argued these same questions for millennia), but if our ideals are good ones, they are worth debating. When we oversimplify the issues, and think that our own solutions are “obviously” the correct ones, it causes us to villainize our political opponents. “Barack Obama hates freedom!” “Mitt Romney hates poor people!” “Newt Gingrich hates commitment!” (Okay, that last one might be true.) It would do wonders for the state of political discourse in this country if we could all charitably assume that, on some level (however high up), we really do all want the same thing.

The second is that the ideals listed above can only be attained by a truly moral society, which presents a problem. We are not a moral people. We can’t even agree on what morality is! So, the very best we can hope for is a compromise. We have to be willing to accept the fact that politics and politicians cannot deliver the ideal society that we all desire. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be as close to perfect as possible. It just means we have to think of it in the same way that we think about our sanctification: we work to conform our lives (or in this case, our nation) to the Ideal, understanding that perfection won’t be achieved until our Lord returns.

Some day there will be a perfect government. Every citizen of that great nation will be healthy and happy. No one will want for anything. There will be no poverty, no fear, and no war. The government will be upon the shoulders of a conquering King who is also the Prince of Peace, and in Him we will find the blessings of Liberty secured for ourselves and for our children.

In fact, Americans (and people around the world) have these political ideals precisely because they reflect the eternal Kingdom that God has promised. We were created for that place, and our hearts’ deepest longings are to be there.

Christians need to be engaged in the political process, but engaging in the work of Christ’s heavenly Kingdom must be our first priority. The true solution to any of our political goals is for more and more people to become like Jesus. National sanctification will not precede individual sanctification, and neither can happen when the people who have the Light hide it, looking for illumination elsewhere. No matter which candidate you support, remember where our help comes from.

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” ~ Psalm 146:3-7

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” ~ John Adams

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So far I have six more posts planned in this series, covering the size of government, economics, abortion, foreign policy, gay marriage, and education (not necessarily in that order). Is there anything else you would like to see me address relating to politics?