Knee Deep in the Mulligatawny

Well, we are knee deep in the mulligatawny now. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

I have written already that for Christians to respond to Obama’s election with panic and despair is unbecoming, silly, and counterproductive. That is all good enough, but what should our response to all this be?

In order to answer the question, we have to start by setting certain “historic moment” bromides aside. Yes, Obama is a black man, and yes, this election happened in a country which, when I was a boy, required blacks to use separate schools, drinking fountains and rest rooms. And yes, that could and should have been a marker of real cultural progress. Nothing would have pleased me more than to see the election of an honorable black man to the presidency, unless it were under circumstances that would have permitted me to vote for him as well.

But Martin Luther King’s famous comment about his dream — when men would be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin — has been hypocritically morphed into the dictum that we should ignore the content of a man’s character just so long as his skin color helps us to overlook the obvious. We heap up our sins by trying to assuage the faults and failings of previous generations by pretending that righteousness can be achieved by giving equal time to unrighteousness. Everything else being equal, I would have been delighted to have a president with black skin. I just wish we could quit electing the ones with black hearts.

A number of things should be said at the outset. Christians should pray for the new president (1 Tim. 2:1-2), giving thanks for him. We should speak of him respectfully, rendering true honor as we do (1 Pet. 2:17; Rom. 13:7). We should pray for his true conversion to Christ (1 Tim. 2:1-2), wishing him the best as we do so (1 Tim. 2:4). At the same time, we must oppose the very bloody idolatries he will seek to advance, and we must do so with clarity and outspoken courage (Acts 26:29). We must identify all lawless thrones for what they are (Ps. 94:20). Only the grace of God can teach Christians how to honor the emperor, while at the same time considering him as one of the heads of the beast (Rev. 13:4). This is what the first century Christians had to do with Nero, one of history’s great lowlifes, and this is the kind of thing we obviously need to learn how to do.

On to some more nuts and bolts observations. Obama won and McCain lost, and it was not a squeaker like 2000 was. At the same time, the country is clearly divided — we have the Europe-without-castles part and we have the truck stop diner part. McCain did not lose in a landslide, but he did lose. And yesterday I saw him on television pledging to “help” the new president, which pretty much sums up everything that was wrong with old “bipartisan” McCain. Conservatives in Congress will now be identified by one thing only — and that is by their willingness to be unvarnished obstructionists. They must particularly be this way on Supreme Court appointments. Split-the-difference conservatism, go-along-to-get-along conservatism, compassionate conservatism, spend-money-like-you-was-Democrats conservatism . . . lost the election. Advocates of this approach must not be allowed to lecture us now on how compromise is the key to winning.

There are a few silver linings in this dark cloud, and here are several of them. The financial crisis will hobble Obama somewhat. Clinton was able to bounce off Reagan’s economic reforms, and act like he was flying. Obama will not be able to bounce off the sludge swamp of Bush’s economic morass, and so that whole problem should keep him busy for a while.

Second, conservatives clearly do not know how to govern very well. But they can be very good in opposition. Look for a much more defined and principled conservative voice to develop. Thesis invites antithesis, and no, I am not a Hegelian. But Mary Queen of Scots did not just give us Mary Queen of Scots — she also gave history John Knox.

The thing we must remember is that Christians will not be salt and light in this culture by trying to be a third rate political party. We will be salt and light by being what the Church was called to be — a different model of nationhood entirely.

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