>Hoping for Success, Not Meltdown
Some of my conservative brethren are hoping for total political and legislative chaos during the next four years. It goes something like this, “OK, America, if this is what you want, this is what you got. We’re gonna see just how bad its gonna get.” To this I say, let us not lose our dignity. Lets not imitate the disgraceful behavior of the “Bush-haters.” Bush could do nothing right in the eyes of these zealots (although it was just as bad to think he could do no wrong). He was attacked mercilessly on a very personal level. Irresponsibility abounded as fictional accounts fantasized about assassination. One commentator writes,
“It seems to me that conservatives have a golden opportunity to offer criticism and advice in a manner that many liberals did not during the last eight years. By that I mean I hope there are no conservative versions of the Nicholson Baker Knopf-published ‘novel’ Checkpoint, the creepy documentary by Gerald Range, the attempt to name a sewer plant after an American President, or the celebrity outbursts that we have witnessed with the tired refrain of Hitler/Nazi Bush—that all have cheapened political discourse. When I hear a partisan insider like Paul Begala urging at the 11th hour that we now rally around lame-duck Bush in his last few days, I detect a sense of apprehension that no Democrats would wish conservatives to treat Obama as they did Bush for eight years.
In the future, criticism should be offered in unified pro-American tones, rather than anti-Obama screeds. When disagreements arise, they should be couched in a sense of regret rather than ebullition. There should be no conservative counterparts of Bill Maher, Michael Moore, or Al Franken.”
Conservatives seek to conserve the good and true values of those who have gone before us. One of these values is civility. Many on the left have shown that they have abandoned this value. Some of us abandoned civility during the Clinton years. Let us not duplicate this error.
We do not want a total meltdown during this time in which the legislative and executive branches are under the control of the Left. We hope Obama will moderate his views as President. We want his presidency to have a positive effect upon race relations. We want the economy to improve. We do not want it to worsen merely to see Obama damaged politically. We hope that Joe Biden was wrong when he predicted that foreign leaders will try to test Obama. We do not want things to get as bad as they can get just to humiliate Obama and the Democrat Party. We do not want things to go to hell in a hand basket just so we can kick the bums out in 2010. Do I think there will be much to applaud during the “age of Obama”? No, but we ought to look for the good and support it when/if it occurs.
That being said, we will be true to our principles. We ought to praise the good Obama does but we will continue to vigorously fight on behalf of our deeply-held convictions. Some condemn all the “fighting” in politics but there is a difference between contending for your principles, ie. “fighting,” and nastiness. There is nothing inherently indecent about forcefully fighting for our beliefs. The end of the conservative era along with the onset of the permanent “progressive” majority has been pronounced. So there is a “fight” taking place whether we want to fight back or not. We will continue to struggle but it must be done honorably and decently with respect and civility.
Further, I am not “uniting behind Obama.” I respect him as our President-elect and as a person and professing Christian. If that was all it meant to unite behind Obama, that would be fine. But I do not unite behind his philosophy and policies. I do not unite behind his radical roots or his extreme agenda. I do not join with him in his desire to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.” None of this contradicts what I just stated in the previous paragraph. Honor, decency, respect, and civility have nothing to do rolling over or throwing in the towel.
More Than Mere Party Politics
I am not just talking about Republicans vs. Democrats or conservatism vs. liberalism however. We need to transcend party politics and shift our priorities to kingdom advancement. The kingdom of God was the central theme of Christ’s proclamation on earth. Evangelicals have neglected kingdom theology for many years but thankfully we are experiencing a resurgence in interest. Finding common ground on the nature of the kingdom of God is a key to renewed, balanced, and biblical engagement in sociopolitical activity. As Russell D. Moore writes, kingdom theology is nothing new but “what is ‘new’ is that many evangelicals have stopped arguing about the Kingdom of God – and have started seeking after it.” We are not stuck with the 20th century’s paradigm for debate over the Kingdom. There is an alternative to choosing between the “Social Gospel” of Protestant liberalism and the evangelism-only disengagement of fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. The common ground established within evangelicalism by an ‘already-not yet’ view of the kingdom, inaugurated eschatology, and the believer’s union with Christ has opened the door to another way. The recognition that Christ is now reigning as King and that his rule encompasses the entire cosmos eliminates cultural withdrawal as an acceptable Christian alternative. The reality of the inaugurated, though not yet fulfilled, reign of Christ and the cosmic scope of his lordship has many implications for our current sociopolitical activity. But that is a post for another time. Our sociopolitical activity must spring from the kingdom activity of God’s people rather than the struggles of two opposing political parties.
We ought to genuinely hope for a successful Obama administration even if we have grave concerns over what is to come. He has not done anything yet and we should give him a chance. We will probably oppose his ideas on a great many things but let us be decent, honorable, and respectful about it. And as we examine what went wrong on “our side,” lets not merely strategize over how we can win next time. We need to reexamine our entire approach to politics and reorient our activity according to Kingdom priorities because we are members of the people of God first and foremost.