A Moving Moment in American History

John ArmstrongAmerica and Americanism

Whether you voted for Barack Obama, or John McCain, you had to be deeply moved by the images and scenes of last evening. Having grown up in the old South, as an early advocate of civil rights in the 1950s, I was moved to a few tears last night. I always felt  might live to see such a moment but I wondered in recent years. One of the greatest blessings of America is now evident to the whole world: true freedom and genuine opportunity. And the exist polling data did not reveal that race played a huge negative problem for Ob. It was a huge positive, however, as millions of African-Americans (and Hispanics) proudly voted to help him become our 44th president.
The data I saw suggested that John McCain's age (72) was a bigger negative than Obama's skin color. (Not good news for aging "boomers" who think they are really what the country is all about!)

I can still remember a childhood of "separate and unequal" and the Montgomery bus boycott. I can vividly recall where I was, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the tragic night that Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. I can also still remember preaching my dad's funeral and saying, "He was the most non-racist white man I ever knew in the South." So I was moved, deeply moved. The faces and joys of thousands of black Americans moved me so profoundly. 

While I do not always agree with Rev. Jesse Jackson on issues I was touched seeing tears stream down his face in the crowd. I thought back to all that he endured as a child and what he dreamed for as a young man standing at Martin Luther King's side. No longer can anyone, black or white, liberal or conservative, say that the greatest nation on the earth can not elect a black president. This will not end racism but it changes the game and allows us a fresh beginning that we need as a people. 

There is so much more to say about this election than I want to say right now. I will make a few observations during the week. My first observation this morning is simple. I pray that millions of white conservative Christians will not turn to angry partisanship and hostile opposition. I will give the new president a lot of support and hope for the best. I will surely pray for him in public and in private, as I have for every president. I have come to despise the way the culture wars and partisan political debates have entered the church and taken us away from our real mission. I will pray and work, with all my being, to promote the unity of the whole church. I pray that we will love and rejoice with those who won and respect those who fought well and lost, as did John McCain, a truly great American. I especially pray that we will rejoice with the millions of our black Christian brothers and sisters who are thrilled beyond words this morning. It is time that we come together. There will be political disagreements in the next four years. I am sure that I will not agree with the president-elect on some important issues but he is "my president." John McCain said the same last night in an incredibly gracious concession speech and I will join him in this spirit with all my heart.

God bless President-elect Barack Obama! May he know much grace and true wisdom. May he be given the ability to use his considerable talents to lead us a "one nation" in the coming days. Given the many crises that we face we will need to be one nation more than ever. E pluribus unum is alive and hopefully well. Let us all work to make it so in the coming years. We will need it if we are to remain strong as a nation.