If you watched the annual Al E. Smith Foundation dinner in New York last evening you saw both Barack Obama and John McCain at their very best. This is the event at which the presidential candidates speak just a few weeks before the election every four years. Both men are expected to speak humorously for fifteen minutes. They were both brilliant and charming. McCain has an amazing sense of humor and showed incredible deference in congratulating Obama on accomplishing a number of historic firsts in his campaign. McCain said, at the end, "I can not wish you luck Senator Obama, but I can wish you well." What a great line.
And Obama was in the most humorous form I have ever seen in him. It prompted me to see a side of him that I do not think we have seen as a nation. (McCain has been around a long time and many of us have seen his incredible sense of humor on other occasions. We also know he used this to his advantage in prison for five and a half years.) Senator Obama was very funny, especially when he mocked himself about being the messiah. The archbishop of New York particularly enjoyed this part of the speech. Obama noted that he was not born in a manger but he was born with kryptonite. He also said his middle name was given to him by someone who never expected that he would run for president.
One could wish that we were all allowed to see these all-too-rare human touches more often. At the end of the day these men are two unusually talented Americans who want to lead the nation because they sincerely believe that they can do a good job as president. It is up to us to now decide. You may not believe that voting is mandated by Scripture. I do not believe it is either but the vote is an amazing privilege that we have been given through the sacrifice of many others who came before us. I would never demean the vote by suggesting that it is not relevant to life in the public sphere since it is not my highest priority as a Christian. Clearly voting is no where near the most important choices that I will make as a Christian. People on the left and the right ought to think twice about making such claims. But do not fall into the opposite extreme by sitting out this opportunity to exercise freedom in this wonderful country. Remember, freedom will only remain free if we protect it and use it wisely.
The apostle Paul did not have a vote to cast for emperor but he did appeal to his rights as a citizen to expedite a legal case and he used it. The principles Paul did give to us provided some of the cultural basis to liberate slaves, to finally free women from male domination and injustice and to grant to us the political opportunity to have a say in the direction of a nation of free born citizens. Yes, I know that the Enlightenment had a major part as well. And so did the philosophy of John Locke. But do not make the mistake of not giving some credit where such credit is truly due.