This is a day of great celebration for all America, whether we voted for or against our new president. Why, you ask?
1. The color barrier, a great curse on our society for our entire history, has finally been broken at the highest level in the land. No more will race or ethnicity be the same in so many ways. And no more are we white America and the rest. Racism will not magically end for sure but the whole tenor of things will be truly altered.
2. This new leader brings new hope and new courage to face real problems. Whether Obama can accomplish even a half of what he hopes for he offers promise and a new day. People and societies need "new days" now and then. We surely need one right now.
3. This day represents the truth that "great expectations" are alive and well in the land of the free. Reagan, from a totally different political position, brought the same in 1980. And FDR brought it in 1932. We can debate policy and practice all we want, and we should, but "great expectations" are a really important part of the American story.
4. President Obama represents hope. This was in his campaign from first to last. But will this hope be lost quite quickly? Maybe, but maybe not. A people cannot live together without hope. Christians know this in terms of their local congregation. When hope is gone the church will begin to fade and die. Obama represents a number of things but make no mistake about this, he does represent a birth of hope among the young. I am praying that this new hope is linked to God's grace in such a way that the church experiences revival and a fresh vision for the kingdom of God in America, not the kingdom of America in the world. It is time we sorted this out and today might be a fresh beginning in this ongoing process.
5. This day marks a triumph of vision over strict ideology. Yes, Obama is a progressive, indeed a political liberal. But he is not a liberal in the way those who came before him were. He is more like Lincoln and FDR than many conservatives seem to think. He has a big view of America but also a humble one, or so I think. He will seek to bind up some wounds and he will try to speak to us all. He has the ability to do this but it will not be easy. He will have many enemies, and should be opposed on many fronts, but he has shown that he respects those who disagree with him in a way that has been rarely seen in my lifetime. Demonstration of this came this last week when he met for dinner at the home of George Will. Joined by conservative intellectuals Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol and David Brooks, we can only guess what they talked about. But can you imagine a previous president sitting down with such powerful thinkers on the other side of many of their views? I am duly impressed. This is not pure politics, no way.
Finally, this day demonstrates to the whole world that America is not what they think we are. We are a people who act peacefully and can resolve our problems through law and political means without violence. This is an amazing reality.
Last week I watched a dramatic presentation of the early life of Adolph Hitler, broadcast on television in 2003. It was an award winning performance called "Hitler: The Rise of Evil." I recommend it highly. I then watched a second DVD in the set on the life and times of Hitler. I marvel at how we handle social and economic stress in America in contrast to the history of other nations. It may not always be this way (and the Civil War proves it was not in America either) but for now, by God's grace, this is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Obama has said that the line between right and wrong is generally clear but he wants the wisdom to know right from right. I stand amazed at this kind of wisdom. It gives me real hope. This is not radical postmodernism but radical humility and true wisdom. My generation knows so little of it since we think we know the right and always do it.
My prayer today: God bless America. Please pour great grace and wisdom down upon this our new president on this historic day. May he know when to act and when to wait. May he lead us with a gentle but firm resolve to do what is right. And when he does not stand for the right may we, the people, oppose him with grace and courage, know how to be a loyal opposition without the rancor and venom of the past thirty-five years since the curse of Watergate.