Patriotic Grace

John ArmstrongAmerica and Americanism

Peggy Noonan, the author of the best-selling book, When Character Was King, has authored seven major works on American politics and has for some years written a regular column for The Wall Street Journal. She is one of the most intellectually rigorous, and totally honest, writers in the field. She is also a serious, practicing Roman Catholic and wrote a fine book on John Paul II. Noonan actually took time off from writing, in 2004, to assist the re-election campaign of George W. Bush. But Peggy Noonan is not the usual pugnacious conservative. She has a first-rate mind and loves her country more than she loves political ideologies. In Bush's second term she began to question the president and suggested that he had gotten away from his real message and messed up badly on Iraq. Noonan has not switched parties but she has told the truth. This is what makes her so incredibly important at this precise moment.

Her new book, Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need it Now (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), is a fantastic book. I would hope that many Christians, left and right, would read it. Noonan is, for me, a great Christian role model for conservatives, and liberals, if they will listen to her. She retains her conservative views without demonizing the other party or those she disagrees with. She does not think politics, in other words, should be "war." She believes 9/11 united us, for a short season, like few events in our lifetime but the Bush years have now driven us apart in a way that is both unhealthy and destructive.

Noonan believes that the "national mood" is for change precisely because of these developments. I think she is undoubtedly right. Americans are tired. They are tired of politics as usual and of leaders who do not lead well. They are weary of the old partisan divisions and of those who promoted them. This is why the right's call for John McCain to go "totally negative" will not work. (Newsweek reports in this week's edition that John McCain has pulled most of his negative ads and toned all this back. I wonder if partisan's on the left even notice.)

I am sick of all of this stuff. It harms the nation and it destroys Christians in our churches and in the wider society. Two examples stood out this past week as we are now only seven days from the election. Rush Limbaugh used his program on Friday to chide Barack Obama about his visit to his dying grandmother in Hawaii. Limbaugh asked, "Where are Michelle and the girls if this woman meant so much to Obama?" He then went on to say, "If you want to visit someone who is dying and help them today go buy some stock and help America." This heartless nonsense disgusts me.

At the same time a CNN reporter was interviewing Sarah Palin and quoted from a National Review story by Byron York, an ardent conservative blogger. This reporter tried to trap Palin by reading from York's commentary. He completely, totally misused the quote (making it say exactly the opposite of what the author had written) and then played "got-cha" in a big time way. Though CNN took down this portion of the interview late in the day the reporter has yet to apologize for this unscrupulous misrepresentation. My respect for the fairness of CNN has risen over the last five years but this kind of stuff didn't help their hard fought efforts to be scrupulously fair.

Here's the point. This will all be over in one week. It appears that Barack Obama will soon be President Obama. When I tell conservatives that I want him to succeed they go into orbit, especially conservative Christians. They seem to genuinely hate this man. They think he is a criminal who has no right to live in the White House. I ask: "What is different from this response and the way the far left has attacked President Bush so fiercely for nearly eight years now?"

Who is worse in this constant polemical tearing down of our social fabric? Both sides point to the other. Peggy Noonan suggests we need to rise above our fierce partisanship and reaffirm what it means to be Americans. To this end I will not only pray for Barack Obama if he wins but I will do everything in my power to support him as an American while I remain committed to my political philosophy. One thing I do know—this angry, mean-spirited period in our history needs to end, the sooner the better. Nothing serves the nation's real interest when we engage in non-stop name calling and character assassination.

Newsweek made a most interesting point about a possible Obama presidency. The magazine reminded readers that America is still a center-right nation. If Obama governs to the far left then he will not govern well and thus he will be a one-term president. I fully expect him to lead as a post-partisan who attempts to be more moderate in ways that might surprise his political friends and foes. The wild-card will be a very angry partisan Congress. If his fellow Democrats push him to their stance on certain divisive issues then he will quickly loose the good-will that he has gained in this election and take us back to where we have been for sixteen years. I pray this does not happen. I hope Obama succeeds. If he doesn't then the nation suffers even more and I care much more about the nation than I do about my political views.

This is why I have regularly written about being a "post-partisan" Christian. You who disagree with me on some issues need to cut me the same slack that I try to cut you. We are all Americans and on November 5 we will need to find fresh ways to heal the nation and go forward with a new leader. I am praying and will be working every day to this end.