Friday, November 07, 2008

The Obama Victory: Impressions from New York City

I was asked today to comment on three things to do with the election.
  1. What was my impression of the election coming from New York City?
  2. What do I think is the impact of this election?
  3. What do you think we ought to be praying about?
Here are some of my answers:

Impressions from New York City

The noise that erupted outside my 4th floor apartment at 11PM after the California polls closed told me that this was an historic moment. Something happened in California, and I could hear people celebrating on 1st Ave in NYC! Senator Obama had become President-Elect Obama.

Now, you should know that Jesus is my president: my personal hope and my agent of change.

I serve Him in New York City, the capital of a so-called ‘blue state’, which last voted for a Republican in a Presidential election in Reagan’s landslide of 1984. Many of the new, young voters in this election were not yet born in 1984, and care little for the ‘Reagan Revolution’. The students I know at New York University predominantly voted for Barack Obama. That is true of many Christian students too. Young voters here were generally excited about Obama and ‘change’, and it is worth saying that in their minds, it is not fashionable to say that you voted for McCain!

I know some conservatives – of all ages – who felt very ‘small’ here in New York City. This is very different, perhaps opposite, to my wife’s home state of Georgia.

The interesting shift from my perspective is the movement of the younger (predominantly white) evangelicals away from the views of their parents and pastors. The older voices tended to run on specific moral issues (like abortion), on protecting the fabric of society (traditional family values) and on a specific economic platform (Small Government etc). The younger voices – many of whom would agree with their parents on the personal moral issues – are concerned also about social and ethical issues: was America unjust in going to war? Do we as a society care for the needy and the poor? Is our society marked by inappropriate triumphalism?

Impact of this election:

An African American winning the White House is monumental in and of itself. We woke our 4-year-old son up to witness Obama’s acceptance speech. I woke him not because of any political persuasion (which I won't say here), but because of the symbolic nature of the moment. I wanted him to remember this moment in history.

The impact is hard to tell at this stage. One of the things that people regularly note is that Obama is relatively unknown – he is young, and voters were basically informed by his short voting record and what he said on the campaign trail. I spoke to one young man about this who said: ‘Yes, I know, but I took a risk and voted Obama anyway.’

Obama has moved closer to the center during the campaign, as Clinton did in 1992. Obama’s Presidential campaign was more centrist than his more left-wing Senate voting record. So what will happen on his watch remains to be seen. But obviously the Republicans and the media will watch his administration closely.

One of the big concerns that conservatives have is the appointment of what they call ‘activist judges’ – judges who they say ‘impose ideology’, rather than simply interpret the law.

Matters for Prayer:

Do our prayers change from one President to another? Aren’t we always meant to pray for ‘all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.’ (1 Tim 2:2). I will be praying that President-Elect Obama will govern wisely and justly.

That having been said, the three big things that come to mind are: First, that more people would know that Jesus is the Messiah who gives Hope and Change, as opposed to any American President. Second, that the Middle East finds peace, and does not descend into further chaos. And third, that many in America continue to fight for the rights of the unborn.

At times, the language of change and the desire for hope sounded like the foundation for a gospel message, albeit without Jesus’ name being on the ballot. The campaigns at times sounded like they were going to bring peace on earth – something promised only in Jesus. My biggest prayer is that those who hope in a president would hope instead in Jesus.

Did I misread the moment?

_____________________________

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's great to hear the news from the ground what the news is.

I have one pretty strong quibble with what you wrote. You said:

"The younger voices – many of whom would agree with their parents on the personal moral issues – are concerned also about social and ethical issues"

I think you have made a slip up in your language or you have accurately communicated a mistake in the thinking of young evangelicals.

I'm not saying that Christians can't vote Democrat, but they certainly can't talk about abortion in that way.

Abortion is not a 'personal moral issue' it is a 'social and ethical issue.

We should never let people regard abortion as personal. It is social (it is another life and a member of our community that is killed) and it is ethical (we are talking about slaughter).

Andrew Barry

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Moffatt Reflects on Obama Victory

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that I liked your analysis and your prayer points. I just don't like the unnatural social / personal ethical divide.

Even though I'm in Australia I'll pray those now.

Andrew Barry

Justin said...

Andrew -- Oh. Great point. I wonder if they'll let me change that!

:)

I wonder if it might be better put in inverted commas? That is, I am kind of reporting what they say.

But I agree with you, brother.

Justin said...

And I am profoundly saddened, too. God will judge the earth with justice and righteousness.

Eb said...

The Ebenezerling, at 5 yrs old, is quite interested in how the political process works in Australia. Yesterday when I came home he told me who the new American president was, and what political party he represented.

We didn't wake him up on election night in Australia last year, but I imagine he would have appreciated it.

Mrs. W said...

the picture you chose looks like an icon, I assume it was on purpose. I think Obama has done a lot to choose his image. I pray with you that people will put their hope in Jesus.

SeaPea said...

a few things:

as a canuck, i am unable to vote. but at this election, i was (somewhat) glad to not to vote. people were just going too crazy (and i use that term very loosely for this blog) over the obama-mania - which i resented. i resent any kind of -mania (e.g. Oprah, Ellen, etc.). (and did you listen to radio channels where people have called in to say that Obama is Jesus?)

one really disturbing thing was talking to youngsters (=people younger than my present age) about who they were supporting. i do not go around asking "who have you voted?" - i still believe that's a very personal question. people have volunteered the information and i found it shocking WHY they were voting for obama. here are the snippets:

"he is so cool"
"he is young!"
"he is rad"
"he can use internet unlike mccain"

and these are CHRISTIAN whom i spoke with.

isn't that disturbing? no stance on abortion, immigration, taxes, but that he's the (basically) "flavor of the month."

if it only ended on that nice note. nope - they had to go on bashing the other side.

what i come away from this election is that HATE was stronger than HOPE. HATE in the guise of "hope"...

i sincerely hope for this country's sake that all this (temporary) hope and glory will be put to good use and that people will genuinely pray for obama & his new administration.

byron smith said...

I suspect that the language of "personal moral issue" to describe abortion is a (poor) attempt to react to a failure of the language of the religious right (and much of the media) that distinguishes between "moral" issues (abortion, homosexual marriage, stem cell research, pornography and so on) and "economic" issues, as though budgets were not moral documents.

Do our prayers change from one President to another?
Certainly. Discerning the time is always relevant to our actions (including our prayers).

One of the things that people regularly note is that Obama is relatively unknown
Only relatively. Over the last two years he has run the largest and highest profile campaign in history. This in itself is quite significant "executive experience", perhaps not of the only or most relevant kind, but neither is it inconsequential.

There can be little hopes, as well as the big hope. I hope that Obama's victory leads to a reduction in the likelihood of future wars, an improvement in the likelihood of good international relations, an increase in the chance of reaching agreements over ecological responsibility, a decrease in racial tensions, a greater access to healthcare for the poor, and a variety of other things. These are not ultimate hopes and they may well be dashed. But neither are they irrelevant, nor entirely unfounded.


Seapea: the reasons mentioned by those young people are indeed poor reasons, though I wonder if they represent a lack of experience in articulating why they like Obama, as much as an immaturity in what they love. To say that Obama is "cool" may carry significantly more weight than saying that a particular flavour ice-cream or new fashion style is cool. He may well be "cool" because he represents virtues to which those young people aspire and which they hope to see more of in their leaders. Maybe I am being too generous with an perverse and corrupt generation, but maybe not.

byron smith said...

One of the big concerns that conservatives have is the appointment of what they call ‘activist judges’ – judges who they say ‘impose ideology’, rather than simply interpret the law.
Do the conservatives you speak with see the conservative judges as simply interpreting the law rather than imposing a conservative ideology? (Ideology is not owned by the left).

Benjamin Ady said...

"My biggest prayer is that those who hope in a president would hope instead in Jesus."

What does this mean? Hope is such a big word, but are you talking about hope in some future time when Jesus fixes everything? Or are you talking about hope that "Jesus" (whoever that might be in Seattle tomorrow) will fix things here and now (i.e. do something about the 50,000 young Iraqi girls in Iraq-bordering countries who have been forced into prostitution due to economic hardship over the last five years)?

I'm guess I'm asking what you mean by "hope". Because it seems a lot more *meaningful* to me to hope in a president than in Jesus. I guess it's because it seems to me that at least a president is *real*, in the sense that you can see what he does and says, and these words and actions have visible consequences in the real world. I don't even know where Jesus is. I mean to say, if Jesus really pissed me off, I couldn't track him down and shout an obscenity at him.

Anonymous Friend (and Fan) of Justin said...

My $.02...

Christians live in two kingdoms. As a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, I place all of my hope in Jesus Christ. As a citizen in the U.S., I put some hope in public policy and political leadership. To that end, I voted for Barack. But I also put some hope in God's redemptive work in history. That is to say, Jesus, the King of the heavenly kingdom, has work do to in this kingdom too. Among other tools, he uses his body--the Church--for that. Do I think a vote for a Republican can end abortions? Well, it hasn't so far... So what does reduce the abortion rate? God's redemptive work. How does this translate in my life? It means that I won't wait for the government to make abortions illegal and hope that reduces the number. I'll love the young women in my life as Jesus loves me, and I'll teach others to do the same. If I have a daughter some day, I'll try to love her in a way that, if she gets pregnant, she won't feel she has to abort the baby.

I do find it to be ironic that Conservative Christians disparage government solutions out of one side of their mouths, then ask for a government solution to abortion out of the other side.

One last thing:

On November 5th, I saw images of people dancing in the streets in many countries around the world. They were dancing with joy because the U.S. had elected someone who gave them hope. The last time I saw images of people dancing in the streets in countries around the world, they were dancing on a U.S. flag, in flames, and chanting death threats to the U.S. president who waged wars in their neighborhoods. Isn't this "new kind of dancing" something that any Christian should see as a wonderful encouragement?

Abortion and gay marriage are NOT the only moral issues of our time, dear Christians.

Justin said...

Hey my friend,

Good thoughts.

Abortion and gay marriage are NOT the only moral issues of our time, dear Christians.

Did someone some that? I don't think I said that.

I hear you on abortion re the total abortions not decreasing under a conservative government. But (and correct me if I'm wrong), but conservatives aren't asking for "a government solution". I thought that they were asking the supreme court not to determine what states should do or not do.

But I hear you that God's redemptive work will do that.

Also -- I get no joy in non-Americans waving flags and dancing. They stopped it the next day, and will continue in whatever path they had before. Surely.

Glad to hear back from you.

Do I know you? Let me know who you are: justin.moffatt at gmail.

anonymous friend and fan of justin said...

hey justin. no, you didn't say that abortion and gay marriage are the only moral issues of our time. i was riffing against the reports i keep hearing from the Evangelical leaders on TV.

byron smith said...

Re hope: I'm with Karl Barth on this. There are big hopes and little hopes. And it is the big hopes that help to shape and motivate the little ones, and keep the little ones from developing into desperate and self-defeating grabs at utopia.

conservatives aren't asking for "a government solution". I thought that they were asking the supreme court not to determine what states should do or not do.
Technically, yes. Though most seem to cherish a subsequent hope for government action (albeit at a state, if not federal, level).

Speaking of non-government action on abortion levels, have you seen this?

Megs said...

Anonymous number one: Did you know that abortion rates have been much lower under Democrat presidents since 1974 than under Republican ones?

Benjamin: That's a good question - Obama does seem more willing than Jesus to act in a manner which helps those 50,000 young Iraqi girls in Iraq-bordering countries who have been forced into prostitution due to economic hardship over the last five years

Byron and Justin: I like the way you both ponder and ask questions and allow for ambiguity ...

And HURRAH FOR OBAMA!!!!!