Depending on your political views you will react to Barack Obama's election with excitement as in "Hurray, our country can now move forward with much needed change!" or with dread and resignation as in "Oh no, his election portends our country's continued moral, political, and cultural decline!" Given that most of my readers are evangelical Christians, I suspect the latter reaction is more common.
Be careful. Your children/grandchildren are watching, your students are watching, and an unbelieving world is watching.
Let me share a story with you. When my oldest daughter was about seven or eight years old I remember walking past the den and hearing my daughter pointing at the TV and asking with big saucer eyes, "daddy, is that the bad man?!" She was anxiously pointing at President Clinton.
A piercing pang of guilt shot through my soul. I realized that through my verbal editorializing during news casts that I had taught my daughter to fear and dishonor the President of the United States in direct violation of what the Scriptures teach: "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." (1Pe 2:17)
When Peter wrote those words, Nero was the emperor of Rome.
(To those inclined to cynicism, I AM NOT equating President Elect Obama with Nero.)
My point is that if Peter could encourage the early Christians to honor the man that was feeding them to lions and impaling them upon poles and burning them alive to light his gardens, then surely we can pray for and honor our new President notwithstanding our political views.
Let me suggest that we have a wonderful opportunity to bear a great testimony to the transforming power of the Gospel in how we respond to the election.
1. Pray for our new President and mean it.
(I Peter 2:17; Romans 13:1) The Scriptures do not differentiate for whom we pray.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior... (1Ti 2:1-3)
2. Pray for our country.
Although the structures and policies of government have a profound impact for good or evil, it is the character of individual citizens that ultimately determines the character of any country. More than a good president, we need powerful faithful pulpits, godly families, and strong Christian schools. Pray that the Lord's Spirit will blow throughout our land bringing with Him revival and deep rooted reformation.
3. Verbally express due honor to the Office of the President and to the man who occupies it.
It is perfectly legitimate, in fact necessary, to express opposition to those values and policies that are clearly in violation of biblical teaching. It is not legitimate to hurl vindictive and mean spirited abuse at anyone, including the President Elect.
I can think of no better example than David. Even though King Saul was pursuing David to imprison or kill him, David responded by honoring his persecutor because of the office he held.
And the men of David said to him, "Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, 'Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.'" Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's robe.
And afterward David's heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul's robe. He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD's anointed."
So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul ... Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, "My lord the king!" And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage ... Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, 'I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD's anointed.' ... As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul ... Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, "You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. (1Sa 24:4-17)
Notice the impact of David's response on Saul. David's demonstration of trust in God and respect for the authority that God had sovereignly appointed had a profound impact on Saul. David's response gave great testimony to the power of God's Spirit and was used by God to instruct the King.
David's example comes down through the millennia to instruct us on how we should respond. As a Christian community we have the same opportunity. Instead of moaning, complaining, predicting the apocalypse, the end of civilization as we know it and verbally assailing and demeaning the President Elect, we have the opportunity to show watching students and a watching world that Christians can disagree without being disagreeable. We can oppose bad policy and evil without being vindictive, mean-spirited, and disrespectful.
4. Use the election to teach your students (and faculty?) how to work through the various policy issues from a biblical perspective--not from a Democratic or a Republican one.
On a survey we once conducted, a student wrote the following: "Republican = Christian? Where does that come from?" That thinking student understood that some teachers where implicitly teaching that Republican political philosophy and policy were equivalent with biblical Christianity.
That is false. There are points of Biblical connection with both Republican and Democratic policies. Neither Party has a corner on truth or virtue.
Sound doctrine transcends political ideology, party affiliation, and cultural and ethnic identification. In this sense, Christianity is always trans-political and trans-cultural.
5. Instead of always protesting what is wrong, offer solutions and prepare our students to do the same.
Several years ago I edited and co-authored School Based Clinics and Other Critical Issues in Public Education (Crossway Books). Here is a portion of what I wrote that I believe applies to how Christians should be responding to public policy issues in a constructive Christ honoring fashion--regardless of who occupies the White House.
… Unfortunately, much of our cultural dilemma results from the failure of Christians to cultivate a Christian mind, and the result has been the abandonment of most fields of knowledge to those with a secular mind. This abandonment takes two forms: either withdrawal from public debate as it concerns the formation of public policy because we are ill equipped to offer an effective and relevant alternative; or worse, Christians who are involved in public debate are so secular in their thinking that their recommendations represent only slight modifications to secular proposals. In other words, instead of the Christian evangelizing his culture, he has been evangelized by it. Because many Christians have failed to cultivate a Christian Mind (in part due to a lack of instruction from church leaders), many believers are unaware of just how secular their thinking has become.
This is a particularly relevant point in light of the increased political activity of the religious right. In reaction to the rapid erosion of ethics and morality in our country, many Christians have taken up the call to be salt and light by active involvement in the political process. This is a good and vital part of any effort at cultural reform. But a note of caution is in order. As Christians, we must not confuse Christian principles with conservative Republican (or Democratic) politics. They are not the same thing. We must be careful not to confuse theology with ideology, as biblical theology always transcends any particular ideology. Although it can be reasonably argued that portions of the current Republican platform reflect biblical principles-for example, its opposition to abortion-this does not mean to think Christianly is to think like a conservative Republican. There are instances where elements of biblical truth can be found in the platform or the candidates of either party.20
Thus, the Christian who wishes to function as salt and light in his culture must devote himself to the study of Scripture and seek through that study to properly interpret all of life. Once having achieved a measure of understanding, he is better prepared to make application of what he has learned to his home, his church, his vocation, and to his civic responsibilities. It should be added that this is not to imply that his knowledge must be exhaustive or that each believer must be a scholar.
Nor does it mean that he refuses to participate in public discourse until he believes he has a complete comprehension of his theology or of any given issue. Learning is a lifelong task. Since we are created as finite beings, exhaustive knowledge is beyond our grasp. Although certain knowledge is possible, exhaustive knowledge is not. Therefore, the challenge of the believer is to seek to simultaneously increase his knowledge while diligently applying that which he already knows. This is then the theological component of our Christianity, and it is the foundation upon which the relational component is built …
Moreover, the absence of viable alternatives puts the Christian in the position of always criticizing, attacking and tearing down. For example, when school based "health" clinics are proffered as the solution to teenage pregnancy, the Christian community finds itself aggressively opposing their implementation-and rightly so. Unfortunately, criticism in the absence of alternatives creates an atmosphere in which the Christian community, instead of being viewed as a constructive force in the community, is viewed as a bunch of uncaring obstructionists who do not care about the health of teenagers. We protest such accusations as unfair, but such attitudes are in part understandable if all we have to offer is criticism. It is here, at the policy level that Christian scholars from every discipline can contribute in a tangible way to the reclamation of the culture. Frequently, Christians who are seeking to arrest the implementation of harmful and immoral programs often find themselves at the mercy of a secular establishment armed with research, which "proves" their position. Although much of the research is less than conclusive or is even faulty, it nevertheless adds credence to whatever policy is being proffered.
Consequently, the Christian community finds itself in a noncompetitive position in the marketplace of ideas and by default relinquishes policy formation to the secular establishment. A case in point is provided by the necessity of this writer relying almost exclusively on secular research to demonstrate that as currently constituted, "values-free" sex education and family planning programs are ineffective and inappropriate responses to escalating rates of teenage pregnancy. Fortunately, some of the researchers within the family planning establishment itself have cited the failures (on solely pragmatic grounds), thus giving us a fighting chance. This is not always the case.
As a practical point, the development of distinctly Christian think tanks, which combine the skills of theologians from various orthodox persuasions, the expertise of Christian scholars from many different disciplines, and the practical insight of the policy analyst and those experienced in the "realities" of the political process would be of inestimable value in assisting the Christian community in its role as salt and light.
To read the two chapters I authored, click here. (PLEASE NOTE: the first chapter deals with teenage pregnancy; the second chapter addresses the Christian community's response to public policy.) Also note that you will notice what appear to be typos. These are not typos. The chapters were scanned into a PDF file and the OCR program misinterpreted some of the text.
Rather than bemoaning what is wrong, we are responsible to teach our students how to think biblically and how to apply biblically informed thinking to specific policy issues. This should be an exciting and very positive endeavor with the goal of working to see "God's will done on earth as it is in heaven."
6. Celebrate the moral progress that his election represents.
"What, moral progress with the election of a President who aggressively supports abortion rights and gay marriage?" Yes.
Although by most measures the United States is in moral decline, the election of an African-American president reflects significant moral progress on the racial front. Christians should celebrate this achievement and recognize it publicly, not withstanding other legitimate moral concerns.
Celebrating progress on one moral front does not imply endorsement of the President Elect's positions on other social issues.
As Christians, we should, we must, be intelligent and thoughtful enough to celebrate the good while addressing the wrong. The fact that our country has elected an African-American president should be an occasion to celebrate this momentous achievement with those with whom we may disagree on most every other issue. We should model this attitude for our children, our students, and a watching world.
Imagine, if you will, how this must feel to millions of African-American families and to their young children. African-American mothers and fathers can now turn to their children and say, "In America, you can be anything you wish to be if you are willing to work for it." Is that not something that we would want every parent to be able to say to every child?
7. Remember that "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
The church of Christ is the focal point of history, with Christ being preeminent. God superintends the affairs of men in such a way as to establish genuine free moral agency and personal responsibility, for the good of His people, and for His glory. Ultimately, this election is for our good and God's glory. This does not mean that everything that occurs will be good but God promises to work all things together for the good of His people.
Pray, rest in God's wise providence, respect those in authority, work for what is right, model dignity in word and deed before your students and teach them how to think, how to love, and how to Glorify the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!