Today is the day. A week of varied pastoral duties has pulled in a number of different directions, but in the back of my mind I, like so many other of my countrymen, have been anticipating this day. At noon the unique American experiment in self-government will formally flex it’s muscle for the world to see, and there will officially be a new most powerful man in the secular world. Momentarily the Body of Christ walks beside him because of common interest and some common goals, but we must never walk blindly behind him – or any man, for that matter. The majesty of the presidential inauguration with all of it’s pomp and ceremony paints a picture for history and the whole of mankind to see, and for all our informality as a culture, it’s our chance to clean up and pose for the camera. The petulant politicians that refuse to participate in this celebration of our united experience do so to their own discredit, and even those of us who have profound reservations about the man who will step into that crucible of leadership are stewards of a certain set of civic responsibilities.
Election 2016 was as divisive as it comes, and it’s no breaking news that our choices winnowed down to a pair of options that left anyone with their eyes open less than satisfied. It has been rightly said that in our republic, we get the leadership that we deserve, and it has also been said that our leadership inevitably reflects our culture more than our politics. We are seeing those truisms formalized today. John Piper shared a bold and insightful article on his page entitled “How to Live Under an Unqualified President” (thanks for the link, Sis Julie) in which he makes the statement that our system has elevated a man through the process that is “morally unqualified” to be President. Pretty harsh stuff, but at it’s root, true….also more than a little naïve. We have elected men whose personal foibles and proclivities make this man look like a saint by comparison, and by and large they have turned out to be some of the most effective managers of our system. I have absolutely no doubt that this man is capable of managing the machinations of this largest of world systems effectively and productively. His life story has prepared him for this smaller of his tasks, and it’s been a while since we have had someone in that role more capable. The next few months and years will no doubt be filled with financial prosperity, a restoration of American stature in the world community, and some sweeping changes that are in many cases long overdue. This is a good thing.
Under the scrutiny of those whose politics are diametrically opposed to his own, he will thrive – the consummate counter-puncher by his own admission, social media will be on the verge of a meltdown for the foreseeable future, and the show will be tantalizing to say the least. The Apprentice© never came close to seeing the ratings this new show will be pulling in. But what of his larger task – one that almost always gets left to historians to reflect upon and political spin-doctors to massage into an agreeable form? Those of us of a certain age grew up with admittedly idealized pictures of the men who’ve served as our president, and the security that brought to us is a lamentable casualty of this information age. Most people never even realized that FDR was crippled and that the Kennedy White House had more in common with Vegas than virtue, because our corporate sensibilities (and a willing press) conspired to protect the dignity of the office in which these men were vested. It is not a stretch to say that this age places even higher demands on those who step into the spotlight, but unfortunately we have chosen to go in the other direction. No more heroes, I suppose. Yes children, we have before us the first president that has managed to make a fortune on casinos and strip joints and convince church ladies that it was not that big of a deal – a man who has perhaps the most compartmentalized psyche of any man to ever hold the office. He is human, of course, but the problem is not with him – it’s with us when we refuse to do our part.
The Church’s legitimate voice has never been more needed than in this era of pseudo-acceptability and mutually ‘beneficial’ connection. Watching men and women who have confused notoriety for God’s favor clamor for a few scraps of obligatory God-speak from the lips of an unrepentant pretender is nauseating, and the silence of the real church is as well. The bottom line is that, by his own admission, he has never asked forgiveness of his sins – it’s doubtful by his rhetoric that he believes he even has any – he, like so many others, needs Christ. How is there any hope of him meeting Christ if there is no authentic ‘preacher’ (Romans 10:14) of untrammeled truth? God help the truth to penetrate the vile, opportunistic religious posturings of men and women with dirty vesture by the simple call to genuine faith for this man, and for this nation. Like men throughout time in similar positions, God maintains a unique measure of sovereignty over his heart as long as he wields power over the innocent (Proverbs 21:1), but our job remains and is perhaps intensified. While the temporary blessings of circumstantial security and prosperity come rushing back into our lives, I am compelled by the Spirit to not confuse this with victory. Let us keep our ‘eye on the ball’ in this clamorous, distracting season – let us remember the great commission and not let it be subjugated to the siren song of apparent great opportunity or even dote long upon apparent great blessing. Let us operate from a position of spiritual clarity, not as presumptuously gloating short-sighted sycophants, and continue to answer the Isaiah 58:1 to ‘cry aloud, and spare not’.
I wish our new president nothing but the best, and I honor the outgoing president as well. Before you come with the torches, hear me out. Although his policies could not be more out of synch with what I believe, he has given himself for the past eight years to a job that required a level of commitment and sacrifice that most of us will never know, and has done at least one job extremely well. Apart from the colossal political missteps and the temporary damage he has done to our economy, our image in the eyes of the world, and our moral identity, he has – perhaps unwittingly – done something for which he and his wife will be remembered that is much more powerful and lasting than all that changeable stuff. It is the intangible responsibility of the symbolic leader of the most influential Christian nation in the world, and arguably more important than all the other stuff combined. They are good parents. They are universally seen as a loving couple whose priority in life is those two remarkable young women that they have raised in the most difficult of circumstances – they have modeled for the culture what a family should look like. While the hot-headed political conspiracy theorists have intimated that the Obamas were everything from communist insurgents to the devil themselves, they have come home every night (metaphorically) to an identity that still to this day holds the greatest hope for our culture and our future – the nuclear family. At the same time as the shrill voice of a distracted church lifts up the picture of a profoundly flawed man who just so happens to be able to drive the truck well as the purported standard bearer, is it just possible that the greatest goof of all has been pulled over on the hapless, self-absorbed culture of today? While the perversions of the deepest, darkest part of man’s unredeemed nature are paraded about under the guise of acceptance and liberty, tarnishing the true meaning of those terms – while sexual perversions and licentiousness are routinely paraded on in the streets of major cities and fought over in the ghettos and the grounds – their ‘standard bearer’ went home to a nuclear family – to the wife of his youth and the sole covenant partner either of them has ever had along with their children of purpose and promise – and celebrated the absolute pinnacle to which all the self-obsessed minions muddying the streets will never attain. They are a family in the most traditional, most honorable, and most essential way, and for that I honor them.
Please join me praying for this flawed, capable man that God has seen fit to allow to rise to this position of great responsibility, and for the blessing of God whose ways are above our ways and whose thoughts are above our thoughts to penetrate the haze of our sin sick culture. There’s still work for the church to do, and in the words of one notable contemporary preacher….it ain’t all about us, baby!