Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Ramblings on the swearing-in of President Obama

Posted by Chris on January 21, 2009

Today (his first day in office) he passed a series of orders that (so says) mandate high ethical standards and transparency for his officials/appointments. It would be about time. I think he means it; not sure if it will happen. And I think it’s dangerous because to me, transparency is transparency. No secret wars, no propping up of dictators, no operating through proxies, no paying private military companies or paid foreign soldiers. Not only a lack of motives, but to me it means the presence of explanations—why we do something, of the factors involved in a decision, honest evaluation of decisions (and admitting mistakes). Thanks for setting the bar high, President Obama—but now I’m going to hold you to it.

The other things people are looking for him to do worry me or at least cause some hesitation. He seems poised to prepare a 16 month-ish withdrawal plan from Iraq—I’m glad he’s doing what he promised; I’m unsure of what the best thing to do is. Revoking the “Mexico City policy” aka the “Global gag rule.” (Google it). While I’m pro-life, I’m also pragmatic and democratic—the election of Obama is certainly an indicator of what a majority of Americans would think about this. This policy doesn’t directly impact lives, like abortion laws in the US, some I hesitate to protest based purely on moral reasons. It’s all about goals—and it’s pretty clear that it’s the goal of most of the wealthy, western world to have less people in the poor parts of the world. There are certainly understandable reasons for this (wanting to limit the effects of poverty, disease, etc…). I don’t share that goal, for both pragmatic and moral reasons, but primarily theological reasons that I don’t expect others to agree with and do not think should impact legislation/administration—the idea of the sovereignty of God; trusting it; and knowing that it’s good.

I’m certainly not excited. That’s probably got more to do with my personality than my thoughts on Mr. Obama. I wouldn’t be excited if Mr. McCain were stepping into the office either. Either way, I was going to have a heavy heart (and that’s why, ultimately, I abstained from voting for president). I’d call my state of mind “dubiously hopeful.”

I don’t expect my life to be changed much by any of this. I realized during this election season that my local officials probably had much more to do with my quality of life—I don’t discount the importance of national elections, but it elevated for me the importance of making educated decisions about local and county elections. I do think my life may be adversely affected in a way I cannot easily perceive—the amount of debt we will ring up under Obama’s economic plan (I’m sure this would have happened some under McCain as well). It is our debt. It will be paid with my taxes, or cuts in my Mom’s social security, or cause us to have a less desirable relationship with our national creditors (i.e. China) during the course of my adult life.

In the words of Derek Webb in his song “King and a Kingdom”

My first allegiance is not to a man, a country or a flag; my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood. It’s to a king and a kingdom.

Some of the enthusiasm on the parts of many Americans is really weird to me, sometimes downright frightening. It made me very uncomfortable to hear “O-BA-MA” chants. Maybe I should look at sporting events and fans in the same cynical light, however, this seems far too significant and sober and real for this kind of exultation. Because I worry that it is intentionally much more than exultation; exaltation. He is just a man.

Of course, I am pleased that we have a black president. This is truly historic. Admittedly, I haven’t thought about it much lately. The economy and other things seem to provide opportunities for our president to make much more significant things happen, besides just being the first of a demographic category. Which is kind of cool.

I don’t get the religious/spiritual stuff that has gone on around this inauguration. Many were up-in-arms about Rick Warren’s invitation to pray (“How dare Rick Warren believe what he believe!). Atheists sued to remove the language of God. Mr. Obama had several people pray and went to a prayer service the next morning. I have not heard any liberals say or write negative things about Mr. Obama. Why is none of the anti-christian and anti-religion talk directed at him? Because he ascribes to a watered-down (my words), universalized (his words) version of the faith? He still affirmed that Jesus died for his sins, the thought which one British theologian dismissed as “cosmic child abuse” and the theological tenet that offends many and has offended many for 2000 years. In some ways, he’s what I always hoped for: a Christian who could affirm something like that and everyone love him because of all the other fruits of his life! But I really can’t believe that is the case. What’s the deal? Mr. Obama invited Rick Warren. He schmoozed with him at his church. He quoted scripture, invoked God, and cheered other invocations of God.

I want to develop a habit of praying for this man/administration/government. Not because of something inherent about him, but, it’s like important and stuff. I doubt I’m going to pray as fervently or want to prioritize like some I knew growing up (for whom praying for our “presidents and leaders” was near the top of the list) but at this time it’s needed. While I disagree with him strongly on some issues, I do believe that he is concerned with what works and overall is someone with a somewhat similar moral compass. I believe he’s open-minded thus I feel that praying that God would grant him discernment and wisdom and the proper understanding on certain issues is actually something he’s humble and flexible enough to submit to.


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