I think that the overall feeling over here in the UK was that we’d like Obama to stick around in the White House for another four years. Many that for a while wanted change joined the Obama camp after Romney decided to insult us all over the Olympics. If we think about only Christians, though, the opinion is more divided. This is very interesting considering Obama is a Christian and Romney is a Mormon. But, of course, it isn’t that simple and it’s great that many people are looking further than how the two candidates would fill out a census.
But over in America some Evangelical pastors who in the past would’ve condemned aligning with a Mormon, endorse him over the Christian candidate (even if not explicitly). Some are even trying to convince their congregations that the end of the world will be brought about by Obama (HuffPost blog here) – of course we know that only the Father knows the day and all the predictions up until now have been incorrect (correct me if I missed the apocalypse). And so many of the listeners probably took them at their word, which saddens me. Politics is a delicate subject to bring to the pulpit – especially endorsing a specific party or candidate – and can be dangerous.
This is because I should not have even said “Christian candidate” above. It simply isn’t true. He is a candidate who is a Christian. His decisions and actions will be influenced by his faith but to expect it to mean that his governing will bring about a truly Christian country is foolish. In the same way Romney would not make America Mormon, although understandably his religious views make many Christians uncomfortable. It is extremely difficult to hold high office and not compromise any Christian principles and I agree with Kurt Willems on redletterchristians.org in this respect. Perhaps there are nations in this world where you could but the United States is not one of them. It is far too secularised and embroiled in wars (both the full-scale ones and the covert ones). Any incoming president couldn’t feasibly be a truly Christian president because he (or she!) would inherit one of the largest and arguably best, militaries in the world and probably within the first 24-48 hours would have to decide on something related to their actions or movements – and the option for them to do nothing wouldn’t be in the mix. I personally believe Obama’s military decisions have been a lot closer to Christian principles than George W. Bush’s (sorry, my youth means I don’t remember a time before him). He hasn’t dawdled on pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, going faster than some generals say is advisable, he was hesitant on military action in Libya and is still holding out on this in Syria. You can debate with me whether he’s doing enough by other methods, but I’m concentrating on military here. I’m also uncomfortable with the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the use of his death to bolster Obama’s campaign. He’s a lot closer, but has way further to go.
You can also point to the election campaigns for evidence of absence of Christian fervour. $2.5 billion has been spent this election between the two candidates. I mean, wow. Surely that’s at least near the amount we need to solve world poverty? (Before you jump on me for that, I know throwing lots of money at poverty won’t solve anything, nonetheless across all the hardworking organisations, money is vital and to be honest I’d rather not all $2.5bn was effective in trying than it going to personal attacks on presidential candidates.) This money went towards a heck of a lot of TV adverts and other forms of advertising that generally said how bad the other candidate was not what the advertiser was going to do. I think Obama came out of this slightly better but there’s not much in it.
Anyway, to the actual subject of this post; why I’m glad Obama did, in fact, win. Well, from what I’ve already said either candidate would only be a lesser of two evils – neither will truly instigate a Christian presidency. The argument for Romney (from a Christian standpoint) is that he is pro-life and anti-gay marriage. So he will ban abortions and gay marriage? Sounds like his intention, but the first point is how likely is it he will be able to? The second and I would say more important point is that banning abortion outright won’t solve problems and will simply lead to a huge rise in backstreet abortions. This is not what we want as Christians as it simply puts women in danger (and certainly doesn’t see a close to elimination of abortions overall). We need to see a bigger picture. Obama isn’t fighting abortion directly but his attempts to drastically change the welfare system may be really fighting the root causes of it which is what is needed to see a real change in the abortion rate (see my opinions on this issue specifically here). Meanwhile gay marriage is on a different scale (it is not a matter of life and death), it isn’t preferable for Christians but the US is a secular country (see First Amendment) and although I’d rather Obama didn’t endorse it, I don’t think he will be active in pushing it. Don’t forget there’s very little that can be done at federal level on this issue.
I mentioned welfare reforms already. Obama’s plans are the very (very very) small first step towards something like the NHS. He wants the poorest to have access to the very basic level of healthcare – not being turned away because they don’t have enough money. It means the rich pay slightly more into their insurance so that all can have the basic level. So what happens? Americans shout “Communist”. This astounds me; that helping poorer people get access to healthcare causes people to believe they’ve become the enemy is crazy. But then I have my suspicions that many didn’t like the idea of paying some more for the benefit of others. Either way, Obama is genuinely working for the good of the people. Danny Webster, parliamentary officer of the Evangelical Alliance (UK-based) talks about looking about looking at the bigger picture instead of a couple of “highly politicised” issues in a recording on Premier Christian Media here.
I also believe that Obama is a lot more thoughtful, considers the consequences of his actions across the board and is invested in changing the image of America being the intrusive military power it has been in the past (eg taking a backseat in Libya). In our current economic climate I think this is what we’re more in need of, while not forgetting the importance of consistency in it as well.
So all in all I would choose Obama, not explicitly for his faith (admittedly it plays a small part), but because looking at the wider picture, he will serve the American people best (I’m sure Americans will say I don’t have to right to say that – maybe they’re right, but it’s still what I believe), his social reforms being central in my opinion. Being a second term president he won’t need to worry about re-election anymore and maybe won’t be as worried about upsetting some people for the sake of everyone. I expect great things. But I don’t expect a perfect Christian presidency. He is still the lesser of two evils – but then this will be the situation in any election.
Meanwhile when Vicky Beeching, a Christian Social Media consultant (among other things) tweeted she was pleased that Obama was re-elected she was met with abuse. I can’t understand why, she was simply giving her opinion on the matter, for her to lose followers and fans makes no sense and makes me wonder what Romney supporters are like. Last night I saw Obama congratulating Romney and his volunteers on their campaign and he seemed truly genuine with a smile on his face. Romney seemed to be speaking through gritted teeth in his speech after hearing the result, congratulating the President. That isn’t all that surprising but are these attitudes reflected directly in their supporters? I feel Obama inspires hope, even now while Romney just inspires… I’m not even sure – and that’s not a good sign.
If you think this is all too complicated a much easier (and in many ways more biblical) answer is what my fellow Christian student Joel Le Poidevin posted earlier today – God is in control and that is all that matters. I like to delve deeper but ultimately this is certainly true.
Please feel free to disagree with me on anything I have said but please do it respectfully in the way I have tried to write this. God bless.