An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Amidst the euphoria yesterday, even someone like me who clearly retains a great many doubts, can find cause to be proud of my country - not for the first time, but as always. No western nation has ever elected a person of African descent to its executive branch. And so for all of the euro-progressive snobbery we have had to endure for the past years, can we please give them all a giant nose thumbing "neener-neener" and ask, for instance, when France will elect the son of an Algerian immigrant to the office of Prime Minister? Anytime soon? Racists hicks...I fully expect a deluge of youtube world apology videos from Paris after their next elections brings in another pro-American white guy.
Additionally, I am proud that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright might actually have to say something nice about our country next Sunday. And that also in the aftermath of one single day of voting we have effectively foundered his entire socio-political theology.
So, yes, we have cause to be proud of our country. Though obviously I wish it were a different African-American. President elect Obama can count on my respect and the honor due his office. He can also count me as his loyal opposition, fully willing to praise his decisions that I deem worthy and in turn he may expect a verbal lashing when I disagree. I'd like to believe his centrist "across the aisle" rhetoric and I will withhold judgment and take the man at his word for now. But, I do have some issues I'll be watching.
I hope we WILL see something akin to an actual policy decision by president-elect Obama that will be at least some sort of head nod to a pro-life perspective. But, unfortunately he has promised Planned Parenthood (a brutal - and I would say evil - force in the dreaded culture war) that he would immediately approve the "Freedom of Choice Act." Assuming it could survive congress, this would not be a good start to demonstrating himself as a "uniting force." Further, I expect he will open the floodgates of federal dollars (yours and mine) for research into NEWLY "harvested" (yes the word should horrify you) embryonic stem cells. I have regularly documented here the gains we have made in non-embryonic stem cell research (because of the Bush ban) and I expect these will be largely shelved when scientists have fiscal and legal access to the much easier - albeit morally repugnant - process of growing humans in petri-dishes and then shredding them to grow up cell layers for additional testing and manipulation. Other issues will arise as well: tax dollars to fund abortions, issues related to late-term and partial birth abortions, and of course parental notification, euthanasia, etc.
President-elect Obama has said he is against the re-establishment of the "Fairness Doctrine" (an ironically named law that was used to police the FCC airwaves to assure the impossible: that all political views receive equal airtime). While it may sound nice, the devil is in the details. How will the feds address the sometimes subtle bias that 65% of people believe exists in mainstream news media? Well, the answer is that they won't, in reality this is simply a ploy to shut down conservative talk radio and liberty loving people of ANY political persuasion should be aghast at the very idea that our government would start thought-policing the airwaves. The free-market should clearly be deciding this issue. I hope Obama sticks to his word on this one, because there is no way in the world that the Federal Government is going to be able to enforce a "fairness" doctrine like this, fairly.
As to foreign policy I think he may do well with most of our relations. But I will again withhold my judgment on the sixth sense I have that he may find himself being like a CareBear in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Picture Carter and Iran. We shall see.
As to economics? Well I rather agree with what was demonstrated by the folks with money to lose via the stock market yesterday - and today as I watch it plunge. Look, I stand to directly gain from President-elect Obama's tax plan. But, this is not a "tax cut." I already pay ZERO dollars in federal income tax - in fact this year I went ahead and filed exempt. And yet, somehow I still get a tax "rebate." In reality, it's a welfare check. Under President-elect Obama's plan I will get an even larger "rebate"...WOOHOO! The question mark however - which for some reason never seemed to come up in the campaign - is whether or not Obama will let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010. If he does, then my rebate welfare check will actually be slashed! For some it will mean an actual net tax increase which was only SUPPOSED to be given to people making +250,000 a year (depending on when the promise was made.) All of that said, look, I need to be honest: this money being given to me is NOT my money. It is someone else's money and I do not believe it is my business to take it from them (if for no other reason than because in reality I have no real NEED for it) - it is no more my business to stick the government's nose into someone's wallet than someone's bedroom. But besides this matter of principal, I believe that from a utilitarian perspective over-taxing the wealthy and businesses is demonstrably bad for the economy. You walk a fine line and risk stifling growth and innovation. Everyone talks about "fairness", well...here I stand in the middle class, paying NO Federal Income Taxes and yet getting a tax "rebate"?! How is THAT fair? I'm not paying my fair share at all, and the fact is, most middle class people like me aren't. But good luck getting elected if you dare to state this fact. But again, we shall see how this economic policy pans out...I'm more than happy to be wrong and take rich people's money to pay off my debts in the meantime. Yes, I'm a hypocrite.
Someone spoke to me under the assumption that I, like them, would be celebrating. I replied that I am finding these days that even if my candidate had won I would not be one to celebrate much over politics. We cannot pretend that our politics will make much difference in what is most important in life. Consider: would a ban on abortion magically change the fact that we remain a divided people on the issue of life sanctity? How easy would it be for a lawyer to find a jury to dismiss charges against an abortionist for some technicality? Similarly would a tax policy that takes from the rich and gives to the poor really elevate our society into a Utopian vision of health and happiness? Do we as Christians even believe that money can bring happiness, contentment, and heal the diseases of our soul which are the real causes of all that ails our society (crime, divorce, fatherless homes etc)? Government programs are not going to save us - in fact I would argue they rarely even help us at all. Don't get me wrong, I have made my points above with regard to where I expect to profoundly disagree with the new administration...but I am just thinking out loud here...should I cry more for the lack of a pro-life law or for the lack of a society that sees inherent value in life? The opposite is also true: how much should I cheer for a pro-life law that half or more people believe to be profoundly unjust? Should not my cheering be tempered a very great deal by the reality of the world? Pick a social issue on either side of the political spectrum and I believe the same is true. Should we really rejoice in forcing rich people to give to the poor? What virtue is there in that?
So, all of this said, President-elect Obama has my prayers. I intend to treat him better than I saw his predecessor treated by his "loyal" opposition.
I find myself also wondering about God's providence. I imagine Republicans generally don't like considering the notion that God's will is expressed herein somehow, and that similarly democrats cringe at the idea that Bush's eight years were in some odd way all apart of God's plan. I don't pretend to know how God's providence is intertwined with democratic freewill. Hmmm...perhaps no different than natural disasters, I wonder? The libertarian in me would like to think so. "That obese government which is gridlocked, governs best."
And let me add one final political thought that I had while listening to a lecture on the life of Thomas Jefferson. One thing our founders were apparently concerned with was a large and strong centralized government that would alienate people and have them feeling as if they really only had some slight degree of political power once every two and four years. I would suggest those fears have been largely realized, but, let us not forget that we still retain enough freedom to LIVE our values everyday. In this way we do them infinitely more justice that by voting for the government to express them for us.
And let us all remember that the most "needful things" did not change between November 3rd and November 5th. They remain needful and will so until His Kingdom comes. May God ever remind ME of this, and of the truth of how many more responsibilities - much more important ones - that I have other than voting.
Maybe part of why we have Thanksgiving after elections is so that we can thank the Almighty that they are over.
Speaking of Jefferson, this is my favorite quote of his right at that moment:
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.