Where Were You When

Today I was convinced that three months ago, in a crowded warehouse amidst a crowd of several hundred people, I voted for the right man when I cast my ballot and exercised my right as a citizen of this country. 

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One of my professors today made the remark that today is going to be one of those days where, years from now as you are huddled with new acquiantances or old friends, you are going to be asked where you were when Barack Obama took the oath of office. For me, I was on the campus of Kent State University, White Hall, outside room 205, waiting for my next class and streaming live coverage from CNN via my laptop. As it neared noon, traffic on the live stream increased exponentially, to the point where I was waiting in a line to be able to access the CNN feed. As the feed came up, and the camera panned the millions cheering and singing and dancing joyously, and as Obama’s name was announced and the crowd erupted in cheers, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps, realizing that I was present at a turning point in American history. Finally, as Obama stepped up to the podium, raised his right hand, and began to take the oath… my live feed was lost. I scrambled to other news sites to be able to watch the moment, and was finally able to pull one up as President-elect Obama became President Obama.  

For all of the hype and anticipation surrounding the words that now President Obama would utter to usher in the presidency of change which he promised, I found his speech not uninspiring, but lacking the kind of soundbyte moments that others have had. “I have a dream…” “Ask not…” “The only thing we have to fear…” All of these were clips that I heard played over the past weekend in anticipation of today. I found his speech instead to be one of substance and action; a call to action on the words that he spoke and the words that we believed and we fought for. “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

Whether or not you voted for Obama or agree with where he stands on the issues, you must agree that today was an historic day. Whether or not President Obama will live up to the potential everyone sees in him is yet to be seen, but for today he has inspired millions to once again say “I’m proud to be an American.”

The inauguration was the subject of discussion in many of my classes today, and in several cases Dr. King’s dream was referenced. The talking heads debate whether his dream was fulfilled today with President Obama, but I would submit that it is not. The comments that I have heard today from many people would indicate so. There is still division, suspicion, uneasiness present that have yet to be conquered. Today was a symbol of a changing tide. The only thing we have now is to choose whether to swin with the changing tide or to fight it in ignorance. Most unsettling to me has been the reaction among fellow believers in regard to his election. I understand a disagreement with where he stands on the issues, but to contest his legitimacy as President, to comment on his race, or to insinuate that terrible things are coming is completely inappropriate for a follower of Christ. Coincidentally enough, I found one conservative organization claiming to represent Christ who just happened to post a biblical description of the Antichrist today. There is no doubt in my mind that Obama is not, but should I be completely wrong and the conservative fundamentalists correct, then all I have to say is praise God because He’s returning soon. In all reality, if he is the antichrist, and if Christians really believed what they say they believe, then shouldn’t they realize that he is going to rise to power with or without their protests against him, and that they should be worried more about reaching people in the little time they now have rather than politicizing everything? The priorities of these groups comes through. We have replaced the Gospel with the GOP.

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Among the evangelicals I was paying attention to was Rick Warren. Ever since his selection to give the invocation, the left and right have been taking jabs at Warren, each ready to tear him to shreds over the altar of political correctness. Other than Obama, I found Warren’s presentation most inspiring today. Faced with millions calling for him to pray one way or another, he treated his role with respect and dignity and did not use it as a bully pulpit. I have heard several saying that he should mention abortion or gay rights in his prayer, and while I sat and listened to Warren pray I couldn’t help but pray on my own that he wouldn’t mention either issue. Prayer should never be about our politics, and thankfully Rev. Warren understands that. As a representative for the whole of the evangelical community today, he stood as a shining example of biblical maturity and understanding, fulfilling his God-given mandate to “honor the king.” 

I am in no way giving President Obama a key to my bank account or a golden ticket to do as he wishes. At this point in time, Obama can do no wrong for most of the country, and I hope he enjoys this short honeymoon before the work begins. I hope the media begins fulfilling their role as watchdogs of government and doesn’t become the voice of Obama’s administration. Rather, I hope they have learned from the mistakes of the past few years and will take an ever more attentive approach to their political reporting. Obama has had it easy thus far. He is now a cultural symbol, something that is hard to touch and hard to tarnish. But I do not expect him to be perfect, and will not support him through all that he does. And in four years, if I disagree with the steps he has taken, I will vote against him if the right individual is running against him. But regardless of where he takes this country, he is my President and deserving of my respect and, more importantly, my prayers. 

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”            Romans 13:1-4, ESV

 

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”                 Martin Luther King, Jr.

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2 thoughts on “Where Were You When”

  1. “fight the changing tide in ignorance”? That is quite a statement to make! Because I have reservations about this President and already, I am seeing why-I am ignorant? I have convictions, Jon. I pray for our President-I wish him well-but I don’t follow blindly! Bi-partisanship in our culture and politics today means Republicans agreeing with Democrats. I guess I am not bi-partisan in many issues. I don’t apologize and I am not ignorant!

  2. Perhaps this was too ambiguous of a statement to make, but within the whole context the changing tide I was referring to was that of overcoming the racially divisive history of our nation, not a changing tide of liberalism overcoming conservatism, etc. Those who “fight the changing tide in ignorance” are those who continue to make comments about how his race played a role in his election, or about how some kind of harm is going to come to him because of his race, etc. Those who continue to make race a factor not just in his presidency but in our nation as a whole. I was in no way referring to individuals who stand on their convictions in the face of a new administration. Everyone has a right in this country to vote on their convictions and I am all for people taking a stand when their government enacts legislation and policies that contradict their personal politics and worldview.

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