Maybe because I've talked with a lot of Christian baseball players, I haven't been surprised by evangelical comments about the election battle that go like this: "Bush should turn the other cheek and let Gore have it," or "As a Christian, he should step aside and let the healing begin."
Christian ballplayers get the same type of stuff-"Don't pitch inside" or "Don't slide hard into second to break up a double play"-and some of them believe it at first. Then they realize that they owe it to their teammates and their fans to play fair but hard, and if they are well-taught they soon realize that the Bible instructs us to be meek before God but not weak before man.
Meekness is the willingness to place God above our own egos; weakness is a refusal to trust God in fighting hard for what is right. Thus, the Old Testament notes that Moses-who smashed the golden calf, ground it to powder, mixed in some water, and made the Israelites drink his concoction-was the meekest of men. Thus, the New Testament records that Jesus, meek but not mild, overturned the tables of the moneychangers, telling them they had turned what was holy into a "den of thieves."
The Apostle Paul, when evildoers tried to take him out, demanded his rights as a Roman citizen. I and most of the readers of this magazine are American citizens. We should demand our right to a fair election. Machine count all the Florida ballots, or hand count them all (what a process open to manipulation that is!), but the attempt to steal an election by hand-counting only heavily Democratic counties is shocking, given the American tradition of gentlemanly concessions in close presidential elections like those of 1960, 1968, and 1976. But those elections were a generation ago, and why should we be surprised that people who approve of an abortionist puncturing the skull of a mostly born baby also approve of electoral theft?
We are to turn the other cheek to personal offenses; we are to relinquish freely what is ours to relinquish; and if Al Gore were slapping only the face of George W. Bush, Mr. Bush could rightly give in. The offense here is not personal, however, and a presidential nomination, once accepted, is ethically not the candidate's to relinquish. Like Adam, like the general of an army, at this point Mr. Bush represents far more than himself. The hopes of tens of millions of people reside in him; the work of tens of thousands of volunteers has been poured into his campaign. He must not take lightly their sacrifices.
Mr. Bush is now an Adam, a federal head, not only of the GOP but of all-including Democrats-who believe that America must not become a place where selected ballots, once counted and recounted, can be shaken and stirred until the result one side wants is obtained. Accepting that process could gain us a temporary peace, but the cost would be the creation of a precedent fit only for what we used to call "banana republics."
That could well be a Y2K disaster greater than the one predicted by doomsayers. It would be one that media might minimize, but remember what the prophet Elijah learned: that God's judgment may come not with strong winds, earthquakes, or fires, but in a still small voice. When Elijah at Mount Horeb told God of terrible events in Israel, still expecting a dramatic response, he received instead some quiet political instruction concerning the future kings of Syria and Israel. When a republic starts to slide toward a dictatorship, the early signs also are subtle.
To forestall such a slide in the United States it may be necessary for the Bush team to ask for judicial redress at the highest level. It may be necessary to put the spotlight on real fraud in Wisconsin and in other states narrowly won by Democrats. It may be necessary to fight acceptance of some vote totals and electoral college slates. In all these situations, the Bush forces should be bold and courageous. If ballots counted in an evenhanded way throughout Florida eventually show Mr. Gore to have been the winner, then Mr. Bush should (and will, I suspect) withdraw gracefully. But unless that happens, he must persevere, for the good of the country.
We can have one reassurance in all this: God has already ordained the results of our presidential election, and in God's election there is no recount. But since we do not know God's secret will in this matter, we act day by day in subjective freedom, making the choices that will make the history God has ordained. May He inspire all of us never to give up on the dream of America.