Nothing was uglier-bordering even on treasonous-during the recent presidential campaign than the way George Bush's opponents seemed so regularly to welcome bad news from Iraq. Included among his "opponents" in that sense were the Democratic campaigns, for sure. But displaying the same despicable habit were many in the mainstream media.
Nor was the tendency limited to bad news about the war. Who will ever know the extent to which Democratic connivance and media lopsidedness didn't just respond to, but actually helped bring about, the current economic disaster?
But I mention that here not to heap still more criticism on Bush's opponents. I cite these issues instead as examples of behavior that biblically directed conservatives should take care to avoid in their own opposition in the months and years ahead to the presidency of Barack Obama.
I am hearing regularly from WORLD readers who seem intent on only one goal: They are zealous, already, for the failure of the Obama presidency. Indeed, nothing would make them happier than for the Obama presidency to be stillborn.
So, instead of quietly thanking God for a peaceful election and an apparently tranquil transfer of power-and then getting on with the monumental tasks before us-some of these folks won't be satisfied until they can prove that the Obama presidency itself is illicit. "In what sense," one Indiana subscriber asks me in an email, "am I biblically responsible to be subject to a man who unconstitutionally calls himself my president?"
Which makes me wonder: Did Nero have to produce a Roman Empire birth certificate before there was binding force to Paul's instruction in Romans 13? He's pretty straightforward: "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."
But it's not just individual letter-writers. You get the impression that whole conservative watchdog organizations face extinction if you don't give generously-today!-to ensure their ability to maintain litigation that will finally expose our new president's Islamic faith and alien roots. To which I am inclined to say: Good riddance! Let them collapse of their own awkward weight. If there was once a time to explore such bizarre possibilities, that time almost certainly ended with the election.
It's not the risks to the direct mail operatives that should worry us. It's the risk to the republic if we set millions of folks over against each other debating such technicalities. Do folks have any sense at all how devastating to orderliness it might be for a challenge to the legitimacy of Obama's presidency to gain even minimal traction?
Here's the point: Never let it be legitimately said that our main goal is to destroy our opponent or his presidency. Always let it be said that our focus is on the issues themselves-and that, having debated those issues, we are content to leave in God's sovereign hands the political results.
Admittedly, such a distinction may not always be easy to maintain-and especially so with someone who has an agenda so unambiguously fastened to the liberal left. His support for abortion, for special privileges for homosexuals, for state-controlled education, for overweening government regulation, and a hundred other liberal causes is well established. And his calculated coolness in driving that agenda heightens the temptation to expose every conceivable weakness of the man instead of seeking, through the electoral and legislative process, to defeat the policy enactment of his program. It's time to prove it possible again to say: "We respect you, Mr. President-along with your office. And at the same time we think you are very wrong."
Unless we learn to do that, though-and not just in a trivial way-we demean the very office we want to uphold. Indeed, we demean the very Constitution some folks claim they are honoring in their efforts to prove an Obama presidency an illicit affair. We end up doing the very thing to our present opponent that we found so ugly and distasteful over the last few years when we were watching it in reverse.
And no more now than on the playgrounds of our youth will it count for much to say: "He hit me first!"
If you have a question or comment for Joel Belz, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.