A good restaurant, Corner Kitchen, sits one block from the WORLD offices in Asheville, N.C. Barack Obama ate dinner there in April 2010, and the eatery owner reported the event on a website page he headlined, “A Night to Remember” (with apologies to Walter Lord).
Walter Lord wrote a book by that name about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. One hundred years ago was also the previous high tide for socialism in America, with Eugene Debs getting 6 percent of the vote as the candidate of the honestly named Socialist Party. Now a president who preaches class warfare presides over a governmental structure that Debs would envy.
What’s our nation’s problem? Barack Obama says it’s George W. Bush, who steered our ship of state too close to a giant iceberg. But the problem isn’t Bush, or Republicans generally, or business leaders more generally. In one sense it isn’t even Obama and his cohort. Two millennia ago James explained contemporary American politics: “You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”
Our national debt is $16 trillion because millions of us want what we haven’t paid for and millions of others oppose any new taxes, often on the reasonable belief that the beneficiaries of such taxation will be not the needy but the greedy. The result: Icebergs of entitlement are puncturing our ship. Our foreign policy is a shambles as two presidents have had unrealistic expectations about the ability of democracy to penetrate Islamic political theologies that emphasize centralized control.
On economics, President Obama was wrong to say, “You didn’t build that,” and certainly wrong to suggest that “government built it,” but Republicans who say, “I built it alone,” are also wrong. The talents we have come from God’s grace. The health we have comes from God’s grace. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The poor often covet but the rich often become arrogant. The rich should help the poor, and the Bible condemns the wealthy who oppress them instead.
WORLD has shown over the past year that GOP positions look stronger to us on social issues like abortion, on economic questions such as encouraging entrepreneurship, and on foreign policy issues such as defending religious liberty rather than playing into the hands of Islamists. But WORLD is independent: We’ve criticized Mitt Romney and pointed out where both parties fall short in encouraging Christian compassion rather than reliance on either government or secular individualism.
This is an unsatisfying election for most Christians. Conservatives who like to vote on the basis of a candidate’s religious beliefs see that both major party candidates are far from biblical Christianity—and voting for a third party candidate is essentially voting for President Obama. Moderates who want to atone in the election booth for America’s racist sins have been there, done that—in 2008. Meanwhile, some liberal Christians know the best way to help the poor is to grow the economy, and they know the Obama administration has failed utterly at that. Those who are pro-life don’t like to hold hands with proponents of safe and legal—not even rare—mass killing of the littlest people.
But dissatisfaction is far from despair for three reasons—one patriotic, one psychological, one theological. First, I’m writing this on an airplane heading back to the United States after two weeks in countries now independent but still recovering from their years of slavery within the Soviet Union. God has spared us so much, and our problems are still much less severe than those of other countries. On this Satan-stirred planet we’re still the best house in a bad neighborhood.
Second, all Christian citizens should vote and be politically involved, but we cannot control the national results. If we’re depressed, we should remember the teachings of Psalm 131: “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul.”
Third, the owner of Corner Kitchen wrote about the “surreal” atmosphere in his restaurant the night President Obama came: “When the president comes to your place, the atmosphere is pretty electric.” But when God sends His only begotten Son to die for us while we are yet sinners, how could an atmosphere be more electric?