Like it or not, our country has placed itself under the threats I mentioned in Part I, and I can only hope that the mitigating factors of Part II will enable me to say, at the end of four years, "That wasn't so bad."  Regardless, although I believe the results of this election will make life more difficult, the important things do not change.  Here's some of what I believe we need to do in the coming years.

Who is the "we" in the following ruminations?  Mostly I'm speaking for myself, to myself, but often there will be a more general application, anyone who wishes to come along for the ride is welcome.

Part III — How We Can Sing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
How can we sing the songs of the LORD
       while in a foreign land? 

Psalm 137:1-4

First of all, we pick ourselves up with as much dignity as we have remaining and give respect and support to our new leaders.  "Fear God, honor the king" (I Peter 2:17) applies in a democracy, too.  Humor has an important place in discourse, but mean-spirited mockery does not.  I may have crossed the line with my "Obamanation" comment in Part I—at least two of my respected readers think so—though I'm not convinced it's inappropriate, given the messianic adulation accorded Obama by many of his followers.  Still, I'm extremely uncomfortable with the abuse heaped on George W. Bush, just as I was when it was Bill Clinton on the receiving end, and will accord Barack Obama the respect due the President of the United States, as well as that due a human being created in the image of God.

We pray for Barack Obama, and for all "who bear the authority of government."  If the Apostle Paul could write, per I Timothy 2:1-2, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made....for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness," while living under the Roman Emperor Nero, we can do the same living under an elected president who is not likely to include among his alternative energy polices the burning of living, human torches.

We attempt to live our lives in the best, most honest, most noble, and most loving way possible.  Back to I Peter again (2:15-16): "[I]t is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.  Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God."  The Republicans would do well to remember that scandal and wrong-doing among office holders has done more than anything else to bring them down.   Granted, it's not fair that the Democrats mostly get a pass for their equal or greater sins—although it's actually a compliment that better behavior is expected of Republicans—but the reality is that Republicans were hurt badly first by misbehavior and even more by not visiting swift and sure justice upon the miscreants.  To live purely and act rightly, with justice and love and in quiet confidence, will win more hearts than the most reasoned argument.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone....  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Romans 12:17-18, 21)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.  (Philippians 2:14-15)

[L]et your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16).

We attend to the wisdom of the serpent as well as the harmlessness of the dove.  Now is not the time to retreat from the political process, but to be all the more involved that we might be alert to dangers that threaten what we hold dear, and to how we might best meet those threats. History has proven that when we are caught unaware we react hastily, badly, and often ineffectively.

We don't flee to the hills, or to another country (as many threatened after losing the 2000 and 2004 elections), or withdraw from the system in sulky silence.  It's not time, yet, for "those who are in Judea to flee to the mountains."  If we feel like exiles in our own land, it is time to remember what God said to his people at the time of another exile: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jeremiah 29:5-7).  We continue to live our lives wisely and without fear.  The administration may have changed, but the basic rules of life have not.  There's still the Big Ten—don't steal, don't murder, don't mess with someone else's spouse, and all the rest—and the sound-bite version provided by Jesus:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, [and] love your neighbor as yourself."

Many of us are accustomed to feeling alienated from the general American culture; it may even be easier—or at least clearer—when there's no pretense that "our guys" are in charge.  Whether it's financial responsibility, ethical behavior, or wise decision-making, in a democracy the citizens get no better from their government than the majority lives out in their lives.   True progress, then, requires that we balance a deliberate counter-cultural structuring of our own lives, families, and communities with a creative engagement of the larger culture.  That is how we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land.

[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 6:51 am | Edit
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Comments

Thanks, Linda. I hadn't seen the chanting masses on TV before your "Obamanation" comment. Now I have, they disturb me, and I see where you're coming from. Even so, if you were in a discussion with any of them, the "Obamanation" comment would likely end it abruptly without them finding out that you're not saying that as a slick knee-jerk sour-grapes name-calling redneck reaction, but out of real and reflected concern. That I'd regret.

Then again, this is your blog, with your readers, and your freedom of speech. "Everything is permissible."

I like this final instalment and am sorry to see Li'l Writer Guy take to the hills. I wish I could have come up with something as wise and coherent as this had my candidate lost - and I think what you wrote could be used to 95% after any presidential election, no matter the winner. Even if the guy we like wins, we still need to "balance a deliberate counter-cultural structuring of our own lives, families, and communities with a creative engagement of the larger culture."



Posted by Stephan on Thursday, November 06, 2008 at 5:32 am

"But not everything is helpful."

I had no idea, until I did an Internet search yesterday, that "Obamanation" is quite a common expression, used by many in exactly the way you describe. This is what comes of not reading radical right-wing websites, I guess. To me, it was an "obvious wordplay reaction" that came because I happened to have just read that passage in Mark. Li'l Punster Guy will have his say occasionally as well.

But cool—I've never been called a redneck before. :)



Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, November 06, 2008 at 6:02 am

I didn't call you one, so your hope is for some Obamaniac to come your way and start frothing at the mouth when he sees the "Obamanation" phrase.



Posted by Stephan on Thursday, November 06, 2008 at 8:17 am

Sometimes there is an advantage to being behind in blog reading. I have nothing left to say. Er, just kidding, here's a link to an article by John Piper that was helpful to me entitled Let Christians Vote as Though They Were Not Voting.



Posted by IrishOboe on Thursday, November 06, 2008 at 5:01 pm

To get back to praising your reaction to a disappointing election, here's what other folks do. Infuriating. Especially considering what's stated in the last paragraph.



Posted by Stephan on Friday, November 07, 2008 at 9:37 am

I don't see what the difference is. Both McCain and Obama voted for the Banker Bailout of Abominations. I find it ironic that Obama's biggest constituency, the poor, blacks, and the youth, are the ones supporting the candidate who's campaign was more heavily bankrolled by the big banks that have hurt them so badly. At this point I simply can't see the federal government not imploding financially within the next 12 years. Plus they want to pay for everybody's healthcare?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!



Posted by Phil on Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Yes, I have wondered that in light of the fact that the majority of the people who voted for Obama thought he would do a good job with the economy. To his credit, he had a plan, and talked about it, compared to McCain.

But, did everyone forget how much money he spent to get elected?

And since the Distributism article was just posted, and I started thinking about "Atlas Shrugged", it seems like that is Obama's plan - maybe he read the book and thought it sounded like a good idea.

Oh, and let's tie this in with another blog post I just read - I have an idea for the federal land - build a cool, secret hideout like they did in "Atlas Shrugged", so the rest of us can go live there.



Posted by Jon Daley on Friday, November 14, 2008 at 8:01 am

Well, the good news is, Paulson decided this week that the 'something' that had to be done ASAP, namely buying worthless mortgages way above market value, was actually a bad idea after all. Glad he now agrees with me on that. Too bad he won't give the money back and has found a new 'something' that's fairly stupid also. Pathetic. Too bad his actions aren't reviewable, eh? Yet another example of 'something' not having to be done after all.



Posted by Phil on Friday, November 14, 2008 at 5:35 pm

If one had a conspiratorial bent, it could be seen as a clever, clever plan. Bear with me, suspend your disbelief....

High-Ranking Government Finance Official: "Listen y'all. Anyone have an idea as to how we get Americans to have more spending money? We want that because it's the economy, stupid, and if we give them money they'll forget about the wars we're in and they hate."

Creative Financial Cynic: "Here's an idea: We tell them their house is worth way more than they think, and give them a bunch of money via some sort of refinancing. Then we bundle the shakier loans into fun little financial commodities and trade them around and re-bundle them with other stuff until every bank in the world (except perhaps the Botswana Farmer's Credit Union) has (knowingly or not) bought a bunch of lousy credits. At some point, it'll all collapse, but who cares, because at that point other countries and their banks will be so involved *they'll* have to help *their* banks and will thus indirectly foot the bill for giving Americans more spending money. So we stick others with our bill. Whaddaya think?"

High-Ranking Government Finance Official: "Excellàntay, my friend! Let us sally forth and implement!"

Funny how it's more comforting to think the guys in charge are evil conspiratorial geniuses and not utter incompetents...



Posted by Stephan on Monday, November 17, 2008 at 3:55 am

Funny how you've hit upon my standard answer for conspiracy theorists: I haven't yet met a so-called conspiracy that couldn't be better explained by plain old human stupidity.



Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, November 17, 2008 at 6:38 am

I just wrote the Obama campaign the following:

Dear Mr. Obama,
Congratulations on winning the election. I voted for you in Montgomery County, Virginia.
(...) I told [others] we needed a change from the usual, partisan, broken Washington system. I hoped with all my heart you'd pick capable people for your staff, from both parties, better yet from outside Washington, who might even disagree with you. I was hoping for edgy rocks, not pebbles smoothed by the tides of the Capitol.
Now I keep hearing you picked pebbles. With every pebble, my heart sinks, my belief in change shrinks, and I add a wee layer of regret to my vote. Please pick rocks. That would be change we can believe in.

Thanks,
Stephan Stuecklin
Basel, Switzerland

For now, the reply is:

Thank You for Your Message

We're receiving a large number of messages since the end of the campaign, and we ask for your patience as we try to respond to everyone.

Thank you again for your message.

I'm interested to see if the fabled web savvy of the Obama campaign is a two-way street.



Posted by Stephan on Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 5:54 am

The next answer:
------------------------------------

Dear Stephan

Thank you for contacting me, and for your kind words and support. I’m receiving thousands of messages right now from across the country and Americans around the world. I am honored and deeply humbled by the confidence the American people have placed in me and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

I am hopeful about the opportunities and clear-eyed about the challenges our nation faces. I look forward to working with all Americans, regardless of who they voted for, in the great project of American renewal. Enlisting the energy and ingenuity of the American people is the only way we will create the changes that so many people want to see, so Senator Biden and I hope you will remain active in your community and involved in national policy debates.

Sincerely,
Barack Obama

---
A note from Obama for America: If you have questions, suggestions, or comments about the federal government, policy, or the coming Obama/Biden Administration, please visit the online Office of the President-elect for more information and to get involved:

www.change.gov

To see President-elect Obama’s speech on Election Night, please click here:

http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/stateupdates/gGx3Kc

If you’re contacting us because you’ve been energized by your participation in our grassroots movement, we want you to remain active in your community and involved in national policy debates. Please continue to visit www.BarackObama.com regularly. We’ve built one of the most comprehensive nationwide organizing networks in history, and our victory on November 4th is only the beginning of the work we will do together.

The 56th Presidential Inauguration will take place on January 20th, 2009, and will be run by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. If you’re seeking more information about the inauguration, we encourage you to check the JCCIC website:

http://inaugural.senate.gov/

If you have other thoughts or business with the campaign, you can continue to reach us toll free at 866-675-2008. We appreciate hearing from you and hope you’ll continue to work with us as we build America’s future together.

-----------------------
Paid for by Obama for America
------------------------------------

I'll go send the same message to www.change.gov. Let's see what happens... and sorry for hijacking the blog post.



Posted by Stephan on Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 7:25 am

After correcting my ZIP to 04053 (because there are no Americans outside America, I suppose), I got the instant reply:

--------------------------------
Thank you

Thank you for your message to President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden. The American people are sending Barack Obama to the White House to bring real change to Washington. Real change begins by building an open and transparent government and seeking input from all Americans.

The response to Change.gov has matched the enthusiasm that powered the Obama campaign. Thousands of Americans have already written to the President-elect and Vice President-elect and the number continues to grow. We are working to process all of these messages as soon as possible, and we thank you for your participation.

Sincerely,

Obama-Biden Transition Team

Click here to return to the home page.

For media inquiries only, please email us at press@ptt.gov

--------------------------------

Again, let's see what happens. I'm great at writing frivolous letters: I've written a letter to a grocery store because of a mistake on their ingredients in the French version, and I wrote the governor of Baselland to ask if he signed our high school diplomas personally. In both cases, I got a reply. Let's see what a reply a less frivolous message for a less frivolous cause engenders.



Posted by Stephan on Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 7:30 am

Keep up the log; I'm definitely interested seeing if you ever get a real response. This is one reason I generally like small entities better than large ones.



Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 7:37 am

Ok, here's the best one so far - the e-mails in the meantime pointing me to videos of Mr. Obama's speeches I've summarily ignored.

-----------------------------------------
Dear Stephan Stuecklin,

Thank you for contacting us about positions in the coming Obama-Biden Administration. If you are interested in applying, please click on the link below where you can complete the full on-line application:
http://change.gov/jobs/apply

Note that the above link should only be used by you. Please do not forward it on to others. Instead, you can direct other applicants to:
http://www.change.gov

If you are writing to recommend someone else for a position, we appreciate hearing from you.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Sincerely,
The Obama-Biden Transition Project

Please note that replies to this email will not be answered.
-----------------------------------------

I've already begun the application process and am quite impressed that it allows for my residence to be in a foreign country!



Posted by Stephan on Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 12:00 am

Cool. Maybe you can be Ambassador to Switzerland. If he makes you Ambassador to Afghanistan, please decline. If he wants you to move to Washington, DC, I'll point out that there is good train service between here and there. :)



Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 6:08 am
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