Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | November 5, 2008

Obama, McCain, and Us

The world woke up this morning to realize a little more deeply that we really are all in this together.

For those of us who sat up late last night we got to hear the Father, Son, and Spirit speak to us through two political leaders: John McCain and Barack Obama.

McCain’s concession speech was gracious and healing, and he affirmed a central truth about this election: that our society looks a little more like the Triune Life as we took another great step beyond racism and towards an ever more inclusive life together. McCain said that the fact that Obama succeeded:

. . . by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

The Father, Son, and Spirit, who embrace each other and humanity, are inclusivists and they have created a universe in which we are all in this together. In McCain’s words the Holy Spirit spoke to us and congratulated us on growing out of our racism and into the Trinity’s inclusivity just a little bit more.

Obama’s  victory speech was also, I believe, a word from the Spirit to us. Like McCain’s speech, Obama’s had the usual political rhetoric and congratulations to his supporters. But then he said this:

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.

The incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, together with his Father and their Spirit, has spoken to humanity and said these same words, and last night the Spirit spoke them again to us in our new President: we are all in this together, and we must look out for each other.

Several times in his speech Obama alluded to Abraham Lincoln, a President who exemplified the ideal that we are all in this together. When many Americans would have gladly allowed the Union to dissolve and the various states to go their separate ways, Lincoln stood insistently on the point that we are in union with each other, whether we like it or not, and we must learn to live in that union.

Isn’t this the very gospel itself? The Father, Son, and Spirit are in union with each other and with humanity, and therefore – in and through Christ – we are all in this thing called life together (Col. 1:15-20). The Holy Spirit led Lincoln to see, politically if not theologically, that there is no such thing as a life of separation and disunion. We are in union and the sooner we learn to live in that union the more joyful our lives will be.

So, when Obama quoted directly from Lincoln’s first inaugural address, I could not help but hear the Father speak to us again through words delivered to us now by two Presidents:

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

And when Obama spoke to the larger world he affirmed that the blessing of America is not for us only but for the whole of humanity, because we are all in this together:

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

Where else could democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope come from except the life of the only One who is good? They come to us as the free gift of the Father, Son, and Spirit, through the Son’s union with us in his flesh as Jesus. So God reminded us in our new President’s words that America is not alone, we are all in this together with the whole world, and we must take care of each other. Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared.

One of the most striking aspects of this election is how dominantly Obama won the votes of those ages 18-30. Those of us who spend a lot of time with young people are not surprised. The reason behind the youth vote for Obama can be seen in one of the most popular movies among pre-teens: the High School Musical trilogy.

There is a song in the first movie with the wonderful title “We’re All in This Together”. This is the same title as the song of the Triune Life, the song that the Father, Son, and Spirit sing to each other, and the song they are singing to humanity.

It is being sung to us in theology, in the neo-reformation that is rising in the Church as we come to see the fullness of the Gospel. It is being sung to us in our pop culture, through movies like High School Musical. And it is being sung to us now in the rhetoric of our political leaders.

Here is the first verse and chorus. I think when you read these words you will know why Obama’s candidacy resonated so well with young people and what it is our Dad in heaven was telling us last night through Obama and McCain:

Together, together, together everyone
Together, together, come on lets have some fun
Together, we’re there for each other every time
Together together come on lets do this right

Here and now its time for celebration
I finally figured it out (yeah yeah)
That all our dreams have no limitations
That’s what it’s all about (yeah yeah)

Everyone is special in their own way
We make each other strong (we make each other strong)
We’re not the same
We’re different in a good way
Together’s where we belong

We’re all in this together
Once we know
That we are
We’re all stars
And we see that
We’re all in this together
And it shows
When we stand
Hand in hand
Make our dreams come true

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Responses

  1. amen

  2. Thanks, Tim, it’s nice to know that I can get an “amen” on this!

  3. Jonathan I like your writings, but this post was “hit out of the park!” Not only is it very well written, but the gospel message is very clearly articulated in everyday life.

    So many Christians were looking through the eyes of disappointment simply because their candidate didn’t win, rather than looking at the Truine God manifesting Himself in the US election. It reminds me of a group of disciples frustrated because Jesus was not acting politically the way they perceived He should be – establishing the kingdom then – and instead He was living for the Kingdom on a much grander scale. He can and is doing the same today!

    Great post!

  4. Thanks for the encouragement Glen! Love the analogy to the disciples, we’re always looking for the Kingdom the way we think it ought to be instead of recognizing it incarnate in humanity through Jesus.

  5. Sort of makes me pine for the good old days, when the spirt spoke through the mouth of the prophets, or even burning bushes, rather than political pundits and vapid teenie bop musicals.

    O’ well, I suppose the Holy Spirit speaking through an ass is not without precident.

  6. An ass? Puts me in mind of Lincoln’s opponents calling him an ape.

    It’s interesting that the first thing we want to do is de-humanize those who disagree with us by comparing them to animals.

    No wonder Jesus had to tell us to love our enemies and pray for them. If we will de-humanize those who simply disagree with us, and aren’t even our enemies, no wonder we are so quick to torture and kill those who are really out to get us.

  7. You may not have picked up on the reference “Pastor” Jonathan… but then again, not all of us can attain to such intellectual and spiritual heights as to take our cues from such impressive sources as High School Musical part 3.

  8. [. . .] ?

  9. Good response… pithy, succint, and utterly devoid of content. You’ld make a great politician.

  10. Well, it’s a good thing the President Elect renounced his a association with Reverend Wright…just in the “nick-o-time” you might say. That “union” would have certainly thrown a wet blanket on the whole “in this together” revelry.

    Maybe we should leave the discerning of the Spirit to more appropriate religious gatherings and not campaign rallies consumed with conceit.

  11. I highly recommend to everyone the text of Obama’s speech on race relations which he gave in March, during the height of the Rev. Wright controversy.

    Regardless of where you stand politically I think you will find his speech informative and helpful in understanding this issue. Here’s a link:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88478467

  12. Mr. M.

    Thanks for your response.

    It’s really not necessary for you to take on the role of apologist for Jonathan’s comments. They are what they are and I certainly don’t assume that he’s speaking on your behalf, or for that matter, on behalf of the WCG.

    Just so you know, his essay arrived unsolicited in my in-box. It wasn’t something I sought out. It had been cut and pasted into an e-mail. Knowing the kind of things that fly about during political season, I kept looking for the punch line, and, to my increasing horror, found that there wasn’t one.

    He was actually being serious.

    It wasn’t until after I had posted several of my responses that I looked him up learned, to my chagrin, that this guy is actually an ordained minister in our fellowship.

    Wow.

    There’s nothing in Jonathan’s essay, as far as I can tell, that indicates what his political affiliation is one way or the other. To the best of my ability, neither is there in my response.

    I find it sinister, however, when he attributes as divine utterance the words of worldly political leaders.

    “.. we got to hear the Father, Son, and Spirit speak to us through two political leaders: John McCain and Barack Obama…”

    “In McCain’s words the Holy Spirit spoke to us…”

    “Obama’s victory speech was also, I believe, a word from the Spirit to us”

    “last night the Spirit spoke … to us in our new President:”

    “Isn’t this the very gospel itself?”

    “when Obama quoted directly from Lincoln’s first inaugural address, I could not help but hear the Father speak to us again through words delivered to us now by two Presidents:”

    “what it is our Dad in heaven was telling us last night through Obama and McCain:”

    Seriously? No one’s challenging this?

    There is no ambiguity in Jonathan’s remarks, or what it is he’s promoting. Polititicians, and, absurdity of absurdities, pop lyrics designed specifically for the demographic of pre-pubescent teens… these are now the places to turn to hear voice of God.

    I will concede that one can, if one looks hard enough, find inspiration in unlikely places. As I said, the Holy Spirit can even speak through an ass. You can find a crust of bread in the garbage can. But here’s a clue, that’s not the place to go looking for nourishment.

    As for “togetherness”, well, I can’t help but wonder if the early Christians, thrown into the gladiatorial arena with hungry lions and tigers, felt that they were “all in this together” with the political leaders of their day?

    Somehow I doubt it.

    We weren’t “all in this together” when Stephen was martyred. Some of us were throwers and some of us were throwees.

    We weren’t “all in this together” when Christ died for us on the cross.

    He did that.

    By Himself.

    That, by the way, is the Gospel message… just in case anyone cares.

    The togetherness of saints is a happy by-product of the gospel, not the gospel itself.

    It is also important to distinguish between this brotherhood of believers and the “spirit of patriotism” that Jonathan and our political authorities are promoting.

    That difference is not trivial

  13. Perry, I think part of the difference between us is in how we see the gospel. You say we weren’t all in this together when Jesus died on the cross, but I believe that we were. The scripture says that when he died, all died (2 Cor. 5:14), that in his body all humanity (Jew and Gentile) was made one new humanity (Eph. 2:15), and that through him all things were reconciled to the Father (Col. 1:20).

    I don’t think Jesus died by himself, I think all humanity died – and was resurrected – in and with him.

    I think that’s why Jesus said “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” and Stephen said the same when he was stoned and the martyrs said the same when they died.

    I can understand why, if you believe that humanity was not included in Jesus death, that my comments would seem shocking to you. And I can understand why you would disagree with them.

  14. That’s part of the difference, but not the imporant part in the discussion at hand.

    The problem I have with your essay is that you are directing people to political figures as their source of spiritual guidance and inspiriation.

    If you haven’t picked up on that by now, then I fear it’s beyond my ability to communicate to you.

  15. I think this article is great and very honoring of the staggering Jesus Who has included all of us in His Relationship with His Father, even in our current darkness! This is what makes the Gospel such Good News!

    In light of Perry’s comments, I must admit that I do not see anything in your article directing people to political figures as their source of spiritual guidance and inspiration! Rather, I hear you saying that God the Trinity has included all people in His Spirit, graciously in and through Jesus, and is Himself the inspiration for and behind anything truly good that we experience, wherever we experience it!

    In my opinion, this makes you a worthy pastor in the WCG, as that thinking is right down the Gospel line as we are coming to see more cleary and accurately in view of the Jesus Who made and sustains all people and things!!

    Anyone interested in what the WCG embraces with regard to the Gospel can find a great systematic summary of it right here:

    http://www.wcg.org/MinDev/Web%20Documents/Trinitarian%20Theology%20paper.pdf

    Keep the Gospel coming Pastor Jonathan!

  16. Thank you so much, Jonathan for your bold blog! I so get what you were saying…We truly are all in this together! (Even if we want to be on one side or the other in God’s embrace to attempt to get away from our brothers & sisters lol)
    Keep blogging!!

  17. Thanks Tim and Kimberly!

  18. Hi Jonathan. Your article has really raised some eyebrows. I must admit, it didn’t sit well with me at first. However, the more I got to thinking about it and the scritpures that clearly show that God is “in” mankind – Christian or not, it began to make sense. Why is it we can only accept “truth” from “Christans?” God is the source of all truth.
    If a “politician” speaks truth (believe it or not, some politicians are Christians) does that make it unworthy of our attention? Who can point fingers? “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” If God spoke through an ass, he can surely speak through a politician – or pastor for that matter. Truth is truth no matter the source. If we can benefit – regardless of who proclaims it, then we should. Besides, all of us are “poliicians” to one degree or another. 🙂

  19. Thanks for wrestling with it Bob! Even if all my readers don’t come out agreeing with me I really appreciate everyone’s willingness to think about the issues and wrestle with them.

  20. Jonathan,Well said!
    Father, Son, and Spirit, remove our blinders and cause us to see what has always been in front of our faces!

  21. There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside-down. Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything-in spite of their terror of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened-they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of-

    “Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!”

    It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sheep had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the pigs had marched back into the farmhouse.

    Benjamin felt a nose nuzzling at his shoulder. He looked round. It was Clover. Her old eyes looked dimmer than ever. Without saying anything, she tugged gently at his mane and led him round to the end of the big barn, where the Seven Commandments were written. For a minute or two they stood gazing at the tatted wall with its white lettering.

    “My sight is failing,” she said finally. “Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, Benjamin?”

    For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:

    ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
    BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

  22. Since Balaam’s ass has been indirectly referred to in a few of the posts illustrating that God speaks through his creatures, we should also recall the conversation beween Balak and Balaam in Numbers 23: 11-26 in which Balaam said twice in v. 12 and v. 26 that “Must I not be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”
    Also I can think of some politico’s who have spoken inspired words before..in the course of their political speeches and decrees…
    How about Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 4:34-37
    Or Darius Daniel 6:25-27
    Or Cyrus, king of Persia Ezra 1: 1:1-4
    Or King Artaxerxes Ezra 7:7:11-27
    Listen folks, I gotta run …I have a non-blog life or I could name many more examples … sometimes it takes some humility to believe what the power of God the Holy Spirit can bring about through His inspiration. GO JONATHAN!

  23. It occurred to me that in the above scriptural references to God speaking through politicos, the ones speaking were probably conscious of their participation in God’s plan in their statements..
    so here are a few who apparently had no awareness of their inspired roles as mentioned in the New Testament…just a few…

    Caesar Augustus Luke 2:1-7

    Discourse between Pilate and the chief priests, rulers and people Luke 23:1-25

    Paul preaching on Mars Hill to the Athenians quotes their prophets to enhance his inspired preaching in Acts 22: 24-28

    Paul’s hearings before the Council in JerusalemActs 23:1-11; before Felix Acts 24:1-27; before Agrippa Acts 25:23–25:32;

    Paul in his instructions to Timothy instructs that Christians should pray for all men and kings and all in authority that God would intervene in the worst of leaders so there decisions and actions and dare I say words would promote peace and tranqil lives under their rule. Of course at that time we had the Herods and Caesars as objects of the prayers for God’s influence.

    Some of you may think of a few more examples or indications yourselves.

    What a Mighty God we serve!

  24. In all the instances Steve has cited, or CAN cite, for that matter, the words in question have been cannonized as scripture. For those of us who have studied the authority of the Bible, this gives us a reliable guage for judging whether these instances are, as they claim, words of God.

    When God speaks to us directly through through any agent, human or otherwise, and when He does so with quotable text and as a matter of public record (as Jonathan claims He has done through Obama, McCain, and High School Musical), then those words carry a very profound and very powerful authority.

    The Catholics claim that God speaks directly with quotable text through the Pope. The Mormons make a similar claim for thier President. Both the Mormons, and the Catholics are willing to put their money where their mouth is and cannonize these words as part of their holy writ. Mind you, the Mormons don’t claim that every word spoken by their president should be cannonized, only those words that are uttered by direct inspiriation of God. The same is true for the Catholics. Not every word spoken by the Pope is cannon worthy, only those words spoken as direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit through God’s chosen human agent (the Pope) to His people.

    This is the claim that Jonathan has made for Obama, McCain, and High School Musical.

    So folks, please take a moment re-examine the text that Jonathan has quoted as words divinely inspired by God and spoken to the people as a matter of public record and ask yourself this simple question:

    How comfortable do you feel adding this text to the cannon of scripture?

    If you honestly feel okay with that, then all we can do is disagree.

    On the other hand, if that idea makes you a little squemish, then I humbly suggest that we ought to be a little less cavilier in what we quote as words directly inspired by the Holy Spirit.


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