A Prayer and a Letter to Our New President

An old prayer that seems most appropriate for today:

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

And a letter:

Dear President-elect,

Senators McCain and Obama, by this time tomorrow, one of you should be (barring some repeat nightmare from 2000, God forbid) our new leader. The mass chain emails and numerous recorded phone calls we’ve received tell us this is the most important election in my lifetime. Of course, I think I’ve heard this every election in my lifetime, but I will not argue that this is indeed a pivotal moment in our national life. Contrary to the shrill cries and the numerous blog posts and the vast amounts of literature filling my mailbox and the many youtube videos currently jamming my feeds on facebook, I think both of you are good, decent men who want to serve your country. You have different visions of America in several important places, but I do not question your motives or your integrity. I don’t question your character. I even have this sneaking suspicion you guys would enjoy grilling out together if you were neighbors (and I’d certainly enjoy grilling out with both of you if we were neighbors – let’s see if we can make that happen after all the hullabaloo dies down).

Senator McCain, I am thankful for your long history of acting on your principles, on doing what you say. I admire your courage and your willingness to give yourself to causes you believe in, even when it costs you dearly. I am thankful that your impulse is to call America to our best ideals. Senator, if you are elected today, please speak out strongly against those who have peddled fear and untruths in their opposition to your opponent, even if you do not believe they spoke for you. There has been a venom in this campaign that scars our ability to live together as a people – please speak and act against hatred and dishonesty wherever it raises its ugly head, even (perhaps especially) when the net result is that it helps your cause. Truly, the ends never justify the means. Also, please think deeply about issues of health care and poverty, recognizing the moral dimension to these difficult problems. Please pull in the best minds, the smartest advisers. Please pull in people from all persuasions and parties to find common ground and truly tackle these blights in our country. And please, please wrestle deeply with the moral implications of war. Consider if perhaps there is a new way to look at these very old issues of how to deal with nations who have evil intent. I pray God will give you wisdom as you lead us.

Senator Obama, I am thankful for how you seem to draw the best out of so many people. I am thankful for the hope I have seen among people who for a very long time have felt alienated from the system. I am thankful for how you wrestle with tough issues and how you resist the quick and easy answer to what we must know are often very complex problems. I love how you love your family – that may be my favorite thing about you. Senator, if you are elected today, please reconsider your stance on abortion. I do understand that people of conscience and faith can have varying views on this, and I do understand that confronting some of the root causes of abortion may perhaps have more long term impact than only legal solutions. However, please take a new look at some of the most extreme issues at play. Surely we can agree that a baby born and breathing ought be protected, no matter the parent’s intent. I know you care for the weak and defenseless. Please understand how many of us see these children as the most weak and defenseless – this is an issue of justice. Also, please hear those who have differing economic and justice philosophies – and know that there is often agreement on the hope for the common good, but simply disagreement on how to achieve that common good. As you work for a way out in Iraq, please make sure that the innocent civilians are protected and do not pay an even higher price for our mistakes – and please work hard so we do not leave behind a breeding ground for terror. And please resist the extremes in your party who like to demonize the opposition, no matter whether you think they speak for you or not. You are the party’s leader, and we need our leaders to lead. You have spoken often of a third way. Now, please forge that path. I pray God will give you wisdom as you lead us.

Senators Obama and McCain, I don’t envy your job, whatever job you end up with tomorrow. I can’t imagine the weariness you feel or the energy you have exerted the past two years. For whichever of you end up a resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I pray that you listen to good advisers and follow your best instincts. I pray you resist the allure of power and the temptations and cynicism that seem to plague the political inner sanctum. I pray that you lead us forward with a fresh vision, with moral clarity and with a strong hope for the common good of our whole nation, all our citizens. And I hope you won’t be offended if I tell you that, even with all the good I hope you do over the next four years, my ultimate hope is another King and another kingdom.

grace and godspeed,


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