And so victory was won…

By , 7 November 2008 7:51 pm

Even over here the event of the week has been the election of the new American president. I’m aware that many of my readers will have voted for the other side and quite a few will be sick to death of the whole thing. It certainly seems to have been going on for ever.

Like most people in the UK I was happy to see Obama elected, partly on account of his personal qualities and partly to draw a line under the dreadful Bush years. I must also say that many of the much touted virtues of the Republican pair (being either a Vietnam War veteran or adept at shooting large furry mammals) did not cross the Atlantic with the same attraction that they have in the States. Yet I have to say on Wednesday morning I was not ecstatic. The fact is I remembered Blair’s equally stunning victory in 1997 over a similarly entrenched and dilapidated Conservative party. There was then a golden dawn of hope filled with an extraordinary euphoria; yet before long the style had evaporated away revealing a minimal substance and the result has been a bitter aftertaste. Now barely ten years on Blair is now one of the most despised figures on the British political scene. (Actually he is rarely here; it is not just prophets who are without honour in their own country.) So time will tell with Barak Obama, but the good book is wise: ‘Put not your trust in Princes’ (Psalm 146:3, AV).

Indeed I feel the first shadow has already fallen with the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff. I am tempted to comment on the unease already emanating from those parts of the Middle East that had been most positive about Obama’s election, about Rahm Emanuel’s links with Zionism and the way he is being acclaimed in Israel as ‘their man in the White House’. It is certainly clear that he has strong loyalties towards the preservation and expansion of the State of Israel; you can read Wikipedia for all the details. I do not want to say much more on the subject. One problem is that even to make the slightest comment on such matters is to run the risk of being considered anti-Semitic. Of course, it is not his Jewishness that is the issue but his Zionism. Another problem is that it is to run the risk of encouraging the numerous lunatics (and there are many on the web) who blame Israel for all the world’s evils, from a ‘Holocaust that never happened’ to 9/11 itself. Excuse me if I distance myself from that lot. However, I do hope that when Rahm Emanuel’s duty to the United States conflicts with his duty to the State of Israel (as it will), it is the former, not the latter, that wins out.

Yet even if we lay this aside there are issues. If you read the commentators – and I have read many – Rahm Emanuel is variously described as ‘scary‘, ‘ferocious’, ‘profane’, ‘vicious’, ‘an attack dog’ and ‘out of a Mafia movie’. This all seems at odds with the image of a gentle, vaguely Christian, consensus politics that Barack Obama set out as his target in the campaign. Or did he? Or was that me reading into Obama what I wanted to see? Perhaps it is here that the real ability of a modern politician lies. They know – as we know – that in the information age you can’t really become all things to all people. But perhaps you can become something of a mirror or a projection screen onto which people throw the image that they want. Perhaps the master trick of the modern politicians is to make us, not them, the agent of deception.

To end let me reportedly the comment of a delightful colleague who is a saintly but slightly otherworldly Christian. On the morning of November 5 she came to get some coffee, and said with wide-eyed genuine surprise. ‘I’ve just seen a photo of this Obama fellow. And do you know? He’s black.’

Have a good week.

12 Responses to “And so victory was won…”

  1. Christian Artists Ministry says:

    Hi Chris,

    I do not often post messages in blogs, but this time I was motivated to do so. Good to hear your take on the election here in the states. I find it interesting and more than a little ironic that the “progressive” European nations seemed quite interested in our election – especially since their views of the United States have long been known for quite some time. Mostly in holding with a belief that we’re a nation of conservative nit-wits who’ve been slow to adapt to a liberal lifestyle of sexual liberty, false notions of peace, and ineffectual Christianity. So perhaps now with Obama, our friends across the ocean think we’ll step up with the times? And as for those Christians who supported Obama, I am deeply shamed for one reason, and this is abortion. I consider myself neither democrat nor republican, but family rights and abortion are a topic I must stand clearly and Biblically upon – and sadly Obama’s party was not one who supported a Biblical viewpoint of either. One last comment – judging by the frenzied reaction of people here in our red and blue states, I haven’t seen such leader worship since, well – Germany about 65 years ago.

  2. Chris says:

    Hmm. I have to say that the attitude of Europe and the rest of the world to the US is too complex to be simplified. There is a great love, respect and gratitude but also a fear of being crushed by a superpower and super-culture.

    The issue with abortion is delicate. I am personally anti-abortion, especially late stage, but there are other issues involving human life such as aid to Africa, warfare in the Middle East and so on. In a fallen world we surely need to make the agonising choice of the best leader for these many ‘pro-life’ issues.

    I’m afraid I find your last comment close to unacceptable. The ‘euphoria’ over Hitler was encouraged by the presence of a small army of thuggish brown-shirted heavies. I have heard no evidence of such. Neither are our airports (yet)clogged with fearful refugees. It is also unhelpful. Obama may present a peril (as my post suggested) but it is surely more subtle and of a different kind than Nazism. And it seems to me that whenever anyone has to cite the Third Reich in an argument it is the logical equivalent of shouting; an indication that you lack any better and more subtle arguments.

    Friend let us watch and pray!

  3. mv says:

    The United States, as a nation, routinely aides so many others in the world. And its citizens pump much more aid, in the way of private funds and resources, into causes and economies around the globe. Yet so much of the world looks at the US as they might a rich uncle that they think is not as free as he ought to be with his wealth. It is neither a fair, nor biblical, assessment.

    I am personally terrified by the empty hype of “Change” that got Obama elected. And to hear folks outside the US speak of the “Change” as welcome is offensive. What “Change”?

    You say you are “personally anti-abortion, especially late stage.” What does that mean, “especially late stage”? Is it sort of OK early on? I don’t believe that’s what you meant, but it comes across as if you might think the US is not living up to its obligations to human life in the rest of the world to the extent that abortion should not be such an important issue in our presidential election as, say, aid to Africa.

    Obama has issued a big giant empty promise of “Change” and can now fill it in with details however he sees fit. One of those details will very likely be liberal judicial appointments that will ensure continued abortions and will undermine family values and parental rights. Foundational freedoms and values are at stake.

    I’m reminded of an occasion in the early 90’s when I offended a German by discussing the Berlin Wall as if I knew what I was talking about. It was his country and he had to live with the consequences, not me.

  4. Christian Artists Ministry says:

    Nazism was certainly one of the most dramatic and horrific events that has happened to the world (regardless of any nationality) in a long time – with lasting consequences that are felt to this day. I cannot see how it would be unacceptable to bring such a topic to a discussion – especially to one that is about safeguarding the liberties of all in the coming future. I doubt few could have predicted the future in the early stages of Hitler’s rise, but could not the Christian church have been more active? While it is doubtful that Nazism would ever rise again, does that mean we shouldn’t watch out for other more subtle or equally terrifying forms of tyranny? In my opinion, there are many things in the world that are of great concern. In the United States, for the christians here, these are family rights and abortion. For European Christians, perhaps this is Africa and the Middle East. But truly, we could stand together on these issues however, can’t we? Or perhaps we should just argue about them until our governments strip our liberties from us up for good – because we’re too afraid of coming across as fanatics.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Like the first comment, I am somewhat ashamed of Cristians who are pro-Obama, because of his stance on abortion. Reportedly he even supports that most barbaric of acts — partial-birth abortion. Indeed, on a whole raft of issues Barack Obama holds views that are a long way from being compatible with a Biblical worldview.

    Frenzied leader worship is a phrase that chills me too. Will not the anti-christ be a great orator, loved by many? I’m grossly oversimplifying, of course, because Obama has other qualities: you don’t get to edit the Harvard Law Review without them.

    Finaly, I had to laugh at your final sentence, Chris. As Barack Obama is 50% white (his mother) and 50% black (his father), then saying “he is black” is (in that sense alone) about as accurate as saying “he is white”. I won’t say more, because this is yet another topic that provokes heated argument, other than to point out that (1) Obama himself is remarkably relaxed about the subject, as shown in his recent press conference and (2) I’m in a mixed marriage myself, so I have some personal experience of being on the receiving end of racism.


  6. Terry says:

    Hello, all,

    Well, well… interesting what happens when one pokes the old proverbial anthill. Good discussion fodder, no doubt, but let’s make sure we’re using the practice swords and not the real thing, eh?

    Chris, is the general feeling in the U.K. one of support for Obama? If so, why? Can you enlighten us? In our respective countries in N. America, (Canada for me), we have an idea of the public tone, but without research, the opinions of those in other countries may come as a surprise. There is here a general hesitance toward anyone who pounds the drum too loudly – we Canadians tend toward nonconformity – and some of BO’s platform themes scare us a bit.

    I frequent a couple of American online forums, one being from Alaska, and after the election, alot of the boys went out and loaded up on automatic weopons. Just in case. Now, I recognize that this is likely one extreme of the spectrum, but there is by some reports even among hardcore Democrats a strong skepticism toward much of Obama’s juju.

    I confess that BO’s position on family issues is a big rock for me as well. I’m not sure I can overlook something like that in deference to some of his more positive positions. Hopefully this election was not a case of choosing the lesser of two evils.

    In Chris’ defense on the black/white thing, I think there were quotations around that phrase. Check the context.

    The thing to keep central here is that “The King still reigns.” I think I read that somewhere. And who’s to say that this whole situation isn’t some kind of “testing of the Assembly?” Remember what happened to Peter when he looked at his surroundings instead of staying focused on Jesus. I think that’s really the challenge here. And maybe that’s our test.

    In the King’s service,


  7. Chris says:

    Dear all,

    Thanks for these comments. They tell me that we are a) concerned about politics and b) different. I can live with both.

    Terry. folks here were astonishingly pro-Obama. In part it was anti-Republican sentiment, in part it was that what he portrayed himself as resonated here and in part it was because we felt we had nothing to fear from him. (Readers please try and beware of nuances in the above statement: i.e. it is a report of what I perceive not necessarily what I believe). I will perhaps explore some of these aspects in later blogs. Some of you may not wish me to but it is often worth hearing what neighbours have to say even if you feel they are wrong.

    My anecdote at the end may have been misinterpreted. My colleague is not in the slightest racist( she organizes aid to Africa with an extraordinary zeal)but she does skip the TV, newspapers and internet. (And may be better for it!). She was simply unaware of the matter of colour/race.


  8. Catherine Brislee says:

    I’ve been watching this discussion with fascination over the weekend. Just one clarification, which I hope will be helpful. It may be that there are misunderstandings because of the different way the Media has reported the campaign in different countries.

    Here (in Scotland) I’ve been following the elections for months, watching the BBC and reading articles in current affairs magazines, and I have no idea where Obama stands on “family issues”. It simply hasn’t been reported here. There may be other examples I’m not aware of.

    Who was it who said Britain and America are “two countries separated by a common language”? :)

  9. Terry says:


    I need to request a retraction on my comment regarding the last paragraph if your post. I misinterpreted your meaning as “laughing critically at”, instead of “laughing with”, which is, I believe, what you intended.

    My apologies.


  10. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I was definitely “laughing with”. It is the delightful innocence and purity of a person, to whom race or colour or ethnicity is of no consequence whatsoever that makes me laugh. I will try and post with more clarity and less clumsiness next time!

    Chris, by all means continue to write on such things. If Christians always heeded the call to “stay out of politics” we would never have had Wilberforce.


  11. Boaz says:

    Hello, Chris

    My basic reaction is that for a lot of society’s ills and ails, it is not the job of the government to handle them. Especially in this country where the first thing that was done was to set up a constitution that deliberately limited the powers of government. (I also believe that the federal government has assumed much more power than constitutionally authorized, basically since all three branches want to expand their powers.)

    Aid to Africa? Better done through private means than public, especially if you’re worried about culture hegemony. Better yet, take away trade barriers (especially against agricultural imports), and then the money from increased trade will go to the country. (If it’s diverted within, it’s due to internal corruption at that point.) Now certainly the US has tarriffs and subsidies, but nowhere near the level that France does. (Not sure where the UK falls in that relation.)

    War in the Middle East? The battles look existential enough (in the sense that one or more ideology is fighting for existance lest it be destroyed) that intercession looks to be pointless, and only intervention would leave lasting influence–again something to fear if you do not want undue American influence in the world.

    And in many ways, what it sounds like to us that the rest of the world is saying is: The US is too strong; it needs to be weakened. I would advocate instead: The US is strong; we can help you get stronger.

    So I didn’t want Senator Obama to win. Neither, really, did I want Senator McCain. There was no viable third option that I knew of, though I suppose I could have written former Senator Thompson in. But what are you supposed to do when the choice most people want will only suck the country further towards socialism?

    Boaz, who is looking forward to the mid-term elections in 2010

  12. Vexorg says:

    great mirror analogy. i’ve said the same, much less artfully, for some time. it is funny to hear people with all kinds of different, conflicting views all heartfully believing that Obama (or, for those on the right, McCain) is on their side of their pet issues. almost a messianic expectation. but when people throw off God (as even, in truth, many ‘religious’ have done) it is no surprise that they make for themselves a messiah-substitute in Obama or Palin (who are more or less willing participants)

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