I wonder if one day my children will ask me: “Daddy, did you really watch President Obama be sworn in?” The country stopped to watch the first black American president. There is no doubt this is a grandiose day. My younger brother in Brazil kept IM’ing me asking my thoughts on Obama. The entire ceremony was primetime in Brazilian television and undoutedbly in other parts of the world. While the now former president George Bush was mocked as he appeared on the screen, the new president and the chief justice stumbled over a 35 word oath.
Obama’s speech was a unifying speech in typical American pluralistic language. We are a nation of all faiths and we must all work together: Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Atheists. In unambiguous messianic tone, Obama says, “that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.” Then in covenantal terms he ended, “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end (emphasis mine).” And finally, the unmistakable political benediction: ” God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.” Obama’s speech echoed the same theistic generalities uttered by the previous president in the last eight years. It was, after all, the “evangelical” Bush who said that Muslim and Christians pray to the same God.
The new president of the United States will probably not bathe his future speeches with evangelical language, but he has started this new phase in American history no different than the previous one. The Psalmist was not speaking about “the God of many understandings,” he was speaking about the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalm 33); that nation will be blessed. There may be a temptation from many evangelicals to simply give up and abandon this political process. But this is not to be the Christian response. God calls first the household of faith to repent of our trespasses and then to call the world to embrace the God of Israel. This was the task of the prophet Jonah, who despite his anti-Gentile disposition, fulfilled God’s prophetic call. May President Obama hear a Jonah in this land and may he, like the King of Ninevah, decree a fast and put on sackcloth and ashes and humble ourselves before the Trinitarian God.