The Audacity of Hope


Something of an awakening occurred among many of the faithful. It's almost as if scales fell from their eyes and they saw that they were not really being represented by conservative politicians so much as they were being pandered to by them.

And while I agree with Robert, I think we also need to say that the election of Barack Obama and the particular circumstances of his election offer a pivotal moment for America. Obama is, as Colin Powell described him, a "transformational character." As such I find myself in the grip of an audacious hope in relation to some very particular issues.

For instance, perhaps with this election we see the beginning of the end of the politics of smear. In the primaries and in the general election, opponents threw everything including the kitchen sink at Barack Obama. And some of the smear did have an effect. By the end of the election, however, voters seemed to be saying in overwhelming numbers that gutter politics is not going to work anymore.

If voters were to hold this line, refuse to be moved by attack ads and outright fabrications, stop rewarding politicians who practice this stuff, they will stop doing it. And our whole political process will be the better for it.

I am also hopeful that we are seeing the end of the abuse of religion as a political wedge. Obviously there remains a hard-core group of conservative Christians who can be counted on to turn out and vote Republican. My guess is President Bush's 28 percent approval rating is comprised mostly of this group.

But other Christians were peeled away from the Republican cause this time. Part of the reason for the defection was because McCain was not a compelling candidate for many believers. But something else happened as well. Something of an awakening occurred among many of the faithful. It's almost as if scales fell from their eyes and they saw that they were not really being represented by conservative politicians so much as they were being pandered to by them.

This awakening also revealed a host of other social concerns, issues other than abortion and gay marriage, which believers were beginning to embrace but that conservative politicians were not. This is not to say that these believers will stop being passionate about what concerns them, but they may be less passionate about giving their souls to a political party.

Most of all I find myself having hope that we have finally made a breakthrough on the race issue. Certainly there were people who voted for Barack Obama because he is black. There were others who did not vote for him for the same reason. But there were many, many more who voted for him irrespective of the color of his skin.

Racism is a cancer eating away at the soul of our country. It has been part of our national experience since the founders chose not to deal with slavery in the U.S. Constitution. It almost bled us to death during the Civil War, and nearly ripped away the fabric of our national unity during the civil rights movement.

But now we have a chance to heal. Not because Obama will do something magical or miraculous, but because American voters did something transcendent. We transcended race and party and age and gender and elected an African American.

I know how that sounds—that's what makes it audacious.

James L. Evans serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

Related:

Theological Realism Is Needed about President Obama

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