Tuesday, January 20, 2009

thoughts on providence

as i write these words, i am watching the inauguration of barack obama as the forty-fourth president of the united states of america. rick warren has delivered the invocation. a part of the christian belief that i was raised with is the conviction that the united states exists and is guided by divine providence.

sometimes it has been easier to see, from my perspective, the hand of providence in the selection of our leaders than others. the last devout christian to occupy the white house was jimmy carter. after ronald reagan was elected his successor in november 1980, i wore a black armband for the next week. i was convinced then, and remain unswayed in the belief, that the election represented a decidedly negative turning point in our nation's history. one can trace some of the seeds of our current economic crisis to policies put into effect under his administration. the election of george h. w. bush to follow him was disappointing mostly because it meant a continuation down the path of our economic undoing.

the hopefulness i felt at the election of bill clinton quickly dissipated as the administration was met with congressional obstruction and politically manufactured distractions that effectively limited any substantial progress toward a more just and equitable society.

i find it difficult to talk about the circumstances that brought george w. bush into office, and even more difficult to think of the event as being a part of divine providence. it has been particularly distressing to hear him referred to by some as god's chosen man for the hour and lauded for his christian faith; a faith to which he has paid faithful lip-service, but which his actions have betrayed at every turn.

and now, as barack obama speaks the nation, having been sworn in as our nation's president, i find a sense a calm. a calm rooted in the confidence that the skillful orator who addresses us at this moment is, indeed, a man of god's own choosing. in retrospect, this moment would likely not have been possible, had george w. bush not led us to the brink of despair.

"god calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny" may not be the defining line of obama's inaugural address, but it is one of the lines that speaks to me at this moment. i have never felt as proud of my country or as confident in the guiding of divine providence as i do at this moment. i can say at this moment that barack obama stands before us because he is god's chosen man for this hour. i pray for the unity of our country. I pray that we, as one people, will stand shoulder to shoulder behind him to do what must be done for our nation in this hour.

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