As I starting typing this at 11:00pm eastern standard time, Barack Obama has been declared the President-Elect by the sheer closing of polls in California. For many, this is an answer in and of itself. But I think this begs us to ask a lot more questions, namely, what is God's perfect will in regards to American politics? To start answering that question, let's start with breaking down the conversation of God's will on this election by Dr. Dobson and Gov. Palin. Take some of these quotes from the interview:
Dobson: "Shirley and I are praying for you, for your safety and for your health, and that God's perfect will will be done or November the 4th."What can be taken from these comments about God's will in this election? At face value, it certainly appears that Dobson and Palin believe God's will is for McCain/Palin to be elected. So what does that mean now that Barack Obama has been elected? Let's look at some possibilities.
Dobson: Shirley was leading a prayer even of 430 people asking for God's intervention [on this election].
Palin: "Hearing about people interceding for us [in prayer] energizes us and inspires; [it is a] great reminder to put this in God's hand and seek His perfect will for this nation."
Palin: "I am not discouraged at all hearing those poll numbers... to me it motivates us, makes us work that much harder, and it also strengthens my faith because I am going to know at the end of the day putting this in God's hands that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on November 4th."
Dobson: (Describing a nationwide radio hookup that consisted of a prayer for the election, for the country, and that a 5-minute prayer for each of the following people: Chuck Swindoll, James Dobson, Shirley Dobson, Henry Blackaby, and Ravi Zacharias.) "It was an incredible thing and the spirit of the Lord was on that call and we were just asking for, rather boldly asking, for a miracle with regards to the election this year."
Dobson: (Ending the program) "Let's continue to be in prayer about this election, not in a political sense, that God's will will be done - we really don't know, only God knows what He wants. We do know that there are principles here that we find in God's word, but we're asking for His involvement, His intervention."
But let's say Dobson's interpretation of God's will is correct, that God's perfect will was for McCain to win. Does that mean we, the people, have the ability to, and in fact did, thwart God's will? If this is the case, then does this limit the power of God or our view of God's power and will in other areas of life and politics? This is a slippery theological slope, but not one that hasn't already been expressed by humanists and liberal Christians. But could this be why Dobson and others called for intervention or a miracle in the election because they felt we, the people, were about to thwart God's perfect will?
And then we have the possibility that God's will was for Barack Obama to win the election, because after all, he did win the election. What would that mean? Would it mean Dobson has lost credibility in his ability to interpret God's will for our country? Or would it mean Dobson, Palin, and others who said "God will do the right thing on November 4" will recognize Obama's victory as divine will and support President Obama as part of God's plan for America? Will they seek to serve if called by President Obama, and work with Obama and his plans for the next four years? Maybe I'm being skeptical, but I highly doubt it. Although, I have to say Senator McCain said as much in his eloquent-yet-humble concession speech last night. I was encouraged that he pledged to work with President Obama to unite our country, and I wish I could have felt the same inspiration from the crowd, which booed their own presidential choice for saying those heartfelt words.
Out of the these possibilities, what makes the most sense, not logically, but faithfully? As followers of Jesus, what should our response be? As supporters of McCain or Obama, what is our appropriate faithful response? When discussing this topic with a new friend over email, he wondered what the difference is between saying "God will do the right thing" and "all things work together for good to those who love God." My guess is one's response to that difference might line up with the two respective voting groups. But I think it might be dangerous to interject interpreting God's will or actions into our human elections. And I think the context of Roman 8:28 ("all things work together for good...") backs up just how much we misuse God's will in our own purposes and desires (like deciding who to vote for).
Earlier in Romans 8, Paul is motivating the Roman Christians of what lies ahead - the glorious unveiling of God's Kingdom. In the middle, Paul recognizes just how bad life can be, how easily we can be distracted from God's kingdom by this life - so much so that we are tired of waiting on God's Kingdom. But it is in that moment...when all we can do is sigh and moan, when we don't know how to pray any longer...Paul encourages us. The Spirit is right here with us and knows how to pray on our behalf. He continues by saying the Spirit "knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." (Romans 8:27-28, The Message) But Paul continues, "God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message)
So God working everything together for good has nothing to do with the general situations at hand, the situations we throw that phrase at day after day just to make sense of things. Rather it has everything to do with us being followers of Jesus within the Kingdom of God regardless of who we vote for in the kingdom of the United States. It has to do with how we are shaped as people, how we live in the presence of God, and, most importantly, how we live our lives as followers of Jesus.
So I conclude God's will for Americans on Election Day is the same He's had for the world: that His followers be present in the Kingdom of God. Therefore we should not filter our actions within the kingdom of the United States through the lens of what God wills for our country, rather work for the Kingdom of God through the opportunities granted us through America's freedoms. Our hope does not lie in a rotation of leaders every 4 or 8 years, but a steadfast God who loves a Kingdom expanding with every life touched by a Christ-follower. No matter whom you voted for, we can all contribute to God's Kingdom by interpreting what God's will is for us in our lives, families, communities, and through the gifts that define each of us as children of God.
God will do the right thing each day, and we can be a part of that no matter what party we register with or what ballot we cast. In fact, until we separate God's will from the will of "we the people", it may not be possible to see what God is already doing. It matters not who is president, but it matters completely who we serve.