Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Transitions, Triumph, and Tribulation

Jesus said, "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand."

The above is from today's Gospel according to the Daily Office lectionary. I can think of no more fitting passage to mark the transition from the presidency of George W. Bush to that of Barack Obama. I was in seminary at Virginia Theological Seminary (just across the river from Washington D.C.) for the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton in 1992 and I am now, as I was then, amazed that in a world in which transitions of power are often accompanied by at least strife and wrangling and at worst war and bloodshed, our transition of power simply involves one man gracefully stepping down and another gracefully stepping up.

It is my fervent hope that we have turned the page on one of the most divisive chapters in our nation's history. President Obama has repeatedly called for unity, for disagreement without being disagreeable, for finding common ground in the midst of the daunting challenges that face us. He has also repeatedly invoked Abraham Lincoln, a president who presided over literally the most divided chapter in our nation's history. I remember well that now former president George W. Bush stated that he was "a uniter, not a divider." While that may have been his initial intention, he and Karl Rove presided over a presidency that was a poster child for a divide and conquer strategy. Perhaps history will judge him less harshly then his outgoing approval ratings, but I devoutly hope that we have seen the last of divide and conquer politics and instead have a "unite and overcome" politics.

As has been said many times, this day hardly marks the end of the movement for equal rights for African-Americans, much less other minorities. It is, instead, a new beginning in what I and millions of others hope and, yes, earnestly pray, will be a time of both sacrifice and solidarity in the midst of war and economic uncertainties. The church, too, is in a state in which we desperately need to hear and heed Jesus' words that a house divided cannot stand. May both church and state be united within themselves for common purpose and healing.

Welcome to the White House, President Obama and family!

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