Recently I had the opportunity to hear Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter give the Constitution Day lecture at Roanoke College. During his lecture, Dr. Carter dismissed the notion that Americans are more divided today than they have been at other times in our nation’s history or that this election is of greater consequence than most. I admire Carter and appreciate much of his work, but on that point, I have to respectfully disagree.
While some may consider the time before the Civil War to have been more divisive than the present, Americans in that era had something today’s Americans lack – a common worldview. Disagreements existed as to what that worldview required of them, but they had a common – in large part biblical – vocabulary with which to engage in those disagreements. Whatever their personal religious practices, most at the least believed in the creator named in the Declaration of Independence and most held to the same general understanding of human nature.
For many reasons, however – not the least of which was Darwin’s theory of evolution that called into question the need for a creator – after the Civil War, a split occurred in that worldview. At first the split was small as some began to look to science to handle a portion of what had heretofore been considered God’s province while others continued to hold to a more biblical way of understanding the world. But over time – as science and technology advanced and claimed more and more of God’s prerogatives and as positive law overtook natural law in the making of legislation – that small fissure widened into a chasm that’s now become nigh impossible to cross.
While I pray Romney wins Tuesday’s election, because of the breadth of that chasm, my fervent hope is that whatever the outcome, the results are decisive. Even if President Obama is re-elected, I’d prefer he be chosen by a clear majority. I don’t think I could bear the election dragging out over days and weeks as it did in 2000 if there’s no clear winner on Tuesday night. Nor do I want to see the popular vote go one way and the electoral vote another or, heaven forbid, a tie. Any such result would only embitter one side or the other, and there’s already bitterness enough in this country to go around.
If President Obama is re-elected with a decisive victory, at least conservative Christians will know what we’re up against – an electorate that’s chosen a distinctly European and secular future for our country. If the past four years are any indication, an Obama victory will most certainly make it harder and harder to be a Christian in America. And that, in turn, could force us to begin making choices we’ve never had to make and would rather not have to think about. It could also uproot our comfortable lives in this world and cause us to work that much harder to prepare ourselves and others for the world to come – a reminder that “this world,” as the old hymn says, “is not our home. We’re just a passing through.”