God's thoughts on the election

God delights in stories of redemption and joyfulness.

mccain palin 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
mccain palin 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
It's time to play that all-American game, Who is God Punishing Now? Three years ago, when Katrina devastated New Orleans, some on the religious Right suggested that the city with the infamous French Quarter was being destroyed for its debauchery. God poured fire and brimstone on Sodom in ancient times, and rained down lightning and broken levies on New Sodom in modern times. Fast forward three years and here we go again, only this time God is punishing innocent men and women in Louisiana for the Republican Convention in Minnesota. According to filmmaker Michael Moore, "Gustav is proof that there is a God in heaven... that it would actually be on its way to New Orleans for Day One of the Republican convention up in the Twin Cities." The theme was echoed by Don Fowler, the South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, who joked that the hurricane was God's favor to Democrats. But Fowler will have to forgive some New Orleans residents, both Democrat and Republican, if they don't get the joke. WE AMERICANS are a famously religious people, and can therefore be forgiven for sometimes claiming to know the mind of God. But it behooves us to always remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, who said, when asked whether God was fighting on the side of the Union armies: "We trust, sir, that God is on our side. It is more important to know that we are on God's side." While none of us can know the mind of God, we can know right and wrong based on what all the world religions agree God has revealed to be moral, holy and ethical. I dare say that even atheists and agnostics agree with the general morality propounded by religion. Based on this revealed, universal morality, here is a list of what we can assume, based on the Bible, God is thinking about the current presidential election. 1. We don't know if God wants Barack Obama to win or lose, but we certainly know that He is overjoyed that, perhaps for the first time in our history, tens of millions of Americans are looking beyond skin color and seeing all human beings as equal children of God and equally deserving of the highest national office. At the very beginning of the Bible, God made it clear that He created every human being equally in His image - something that it's taken us Americans several centuries to digest. 2. We don't know if God wishes John McCain to win or lose, but we know He shines with favor toward Cindy and John McCain for adopting their youngest daughter, Bridget, who is Bengali but has been welcomed as an equal alongside the McCains' three biological children. 3. America needs leadership, and people must run for president. But God instituted a Sabbath day of rest even in the midst of the toughest contests, to be with family and focus on what is even more important than becoming president. This is especially true for people like Obama and Sarah Palin, both of whom have children whose development cannot be put on hold until after an election. In this sense, both campaigns can learn from the example of Joe Lieberman who, while running for the vice presidency in 2000, refused to campaign on Saturdays and was with his family instead. 4. God loves unity among His children. The first social sin was the fratricidal conflict between Cain and Abel. Likewise, the Bible is clear that slander and character assassination are forbidden. Attack ads, therefore, are ungodly and unjust. 5. God loves the penitent. He shows special grace to those courageous enough to confess their sins and correct previous errors. We should therefore be forgiving both of Obama's admission to prior drug use and McCain's confession to moral lapses in his first marriage. America often punishes its leaders for their shortcomings. This is wrong. Righteousness in God's eyes is defined not as perfection but as engaging in the struggle to be better. So long as our leaders take responsibility for their actions and commit themselves to more righteous behavior in future, we should be inspired by their courage. 6. God delights in stories of redemption and joyfulness. He repeatedly commands us to be happy and rise above slights and resentment. This might explain why He has shined especially brightly on Obama and McCain. The former is a black man, abandoned by his father, who after educating himself in the best universities chose to work with the poor. The latter is a man who lived through hell for five and a half years but rose above the horrific experience of being tortured as a POW to devote himself to inspirational public work. 7. God does not mind that Obama made millions on his book, or that McCain has seven homes - so long as both are charitable. Those making money are required to give at least 10% to charity, and so long as they commit a significant percentage to the poor, we should applaud them for their industry. 8. God created the world with words such as "Let there be light." He demands that language likewise be used for constructive and holy purposes. God's favor therefore shines brightly on Obama's enormous capacity for using words to inspire. But the Bible makes it equally clear that God hates those who use language to sow discord. He therefore commands us to oppose people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." God calls on all men of justice - especially those in positions of leadership - to neutralize evil before its words are turned into irrevocable action. The writer hosts a daily US national radio show on Oprah and Friends.www.shmuley.com