Spiritualizing the election

I am astonished to hear how so many Christians are talking about the election.  They are interpreting the Obama victory as a sign that America is no longer a Christian nation, struggling to understand how Christians could have been denied the victory, questioning God’s will and raising questions of theodicy, and on and on.  May I remind everyone that Christians were not defeated, even in the most literal level.  The candidate evangelicals became so spiritually invested in is not a Christian.

Perhaps the real spiritual significance of the election is that Mormons were denied their Constantinian moment.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Stephen

    “The ghost I saw may be the devil, and the devil has the power to assume a pleasing disguise, and so he may be taking advantage of my weakness and sadness to bring about my damnation. I need better evidence than the ghost to work with. The play’s the thing to uncover the conscience of the king.” – Hamlet

    And might I add that Mormon’s are the worst kind of non-Christians because they desire to be seen as Christian and even to usurp Christianity altogether.

  • Stephen

    “The ghost I saw may be the devil, and the devil has the power to assume a pleasing disguise, and so he may be taking advantage of my weakness and sadness to bring about my damnation. I need better evidence than the ghost to work with. The play’s the thing to uncover the conscience of the king.” – Hamlet

    And might I add that Mormon’s are the worst kind of non-Christians because they desire to be seen as Christian and even to usurp Christianity altogether.

  • Stephen

    I’m an idot. I should have posted this original version of Shakespeare:

    May be the devil, and the devil hath power
    T’ assume a pleasing shape. Yea, and perhaps
    Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
    As he is very potent with such spirits,
    Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
    More relative than this. The play’s the thing
    Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

    You get the point.

  • Stephen

    I’m an idot. I should have posted this original version of Shakespeare:

    May be the devil, and the devil hath power
    T’ assume a pleasing shape. Yea, and perhaps
    Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
    As he is very potent with such spirits,
    Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
    More relative than this. The play’s the thing
    Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

    You get the point.

  • Andrew

    according to his self definition, obama would claim that he was the person who was a christian who was on the presidential ticket, and thus christians did win.

    there are myriad “christian” denominations who would welcome with open arms the world view of obama. for the sake of mormonism not getting more traction and legitimacy, it is good that romney didn’t get in. for setting the direction of the country in a direction more consistent with biblical worldviews, it’s a pity obama got in. Either way, Jesus is still in charge. we may mourn our preferences, but God is still supreme.

    at least you guys still have echoes of “christianity” in whatever sense in your public discourse. it might not last for long given the overall direction of society. how long before you get armies of chinese and korean missionaries coming into the Godless west?

  • Andrew

    according to his self definition, obama would claim that he was the person who was a christian who was on the presidential ticket, and thus christians did win.

    there are myriad “christian” denominations who would welcome with open arms the world view of obama. for the sake of mormonism not getting more traction and legitimacy, it is good that romney didn’t get in. for setting the direction of the country in a direction more consistent with biblical worldviews, it’s a pity obama got in. Either way, Jesus is still in charge. we may mourn our preferences, but God is still supreme.

    at least you guys still have echoes of “christianity” in whatever sense in your public discourse. it might not last for long given the overall direction of society. how long before you get armies of chinese and korean missionaries coming into the Godless west?

  • Philip Larson

    1. What would have been Constantinian about a Romney win?

    2. “May I remind everyone that Christians were not defeated, even in the most literal level.” Were Christian principles untouched in the election results? I’m thinking, for instance, of the Charlotte convention.

  • Philip Larson

    1. What would have been Constantinian about a Romney win?

    2. “May I remind everyone that Christians were not defeated, even in the most literal level.” Were Christian principles untouched in the election results? I’m thinking, for instance, of the Charlotte convention.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    The election was not the end of the world. It was only the end of America’s system of government.

    Really though I’m wondering when the moment occurs where everyone realizes America is finished and it’s no longer even controversial; A moment like the failed Soviet coup attempt in 1991..

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    The election was not the end of the world. It was only the end of America’s system of government.

    Really though I’m wondering when the moment occurs where everyone realizes America is finished and it’s no longer even controversial; A moment like the failed Soviet coup attempt in 1991..

  • Stephen

    Philip,

    “Were Christian principles untouched in the election results?”

    Yes, absolutely unscathed. There is only one thing which makes us Christian, only one thing that is a Christian principle as far as I know, and that is to believe on His name – Christ alone – believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16). An atheist with a conscience (something God has put into the minds of all men) can, and some do, believe abortion is immoral and wrong – truly anti-human. Likewise, Muslims and Jews believe in God and I’d bet many believe abortion is wrong because they too believe God is the author of life. Lots of Muslim countries only allow it in cases where the life of the mother is at stake.

    To my mind, it would be worse to have a recognizably faux Christian as president from a religion that desires nothing less than to usurp the true Gospel with a false one, and a former high priest in that religion to boot. That is the definition of the anti-Christ.

    No offense, but I hear the term “Christian principles” and I don’t know what it means. I can only guess from your next sentence that you think it means that Christians have a specific set of values which they gain that others do not share, or that we have a special kind of (higher) morality, and I just think that is a confusion of law and gospel. How could it be the case anyway that a Mormon could act on such values anyway? He certainly wouldn’t share them if these principles are decidedly or specifically “Christian” would he? That seems contradictory.

  • Stephen

    Philip,

    “Were Christian principles untouched in the election results?”

    Yes, absolutely unscathed. There is only one thing which makes us Christian, only one thing that is a Christian principle as far as I know, and that is to believe on His name – Christ alone – believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16). An atheist with a conscience (something God has put into the minds of all men) can, and some do, believe abortion is immoral and wrong – truly anti-human. Likewise, Muslims and Jews believe in God and I’d bet many believe abortion is wrong because they too believe God is the author of life. Lots of Muslim countries only allow it in cases where the life of the mother is at stake.

    To my mind, it would be worse to have a recognizably faux Christian as president from a religion that desires nothing less than to usurp the true Gospel with a false one, and a former high priest in that religion to boot. That is the definition of the anti-Christ.

    No offense, but I hear the term “Christian principles” and I don’t know what it means. I can only guess from your next sentence that you think it means that Christians have a specific set of values which they gain that others do not share, or that we have a special kind of (higher) morality, and I just think that is a confusion of law and gospel. How could it be the case anyway that a Mormon could act on such values anyway? He certainly wouldn’t share them if these principles are decidedly or specifically “Christian” would he? That seems contradictory.

  • Tom Hering

    American Protestants in the Puritan/Revivalist/Fundamentalist/Evangelical tradition have always had a strong apocalyptic streak. Just about everything gets interpreted as a sign of the End Times. It’s no surprise to me that they carry their worldview over into the conservative movement.

  • Tom Hering

    American Protestants in the Puritan/Revivalist/Fundamentalist/Evangelical tradition have always had a strong apocalyptic streak. Just about everything gets interpreted as a sign of the End Times. It’s no surprise to me that they carry their worldview over into the conservative movement.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Stephen & Tom – spot on.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Stephen & Tom – spot on.

  • Larry

    Exactly Tom, and they so much comfort from what Revelation is really saying. America has never been a “christian nation”, neither was it secular, in reality it started out as and has continued to be a sectarian nation.

    The real comfort lay in the fact that judgment, when it comes, may in fact be eons after America is far gone and under the dust that the many nations have gone. That’s the point of the real apocolyptic scriptures, had/if Christ returned/returns in 90 AD, 300 AD, 1500 AD 20?? AD, 3000 AD, 10,000 AD, etc. all of scripture has been fulfilled. That’s why they expected him return so near in Paul’s day, no prophecy would have been unfulfilled. Why? Because its all about His redemptive work, every word of it. That’s why “maranatha” was as much as “amen” in the apostles and early church.

    We’ve lost that comfort due to the overwhelming noise of the false teachings of the false teachers among the sects on the end times.

    The real trick of the antichrist is not some sectarian evil leader, that’s false teaching’s diversion. Rather that the antichrist looks just like christ on the surface – hence guard your doctrine being Paul’s and John’s constant cry.

  • Larry

    Exactly Tom, and they so much comfort from what Revelation is really saying. America has never been a “christian nation”, neither was it secular, in reality it started out as and has continued to be a sectarian nation.

    The real comfort lay in the fact that judgment, when it comes, may in fact be eons after America is far gone and under the dust that the many nations have gone. That’s the point of the real apocolyptic scriptures, had/if Christ returned/returns in 90 AD, 300 AD, 1500 AD 20?? AD, 3000 AD, 10,000 AD, etc. all of scripture has been fulfilled. That’s why they expected him return so near in Paul’s day, no prophecy would have been unfulfilled. Why? Because its all about His redemptive work, every word of it. That’s why “maranatha” was as much as “amen” in the apostles and early church.

    We’ve lost that comfort due to the overwhelming noise of the false teachings of the false teachers among the sects on the end times.

    The real trick of the antichrist is not some sectarian evil leader, that’s false teaching’s diversion. Rather that the antichrist looks just like christ on the surface – hence guard your doctrine being Paul’s and John’s constant cry.

  • Daniel

    I agree with Tom and Stephen as well. I would like to add that we need to revive an understanding of human principles. I honestly believe we’ll reach more of the lost if we start treating them like they have the same nature as us, as in human nature.

  • Daniel

    I agree with Tom and Stephen as well. I would like to add that we need to revive an understanding of human principles. I honestly believe we’ll reach more of the lost if we start treating them like they have the same nature as us, as in human nature.

  • Stephen

    Daniel,

    Exactly. That’s exactly why missionaries are successful. The law is already there, put in the minds of everyone, accusing all. Think, for instance, of St. Paul at Mars Hill. As well, we must still regard those outside the church as people for whom Christ has died (Jn 3:16). Not easy to do, but it’s the Gospel truth.

  • Stephen

    Daniel,

    Exactly. That’s exactly why missionaries are successful. The law is already there, put in the minds of everyone, accusing all. Think, for instance, of St. Paul at Mars Hill. As well, we must still regard those outside the church as people for whom Christ has died (Jn 3:16). Not easy to do, but it’s the Gospel truth.

  • http://scottoakland.com Scott Oakland

    Keep in mind that when the Puritans (and Pilgrims, separate groups) in the early 17th century, came they were interested in settling in a place where they can worship freely, and it evolved into the religious liberty (think Roger Williams) we enjoy today. I don’t see why it is so bad to want to preserve this concept. It doesn’t require some deep theological meaning behind it to desire this. It is all well and good. So to pooh-pooh this as being unspiritual quite misses the point.

  • http://scottoakland.com Scott Oakland

    Keep in mind that when the Puritans (and Pilgrims, separate groups) in the early 17th century, came they were interested in settling in a place where they can worship freely, and it evolved into the religious liberty (think Roger Williams) we enjoy today. I don’t see why it is so bad to want to preserve this concept. It doesn’t require some deep theological meaning behind it to desire this. It is all well and good. So to pooh-pooh this as being unspiritual quite misses the point.

  • Tom Hering

    Scott @ 12, I don’t see where Dr. Veith or any of the commenters suggested it was bad to want to preserve religious liberty. The issue is that some Christians see the reelection of Obama as a defeat for Christianity, because they see America as an outworking (if not THE outworking) of the Kingdom of God on Earth, and Obama as both non-Christian and un-American.

  • Tom Hering

    Scott @ 12, I don’t see where Dr. Veith or any of the commenters suggested it was bad to want to preserve religious liberty. The issue is that some Christians see the reelection of Obama as a defeat for Christianity, because they see America as an outworking (if not THE outworking) of the Kingdom of God on Earth, and Obama as both non-Christian and un-American.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Stephen @6

    “To my mind, it would be worse to have a recognizably faux Christian as president from a religion that desires nothing less than to usurp the true Gospel with a false one, and a former high priest in that religion to boot. That is the definition of the anti-Christ.”

    We are certainly in agreement on this point. I really feared that a Romney win would serve to legitimize the Mormon cult and be an excellent talking point for their missionaries. After all, they could say, how controversial can the LDS church really be? The President of the United States is a member! Maybe I’m wrong about this, but handing the most powerful office on earth to the Quorum of the Twelve in Salt Lake seemed foolhardy at best. Of course, we remain stuck with an abortion-happy socialist, so we’re still screwed.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Stephen @6

    “To my mind, it would be worse to have a recognizably faux Christian as president from a religion that desires nothing less than to usurp the true Gospel with a false one, and a former high priest in that religion to boot. That is the definition of the anti-Christ.”

    We are certainly in agreement on this point. I really feared that a Romney win would serve to legitimize the Mormon cult and be an excellent talking point for their missionaries. After all, they could say, how controversial can the LDS church really be? The President of the United States is a member! Maybe I’m wrong about this, but handing the most powerful office on earth to the Quorum of the Twelve in Salt Lake seemed foolhardy at best. Of course, we remain stuck with an abortion-happy socialist, so we’re still screwed.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    In a sense America is an outworking of Christian concepts.

    To the best of my knowledge it took the English concepts of a limited lawful government (from the Magna Carta) and the English concept of rights (habaeas corpus) and formalized the authority of the state as limited.

    I doubt a people unfamiliar with Christian thought would stumble upon a system so purposely designed to frustrate the power of rulers and protect the rights of citizens from their government.

    However I’d say that America was just the fulfillment of the English urge to protect the individual from rulers because of the ubiquity of sin and the intrinsic worth of every human life. That’s hardly a concept that would naturally arise in any religious milieu besides Christianity.

    If America falls away from freedom and Britain (or one of its other former colonies) regains its heritage of freedom I’d find that a consolation.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    In a sense America is an outworking of Christian concepts.

    To the best of my knowledge it took the English concepts of a limited lawful government (from the Magna Carta) and the English concept of rights (habaeas corpus) and formalized the authority of the state as limited.

    I doubt a people unfamiliar with Christian thought would stumble upon a system so purposely designed to frustrate the power of rulers and protect the rights of citizens from their government.

    However I’d say that America was just the fulfillment of the English urge to protect the individual from rulers because of the ubiquity of sin and the intrinsic worth of every human life. That’s hardly a concept that would naturally arise in any religious milieu besides Christianity.

    If America falls away from freedom and Britain (or one of its other former colonies) regains its heritage of freedom I’d find that a consolation.

  • Tom Hering

    Jim @ 14, define “socialist.”

  • Tom Hering

    Jim @ 14, define “socialist.”

  • Jim Hamilton

    Tom Herring @16

    “Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources.”

    Wow, that’s a mouthful, huh? Lotta big words there. I’m confused. Sounds pretty scary, though. Good thing nobody in this country believes in anything like that.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Tom Herring @16

    “Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources.”

    Wow, that’s a mouthful, huh? Lotta big words there. I’m confused. Sounds pretty scary, though. Good thing nobody in this country believes in anything like that.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Tom Herring @13

    “Obama as both non-Christian and un-American.”

    I would say both non-Christian and non-American.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Tom Herring @13

    “Obama as both non-Christian and un-American.”

    I would say both non-Christian and non-American.

  • Stephen

    Jim,

    “I would say both non-Christian and non-American.”

    Careful. He’s baptized. You are trying to take Jesus’ job away. That’s an enormously grave and terrible sin. Christ gets to separate the wheat from the chaff, remember? Leave that one to the heterodox.

    Now that we cleared that one up, define “American.”

  • Stephen

    Jim,

    “I would say both non-Christian and non-American.”

    Careful. He’s baptized. You are trying to take Jesus’ job away. That’s an enormously grave and terrible sin. Christ gets to separate the wheat from the chaff, remember? Leave that one to the heterodox.

    Now that we cleared that one up, define “American.”

  • Jim Hamilton

    Careful. He’s baptized. You are trying to take Jesus’ job away. That’s an enormously grave and terrible sin. Christ gets to separate the wheat from the chaff, remember? Leave that one to the heterodox.

    Now that we cleared that one up, define “American.”

    What you’ve written there is some of the most condescending and patronizing nonsense I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. Obama is in favor of abortions of all kinds and at all times. He’s in favor of letting babies who survive abortion die. He’s a Universalist. He frequently praises Islam. He refers to the koran as “holy.” He’s not a Christian. Obviously. So no need to be “careful” on that one, sir.

    “Now that we’ve cleared that up,” why would I “define” American for you? Do you not know what an American is? Do you not have access to the Google?

  • Jim Hamilton

    Careful. He’s baptized. You are trying to take Jesus’ job away. That’s an enormously grave and terrible sin. Christ gets to separate the wheat from the chaff, remember? Leave that one to the heterodox.

    Now that we cleared that one up, define “American.”

    What you’ve written there is some of the most condescending and patronizing nonsense I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. Obama is in favor of abortions of all kinds and at all times. He’s in favor of letting babies who survive abortion die. He’s a Universalist. He frequently praises Islam. He refers to the koran as “holy.” He’s not a Christian. Obviously. So no need to be “careful” on that one, sir.

    “Now that we’ve cleared that up,” why would I “define” American for you? Do you not know what an American is? Do you not have access to the Google?

  • Tom Hering

    He’s a Universalist. (@ 20)

    Is that true? If so, as an American, I’m not worried.

    Read Steven Waldman’s Founding Faith. The author carefully examines the evidence – all the evidence – and concludes that the Founders were neither Deists nor orthodox Christians, but proto-Unitarian Universalists. They believed that religion was vitally important for the new nation, and admired Jesus as a moral teacher, but rejected both the deity of Jesus and the doctrine of eternal damnation. Franklin, John Adams, and Jefferson also expressed qualified admiration for Islam, its prophet, and its followers.

    So, after 236 years, with Obama as President, the country has neither declined nor progressed as far as the religion of its leadership is concerned. Indeed, if it’s true that Obama is a Universalist, the country may have a President who’s more like the Founders, in spirit, than any other President since Madison.

  • Tom Hering

    He’s a Universalist. (@ 20)

    Is that true? If so, as an American, I’m not worried.

    Read Steven Waldman’s Founding Faith. The author carefully examines the evidence – all the evidence – and concludes that the Founders were neither Deists nor orthodox Christians, but proto-Unitarian Universalists. They believed that religion was vitally important for the new nation, and admired Jesus as a moral teacher, but rejected both the deity of Jesus and the doctrine of eternal damnation. Franklin, John Adams, and Jefferson also expressed qualified admiration for Islam, its prophet, and its followers.

    So, after 236 years, with Obama as President, the country has neither declined nor progressed as far as the religion of its leadership is concerned. Indeed, if it’s true that Obama is a Universalist, the country may have a President who’s more like the Founders, in spirit, than any other President since Madison.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Tom @26

    Thanks for the info. I’m not really interested in any of that stuff, though. That’s more Glenn Beck’s fight. If you’re happy with Obama, good for you. I find him repellant in basically every way, but that’s just my opinion. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  • Jim Hamilton

    Tom @26

    Thanks for the info. I’m not really interested in any of that stuff, though. That’s more Glenn Beck’s fight. If you’re happy with Obama, good for you. I find him repellant in basically every way, but that’s just my opinion. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  • Tom Hering

    There were early Americans who found one or another of the Founders repellant in every way, too. So I hail you, Jim, as a true American in the best tradition! :-D Have a happy Thanksgiving in return.

  • Tom Hering

    There were early Americans who found one or another of the Founders repellant in every way, too. So I hail you, Jim, as a true American in the best tradition! :-D Have a happy Thanksgiving in return.


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