In 16 years of voting, I’ve never been so happy to draw that little line on the ballot as when I connected the arrow yesterday for Obama-Biden. Whatever the outcome would be, I felt an unprecedented hope for our country, merely because of the chance to vote for a candidate I believed in. Obama’s acceptance speech epitomized the qualities I admire about him: idealism and passion for justice, tempered by an intelligent and realistic assessment of how complex our problems are. Whatever stresses and slanders are thrown at him, he seems to meet them with uncanny equanimity. That quality, perhaps more than any other, has lately strengthened me by example.
I call this election bittersweet because voters in California narrowly passed Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to take away same-sex marriage rights. Florida passed a similar measure, while Arkansas voted to ban adoptions by gay couples.
Imagine waking up this morning and learning that the people of your state had voted to break up your family. Without ever meeting you, they’d taken it upon themselves to decide that your love wasn’t real love, and your children didn’t belong to you. Church leaders had persuaded your neighbors and your family that God abhorred your intimate relationships–maybe even sowed a terrible doubt in your mind. This breaks my heart most of all. Worldly governments only have lordship over our bodies, but you’re better off killing a man than coming between him and his God.
Before the Civil War, African-American families were torn apart by white slave-owners who believed their marriages weren’t real. No more than a generation or two ago, our courts and legislatures were still debating whether race should remain a barrier to employment, education, housing, and the right to marry the man or woman of one’s choice. Now we have an African-American president. While racism still afflicts us, think how the terms of the debate have already shifted, beyond the imaginings of people who grew up in the civil rights era. Social change does happen, though it feels painfully slow to those whose basic rights are still in jeopardy. Take a deep breath, look back at history, look forward in faith.