After over a month of bitter court wrangling, George W. Bush last night emerged as President-elect. Before a prime-time television audience Wednesday night, Vice-President Al Gore conceded the race and urged the nation to remember that "in one of God's unforeseen paths, this belatedly broken impasse can point us all to a new common ground."
Most evangelical leaders that were interviewed from around the nation and across the political party divides were remarkably united in their belief that God had prepared the way for healing and a new spiritual charge to the nation.
African-American Bishop Harold Calvin Ray of Redemption Life Fellowship, West Palm Beach was at ground zero of the political trench warfare in Florida. With chads all around and "thousands screaming and fighting," Ray, a leader in Florida's African American community, thought, "I have been here before" during other times of great national crisis.
Along with the army of lawyers, Ray was swept along into the U.S. Supreme Court, where he witnessed the intensifying bitterness. Yet, Ray says that at the first hearing of the Court he sensed even then that God was at work.
"A gentleman dressed as a homeless person was off by himself on that Thursday afternoon outside of the Supreme Court. He was walking back and forth with a sign, 'It is time to heal the wounds.'"
There on the steps of the Court, Ray says he realized that he was part of a history that God was making. "That man on Thursday—the Man Thursday, was a prophet of God for us. God is going to heal the wounds."
Other evangelical leaders had similar experiences. Coming out of an emotional meeting with Andrew Cuomo, Clinton's U.S. Secretary of Housing, editor and author Jim Wallis observed too that the bitterness was offset with hope.
"We haven't seen this kind of bitter division in a long time," says Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine. "Millions of Americans have lost confidence in the Supreme Court. Bush has a problem with legitimacy."
Yet, like almost all evangelical leaders, left or right on the political spectrum, Wallis thinks that both Bush's and Gore's commitment to faith-based initiatives, character and prayer are threads that could stitch together the nation.
"We are all sitting at the same table," he says. "Faith-based initiatives were going to be in every branch of government no matter whether Bush or Gore won."
From the right, former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer shares Wallis's views on the unifying effects of faith-based social programs: "On these issues you can find Democratic votes. As is so often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. It won't be difficult for Bush to govern if he follows his values."
Bauer also struck a theme picked up by many evangelicals, the importance of moral unity. Bauer, who now heads the nonprofit American Values, says that the different sections of America are united on the need for character and values. "Whether Asian- or African-American," he says, "Americans care about the value issue."
Wallis too says, "You find common ground by moving to higher ground." He believes that the nation is poised to "do something great together of moral consequence. So, all eyes are on faith-based organizations now." Wallis suggests working with the Democrats on faith-based initiatives to help children in poverty.
George W. Bush told a Houston, Texas, Baptist church that he believed that he had been chosen by God to be a good steward of the nation. In San Antonio, Texas, Alamo City Christian Fellowship pastor David Walker says that as a group of local church leaders prayed over George W. Bush they felt a divine presence anointing the occasion. "We felt God's presence and that He might do something for the nation," he recalls.
As Bishop Ray rode the bus up the coast of the Florida political battlefields, he summed up what many evangelical leaders today are feeling, regardless of political perspective: "I knew that Bush has been placed here by the sovereignty of God. Either he has turned his heart to God or God knows his heart will turn. First, I would advise him to unashamedly indicate that he seeks the nation to pray for our direction."
In his remarks on the end of the race, President-elect Bush followed that call from his friend Bishop Ray, saying, "I have something to ask every American. I ask for you to pray for this great nation. I ask your prayers for leaders from both parties."
Coming tomorrow: The Bush Agenda | Will the White House be user-friendly for religious organizations?
Don't miss Christianity Today's editorial on the election: "The Evil of Two Lessers."
More religious spin on the election is available from Beliefnet and World magazine.
Other media coverage of the Supreme Court's ruling can be found at Yahoo's full coverage area.
Other Christianity Today coverage of the 2000 election includes:
Books & Culture Corner: Election Eve | Why isn't anyone focusing on those who simply won't bother to vote? (Nov. 6, 2000)
Books & Culture Corner: Pencils Down Part II | Think your vote matters? You poor, misguided fool. (Sept. 18, 2000)
Anniversary of Church Shootings Serves as Reminder for Bush | Presidential candidate promises to battle religious bigotry in wake of Texas tragedy. (Sept. 15, 2000)
Books & Culture Corner: Pencils Down, the Election's Over | According to political scientists, Al Gore has already won. (Sept. 11, 2000)
A Presidential Hopeful's Progress | The spiritual journey of George W. Bush starts in hardscrabble west Texas. Will the White House be his next stop? (Sept. 5, 2000)
A Jew for Vice-President? | Joseph Lieberman's Torah observance could renew America's moral debate. (Aug. 9, 2000)
Bush and Gore Size Up Prolife Running Mates | Will abortion stances play an influential role in Vice Presidential selection? (July 17, 2000)
Gary Bauer Can't Go Home Again | Internal survey at Family Research Council says 'partisan' leader unwelcome. (Feb. 8, 2000)
Might for Right? | As presidential primaries get under way, Christian conservatives aim to win. (Feb. 3, 2000)
God Bless America's Candidates | What the religious and mainstream presses are saying about religion on the campaign trail and other issues. (Dec. 10, 1999)
Conservatives Voice Support for Bauer (Nov. 15, 1999)
Bush's Faith-Based Plans | Bush argues that private religious organizations can partner successfully with government. (October 25, 1999)
Can I get a Witness? | Candidate testimonies must move beyond piety to policy. (August 9, 1999)
Republican Candidates Court Conservatives Early, Often (Apr. 4, 1999)
Reconnecting with the Poor | If people are hurting, it's our business. (Jan. 11, 1999)
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