Two Tales of One City

  George W. Bush was inaugurated this weekend as forty- third President of the United States. Despite rain and cold, this city, jammed with well-wishers, seemed jubilant. The crowds filled with hope and anticipation. But there were contrasts, as well. It was, if you'll pardon the take-off on Dickens, two tales of one city. On the one hand, we saw George Bush give the most eloquent inaugural address of the past half century. On the other, we saw the last shameless acts -- dying gasps of the Clinton era -- of a presidency marred from the outset by immodesty and intemperance. In his remarks, the new president said: "Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations." He called for a renewal of justice and opportunity, and he said, "I know this is in our reach because we are guided by a power larger than ourselves, Who creates us equal in His image." I was especially gratified by his statement that "the proliferation of prisons . . . is no substitute for hope and order in our souls." "It's not what government does," President Bush said, "that makes America great, but what we do as citizens." And, "Americans in need are not strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities." At the Christian galas and prayer meetings I attended, each speaker prayed this new president would give a new moral beginning to America -- that he would remind us of our biblical heritage. And, indeed, he did. "Church and charity, synagogue and mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and in our laws," he said. Then he quoted Mother Teresa: "'Every day we are called to do small things with great love.' The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone." Mr. Bush may not have a mandate for policy issues, but clearly he has a mandate for moral leadership, and he did not disappoint us. His first act as President on Saturday was to establish ethical guidelines for his appointees, and to declare yesterday (Sunday, January 21) a day of prayer. Unfortunately, the outgoing President spent his final hours negotiating a plea-bargain with the Independent Counsel. He agreed to a $25,000 fine and loss of his law license for five years. After all the impeachment agonies, Mr. Clinton finally owned up that he lied under oath, and he lied to the American people. And, worse, this weekend he pardoned 140 people, including many of his own cronies -- a final, parting message that money and influence are what counts. Well, I wish the former president no ill. Sadly, this enormously gifted man was corrupted by his baser instincts, and we will pray that he, too, finds moral renewal. But now it falls to our new leader to give us a new beginning. Christians must pray for the new president and his team. In his closing remarks, Mr. Bush said, "This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm." In that stirring image of God's sovereignty lies our steadfast hope as a nation.


Chuck Colson


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