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FIRST-PERSON: Giving God His due

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–What do the recent Asian tsunami and Iraqi elections have in common?

A first glance at media reports reveals nothing in common between the two. In fact, they seem to be worlds apart, a gruesome tragedy on one hand and a joyous triumph on the other.

A closer look at the media’s view, though, betrays some similarities. There’s the courage exhibited by humans in the face of overwhelming odds, for example. The human spirit tends to rise to a seemingly insurmountable challenge: publicly voting despite death threats on one hand and nakedly surviving a tsunami on the other.

There is the generosity of the American people, giving their money to rebuild what was washed away in Asia and giving their sons to free the oppressed in Iraq.

Of course, there is the petty political grandstanding, with the United Nations seemingly opposing the path to Iraqi freedom, the destruction of terrorism and a democratic Iraq. Some international leaders have been accused of trying to manipulate the process in order to protect their invested interest in a few billion dollars in kickbacks from Saddam Hussein. Sadly, it is the U.N. complaining that its most generous member nation is not generous enough in administering tsunami relief.

But, as interesting as all that is, the most significant thing these two events have in common is that, taken together, they are an illustration of how the world, and perhaps much of Christendom, refuses to give God a fair shake. If you search the Internet for stories and editorials featuring some discussion of what God’s part might have been in the tsunami, you will be overwhelmed by the discussion.

Perform the same search for those pondering God’s part in the successful Iraqi elections and you find surprisingly little. To be fair, ABC News did report the following:

“President Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni, voted inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified ‘green zone’ complex, emerging with one finger stained with bright blue ink, which is a symbol used to prevent multiple voting.

“‘Thanks be to God,’ he said, holding a small Iraqi flag. ‘I hope everyone will go out and vote, God willing.'”

Clearly, when something dreadful happens, the world wonders where God was. When something good happens, the world is dumbfoundedly amazed and cannot venture a guess on how it happened.

Certainly, Election Day in Iraq was an unexpectedly good thing. Even The New York Times — which has excoriated Bush’s Iraq policy repeatedly, demanding throughout all of December and January that the elections be delayed — called Jan. 30 “a remarkably successful election day.”

Yet, no elite media commentators have stepped forward to congratulate God on the day, to ponder His plan or explain away God’s part in the inexplicable marvel of the first democratic election in Iraq in more than 50 years.

Even Christian websites are far more silent than they ought to be. Should it not be clear to believers what happened? Should we not be ringing the bell for God, who answered our prayers?

On Jan. 26, Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch called for prayer for the elections. An e-mail from Army Chaplain Lyle Shackelford, a Southern Baptist, requesting prayer for our soldiers and for the election circulated the Internet so widely that Baptist Press, among other news agencies, reported on the phenomenon. Other similar prayer e-mails flashed from our brothers and sisters in Iraq, seeking prayer for protection and for a peaceful election.

God clearly answered our prayers for the election in the affirmative. If we do not believe that, we should stop praying. No other explanation is plausible.

America has a great military, but her soldiers were the ones asking for prayers. No military scenario can explain the lack of much terrorist activity on this most publicized, anticipated and widely watched day in Iraq’s colorful recent history.

A few weeks ago, after the tsunami, God took it on the chin as the world dismissed Him, questioned Him, ridiculed Him, and explained Him away. That is OK. God is turning all of that into good for His Kingdom in many different ways.

But now you and I have the chance to turn the tables. We know something unique and wonderful that God did on Jan. 30, 2005. Should we keep it a secret?
Waylan Owens is vice president for planning and communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

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  • Waylan Owens