Last week, 40 million TV viewers watched Barack Obama become the first African-American nominee of a major political party.
And 24 hours later, Republican candidate John McCain set the political world on its ear by selecting a little-known woman governor from Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his running mate.
Either way the election turns out, history will be made.
Social conservatives reacted to Palin's election with near euphoria. Social liberals reacted with fury. Why? How could a governor from a politically small state spark such strong emotions?
I believe it is this: In the life of Sarah Palin, we see the clash of worldviews playing out before our own eyes. Consider every major controversial issue in American politics and culture right now . . . and somehow, they touch her personally. Start with the most obvious: abortion.
Palin, a mother of five, is staunchly pro-life. And, as you know by now, her fifth child, Trig, has Down syndrome. Knowing full well the challenges such a baby would become, Mrs. Palin chose to bring the baby to term. Then, over the weekend, the Palin family announced that their oldest daughter was pregnant out-of-wedlock—and that the daughter would have the baby.
Both sides of the life issue reacted swiftly. The pro-abortion crowd mocked Palin for her support of abstinence-only sex education, which, they say, failed her own daughter. Some commentators took the ad hominem approach, claiming that it is fine for Mrs. Palin and her daughter to bring their babies to term; after all, they've got money and a supportive family.
At the same time, the pro-life side hailed Palin and her daughter as heroes for living out what they believe. I think, however, that we ought to look at this as a test for ourselves. Would your belief in the sanctity of life have stood the test if you had found yourself in the Palins' situation? Either as a middle-aged working mom, or as the father of a pregnant teenage girl? How supportive is your church of young, unwed mothers?
Next, let's take the war in Iraq. Mrs. Palin's oldest son enlisted in the Army and is preparing to deploy. Critics of the war have not said much about this young man's love of country. But his actions, like those of his mother, should cause those who support the war to reflect for a moment: How would you react to your son's enlisting? For putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak?
Pick any other issue . . . homosexual "marriage": She is against it. But her first act as governor of Alaska was to veto legislation that would have denied state-funded health benefits for gay partners.
Or oil drilling: She is for it—even in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, and even though she loves the great outdoors as a hunter. Earmarks? She helped scuttle the infamous bridge to nowhere. But it also seems that as a small-town mayor, she hired lobbyists to help secure millions in federal dollars to benefit her community.
Like all of us, she wrestles with her own convictions. Every flashpoint in American politics and culture seems to come together in this woman from Alaska. I am not telling you how to vote, but for once, I will urge you to watch the news and the political commentaries. Because if you can see through the smoke, you will be able to witness the clash of worldviews in real time.