Tuesday night one American Jesus won. The other lost.
Whether American Christianity will be strengthened or weakened remains to be seen.
As I listened to Barack Obama eschew any note of triumph, praise John McCain as he has so many times, and call for the country to be united, I thought, He sounds like what most Americans think Christians ought to sound like.
He didn't sound like Sarah Palin. Or John McCain. Or George W. Bush. Or many of the evangelicals rousing their troops before the election. As voting began, one of those leaders said that evangelicals would vote for the devil himself rather than give support to Obama. Another warned that Obama could be the Anti-Christ and not even know it.
Their talk represented the Jesus that lost this election. That Jesus, let's call him the Fighting Jesus, is angry, punishing, highly concerned about sexual behavior and about keeping women in certain roles. He favors battle terms, focuses on his enemies and is vigilant against evil.
Only those who repent and believe properly will go to heaven. He divides the world into the sheep and goats, the saved and lost. The saved are his people. No one else is.
The Fighting Jesus protects his people, hears them and answers their prayers. He also punishes them, but he punishes those who reject him even more.
His followers, who call themselves God's people, feel compelled to speak boldly against evil and unbelief. They must rebuke and correct those who don't follow their Jesus. The Fighting Jesus is a divider.
He never changes.
He is in the Bible. Those who believe in him often know the Bible quite well and so are justifiably unapologetic before those who accuse them of being un-Christian or mean spirited.
The Jesus who won on Tuesday is also in the Bible.
This Jesus responds mildly to criticism and threat. He's respectful of others. He favors peace. He focuses far more on the needs of the poor than on sexual behavior. He is less concerned with the letter of religious law than its spirit. He isn't much concerned with deciding who is evil and who is good. For him forgiving enemies is more important than battling them. He is a uniter.
A growing number of his followers think he allows even nonbelievers into heaven.
Some of his followers know the Bible quite well. Barack Obama appears to be among those. His Jesus might be called the Peace Jesus.
He might also be called the Popular Jesus because many Americans are convinced that this Jesus is the true one. These people often judge followers of the Fighting Jesus harshly and say that they aren't acting like Jesus followers at all.
These nonbeliever delight in declaring that they like Jesus; it's the Christians they can't stand.
For decades Fighting Jesus followers have held the spotlight. In the popular mind, they've won most of their battles. They have come to represent American Christianity as a whole, as though they are the only Jesus followers.
Barack Obama didn't preach his faith nearly as much as Sarah Palin did. He didn't oppose abortion as the Fighting Jesus followers demanded and as John McCain did. But when news of Palin's daughter's pregnancy surfaced, he forbade his staff to capitalize on it and said he would fire anyone who did. Then he stopped all stone throwing by noting that his own mother was young when he was born.
I thought, somewhat ruefully, He's acting like Jesus.
In the debates when John McCain refused to look at him, when McCain answered derisively, when McCain sneered and smirked, Obama did not respond in kind. He praised McCain's virtues consistently. He ignored all opportunities to humiliate or deride McCain. He passed up easy scores, even on policy matters.
I thought with a groan, He's acting like Jesus.
And then Tuesday night, he talked of coming together, of caring for one another, of sacrifice for the common good.
I thought with delight, He's still acting like Jesus.
The Peace Jesus.
Many people are terrified of the Peace Jesus. They think he's weak.
But it didn't look that way Tuesday night. Obama didn't look weak. And neither did the Peace Jesus. They looked like hope and strength and a new way.
Let's pray they are.
Christine Wicker is the author of "The Fall of the Evangelical Nation." Her website is www.christinewicker.com