Saturday, January 21, 2017

Some scattered thoughts on politics

  • Every election year we find out how many people have politics as their God: that is, a political analysis, a position, an agenda that will provide the answers and solutions to all our problems. If you believe this (and it is certainly by any measure a matter of faith, no matter how much you might try to make it sound like reason), you get all apocalyptic when the wrong side wins. In the recent election, both sides made frequent predictions of doom if the other side came out on top.
  • But, as Solzhenitsyn understood, our problems are not primarily political. Our problems have to do with corruption in the human heart, always. Our political practices are shaped by our heart condition, not vice versa, Politics, in other words, is downstream from faith.
  • Politics never has a cleansing influence on the heart. Politics cannot remove the taint or reverse the curse. Politics is helpless, then, to truly improve our reform the human condition. Therefore it saves no one, nor is it ever truly progressive, guiding us step by step toward some Promised Land. The Promised Land, if it "promised" by our politics, is in fact one part naive fantasy, and several parts scam. 
  • A further complication quickly becomes apparent: power corrupts, we say, but we often pretend that it will not corrupt our guy, our party, our chosen ones. They are of that special breed that cannot be corrupted. I would say that it is not so much that power corrupts, but that power feeds and exacerbates our pre-existing corruption. The problem is, politics is almost by definition the seeking and wielding of power by people who already have a tendency to corruption, just by virtue of being human. Not only that, but they may well possess an even greater tendency to corruption than most, just because those who lust for power will tend to be the ones who most assiduously seek it by any means possible, including the political. 
  • If you bemoan the weakening of our Constitution, or the way the executive branch has grown, with presidents ruling by Executive Order, then you are looking at what results when the will to power seeks its path of least resistance. The words of the Constitution alone cannot restrain this tendency in the human heart.
  • As Christians, we say that we won't put our faith in princes, but every election cycle many of us jump feet first into the campaign of prince-worship that is our American electoral process. We routinely overstate the prince's merits, and we understate (or paper over) his dangerous faults. This amounts to a willful forgetting of all that we know--or should know--to be true. First, we are deceived. Then, we become deceivers. This is the essence of prince-worship.

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