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Politics and Pedestals
Yesterday I wrote about three qualities that I've observed frequently on display in the political discussions we see going on around us. Today I want to address the second of those three, namely "idol worship." I have friends who are Democrats, and friends who are Republicans. During yesterday's presidential inauguration, there was a post circulating about the President, which quoted a line from Scripture:
Who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
This was, effectively, a declaration that the President has been appointed by God to fix all of the problems the United States is facing (and perhaps more). On the other hand, I've also seen plenty of posts circulating, ever since December, that have drawn a direct comparison between the President and Adolph Hitler, in fulfillment of Godwin's law.
I disagree with both positions. First of all, to compare any U.S. President to Adolph Hitler is not only outlandish, but is just plain juvenile. Obama hasn't committed genocide, nor has Bush, nor has Clinton, and so on. That kind of comparison is immature, reactionary, and has no place in any educated discussion. That is sheer depravity, the lowest state of mortal thought. But on the other hand, to treat the President, or another politician, as some kind of holy Messiah sent from God to finally fix all of humanity's woes isn't really much better. There was only one promised Messiah, and he's already left his mark.
I prefer a more sober approach when evaluating politicans, one that doesn't so easily get sucked up into the pomp and circumstance of the moment, nor get dragged down into the hypnotic fears and conspiracy theories. Is the President a promised Messiah? No. Is the President Adolph Hitler? No. The President is simply a man -- an inherently good man -- who is trying to do his best, to the best of his ability. And while I'll probably never agree with every policy that a given president makes, I know that he (and other presidents) still needs my support, my love, and my prayers. He needs yours, too. I try to approach thinking about politicans from the perspective that asks, "what would I do if I were in that position?" This is the Golden Rule.
Jesus gave us a helpful hint in how to view politicians in their correct light, when he spoke with Pontius Pilate just before the crucifixion. Pilate, a high-ranking official in the Roman empire -- who had undoubtedly worked long and hard to earn his position -- asked Jesus, "don't you realize that I have the power to crucify you, or to let you go?" Jesus responed, "you would have no power at all, except it were given to you from God."
This shows Jesus' acknowledgement that Pilate was in his position because God had put him there. But he places no emphasis, whatsoever, on Pilate himself having any power to help or to harm. Instead, he sees things from the perspective that God's government is perpetually intact. I don't believe in a God who creates a universe that keeps falling out of alignment and subsequently has to find the right politician to fix it. That is a poor estimate of Omniscience. I believe each and every one of us, politicians included, are always right where we need to be in this divine adventure called life. We are each learning more about the realities of life, learning to love our neighbors better, and being who we were made to be more fearlessly, each and every day. I believe that I found the career I'm in by the grace of God, and so I similarly believe the President (as well as former presidents) have been led into their positions because God has ordained them. This does not put them on a pedestal, but instead recongizes that we each have a God-given purpose and place in life, no more or less needed than another's.
To view any person as having a special power or authority exclusive to only them, idolizes them as a god. But to fear and condemn them, hanging onto every word they say, idolizes them as a demon. Both perspectives are ultimately dissatisfying. So I say let's take people off these pedestals, and look less to people but more to ideas. Ideas don't belong to a political party. And most importantly of all, let's continually watch that we are practicing the Golden Rule in our lives and in our thoughts about others. Would you want hoards of people comparing you to Hilter because of a policy suggestion? Or would you want hoards of people displaying captioned pictures of you to show off how righteous and perfect and better than others you are? The Golden Rule is always sound advice.