So, I live in a country where there is much disillusionment with government, aversion to politics and the unthinkable reality that the best candidate put forward by the Republicans is at least borderline racist, misogynist, rude and grandly egotistical. How did we arrive at this state of affairs in a country that professes a large population of those who ‘follow Jesus’? In some ways, I get it. The level of mistrust towards elected officials, an extreme aversion to being told what to do by central administration and confrontational bi-partisan bickering is all too understandable. Into the vacuum on both sides of the divide step Mr Trump and Mr Sanders.
But, it occurs to me that we might have misplaced our fears for our freedoms and aversion to being controlled in the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong, there is little on either side of the current political spectrum to admire. Even the most ardent supporter would doubtless admit the current President has failed to deliver on the heady promises of ‘Yes We Can’ that so inspired the groundswell behind his election. The irrational and obstructive behaviour of a Republican congress seems to have been based predominantly on an emotional loathing towards the first African American POTUS. Carried by the conservative media, we have been subject to the irrational claims that Mr Obama is not a citizen of the US, is a muslim, a communist and dare I say it, is a person of colour?
So, I get why the general population has had it up to here! But for those who profess a faith in Jesus, the reconciler, an advocate for peace, the despiser of none and one who seemed to have no discriminatory bone in his body (Read the account of his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4), I wonder if we have drifted far from the core beliefs of our creed. First of all, our aversion to government involvement in our lives should be tempered by Jesus’ own lack of aversion. At no time did he express any revolutionary thoughts towards the clearly corrupt and controlling government of the time. Indeed, the few references we can find to his attitude seem to indicate quite the opposite. When it came to taxes collected on behalf of the Roman oppressors, he seemed to encourage ‘giving to Caesar what is due to Caesar.’ Perhaps even more radical, he advocated carrying the Roman soldiers’ burden not just the statutory one mile, but to go the second mile. There were those amongst his disciples who must have wondered at his lack of zeal for uprising against the current oppressive regime, perhaps this was at the heart of Judas’ disillusionment.
Today, we regard any interference by the government as a blanket ‘bad thing’ and a solid tranche of US Christians have gladly aligned themselves with the ‘tea party’ movement and latterly, Mr Trump’s seeming independence from the strictures of central government. Perhaps our fear is focused in the wrong direction? We live in an age where real control seems to have been ceded to those with financial power and our freedoms are not so much threatened by greater central regulation, but by those who seek to control more of the world’s wealth and so our own lives. The most worrying trend concerning our elected officials is the extent to which they are in thrall to the oligarchy that really holds the strings of power. Indeed, it might well be the lack of regulation and the impotence of any recent government not to reign in this stranglehold on our freedoms that should be our biggest complaint.
When the banks corruptly gambled with the world’s economy, it was the man in the street who lost his job and his house, not the financial leaders, all of whom not only escaped without punishment, but were bailed out by the governments of the day. When a majority of the population knows that sensible gun regulation would prevent at least some of the tragic deaths caused by firearms, it was the power of the NRA that left the government powerless to act on their behalf. Despite the overwhelming evidence to suggest that fossil fuels is destroying the environment, the pressure to find alternatives has been painfully slow on the back of the powerful oil lobby. As for the proliferation of armed conflicts in the world, one can only imagine the benefits to the powerful defense industry. These are just a few examples of organizations that seem to have the real stranglehold on the lives of the general population. It seems to me that it is time for those citizens, from whichever part of the political spectrum they belong, to take back their own government and like Wilberforce, Luther King and many others, allow legislative power to be used for the promotion of peace, prosperity and protection for the majority and no longer pander to the whims of the small minority.