It has been known for millennia that two of the most corrupting, debilitating and destructive forces on earth are wealth addictions and power addictions. And often they go together. It is especially in the political arena that we find this deadly duo in action.
But wherever this might be found, few people can handle these things really well. We all can be too easily deceived and entrapped by them. Riches and power can have such a stranglehold on us; it can become so intoxicating. Many wise souls have warned about all this of course.
Jesus for example spoke to this often. As to riches, consider what we find in Luke 6:24-25: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”
And in Mark 10:21-25 we have this:
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
As to power, we find this in Mark 9:33-37:
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Biblical examples of the dangers of power are many – especially among the Old Testament kings. Here is just one, from 2 Chronicles 26:16: “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God.”
And of course, the English Catholic historian and politician Lord Acton (1834 – 1902) made this famous remark about power:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
Political power can certainly be the worst sort of corruption. The desire to rule over others and have power over others is always with us in a fallen world. That is why the American Founding Fathers for example did all they could to ensure that their new nation had a viable separation of powers with a system of checks and balances.
But all this has been discussed plenty over the centuries. My aim here is a bit more circumspect, so let me narrow the focus. I have had a fair amount to do with politicians and the political process over the years. As part of lobbying work and culture war involvement, I have known many fine Christian politicians, and have been encouraged by their commitment to core values.
Not all however have been so true to Christ and to principled conservatism. Many can be overwhelmed by political games and power trips just as much as any non-Christian can. As I stated last week in a piece about the political scene in Victoria and the fate of Moira Deeming:
Moira is a champion, as I have said so often before. But that cannot be said about Pesutto and all the other spineless wonders in the Liberal Party leadership who do not give a rip about core principles and what is right, but only seem to care about keeping their careers, climbing the ladder, having a cushy income, and playing politics.
The more we see the meltdown of the Libs throughout Australia, the more we wonder just how many actually care about anything, other than just having a lengthy career in politics with all the perks and benefits that flow from it – including really nice retirement packages as well.
So many seem to have sold their soul to the devil to get more power and more wealth. While we expect non-Christians to act this way, it is a real worry when those claiming to be Christians seem to do the same. Some may have entered politics with the best of intentions, but not all can get through it unscathed and untarnished.
This again raises the old question as to what principled conservatives and Christians should do: stay in the main parties and hope to be salt and light there, or pull out, join other like-minded folks, and form smaller parties or run as independents.
The various pros and cons of all that I have often discussed in previous articles. And many might rightly ask why someone like Moira wants to stay with the Libs, given the appalling treatment she has received from Lib leaders. Why not just leave? I guess she must do what she feels God wants her to do. So we must pray for her at the very least.
But other issues arise here. So often over the years I and others have been let down by conservative and Christian politicians on key matters. When a vote came up or an important debate arose, they were either silent, abstained, or went the wrong way.
And so often when I raise these things with these politicians, I will get the same tired answer: ‘Well, I have to compromise and play the game and not rock the boat too much, otherwise I will not last long in the party – they might try to get rid of me.’
To which I can only give the obvious reply: ‘Um, if every time your voice and your vote really matters you hide both for fear of being removed from the party, guess what? You are absolutely wasting your time there. Any secular lefty politician can go along with the others and vote the wrong way and say all the wrong things. Christians and conservatives voted for you so you could make a difference and not just be another useless party hack.’
Good grief, I am so tired of these spineless wonders. And I have seen it happen over and over again. These folks will come to your meetings and speak at your events, saying all the right things. But back in the political arena they end up letting you down time and time again. Who needs them? They just seem interested in power, prestige and the perks of political life.
Sure, politics in a fallen world does involve some compromise now and then. It does at times require some give and take. It can involve choosing the lesser of several evils. But that is quite different from those who say all the right things to a conservative and Christian audience, but do all the wrong things while in office.
That is not sensible compromise when needed, but whole-scale treason and betrayal. No wonder so many people (including Christians) become so disillusioned and frustrated with politics and politicians. It is so easy to fully despair and just want nothing to do with the whole lot.
I fully understand those feelings. I have them myself quite often. But as mentioned, we live in a fallen world, That means everything will be heavily tainted with sin and self, including politics – ESPECIALLY politics. Thus politicians will let us down so very often – even so-called Christian ones.
But complete withdrawal is not the answer. Unless God is specifically calling you to live in a cave somewhere and pull out of politics – and everything else – altogether, we are all going to be involved in politics one way or another. As Pericles in around 430 BC put it: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you!”
So even as nasty, dirty and corrupt things can get there, we all must still be at least somewhat involved. Christians must be the salt and light that is so very much needed there, even if they do not see all the best results, or even if they end up being hounded out of their own political party.
It was Paul who gave us this command: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
So at a bare minimum, all Christians should be praying for politicians and political leaders. Perhaps if we all did that, they might disappoint us a bit less.