Jesus attacked religious leaders – in particular the Pharisees – for multiplying laws and taboos to ensure righteousness but effectively pushing people away from the loving God who was trying to gather them into his kingdom.
American politics have secularized the Pharisaic method. No matter how good things might be, we amplify the problem and call for a response by the government.
- Violent crime rates are falling to historic lows, yet calls for the government to “do something,” even at the cost of Constitutional rights, are more and more shrill.
- Although we are more likely to be killed in a bathtub accident than by a terrorist, the calls to carpet bomb, deport, “list” and otherwise preemptively eliminate perceived threats – and to curtail our own rights in order to enable this – are standard fare in the endless election season.
- Debate over the extent of environmental degradation and the capacity of humans to accelerate or curb it has moved beyond science to calls for heresy trials.
We default to a pseudo-priestly caste to declare and then do something about a metastasizing list of problems. And there are plenty of aspirants to that priesthood filling publicly funded positions to do something about this, that and the other thing.
1 Samuel 8:10-20 is worth reading as we invest more and more power in government:
So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
More terrifying is the peoples’ response, which sounds like it could be right out of a contemporary on-the-street voter interview. “A leader to decide and do it all for us.”
But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
It is a sad time as our nation descends into the craving for authoritarian “solutions.” We lament political “gridlock” and bewail the hypocrisies of right and left while we without irony invest politicians with more and more of our daily lives, at greater expense to each of us and all of us.
For those whose fealty is with a king not of this present world, here’s the good news:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)
But our enslavement to mortal rulers is going to hurt a lot along the way to the eternal kingdom that is to come.