Who is qualified to rule?

It has been almost 7 years since my first post on politics.  My views have not changed much.  It is still generally the same shape, maybe a slightly different shade.  Time does that.

I have heard my father on more than one occasion lament that he had never voted for anyone, only against someone else.  There is always disappointment in his voice when he says it.

I have not written it in a post here before, but I believe that a requirement for someone to hold high office is that they do not want to do it.  If they want the office, it is an indication they are unqualified to rule.  Two of the United States’ greatest presidents were that way.  Both Washington and Lincoln did not want the office but rather accepted it as something they must do, knowing that it would be better for them personally to seek other activities.

Why is that important?  For any man to rule over another, rights must be surrendered from one to the other.  This is an exchange that should be entered into reluctantly.  A good man will not seek to rule another.  And the other ought not to seek to be under the yoke of a man.  It is a requirement for the functioning of society, but it should be seen as a necessary evil, a civic duty not to be celebrated.  A true leader should humbly and reluctantly accept his duty, just as those who are led should reluctantly follow.

It is not human nature to consider what is best for society, but only what is best for oneself.  There are many exceptions to that rule, but I still hold that it is a rule.  That means from time to time someone will arise that truly is a good leader.  However, there will never be a mob of self disinterested people pushing forward that good leader.  In fact, more and more often, the good leaders are marginalized because of those same factors.  There is not enough selfish interest to amass behind a good leader, there is nothing to please the masses.  Whenever we see people overly excited about a politician, we should be worried.  There are many historical analogies to draw from to illustrate this point, choose your favorite.

I think my father has it just right.  We should never vote for anyone, we should always except to vote for the lesser of evils and vote against the greater.  But where does that leave us?  If I follow this logic to its conclusion, I will always be on the losing side.  Who is going to be excited about someone who does not want the job?  It is the losing side, but it is merely temporary.

Ancient Athens had something close to a direct democracy.  They called it δημοκρατία – demokratia – democracy.  The franchised people, those who could vote, directly voted on issues relating to their government.

The Romans further developed the idea of a republic.  They used the ideas from Greek philosophers like Plato and his πολιτεία – politeia – republic (loosely).  People were elected to represent others in the government.

Neither of those words appear in the bible.  We do find another ancient Greek word when it comes to government, it is βασιλεία – Basileia – Kingdom, or βασιλεύς – Basileus – King.

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom (βασιλεία) of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 NKJV

 

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING (βασιλεύς) OF KINGS (βασιλεύς) AND
LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16 NKJV

There will be no question about Christ’s fitness to rule, nor will there be a vote taken.  Heaven is not a democracy, nor will we be forced to submit ourselves to the will of men.  But we must wait for the right time.

Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king(βασιλεύς), He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. John 6:15 NKJV

It was not the right time then, it is not the right time now.  For now we suffer, something I have written a lot about. (See the Heart Know series, and Romans 8:18-25)

Tis the season

If you are a regular reader here, you know that I do not often post about politics.  I find it makes me feel like I need to wash my hands.  That does not mean that I am deaf to politics, part of me kind of enjoys watching the games that are played.  However, when the Giants beat the Patriots, very few people’s lives were ruined (except maybe the betting kind, and they brought that on themselves).  Politics can, and usually does, destroy lives.

That is why it was so offensive for me to see Christ used as a political ploy.  At the National Prayer Breakfast, the President said the following:

But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs — from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

I do not want to blame government for how messed up it is.  Josef Heller said, “In democracy you get the government you deserve. Alternately you deserve the government you got.”  Government that is, “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is an expression of the society in which it exists.

Society is broken. The Church is broken.  The separation of church and state was a great idea of the founding fathers.  However, the Church in the United States never took up its obligation for its responsibilities.  The countries in Europe where most of the American settlers came from had a state church.  That meant that the state, through the role of the church, had the responsibility to care for its body.  With the separation in the United States, no one took up this role.  Then, seeing the vacuum that had been created, certain men, maybe even with good intentions, lead the government into that void.

The President was quoting from the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  I would like you to read another quote about that Parable.

Dean Brown of Yale University has said that three classes of men that represent three philosophies of life are brought before us in this parable. First is the Thief: His philosophy of life says, “What you have is mine.” This is socialism or communism. The second is the Priest and Levite: His philosophy of life says, “What I have is mine.” This is rugged individualism that has gone to seed. His cry is, “Let the world be damned, I will get mine.” This is godless capitalism. Third is the Good Samaritan: His philosophy says, “What I have belongs to you.” This is a Christian philosophy of life. “What I have is yours if I can help you.”

It is a matter of the heart.  You can force people to do something, but that does nothing to change someone’s heart.  God is concerned about your heart, not what you do, but why you do it.

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Not go and make your neighbor do likewise.

The Church has failed in caring for its own body.  That failure begins and ends with me.  What am I doing?  Why am I doing it?

Thugs?

The City Council of Nairobi decided that many of the informal shops we call the kiosks (ask Dan Z. what kiosk means), needed to be torn down.  At 3 AM they came in, some witnesses said with 2 tractors, and dozed a bunch of areas.  Much of the damage was clearly done with something mechanized.  The first 3 pictures above show the damage.  It was a bad Friday for many of these people, on Good Friday.

Cammy saw it first as she drove by on the way back from the store.  I was going to head to the butcher to get some sausages for the workers I hired to work on the wall for the lot across from the house (more on that later).  Cammy said the situation looked hot so maybe it was a bad idea. I went anyway, just to get a feel for things.  Fortunately I have a lot of friends down there, and I am not part of the City Council.  They saw me as an insider and many people were more than willing to talk about what happened.

Most of them realize they are in a gray area regarding the law.  They have no permission to be occupying the land where they are.  However, the City Council walks around every day and takes 25 shillings from each of them.  The situation is complicated by the vendors inside the market.  They are paying rent and are in direct competition with many of the vendors outside.  So some people were convinced that the vendors inside convinced (with “kitu kidogo,” something little) the City Council to destroy the illegal stalls.

I had a friend, John Nakhumwa, coming over that day.  He saw the destruction on his way over and asked if it was thugs that had done the damage.  I said, “It was the City Council… um… yes?”

It was a long weekend, both Good Friday and Easter Monday were public holidays.  That means it was potentially one of the highest possible revenue weekends for many of the vendors.  They spent it salvaging any inventory they had left and supplies to rebuild their stalls.  If you recall what I wrote about damaged property, they had to do something quick or it would all disappear.

Compare the two pictures above on the left.  From Friday to Monday things were almost back to the way they were.  That is another thing that is a bit frustrating.  There is no follow up.  They come in, doze the place, then leave, and they are back collecting fees on Tuesday like nothing happened.

One of the guys I talked to said, “And this is the government we elected!”

Independance Day

Yesterday was July 4th.  Since we are separated from many of the things that would reinforce the meaning of the day, in the morning I asked Petr if he knew what the day meant.  He answered that it was America’s Birthday.  While that is a good answer, I figured he was old enough to know a bit more. So I explained a bit more to him and thought it through myself.

While it is in a sense the day the USA was born, nothing really happened on that day of physical significance.  It was a culmination of an idea that was set forth.  It then had to be fought over to gain any merit, and then be put into practice to test it out.

The idea that was put forth was that the government was for the people and not the people for the government.  It seems quite simple, and fundamental.  Yet I think there are too many people who need to be reminded of it, many of whose authority I live under, both here in Africa, and as a US citizen.

On a lighter note, we had a good time getting together with a bunch of Americans for a great BBQ and  potluck.  We even had 3 Germans, 2 Australians and a Chinese.

God Bless America.

The Pharisee Effect

I very rarely post about politics, and this post is only tangent to a political discussion.  This observation has application to life anywhere.

When I was attending UCSD with my cousin, we used to play pick up basketball on Friday afternoons.  We would form a team of 5 from the people waiting to play.  When the game on the court finished, the winning team would then play us.  If we won, we played again, if we lost we left the court, and another team played against the winners.

The process that any organization goes through depends on the structures that are set up to control it.  However, those structures are less and less meaningful if they are not enforced.  Think of it like a game, two teams competing to win.  If there is no referee around to punish infractions against the rules, or the referee is too weak, the game gets out of hand.  The rules get broken and nothing happens.  This leads to more rules being broken.  In the minds of the players, they are doing whatever it takes to win, and that goal, above all, directs their actions.  Sports are not really about winning.  They are about competing.  By losing the structure, they have lost all the meaning of the game.

This is exactly what happened in Jesus day.  The Pharisees had learned to play the game.  They bent the rules to their advantage to such a degree that it put them in power.  Then the rules had no other meaning other than keeping them in power.  When someone came on the scene to challenge them, they killed him.  We all know about Jesus, but he was not the only one they destroyed (just the most important).

The purpose, the vision, the constitution of any organization is the structure.  If those rules are not adhered to, the organization will fail in its purpose.  It will no longer be about the vision of the organization, it will be about empowering a group of people.  Those people will do whatever it takes to “win.”  They will bend the rules, reinterpret them to their advantage.  They will learn how to use every loophole.  They will resist any changes to the rules as they have reformed and learned to use.  When someone comes along challenging their way, they will be destroyed.

Winner stays.

Politicians

I know I had said I do not like to post on politics, but being here in Kenya has given me a different perspective on a lot of things. I do not have the time now to go into it all (I am posting from my phone), but I heard a great quote on the radio here. “Politicians are like bananas, they hang out together, they are all yellow, and none of them are straight.”

The Individual Gospel

Searching over the commands of Jesus, I find they are made mostly to the individual. He was not concerned about a community, it was all about a one on one relationship with God.

It is completely within God’s power to visit the sick, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. He has armies of angels and He owns the “cattle on a thousand hills.” So why is the command to do these things given to the individual human, to me? Because His commandment is not so that people will be visited, fed and clothed, but that I will do it, and in so doing, I am changed (just as I am changed by prayer). They, too, will be changed, by receiving the love of God. However, that is not the significant part, angels could also show God’s love. Yet He chooses me, the individual, to accomplish His noble calling.

God certainly speaks through circumstances and other people, but decisions should not be based on what “they” are doing. There is no such thing as a “social gospel.” I ought to respond to the will of God in my life. That will motivate me to reach out to others, but not because they need it, because the love of God and His Spirit compel me to do it. Serving God does not mean finding like minded people, it means serving God. Most often that will be with like minded people, but they are not my motivation.

I cannot view the world as the world views itself. I cannot make judgments based on worldly wisdom. I must follow Christ’s example and God’s will for my life. I am only (yet ultimately) responsible for myself.

I put this in the Politics category because it has a lot of obvious political implications.  I know this sort of thinking will upset a lot of people, so all the more reason to put it there.