Thursday, February 28, 2008

Election Reflection

Do not put your trust in princes. Psalm 146:3

In this amazing U.S. presidential election season, where neither party started with a clear heir-apparent, campaign rhetoric has gravitated toward two poles. One is an almost messianic fervor for candidates as though they will rescue the country. The other is a demonizing the opposing candidates as though they will doom the country. As hopes and fears intensify, losing sight of the whole complex of government and international politics also clouds the perception of God's hidden hand in human events. I am not at all suggesting that God manipulates elections so the "right" candidate wins, but that eternal forces are at work with more profound significance and power than transitory circumstances.

I am not suggesting this means voting doesn't matter or that we shouldn't make our voting decisions with prayerful and careful research, but I do think looking at all of this from God's perspective can spare us from unwarranted hope and fear. The Psalm also suggests the kind of values godly people should be looking for in government and political candidates: consistency with the character and concerns of God. (vv. 7-9)

[One] who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

This is a remarkable match with Luke 4:18-19 where Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

It is fully consistent with the expectations for the king expressed in Deuteronomy 17:16-20. While the theocratic and hereditary dimensions of those expectations clearly don't apply in a democratic, secular, pluralistic society like the U.S., the implications about character, power and wealth are right on target.

He must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since the LORD has said to you, “You must never return that way again.” And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself. When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel.

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