I’m often surprised by the naiveté of many American people. This, of course, is supposing that the problem isn’t ignorance. Or stupidity. Admittedly, I find myself in this camp of naiveteness too (yes, I made that up). To explain, naïve[i] means having or showing an excessively simple and trusting view of the world and human nature, often as a result of youth and inexperience or showing a lack of sophistication and subtlety or of critical judgment and analysis. It startles me that I can be so naïve. In fact, my personality would suggest I am perhaps a very cynical person. But I’m afraid it is true.
I’ve come to expect more from people. Too much I’m afraid. They’re constantly letting me down. The rate in the decline of the human condition is appalling. Can it be that we’re a morally and corrupt generation just like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah? It’s beginning to look that way more and more every day.
There is so much greed and corruption that it makes one’s head spin. Is it even possible to trust people in big government or big business? There are obviously those that care and do make a difference. From a human perspective, I think about Bill and Melinda Gates. Although I do not know enough about them to form an opinion on their character, it seems that Bill and Melinda Gates are principled people that care about others enough to pursue philanthropy and establish a foundation that supports areas of global health and learning[ii]. Then there are those, such as those mentioned in The Voice of the Martyrs[iii], who from a spiritual perspective care enough about people to share the gospel despite the possibility of persecution or even death. There a perhaps hundreds or thousands of examples of these kinds of concern for others. The thing that is striking is that when these type of events take place, they stand out because they’re not so common. Why is that? It shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the rule.
However, people who do good are becoming fewer and fewer these days and we’re left with people who are corrupt and unscrupulous. Those that will do anything to achieve their goals and objectives no matter what the cost. I used to think that government was the only problem, the major challenge our society faced. But I would be naïve to think that big business has my, or any of us for that matter, interests at heart. The fact is is that there is mounting evidence to the contrary. As the Bible shows us, money is the root of all kinds of evil[iv]. The Great Recession that began somewhere around 2007[v] is an example of that. Even before that there was Enron, Arthur Andersen LLP, and others that rocked the business community and affected many people in regards to their investments and future security[vi]; events which has deeply affected our economy.
Obviously this is not a new phenomenon. To think that would be naïve. No, it’s not new but it is becoming more prevalent. Or is this the way it has always been? Business and government commingled? If that is the case, then what is one to do? How can the common person have hope in a system that is inherently bent on evil? Can one truly oppose such a force?
That is the rub though, isn’t it? With Republicans and Democrats constantly fighting and arguing which constituent is more important (business or government), the common person finds himself (or herself) confused. It’s like we have to take sides, when in actuality taking one side over the other is a mistake in itself. We have been led to believe that one or the other is the right option; that we must choose. Now I know you’re going to say that business and government aren’t constituents. Sure, if you want to get into a meaningless discussion about semantics, that is true. But let’s be honest. The political realm isn’t about you or me, it’s about business or government; which side is going to hold the most power and/or influence.
If you think about it, it sort of makes sense, doesn’t it? We’re constantly being bombarded to decide which is more important. And why is that? For a country like ours that was founded by those who were great thinkers and had great vision, they were also certainly smart enough to know that big government can be bad but limited government still had a purpose. They even established a balance of powers to ensure that. It stands to reason that it should be the same between business and government. It makes sense that we need both. They both have their roles. But today, it’s a power grab between the two. Who can gain more power while destroying the other? During President Bush’s administration, we saw businesses flourish and taking advantage of the relaxed regulations. As a result, people who supported the Bush administration found themselves somewhat disillusioned. We thought unregulated business was the way to go. Of course, that wasn’t the only issue during that time. 9/11 brought us two wars that became politically unpopular. The result, of course, was a backlash against any ideology that President Bush was a part of. Good or bad.
So our country decided to go a different course. Whether we purposely decided to go completely the other direction, I don’t know. I don’t know what everyone was thinking. I do know people wanted a change. And change we got. President Obama has, for all intents and purposes, steered this country in a direction that it has never been before. We can call it socialism or we can call it something else, but one thing is clear is that government is going to have a greater control over our lives than ever before. Since President Obama has taken office, it has been clear that his intent is to take control. First came the bank bailouts (which in many ways the government has assumed control of), then came the stimulus package, and now the huge transfer of control of the healthcare system from the private sector to the public sector (i.e. the government). This hasn’t happened completely yet, but it will. If the balance of control doesn’t shift completely from businesses to government, it’s only because of what I mentioned before. They’re comingled.
This could explain then why there’s an outrage among a great number of the American population. Despite all the rhetoric about why it’s a good thing for the government to pass this health care plan, many people are rightly upset about the how and why this has taken place. There seems to be an understanding that something isn’t right about how it’s getting done. It’s not so much that people oppose to helping others who can’t afford health coverage. Most people can agree that the health care system, the way it was, was flawed and needed to be fixed. But there was much disagreement about the specifics of how to fix it. Republicans, for the most part, argued primarily on the basis of limited government and using business incentives to improve the system. For this idea to work, businesses need the support of the American people to make it happen. And we need government there to regulate and monitor them. Democrats, however, just seem to want complete control over the system.
The problem now is that government is gaining control. Who’s going to regulate and monitor them? You? Me? How many times have we seen the government do something underhanded and incur any real consequence? Who’s going to be their watchdog? That to me is the scary part. No one. Once government has its control, that’s when things are really going to get out of control. Consider what George Washington once said: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.
Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."[vii] Then it can only stand to reason that if we give up control to the government, then we’re giving up our freedom to manage our own lives and handing them over to a fearful master. John Adams said, "If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave."[viii]
So what do we do? My first inclination was to join the Tea Party movement. That still is an option on the table. Most of what I hear and read about them I agree with.[ix] You can check them out yourself at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_movement. But one thing I don’t hear or see is for those in the movement to seek God’s will and guidance. Sure, there may be those who say they are. But a lot of what I see are solutions that are derived from man. Throughout the Bible, the only time positive change really took place was when people submitted to God, repented, fasted, and prayed. Even our forefathers of the U.S. saw the need to seek God’s face and providence. Ben Franklin is to have said or penned these words[x]:
“My dear friend, do not imagine that I am vain enough to ascribe our success [Revolution] to any superiority…If it had not been for the justice of our cause, and the consequent interposition of Providence, in which we had faith, we must have been ruined. If I had ever before been an atheist, I should now have been convinced of the being and government of a Deity!”
—In a letter to William Strahan, August 19, 1784
“I must own I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler.”
—On the impact of Independence on generations of Americans during the Constitutional Convention
One thing I want to very cautious and aware of is not to suggest that we rebel against our government. Though the Tea Party sounds like a great idea, there seem to be those who would promote the idea that we need to secede or start a battle. Personally, I would love for us to secede, to have some kind of conservative utopia. But I’ve recently become aware that God has a different perspective.
In seeking how to respond to the current climate of our nation, I would like to interject with an email that I wrote to some close friends and relatives (rewritten slightly):
…let’s remember what the Bible says. It’s difficult to separate our beliefs and values to Biblical principles from the terrible things we see going on in government today, but one thing I see that I don’t do well with is the fact that Paul tells us in Romans to submit to governing authority. I read that at one point Paul wrote Romans when Nero was Emperor and right at the time when Nero had him imprisoned, tortured, and eventually killed (beheaded). To put this in context, here’s what Paul wrote:
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect (my emphasis); if honor, then honor.
The fact that Paul could pen these words when he knew how corrupt power, pride, greed, etc. were in his governmental institution, we need to think carefully before we speak or act on what we believe to be righteous anger against corruption. Paul went through much worse and somehow still had a reverent attitude. Believe me, I’m guilty of thinking and speaking wrongly about our current administration. I ask for forgiveness. I just pray that going forward I can respond appropriately against injustice and the corruption and pray that God’s will be done. I still intend to speak out against policies and actions that I believe are wrong Biblically, but I hope we all respond in a way that is not rebellious against God’s instituted authority.
Does that mean we can’t fight our current system of government? One thing I believe is that the Bible clearly shows us how we are to respond on a personal level. That’s what Paul was talking about in Romans. And that even seems to agree with how David responded to Saul when Saul was king and seeking to take David’s life. David had the utmost respect for the authority that God instituted.
But just like other issues in the Bible, there are times when Scripture speaks to us personally and times when Scripture speaks to us collectively as a people. If government is corrupt, and the people together decide to restructure government from an abusive power, then there is the possibility that God would permit that. You sort of get that picture with Israel throughout the Old Testament. Of course, our nation was founded on the fact we rebelled against the King of England. From what I have read, there were “just” reasons. It doesn’t appear that it was on a whim or led by mere emotions. There was a lot of thought, prayer, and agreement among Christians of that day before they acted. Let’s make sure that our reasons are “just” before we act.
So, though naïve as I was, and maybe still am, I think we need to pray and seek how God would have us to respond to these circumstances. If we go this along, without God, we will only be going into “battle” as the Israelites once did when they fought their enemies and lost because they didn’t have God’s blessing.[xi] But when God is involved, WATCH OUT! In the Bible, Jesus tells us in Matthew that, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."[xii]