Morning prayer for yesterday, October 11, included the recitation of Psalm 118. What stood out for me from the psalm was the exhortation:
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
Our country is in the throes of a very contentious election, accompanied by other struggles that are stirring the national pot to a degree I don’t recall in my lifetime. Both Trump and Biden openly question whether or not the election will be legitimate, and the specter of riots in our streets threatens regardless of who wins. We remain deeply in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that doesn’t seem to be abating, but continues to hit various parts of the country and the world with new waves of infection. Violence continues to boil over in many cities, first having targeted downtowns and businesses, and now attacking suburbs and private residences. There is evidence of the worst kind of political intrigue, that the Clinton campaign drummed up the charge that Trump and his campaign had colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, even as Joe Biden faces accusations that his son used his father’s position as Vice President to profit from illicit business arrangements with foreign powers. Mistrust in the media remains low, and no one with any sense reads or watches the news anymore without wondering if what they’re reading or watching is true or the efforts of the news organization to manipulate people’s thinking toward one political/social agenda or another. Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, faces what promises to be a grueling confirmation process, because even the Supreme Court is considered fair game by political hacks now. Fires continue to burn in California, and Louisiana has just suffered a hit from a second major hurricane in less than two months.
It can all seem so overwhelming, because it is overwhelming. The temptation to run and hide, to just turn everything off and curl up in bed with the covers over your head is strong. Of course, that isn’t an option for those who love the Lord and love their country. Running and hiding is never an option for us. After the sacking of Rome by the Vandals and Moors, the Church did not run and hide from the new challenges that faced a West suffering a vacuum of political and social leadership. Rather, the Church filled the void by providing a structure for the people who lived in Europe and relied on the leadership of bishops and abbots to preserve western civilization and Christianity itself.
I’m certainly not saying that we are facing anything like the fall of the Roman Empire. But, we are seeing a lack of serious, selfless leadership that used to, at least in theory, define what public service was all about. That’s why it was called public service. The idea was that sacrifices of ambition and profit in the private sector would be made in order to serve the public good. Let’s face it, with rare exception in today’s atmosphere that concept seems laughable. Politicians serve for decades representing states or districts that seem to benefit little from their “service,” while the politicians themselves profit greatly in both wealth and power. As well, there is little thought given to what is good for the country as opposed to what is good for the party or the politician.
In times like this, the words of Psalm 118 can’t help but ring true. The fact of the matter is, we are being represented in Congress and in the White House by a group of millionaires and billionaires who can’t agree on a stimulus package that will help people who have lost their jobs and are at risk of losing their homes without exploiting it for their own political gain or financial profit. How can we look to these people for any measure of hope in the midst of our trials?
The purpose of government is essentially to provide order to society. That means creating a society where a person can walk down a street with a reasonable assumption of safety, work at a job with a reasonable assumption of being able to provide for his or her family, and turn the faucet with a reasonable expectation that warm water will run out of it. Keep the streets safe, secure a level playing field for opportunity, and pick up the garbage. Safety, fairness, and public services. That’s what government is for. After that, please leave me alone. Why are these people controlling and manipulating so much of the energy, time and resources of their constituents? Why does anyone want them to?
I will vote this year as I have every year. I will try as best I can to decipher what is true versus what is hooey from the news. But, I will also prepare my soul as best I can to not rely on these people, or trust their promises, or place confidence in their assurances. I will take refuge in the Lord. After all, the day may yet come when my faith will be challenged in a way much more profoundly than that of avoiding getting angry and cursing these politicians when I turn on the TV.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.