A Tale of Two Powers

 

The news is all in a twist about the elections, and for once they have something a little right: the elections are important. However, there’s another half to the story that doesn’t get adequately discussed.

There are two halves of national prosperity and power: the virtue of each individual, and the policies put forth by the government. These two elements must be in perfect balance. Where there is little virtue, there must be a plethora of governmental policies. Where the people govern themselves, there is little need of formalize restriction.

On the other hand, if the government gets out of line, it can have a detrimental effect on the moral dignity of the people. I once taught in a Catholic high school under a new principal who came into our sweet, small, Mid West institution and began treating our students like they were gangsters. Within just a few weeks of having to march through metal detectors and being slammed up against lockers and patted down for drugs that the students began acting out; they became what the principal thought of them. When he disappeared that spring (another story altogether) it took only a few days for the kids to snap back to the fun young people they had been before. What a lesson in leadership that was for me, a new teacher.

This very thing, on a much larger scale, has happened to our country; the morality-to-government ratio has gotten out of whack. Some of it is our fault.

We are at an all-time moral low – not just in behavior, but in thought as well. We no longer have the background knowledge with which to think or the backbone to use what little information we have. Our national bullsh*t detector malfunctions so often that Hillary Clinton actually has followers. What’s more, our thinking seems to rotate no further from ourselves than our own immediate circumstances, which has resulted in record high arrogance ratings.

Just haul out the Ten Commandments, dust them off and have a look. We do have other gods before the Creator of the Universe and we even deny that He did the creating. In fact, we have so little respect for the Lord of Lords that we don’t hesitate to use His holy name in any way we want.  We ignore our parents; we kill indiscriminately – look at the murder rate in Chicago, or at the abortion stats, or at the Clinton body count.  No one is particularly shocked by those things. No one is shocked by adultery, either. We steal, both personally and corporately (I mean that word both ways.). Evidently we now esteem people who lie or Hillary wouldn’t have one foot back in the White House. And who can deny that we’ve made coveting a national past time? Wanting what others have is one of the main planks in the Democratic platform.

But we are also in trouble as far as governmental policy goes.
Our economy has struggled through financially unsound principles for decades and the last 8 years have been horrendous. Never in history has a president put us so far into debt. Never has an administration failed so miserably to stimulate production and create jobs. We have before us the unfolding saga of Venezuela and yet our current policies are morphing into theirs.
Our national sovereignty is collapsing around our ears because we no longer recognize our own borders, or respect our own language, or see ourselves as worthy of protection from foreign invasions. Those making policy see us a subordinate to the United Nations and make policy accordingly, regardless of the United States Constitution.
Healthcare rules and regulations have made good medicine even more difficult to attain – doctors and nurses quitting in droves, insurance costs skyrocketing, care becoming de-personalized and hurried.
Our attitude toward our enemies is astonishingly naïve. We keep debilitating and demoralizing our military and our police while both crime and terror flourish.

I could go on and on, but we know all this. My point is that these are parallel developments. People who are honest with them selves don’t make bad policy decisions. People who care about those beyond them selves don’t make those mistakes, either. People who have been raised in well ordered, loving, God-aware families tend to make more reliable, mature, and rational decisions. Those who were raised with a respect for the property rights of others are not as likely to develop policies that allow them to help themselves to other people’s money.  Do you see the connection?

Question: does it work the other way around? Can policy changes affect public morality? Yes – leadership, good leadership can have good effects and can do so indirectly.  Policies that encourage families to stay together, that encourage churches and private education to flourish, that produce financial security and opportunity do prepare the soil for the planting of good decisions and clear thinking.

Does this good leadership have to be a perfect moral example? That would be nice. I think of the young Josiah and his effect on a staggering Israel. He returned the country to an awareness of God and His will for His people. Perhaps in Ted Cruz we might have had that experience. But here we have to flip the coin again.

We are a people who value audacity and determination, but we also respond to flamboyance and outlandish risk-taking. We are used to sparkling squirrels – oh, look! Can we switch cold turkey from flash-and-dazzle to predictable, methodical morality? Evidently not. Many of us would have liked that, but since it isn’t, in reality, an option, what can be done?

We can turn from the outrageous immoral and mendacious sneakiness of the Obama/Clinton view of things and move to someone who does have some of our moral values – hard work, family, risk-taking, determination, clear financial thinking, realistic understanding of human nature. We can do that. And we can pressure him into policies that will foster the growth of a moral backbone in the everyday American. We don’t need a purist to turn the corner. I doubt we could have stood the shock of a moral perfectionist at this point in our history, anyway and I doubt that any man or woman who actually wants the most stressful, dangerous, exhausting job on the planet is ever entirely sane.

God is being gracious here. If a Ted Cruz could not capture the American psyche in the primaries, it’s silly to think a similar person could come jumping out of the election cake at the last minute and sweep the general election. Americans are realists – or we used to be. This frustrating reality could be tragic, but God is being gracious, as He always is. He has inspired an unlikely and unusual man to run for this overwhelming office, a man who, though flawed, has what it takes to capture the American psyche and who knows how to be successful. He is a man who knows how to delegate to the hyper-competent, how to capture the imagination and how to bandage our wounds. He’s not the faith healer some of us want, but he may be able to get us to a place, to a grotto where we may find a saint to follow later.

We need to get our powers back in balance, but evidently God knows we can’t handle the adjustment in one fell swoop. We’ve been very ill and it will take a while to recover. Let us be patient and remember that God works in creative and astonishing ways. Let’s be as right as we can be, given our choices, and wait on the wisdom of the Lord.