The Arrogance of Rehoboam – Han Holbein the Younger, 1530.
The Bible is filled with statements that touch on political philosophy, but perhaps none is more important than the words Jesus spoke to his disciples when they argued amongst themselves about who was the greatest. The disciples seemed to have taken their understanding of government from examples in the world around them. The Roman Caesars were the foremost models of leadership in the time of Christ, and they were typical of sort of proud men who have ruled in most times and places. In the words of Christ, they “lorded it over” the people. A bit closer to Judea, the Pharisees were of a similar cast of mind. They loved to be greeted with “rabbi, rabbi” and to have the best seats in the synagogues. They were the masters. The people were the servants
But Jesus had an entirely different view on those in authority. In his words, “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be you slave” (Matthew 26:26, 27). It is this teaching that forms the basis of the Western idea of government as a servant of the people. A notion that gained traction after the 16th century Reformation brought about the widespread preaching of, and belief in, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If the teachings of Christ laid the foundation for the idea of government as a servant, what would one expect to see if the Gospel were to fade from men’s consciousness but a reversion to the default position of mankind, rulers who lord it over the people? And this is just what we see happening today.
The Wall Street bailouts of 2008 are one example of this. I read recently that constituent calls to Congress ran 200 to 1 against the bailout. But it happened anyway. In the realm of politics, Hillary Clinton continues her bid for the White House while lugging more legal baggage than any candidate for any office I have ever seen. None of it seems to matter. her campaign goes on with hardly a peep from the mainstream media about the massive investigation surrounding her. In today’s world, being a master of the universe means, among other things, never having to say you’re sorry…or answer for your crimes. Donald Trump openly insults his rivals during televised debates. And an official from the Republican party recently told and incredulous CNBC panel that it is the party officials who choose the nominee for president, not the voters in the primaries.
Bailouts, likely criminals getting away with running for president, political parties that ignore the will of their own members, what is this, if not oligarchy? What is this, if not rulers lording it over the people. What is this, if not the very thing for which Christ rebuked his disciples?
Who will our governors be? Our servants, or our masters? It seems to me that this, more than anything else, is the central question of the 2016 election.
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