As I write this, those of us in Washington State will have an
opportunity to vote in the presidential primary election later today.
Perhaps a quarter to a third of us will bother.
Anyone who has fought a political battle knows it is a great contest.
Feelings and ideas coalesce around candidates and initiatives. Like
great armies, believers on both sides mobilize for the fight to install
their vision of the future over the next four years of national life. To
advance their cause, they will give of their time, money and persuasive
force. Some of us will be moved enough by this great contest to choose
sides and vote. We will determine the winner. When it is over, all will
be exhausted; during the next four years, all will be disappointed.
Finally, each of us will, over the next four years, be held accountable
for how we voted or failed to vote, through the actions of those we set
in power over us.
All of which is not to say that the contest is a noble one, or that
all the participants are moved by their higher motives. Some assuredly
are; many are not. Take the media, for instance. The major networks
could agree to set aside a fixed block of time for political parties and
candidates to debate and discuss the issues, to make their point, if you
will. It seems a small thing to ask given their free use of the public
airwaves for no higher purpose than to sell us sex, violence, sorcery
and soap during our earthly lives. But then such generosity might lead
to a fall in revenue, which could in turn deprive one of the faceless
media executives of a limo ride to the airport through a section of town
where people actually practice the wanton violence that so many media
programs sell us.
Nor are big business and unions motivated by their altruistic visions
of an America that might be. Oh, they have dreams — but they look
different than the dreams of ordinary Americans. Their dreams are of
worldwide marketplaces devoid of competition, regulation, and filled
with docile consumers who never question the terms of the sale, provided
the payment is affordable. They dream of influence and control over an
election in which they have never been given a vote. When they dream in
color and sound, it is of politicians who, once bought, stay bought.
Nor are the politicians that are bought, sold, molded and shaped in
the fire of public life all that we would hope. Some are corrupt. Some
are incompetent. Some are simply of limited ability. All are fallen
creatures, transplanted into the pressure cooker of moral and ethical
choices few have had a chance to prepare for. In the end, all of them
will fail us in one way or another. In the main, perhaps the measure of
their success will be the price of what their personal failure cost our
nation. Did their bribe have the appearance of legality? Was their favor
small? Or did they sell our national defense and integrity to finance
their vision of perpetual reign?
Thus, if in the midst of the great contest we begin to believe that
human history is our story alone, we shall indeed become disheartened.
For the record as a whole is not good. I suspect that an impartial judge
hearing the evidence of humanity’s hopes and dreams — balanced against
the stark reality of our actions — might be inclined to temper his
verdict with mercy, but nevertheless confine us to an eternity at hard
labor. As our politics so clearly show, even in the midst of our
heartfelt desire to fight for the good as we see it, we are prepared to
embrace the evil that appears necessary to advance our good agenda.
But as the world so clearly indicates, for those of us with eyes to
see, human history — the Greeks called it destiny — is not limited to
our efforts. At once infinitely distant, and yet — to those who are
joined to the Eternal Kingdom now intimately present — dwells God. He
once and for all time demonstrated the level of His love and concern for
us when two millennia ago He hung on a cross and let us kill Him. He
demonstrated His power when three days later he walked out of the tomb
we buried Him in. For as Dallas Willard so cogently writes near the end
of “The Divine Conspiracy” (1998, HarperSanFrancisco):
“Human history is then no longer a human affair. It is Someone Else’s
project. Similarly for the individual human life: We are not puppets,
either on the group or the individual level. But what is really going on
is not, after all, what we are doing. The prophetic word, once again, is
that ‘a man’s way is not in him, nor is it in a man who walks to direct
his steps’ (Jeremiah 10:23). Similarly for nations and epochs (Isaiah.
4:12-26). Instead of being the main show, we are of significance only as
a — very important — part of an immense struggle between immense
forces of good and evil.”