‘Should Chris­tians vote?’ Is pol­i­tics a mo­ral evil?

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Glenville Ashby Dr Glenville Ashby is the au­thor of Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to En­light­en­ment and Cre­ativ­ity now sold as an au­dio­book. Feedback: glenvil­leashby@gmail.com or fol­low him on Twit­ter@glenvil­leashby

IT CAN be suc­cess­fully ar­gued that pol­i­tics has sown the seeds of the great­est of hu­man tragedies over the years.

Re­alpoli­tik, geopol­i­tics and hege­monic am­bi­tions have spurred cen­turies-old vendet­tas, cre­at­ing a cycli­cal caul­dron of en­mity and dis­trust. History bears out this truth.

But apol­o­gists have ar­gued that there is an in­nocu­ous, wor­thy side to pol­i­tics. They point to the good of democ­racy in pro­mot­ing equa­nim­ity and the rule of law.

They believe that the fail­ure of fas­cism, com­mu­nism, and theoc­ra­cies have left demo­cratic rule stand­ing vin­di­cated. Mul­ti­party sys­tems – the pol­i­tics of tol­er­ance and the tra­di­tion of west­ern-style democ­ra­cies are touted as the au­then­ti­cally vi­able means of pro­mot­ing the com­mon good.

But is there truth to this com­monly held be­lief? Not ac­cord­ing to some Chris­tians who have shunned in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics. They have dis­cour­aged vot­ing, cit­ing scrip­tural verses to bol­ster their po­si­tion.

In Should Chris­tians Vote?, Eric Snow ar­gued: “If He were on earth today, Je­sus cer­tainly would pub­licly con­demn var­i­ous sins our na­tion is guilty of, such as abor­tion. But he wouldn’t pol­lute Him­self by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a hu­man govern­ment that Satan con­trols (Matthew 4:8-9) and that His own ‘in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion’ shortly will re­place (Rev­e­la­tions 11:15, 17-18).”

Many, though, hold that Je­sus’ mes­sage was po­lit­i­cally trans­for­ma­tive. It chal­lenged our in­ner and outer en­vi­ron­ments. They can en­vi­sion the Chris­tian mes­siah ad­vis­ing to use rea­son, not emo­tion, as we search the hearts of those who prom­ise the world, and that we ren­der unto Cae­sar the things that are Cae­sars’s, while recog­nis­ing that in­ner Ja­maicans go­ing out to vote in the gen­eral elec­tion. The ques­tion be­ing asked is: Should Chris­tians vote? tran­quil­lity and con­tent­ment are never tied to a po­lit­i­cal party or ide­ol­ogy.

We live in a world churned by pol­i­tics and should be du­ti­ful while mindful that truth is found else­where.

And for this rea­son, ex­treme apo­lit­i­cal po­si­tions adopted by some Chris­tians have been rightly de­nounced. Un­doubt­edly, the world has seen mean­ing­ful change for some good, but change is never fluid. Some­times change is clothed in blood.

Po­lit­i­cal or apo­lit­i­cal, we all ben­e­fit from the sac­ri­fices of oth­ers. Blinded by ex­trem­ity, Chris­tian lead­ers, such as Snow, are clearly un­able to ar­tic­u­late their con­cerns in a mea­sured and more com­pre­hen­si­ble man­ner. But for all their short­com­ings, they have touched on a trou­bling side of pol­i­tics that has be­come the norm.

FEED­ING DIS­TRUST

Al­though we have fash­ioned our democ­ra­cies after Athe­nian po­lis and the spirit of Magna Carta, we have failed to meet the needs of the col­lec­tive good. Democ­ra­cies have grown to pro­mote and feed on divi­sion and dis­trust.

And po­lit­i­cal nar­cis­sism that buried

au­to­cratic states are very much alive in democ­ra­cies, only repack­aged for palata­bil­ity. Re­gard­ing the two-party sys­tem, I re­call Sir Arthur Lewis, who was crit­i­cal of this model of gov­er­nance.

“The op­po­si­tion and rul­ing par­ties,” he said, “are intent on gain­ing and main­tain­ing power at all costs even at the risks of di­vid­ing the pop­u­la­tion and de­stroy­ing lives ... . Often, the op­po­si­tion ex­ists merely as a to­ken that democ­racy ex­ists be­cause the op­pos­ing politi­cians dis­agree with bills and refuse to ap­prove leg­is­la­tion which are ben­e­fi­cial to the cit­i­zenry.”

This folly has de­stroyed the demo­cratic prin­ci­ple through­out the Caribbean. It has led to crony­ism, gang­ster­ism, cor­rup­tion, and the ero­sion of pro­duc­tiv­ity and na­tional ethos.

And in coun­tries such as Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, pol­i­tics is in­fected with racial poi­son, con­ve­niently ad­min­is­tered by politi­cians.

This ter­mi­nal prob­lem was laid bare after the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion in Trinidad and Tobago. Com­ment­ing on this par­a­sitic emo­tional ill­ness, Dr Dylan Ker­ri­gan ar­gued that such racist things through so­cial me­dia are ba­si­cally a deeper man­i­fes­ta­tion of deeper philo­soph­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal prob­lems that are em­bed­ded in our so­ci­ety.

In the United States po­lit­i­cal fis­sures are caused by com­pet­ing val­ues – con­ser­vatism vs lib­er­al­ism, and as­crib­ing the colours of red (con­ser­va­tive) and blue (lib­eral) to states.

The up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the United States has po­larised the na­tion.

SUP­PORT FOR DON­ALD TRUMP

In Hol­ly­wood, a lib­eral hot­bed, some con­ser­va­tive ac­tors have charged that they have been black­balled for sup­port­ing Don­ald Trump. An­to­nio Sa­bato Jr com­plained on na­tional tele­vi­sion that after re­turn­ing from the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion, jobs that were al­ready lined up “weren’t there any­more”.

And in Texas, a Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling poll found that 61 per cent of Trump sup­port­ers threaten to se­cede if Hil­lary Clin­ton wins the White House.

Dur­ing his ac­cep­tance speech as the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for Illi­nois’ se­nate in 1858, Abra­ham Lincoln culled the bi­b­li­cal verse: “If a house is di­vided against it­self, it can­not stand.”

It re­mains a haunt­ing re­minder that pol­i­tics ig­nites our worst im­pulses. In­deed, pol­i­tics can be a mo­ral evil – a de­lib­er­ate thought or ac­tion that is con­trary to our hu­man­ity and essen­tial good­ness.

Today, in par­tic­u­lar, when politi­cians prom­ise the heav­ens, the im­mor­tal words of Euripi­des scream for at­ten­tion: “When one with hon­eyed words but evil mind per­suades the mob, great woes be­fall the state.”

If He were on earth today, Je­sus cer­tainly would pub­licly con­demn var­i­ous sins our na­tion is guilty of, such as abor­tion. But he wouldn’t pol­lute Him­self by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a hu­man govern­ment that Satan con­trols ... .

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