They say that you should never discuss politics or religion in polite company. I’m not sure who said this, or exactly what they meant by it. (I know there’s an old Peanuts special that said something along those lines, though. The Great Pumpkin, I believe it was.) Why even have religion or politics if not to discuss? I love learning about politics and religion, but spreading the message is the true joy in these areas. I know when to hold my tongue and when to let loose, and it can occur in polite or less-than-polite company.
I’ll go ahead and break that rule, and also break another – don’t mix religion and politics. That would make sense if the two weren’t already amazingly intertwined. Although I’m no expert on theology, I do try to read the Bible regularly, and I do truly believe that the answers to all of life’s most difficult questions can be found in the Good Book. Not just what is right and wrong, but advice on the best ways to deal with people, and how to address different situations. Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve taken away from the Bible is that there is always more to learn, and some things will forever remain a mystery. There is a plan, but much of this plan is given to us on a “need-to-know” basis.
One pillar of conservatism that separates it from liberalism is how it views government. While liberals tend to welcome government, anticipating relief from problems of the world of scarcity in which we live, conservatives believe otherwise. Our view of the world is the tragic view – there are no solutions; only trade offs. Because no solutions exist, giving anyone power is a bad idea. As Lord Acton said over 100 years ago, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
But warnings against government power have been around for ages, long before Acton spoke his famous line. Around 1100 BC, Samuel was judge over Israel, but when Samuel retires the people do not want another judge. Instead, they want a King – a ruler.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” (1 Samuel 8:4)
Samuel came to God with the request of Israel – to have a king. God, although unhappy with the request, granted it. But it came with a warning.
Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights. (1 Samuel 8:9)
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.” (1 Samuel 8:10-17)
These verses are a direct parallel to what happens in tyrannical countries around the world. Kings take children and use them for war. Notice that these children are put on chariots in front of the king’s chariots. The king doesn’t fight the battle – the soldiers do. Presidents and Congress don’t fight wars; instead they send young Americans around the world.
The king will take the fruits of your labor, the best of your fields, vineyards, and groves, and give them to his attendants. Sound like crony-capitalism at all? Sound like a president taxing some, and then giving it others – perhaps his own friends?
This post wouldn’t be complete without the most important line regarding kings.
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. (1 Samuel 8:6-7)
The reason people always want a king, a dictator, a leader, a ruler, is because they are lacking a king in another part of their lives. People need something to have faith in, something to tell them that everything will be okay, something to save them. When there is a lack of God, people turn to something else – government. As Americans reject God, they will cry out for a King.