Monday, 01 October 2012
The other evening in our study group, I made the off-handed remark that I wasn’t all that political. Once the ‘belly-laughter’ subsided -- three or four are Facebook friends of mine, and they know better -- I made my point.
There are Bible believing people who are convinced that politics have no place in the life of the believer-Period! They imagine themselves to be ‘above’ the fray of the dirty world of politics and the dingy process of political conversation. They look down their noses at those of us who would lower ourselves in such mindless minutia and drivel. They consider themselves to be more ‘spiritual’ than us ‘bottom feeders’ who passionately engage others in the political process. It is an entirely ‘hands off’ approach to life for them.
It is this kind of thinking which leads some to the idea that they will simply place the whole matter of political outcomes into the ‘Hands of God’. It’s the thinking which leads one to say; "You know what?-I’m not going to do anything in regard to this whole mess. Instead, I’m going to entrust it into the hands of God and let Him work it out for me!" And in their smugness, they may even choose not to vote because ultimately, nothing they do is going to really matter all that much anyway.
As a result, they simply satisfy themselves with reading their Bibles and praying with the High Holy attitude that they will avoid getting their lily white spiritual hands soiled and just let Him take care of all that ‘messy stuff’. Isn’t that what God is for, after all?!
But do we actually get away from the tawdry elements of politics by ignoring what goes on around us and burying our noses in the ‘squeaky clean’ and holy pages of our sacred Bibles? Think again! I ‘Double-Dog-Dare’ (No! ‘Triple-Dog-Dare’) you to read the book of Esther clean through, and then tell me that politics should have no place whatsoever in our lives!
Esther opens within the very realm of politics. The king of Persia felt he must depose his queen Vashti because she had openly refused to display her beauty to the king’s dignitaries from all over the Persian Kingdom who were assembled at his grand feast. His advisors suggested that news of her refusal would spread throughout the Persian Empire and wives everywhere would follow Vashti’s example and refuse to show proper respect and obedience to their husbands--an intolerable situation!
Young damsels from all over the kingdom were gathered together at the palace in Susa from which one would be selected as the new queen. Enters a Jew named Mordecai (the cousin of Esther), who brought her into this royal contest where she was finally selected to be Xerxes‘ new queen.
Some time later, Mordecai who was an attendant in the king’s court, thwarted a plot to assassinate the Persian king. And still later, there was an even more extensive and insidious threat directed against the entire race of Jews throughout the empire of Persia. Haman, a high government official in the king’s court championed this legal attempt to wipe every jew from off the face of the earth. The remainder of this story recounts the various political maneuvering and intrigues that eventually brought Haman’s royal standing and life to an ignoble end in his wicked scheming against Mordecai, Esther and their people.
I suppose the part of this story that intrigues me the most is Esther’s refusal to do what we might call ‘taking the high road’ in all of this. Once Haman had convinced King Xerxes to issue the public decree that all Jews should be put to death on such and such a date, Mordecai sent Queen Esther a warning concerning this new law:
"Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this."
Esther 4:13-14 [NIV]
Esther could have decided that she need not risk her life for her people by appearing before the king in the King’s court uninvited. She could have chosen not to ‘dirty’ her hands in this matter. She need not do this. Why not whole heartedly trust God to do what was needed in rescuing her people from certain extinction? After all, wouldn’t that be the more spiritual thing to do? Instead, Esther actually chose to do something about the situation! She acted and in that action her people were spared annihilation!And through it all, God in human politics was the elephant standing in the middle of the room.No, He is not mentioned anywhere in the book, but He was there and He was very much involved in the politics of that book as they played out in each and every scene.
In the 1930's and 40's, Dietrich Bonhoffer, an eminent Lutheran scholar early on opposed the emerging Nazi Regime in Germany. He recognized almost immediately the extreme danger posed by Hitler, its leader, whose power had morphed into the Nazi Party. Hitler’s ambitions were set into motion as he ramped up the armaments of the German army. Before long, the Third Reich began its anticipated conquest of Europe through the invasion of Poland. Bonhoffer joined the German underground resistance to the Nazis and later became an active participant in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and put an end to the madness. In 1945, the plot to end Hitler’s life was uncovered and Bonhoffer along with six other co-conspirators were hung.
Why would Bonhoffer, a believer, allow himself to be involved in such a scheme? Do you suppose it had anything to do with the many people that he saw suffering? Large numbers of them had lost their jobs and businesses. They had lost their homes. In fact by the time he joined the conspiracy, many--many were losing their lives. By the end of the war, the lives of eleven million people (six million were Jews) had been snuffed out. As a Christian, perhaps though he may have been opposed to the murder of one man, he was even more opposed to the murder of hundreds of thousands and millions of people!
A lot of people in Germany probably had a lot of faith in God to take care of the things that they tried not to see--that they tried to think was beyond anything they could do. They probably thought they should leave it in God’s hands and believed He would do what needed to be done. So they did nothing. Dietrich Bonhoffer did something, but he failed. And in that failure, was he wrong? What if he and the others had succeeded in killing Hitler? Would that have made a world of difference? Would that have elevated him to a place at the side of Esther and Mordecai as a hero? But he failed! Did that make him a fool--or stupid--or a sinner? On the day of Bonhoffer’s execution, the sun went down in the West and the next morning, the sun came up in the East. Life. . . and death marched on.
If you actually allow yourself to mull it over in your head, you might conclude that Bonhoffer gave up his life for politics. Was it worth it? Was it that God-awful important? Why did he do it? I don’t think it was for the purpose of notoriety or fame or financial gain. I think, of course, it had to do with the deep grief he experienced in seeing the massive numbers of people suffering, and his desire to see that suffering end in the death of Hitler. But I think it was deeper still! I think he did what he did because he was convinced beyond a doubt that this was what he had to do because he was convinced this was what his God was demanding of him. He could not do anything less than what he had chosen to do.
During his involvement in the Resistance Movement, do you suppose Bonhoffer ever got strange looks from members of his family during holiday dinners or family gatherings? How many times did they ‘roll their eyes’ as he entered the room or make condescending remarks indicating that they considered him to be a ‘loon’ or even a ‘bottom feeder’ on the ladder of life because of his political involvement and idiotic ‘life’ choices? But he obviously had chosen to believe in God so much, that to do nothing was totally unacceptable to him in the conviction that God was demanding that he do something. And something he did. And it cost him his life.
[I don’t think Dietrich Bonhoffer particularly liked what he felt compelled to do, and neither do I, by the way!]What do you think is the role of religion, faith and scripture in politics? Where in scripture can we look to determine whether we are meant to be involved in politics and in what way we should be involved?