Worthy political platform?

By | April 7, 2011

Some wonder if politicians in either party are in touch with constituents. If they do have the correct pulse of the public, they often seem unconcerned with it unless it fits their party’s interests.

No doubt, politics — like death and taxes — will always be with us. Psalm 146 warned: “Put no trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save” (v. 3). Jesus, when the Pharisees tried to trap him in a political question, declared “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22:21).

Of course, Jesus did not evade the politics of his time either. While his death was not political — rather it was part of the great mystery of salvation wrought by God — his death did take place in a political milieu. Pilate, Herod, the chief priest and others all used Jesus for their own agenda.

A Frank Capra film from 1939 comes to mind when elections roll around. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” starring Jimmy Stewart, was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but had its share of controversy. It outraged members of Congress. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy said releasing it in Europe would damage U.S. prestige. Even the Boy Scouts wanted nothing to do with it. It has since earned laurels as one of the top “whistleblower” movies for pointing out flaws of the political system.

It’s also a film that reminds us of Holy Week. Jefferson Smith, a Boy Ranger leader (notice, not “Boy Scout leader”), is no politician. But he is sent to Washington by a corrupt governor to fill a vacant Senate seat. Smith tries to found a national boys camp, which turns out to be on acreage that is part of a land scheme. Smith becomes “a threat” so false charges are brought and the Senate prepares to expel him. Smith launches a filibuster, while his friends attempt to expose the scheme. All ends well, but not before Smith collapses from fatigue and stress, and a not-so pristine senator tries to kill himself — a clearly Judas-like figure.

Sadly, most of us would not believe a real “Mr. Smith” would last long in Washington. Or in Madison.

Being a politician is not easy. Maintaining personal values in a system that often has only relative moral guidelines, needs large amounts of money to function and does contain a certain “it’s who you know, not what you know” flavor is a challenge for any soul. Jesus warned about such dangers when he said, “No one can serve two masters. He will either love one and hate the other …” (Mt 6:24). Jesus advised us to serve God alone.

But this is not a message for politicians alone. We elect politicians. We tell them what we want or don’t want. We vote.

The elections are over for April — although campaigning for 2012 has already begun. As we continue to play our role in the governmental process, we would do well to act as Psalm 146 says God acts: “The Lord … secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free; the Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects the stranger, sustains the orphan and the widow, but thwarts the ways of the wicked.”

Come to think of it, not a bad political platform.

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