Power

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THERE ARE politicians who claim they are incorruptible because money means nothing to them. Well, there are forms of corruption besides graft. Powerlust, to me, is one of the more insidious kinds.

A public official need not be rich to be powerful. When you command the adulation of millions, wealth is a paltry thing. Human nature dictates that where the powerful are, there too are the sycophants who provide their every need. I reckon riches become almost an afterthought to these folks, something they realize they can have after all. Thus many begin public life with ideals and leave it with Swiss bank accounts. “Power is better than money,” therefore powerlust; it’s a fact of life.

If there is a drug that I want completely stamped out, it is powerlust. It is a psychotropic substance; it is addictive; it is lethal. Its addicts have infiltrated this nation from the barangay to the Palace and have harmed this country through the years more than all the shabu users combined. They downline it efficiently through the regional dynasties and introduce youths to it at the SK level. Were powerlust a certified narcotic and its addicts tabulated in a cartolina matrix, we will find we are a narco-state after all.

It is a hallucinogen that causes paranoia and delusion in its addicts. They fear impotence and the subsidence of their mass appeal. There are those among them desperate enough to steal, kill, and destroy. What is worse, their adoring followers enable them. If there is something in this country that has got to change, this is it.

As a Christian, I understand power to be a derivative substance. In human hands, it can be beneficial but must be treated with respect. Rather than aggrandize its trustee, power must humble him. Power in its pure form can only be properly wielded by God, who is its source. In any other than divine hands, power is a volatile force that corrupts and eventually devours its abusers.

Scripture informs us that God delegates power to established authority therefore we are to respect and obey that authority, for this is righteous. The apostle Paul famously wrote that advice to the Christians in Rome who were considered subversives by the emperor-worshipers and were thus in constant jeopardy. By obeying the civil authorities, the Roman Christians were assuring them that they were not out to topple the empire. Why should they? Their King already reigned in heaven; they were not interested in earthly rebellion.

However, when the Emperor required their worship by swearing an oath in his name, many Roman Christians refused and died for their tenacity. They were committed to worshiping only God; professing devotion to anyone else was idolatry and a heinous offense against their faith. Where the temporal authority conflicts with the divine, the divine must take precedence. As Peter and the other apostles told the Jewish leaders, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29, NLT).

This principle should be clear to all those who are called by the name of Christ. Sadly, today it is not.

Many Christians (and that includes Catholics, Evangelicals, and traditional Protestants, inter alia), made a pragmatic choice during the May elections in their sincere belief that Rodrigo Duterte was the sole candidate who had the “political will” to rid the country of the drug menace. He has repeatedly commanded the police to shoot to kill drug users and pushers, and despite the thousands of corpses that turned up after those directives, many of his Christians supporters remain steadfast. They maintain their faith in his temporal power despite its conflict with the Divine. This has led to questions about the Christian witness. There have been myriad expressions of confusion, dismay, and disappointment, as demonstrated by the following exchange in one Facebook political group:

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Screengrab from Facebook, September 27, 2016

It is difficult to explain this phenomenon. Erstwhile serious Christians now heatedly argue in defense of Duterte in spite of his numerous pronouncements against God, his erratic behavior, and his bloody policies. They cite Romans 13 to justify their position but seemingly disregard other passages that qualify that chapter (probably only Christians will appreciate this but I supply it nonetheless: Exodus 20:13Deuteronomy 30:19, Ezekiel 18:23, Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:21, among many others).

Author Johann Hari has persuasively presented a radical approach to treating addiction based on the findings of Dr. Bruce Alexander who first studied the drug problem in the 1950s. Follow-up experiments conducted by Alexander revealed that addicts who were provided with satisfying social connections successfully kicked the habit and went on to live productive lives. (The approach is summarized in the video below. Don’t worry, it’s short. Watch it.) Creating an environment of acceptance and understanding for recovering addicts may be a viable alternative to the drastic police measures being taken today. The Christian community is ideally placed to lead this effort, if only its members can agree on who truly empowers them.

 

Power in the hands of people can be a dangerous thing. Power in the hands of the wrong person addicted with powerlust can be fatal. The problems of this world are too numerous to be solved by a handful of people, no matter how popular they are or how strong their political will may be. They will definitely not be solved by anyone whose political agenda is fueled by powerlust.

Christians are called “CHRISTian” because we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He can do exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine if we come to Him in faith. I expect Christians, if they claim that name, to put their faith in the only One who has the power to set things right. But perhaps the problem is, as James wrote in his epistle, “You do not have because you do not ask.” The drug problem is enormous, but it is not bigger than Christ. Let us ask Him to solve it; let us ask Him to give us a leader who aligns his policies with God’s.

I suppose atheists and adherents of other religions might smile at that, or even snicker or scoff. I grant them that.

But not Christians. I expect Christians to agree.

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Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. – Matthew 28:18
Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. – Ephesians 1:21
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