Politics and the person…

I admit to a certain amount of fatigue at the behavior of some of our politicians and the way they conduct the important business of state. And increasingly I believe I’m not alone.

There seems to be too few genuine practioners of statecraft and way too many selfish, ambitious, shallow, and deviant personalities in the realms of power. Perhaps they reflect who we’ve become. Perhaps they are the emanations of the perpetual adolescence of the 60’s brought to the halls of power. Perhaps power drives even the best of us to a certain madness.

Regardless, can anyone really say they are passionate about the affairs of state in a good and wholesome way, a way empowered by nobility of cause and desire for the common good? When is the last time anyone in public office inspired our highest ideals rather than catered to our basest fears?

All we have are sound bites, inflammatory words designed not to better the body politic but rather inflame our basic and dark passions. There is no sense of nation, only of power. There is no call to higher things, only the desire to rule others and enrich personal fortunes. Politics has become the end, not the means, the goal, not the process, and common sense and the general welfare have become the victims of it all.

This crisis in our politics is often portrayed by the partisans as a crisis of ideology. Elect us, they say, and all will be better because we have better ideas, a better plan, better goals. The true nature of the crisis, though, is personal and moral and spiritual.

No structure of government can rise above the quality of the character of the people within it. Good civil order can only come from people who are capable of transcending themselves, their times, and their baser instincts for the sake of the common good.Lacking that they will poison whatever institutions they inhabit and their brokenness will infect the culture as well.

I believe this is why St. Paul asks us to pray for the civil authorities and why we who are Orthodox still do every time we celebrate our Liturgy. Everything flows from the heart and unless the heart is committed to perpetual change towards the good all else is futile. Everything flows from the building not of better forms and structures but from the construction, by the grace of God, of a better person.

This is the unique role and calling of the Church. We are called not so much to be a political entity as we are called to enable the betterment of the human person who then touches everything in their lives, including politics, with the grace they have been given.

There is no argument for quietude in this, we must profess and be what our faith tells us to be. But without transformed lives making a real difference in the real world all we have are claims, ideas, propositions, and in one way we are no better than any interest group already competing for a snout at the public trough.

A changed heart remains the greatest political force of all. Perhaps its time to think about that again.

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