It’s a strange world we live in, growing stranger by the day. It’s a skewed world too, skewed by tweets, soap operas and reality shows where melodrama and charisma count for more than truth and integrity. And in this overheated milieu, where our blurred perceptions become our realities, we are obliged to vote for leaders, to invoke the vital power of the secret ballot. I believe it to be a privilege and a sacred, prayerful duty.
To judge by the outcome, we often miss the mark. Increasingly, I feel that leaders far and wide are chosen for their entertainment value over their gravitas and their ability to exercise sound judgment. The ultimate absurdity occurred in the Ukraine where the populace voted for a clown – a real one – to tackle rampant corruption and the sinister stranglehold of the oligarchs. Here, in South Africa, we suffered for ten years under the kleptocracy of a man who was a loss to the stage – who danced and sang ‘bring me my machine gun’ with gay abandon, to the delight of his tribe and followers. The older democracies, too, make unexpected choices. Join the dots.
It could all be so different. If we looked to the Word for guidance we would find it in abundance. In Psalm 15 there is a vivid description of the character of those suitable for leadership:
Continue reading Thy Will Be Done
Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbour…
He who does these things shall never be moved.
I heard over the news, on this southern tip of Africa, that Kylie Jenner had become the world’s youngest teenage billionaire. And it’s all done with make-up. I thought how appropriate it was that her cosmetic business and celebrity status should make her a star for the age. It really is a sign of the times that she and her family should be so ‘successful’. I’m not detracting from her business acumen and the penchant for publicity that her family displays, or the number of ‘likes’ that she scores on social media, but I think that the whole scene needs interrogation.
It reminds me of Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in which Daisy, one of the shallowest characters ever created, said that her ambition for her daughter was that she should grow up to be ‘a beautiful little fool’. Except that Kylie is nobody’s fool, but a product of this century, nearly a hundred years later.
We need to ask ourselves: ‘What do we find admirable?’
Whatever happened to humility, the love of use, and attributing all the good things of life to the Lord? They do exist, but finding them in popular culture is becoming exceedingly rare. Strutting self assertion has taken centre stage.
Continue reading On Admiration
Are you a victim?
Slightly? Partially ? Entirely? Is it interfering with your life as you try to enter a more spiritual state with the help of the Lord? Or are you a ‘Me Too’, forever identifying with states of anger, blame and acrimony? There is nothing wrong with confronting someone who has harmed you physically or emotionally, but to brood on resentment indefinitely and let it lay claim to your life is not part of the Lord’s great plan for you. I know that this goes against the grain of much psychological practice which encourages people to feel that they have been diminished by others and endlessly to analyse their hurt in all its toxic details. But if we wish to attain sound emotional and spiritual health we have got to move on. For the truly stricken this might not be possible without intervention, but we need, as a primary goal, to escape from our bondage.
‘Bondage’ might seem too strong a word until we explore what being a victim entails. It involves harboring a strong sense of grievance at having been injured. We brood because we cannot forgive, and to live in a constant state of unforgiveness is forbidden by the teachings of the Word and The Writings. We are required to forgive seventy times seven, but how? Maybe, we can come to the realization that we are all human, living in mediate good. No one is perfect, and we are all bound to make mistakes. If we earnestly ask the Lord to free us from our stubborn negativity, He has promised to answer our prayers.
Sometimes being a victim encourages jealousy when we observe that many people have more, or manage better than we do. Instead of rejoicing in the good fortune of our friends, we are caught up in a covetous wail of ‘Why not me?’ Our attitude towards life becomes warped as it pivots endlessly on ourselves. Self-absorption takes the place of ‘Love your neighbor’, as it diminishes our sensitivity and kindness. This can breed entitlement when we feel that we have suffered and must be compensated: by the Lord, life, and those whom we encounter. Our victimhood demands attention, sympathy and consideration. We become increasingly self-limiting.
There are many strands in life. It is a tapestry of the Lord’s provision, full of promise and possibility. To allow ourselves to become absorbed in victimhood excludes bright colors, original patterns, intense creativity. We need to repeat as our creed ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it’. We need to let go.
I was thinking about Matthew, the tax collector, the other day, and how the Lord selected an unpopular worker to be His disciple. And how well Matthew justified His choice. As usual, the Lord showed His freedom from prejudice in giving his servant the chance that he never dreamed of, one that changed his life, and our lives as we read his gospel. The Sermon on the Mount, that most radical testament to Christian conviction, commands us to love our enemies, which must be one of the most difficult instructions ever issued. We are obliged to banish the ‘eye for an eye’ impulse and confront one of the greatest spiritual challenges of our lives. And although politicians are not necessarily our enemies per se, the instruction includes our attitude towards them.
I must admit that there are certain people who make my toes curl, whose presence on the TV ruins my day. ‘You lying cheat’, I think judgementally, and if I were Shakespeare I would shout ‘avaunt’. But we belong to a rational and charitable faith and clearly cannot continue as we are. Many politicians are the modern equivalents of the unregenerate Matthew, out for their own advancement, but we know from the Writings that the Lord can use these flawed folk for the good of mankind. We can judge their actions on the surface but are not able to separate the wheat from the chaff, which constitute the internal man or woman. So we are obliged to operate on the benefit of the doubt. Continue reading Should We Love Our Politicians?