Thursday, September 22, 2011

Joking and Praying about Presidents

In a recent article from a church publication, I noticed the following line:

“If normal means joking about our president far more than we pray for him, then I don’t want to go back.”

As you might guess, the article was about the effects of the September 11, 2001 attack.  The line made me think, but perhaps not thoughts the author intended to provoke.

In perusing the library of my son the political science professor, I noticed a book about the ambivalent attitude Americans have long held toward the presidency.  Apparently for a long time before 9/11 we both prayed for and joked about our presidents.  I don’t think it needs to be an either/or situation.

We pray for presidents because we hope they will be better than they usually are.  More often than not, they disappoint us.  But if we thought about the nature of the presidency carefully, we should not be at all surprised by our disappointment.

We have invested the office of the president with far too much power for any one person.  We have forgotten what our fourth president - before he was a president - told us in The Federalist (Papers) about angels, men, and governments.  Madison was talking about how sin requires us to disperse and limit power in government.  We have done a rotten job of listening to Mr. Madison on this point.  We have allowed our system to become one that is almost guaranteed to produce bad results in government: an executive with too much power in a government with too much power.  Those who staff these positions are far from Mr. Madison’s “angels” so they often abuse their power.

In the process they make fools of themselves, and so we laugh at them.  It is better than crying, which one can do only so much before exhaustion sets in!

And, to be honest, praying probably won’t do much good here either.  It’s not that God can’t do whatever He will.  But He is usually not willing to do certain things.  If you tell your five-year-old who loves candy not to eat any before lunch, but you set him down at a table filled with enticing candies an hour before lunch, would it really be reasonable to ask God to give the little tyke the strength to resist temptation?

Of course not.  It would be an insult to God to make such a request in those circumstances.  You would need to realize that you are an idiot, and first of all go about correcting your idiocy.

That is where we are with presidents these days.  Prayer, in this case, is not the answer.  Correcting our political idiocy would be step one.  Prayer would be step two.

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