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We Are Responsible for Choosing Whom to Follow

Months and months of effort to pass a bill, almost any bill, to begin reforming national health-care policy – and it goes to naught.

Promised tax reform looking harder to pass than ever. Republicans and Democrats not even attempting to find common ground on major legislation, indeed not even talking to each other about it. Democrats doing all they can to slow the confirmation of even the most uncontroversial, mid-level executive nominees, just to show they can wreak havoc if they want.

And a president attacking his own attorney general while his communications director blurts repeated vulgarities at both his chief strategist and chief of staff.

With such a miasma in American government right now, the timing could not be better for one of this week’s optional readings – the one from the Book of I Kings, about Solomon.

God, almost like the proverbial genie in a bottle, in effect had offered Solomon a free wish. And Solomon replied not selfishly – not asking for “long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies” – but with an expression of gratitude for God’s “great and steadfast love.” And, inspired by that love, Solomon acted not like today’s solons in Washington but instead like the public servant he knew he must be.

“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil,” he requested. “For who can govern this your great people?”

This is the sort of servant-hood for which we should be searching in our leaders.

Instead, (as I wrote in mostly the same words in a personal-blog reflection two years ago), all too often these days we seem to value not wisdom but cleverness. Or, not wisdom but canniness, or glibness, or bombast, or ostentation, or celebrity, or riches, or anything or anybody that seems to temporarily hold a trump card. But true wisdom is something for which many of us seem not to have time, or patience, or appreciation. Unlike Solomon, we seem to value not an understanding mind but a facile mind with a simple-sounding solution, and, most of all, rapid gratification of our personal and collectives ids. And for some reason we reward leaders who show guile rather than wisdom, who value worldly success more than truth.

This is not, this week, a knock on any one politician. It is a criticism of our own choices and our own standards. Surely we can demand better, or at least stop rewarding these baser attributes.

Then again, as Paul reminds us in Romans, even in our bad choices we can still be redeemed, because God has sent us a Redeemer. “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”