Rush Limbaugh doesn’t get it. Neither does Al Franken. George W. and Bill Clinton are seemingly just as clueless.
I was raised by Republicans. My father volunteered for Vietnam and my great uncle, the four star general, presided over the draft during that conflict from his office at the Pentagon. I was taught that the military is always too small, unions are always evil, government is always too big, anyone can succeed if they work hard, everyone has a God given right to own an automatic weapon, murderers should be killed and rapists should be raped, and that tax cuts are always good because if the American people have more they’ll share more.
My wife was raised by Democrats. At least one of her parents was against Vietnam. Her relatives were preachers and vegetarians and early recyclers. She was taught that the military is always too big, unions are good, government needs to do more to help people succeed in America, no one needs an automatic weapon unless they’re up to no good, murderers should be locked up for life and rapists should be rehabilitated, taxes should be raised on the wealthy so the poor can have housing and groceries and health care.
Our parents may have been wrong. Not in their politics but in their understanding of human nature – if their politics had roots that deep.
Republicans and Democrats, if they’re serious enough about their philosophy, truly believe most human beings can be trusted. Most people are inherently good. It seems that way at least doesn’t it? Each party trusts most people – just not the same people.
Republicans trust corporations, the rich, the middle class, the gun owner, the soldier. Most folks, they must figure, are in these categories and they can be trusted to do the right thing. The few – the poor and the criminal, for instance, can’t. So stay out of most people’s way, their rule might read, and let most people keep most of their money and most people will take care of the few people who need most of the help.
And Democrats trust the hungry, the poor, the unemployed, the uneducated, the middleclass, the union worker, the career politician, and the elderly. And most folks, they figure, are in one of these groups – or will be someday – and can be trusted to do the right thing. The few – the wealthy business owner, for instance, can’t. So legislate and fund most people’s way when they need it and let most people benefit from the prosperity of the few and before long we’ll all be equal…mostly.
Both wrong. No one can be trusted.
Guns go off daily in passionate rages. Welfare benefits are exchanged for drug money. Enron taught us the rich don’t always look out for the little guy. And The Methodist Children’s Home in Waco taught me the little guy, no matter how much assistance he’s given, sometimes chooses poverty and pleasure and the life he’s always known over even his own kids.
This is because none of us are born naturally trustworthy, kind, generous people. No, inside every human is the potential for every kind of evil. We’re born with the seeds of it buried in us. Some have those seeds fertilized by wealth and opulence and others by poverty and racism. But it’s there in all of us. Depravity is a pernicious weed climbing the walls of every heart. A philosophy of governance or religion blind to that fact is not dealing in reality.
But there was a wiser ruler born two thousand years ago that both parties in our system have neglected to follow well. Jesus taught a kingdom that begins in the heart (Luke 17:19-21), where the seeds of corruption sprout.
When He died on a Roman cross, descended into Hell, and walked out of his tomb seventy-two hours later he ushered in a new kingdom on earth without flags or politicians. It is a kingdom set up by God installing a throne beside the one evil rules from.
He does not remove our old heart, what the bible sometimes calls our “flesh” or “old nature”, all the ill habits and twisted thought processes ingrained in us from birth. Instead he places right beside it, under it actually, in a deeper place, a new “heart” or will, mind and emotions. A Christian then is a walking civil war. Inside her remains the old way of living and being. But offsetting the old her is the new her: the desire and ability to think, choose and feel perfectly.
Let me shift analogies away from agriculture to technology – that thing you’re reading from right now. Imagine a person as a computer. Inside that computer is a hard drive with certain operating instructions coded into it. Let’s say it runs Windows. Those instructions are something like “When X then do Y and then crash half the time.” And so every time X happens the computer naturally, because of it’s programming, does Y and often crashes. God then switches to the Mac OS. (Come on, you know God uses an Apple – He’s a creative type.) But instead of erasing the hard drive before installing the new operating system, he just installs it beside the old one.
This is no ordinary computer. It can run two operating systems at once – BUT it has to have a default system chosen. It has to know which one you’ll see and use first when you boot up each day, which one is primary for you. So God goes into the system preferences and unchecks the old. It’s not running things anymore. And he checks the new. It’s in charge now. It’s the default.
I’m the same way now. I have new emotions, will and mind and they are my core, my default setting. My old way of thinking, willing and feeling is there if I choose to use it but at my core, no matter what bad choices I make, my primary coding is new. My old code – bound to one operating system – has been replaced by a new one. (1 Corinthians 5:17)
Paul laments in Romans 7 that even he got angry with himself and wondered out loud why he didn’t do the things he knew he was supposed to do (the new nature) and did the things he knew he shouldn’t be doing (old nature).
And Republicans and Democrats – and I so many times – don’t get this. Or we don’t act as if we do. We create programs and expectations for human beings as if most of us are born somehow running an operating system called benevolence or selflessness or self-control. And we just aren’t. None of us are unless Jesus saves us, straps us to his work bench and installs a new set of instructions that make us hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and move us to obey His commands (Ezekiel 36:27.
So much attention is paid to our being saved by Jesus from the punishment of hell in the future that I wonder if we’ve too quickly forgotten our being saved from thinking, choosing and feeling like hell today. Only God can remind us of who we are now as Christians: new creations, part old, primarily new. Only Jesus saves us from the rule of our old heart and gives us a fresh one, and with it new possibilities.