Who's Steering This Thing?
"Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him" (Psalm 2:10-12).
In the uncertainty leading up to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling, the financial markets have taken a hit. As I write this the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Dow Jones is posting its "first seven session slide since July 2010." Republicans and Democrats are fighting it out to to see who will be able to claim to represent "what the American people" want. What bothers me, though, is that while both are laying claim to exceptional financial vision, they will try to situate themselves as having been right all along, while both will say that the other side of the aisle has been hopelessly tone-deaf to the needs of "the American people," and is therefore incapable of managing the ship of state. Inherent in such a political argument is that somebody, or some party of somebodies is ultimately in control—that all that stands between us and happiness and prosperity is the right political representation and the silencing of the opponent. Precious time is wasted while the parties speak about their ability to exert dominion over the economy. I hope the irony doesn’t escape us.
I love to feel in control. I imagine, therefore, that other people feel this way. Further, I imagine that people who have power are prone to feeling this way (which is probably why they got into the power business in the first place). The illusion that we can ultimately order our world in such a way as to preclude inconveniences like poverty, crime, racism, discrimination, and danger is presumptuous at best, and idolatrous at worst. We live and move and have our being in ways that suggest we have conjured up life, movement, and existence by our own initiative — by having such things as a sound domestic policy and a strong military. We have repeatedly failed to see that life itself is a gift. We have no more real control over our world than we have over God.
And maybe that is the point: We think perhaps that by our tireless organizing and speculating and legislating that we can finally impose order on God — and in the process become (of sorts) gods ourselves. The problem with that, of course, is that God is even more stubborn about maintaining control than we are.
Thank goodness for that.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.