The Ides of March: Does Power Always Corrupt?

Posted: October 7, 2011 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Drama
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Ambition seduces.  Power corrupts.  That’s the main tagline for The Ides of March, as well as an overly obvious observation (how’s that for alliteration?) of politics in general.  As you look at the poster to your left, you can almost figure out the movie, can’t you?  Young, ambitious, press secretary Ryan Gosling will be seduced into the dark, seedy world of politics.  Powerful liberal presidential hopeful George Clooney will have to become corrupt to reach his political goals.  Hope that doesn’t spoil the movie for you!

So here’s the essential question for the Christian: Does power always have to corrupt?  More, specifically, is the worldly political machine simply designed to chew up and spit out our innocent, starry-eyed young people?  If that is true, maybe it is a Christian parent’s responsibility to steer his or her children away from a career in politics.  Maybe we should just leave this dirty world to the wicked and their evil power-hungry offspring.  If power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then we would be irresponsible to even vote Christians into any electoral office!

But, then what do we do with two very familiar young men whose political stories are chronicled in Scripture: Joseph and Daniel?  Joseph climbed from the pit to the prison to second-in-command to Pharaoh in Egypt.  Daniel came to Babylon as a prisoner-of-war, only to end up as one of the chief rulers of the most powerful nation at that time.  Both men were young.  Both men came from God-fearing families.  Both men had plenty of opportunities to become corrupt.  Yet both men had long, integrity-filled political careers!

Consider how Joseph had the the perfect storm of opportunities to become jaded and corrupt.  Wrongly sold into slavery by a bunch of jealous brothers.  Wrongly sent to prison by a lying loose woman.  Wrongly forgotten in prison by an ungrateful cellmate.  What series of modern events could make one more jaded and cynical than these?  Add to that the repeated temptation to hook up with Potiphar’s wife…do we think this only happens to today’s politicians?  Joseph could have easily ditched his belief in Yahweh and become just like the pagans he found himself surrounded by.

And what about Daniel?  Taken from his homeland, far away from any accountability to family members.  Steeped in the culture, history, and religion of Babylon.  Why didn’t he toss aside his convictions and attempt all that was politically expedient?  And don’t forget the hounding of his political peers, regularly attempting to devour and destroy him–literally!  Not even a den full of ravenous lions could turn grey-haired Daniel into a cynic at the end of his political career.

But wait a minute!  These are just Bible stories, right?  And they all happened so long ago.  If that thought passed through your mind, then we have work to do in other posts.  The truth is that Joseph and Daniel were real young men, who lived in real times which were even more challenging than ours.  The truth is that, thanks to the amazing grace of God, they ended up in politics and maintained their integrity throughout their careers.  Are there examples in Scripture of men who were corrupted by power?  Sure…think Solomon for starters.  Yet, we must believe that those Christians whom God calls to and equips for political office CAN walk with integrity–from beginning to end.  Don’t let Hollywood, The Ides of March, or our current political landscape train you to think differently!

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