Monday, April 27, 2015

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth

 Image result for election 2015
All we want from our politicians is that they tell us the truth about all the bad stuff they plan to do to the country when we vote them into power. I mean, we'd be more likely to elect a Conservative government if we only knew which poor slackers are going to bear the brunt of spending cuts. And hey, Ed, we'd not hold political fratricide against you if you were straight with us on how much the national debt is going to balloon because your lot isn't going to cut as much as those heartless Tories. C'mon tell us, added interest payments n'all and even Scottish Socialists will come flocking back to you singing, 'We'll keep the Red Flag flying here. Och, aye'.   

OK the Greens are more straight up, telling the electorate exactly what they'd do in the unlikely event of a landslide that increased their tally of MPs from 1 to 350. They'd ban the bomb, nationalise stuff, make global warming go away and solve the immigration crisis by making sure that Johnny foreigner was so happy in Libya and Somalia that they wouldn't even think of coming to good ol' Blighty. But let's face it, Greens are just commies who recycle. Who wants that? Really. 

'Tell  us the truth' we say, but we can't handle the truth. At least not too much of it and our politicians know that. The same applies in the spiritual realm. People reject the Christian message in the name of a free thinking quest for truth. But what they are really doing is fleeing from the truth that they are accountable to the God who made them. Much better to delude ourselves that, 'I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul' and bellow out, 'I did it my way', than acknowledge our human frailty and fallenness. 

The truth is often painful and uncomfortable. Whichever combination of parties win power at the General Election there will be tough times ahead as the nation struggles to live within its means. The 'anti-austerity' line spouted by Nats and Greens is a fine sounding mantra, but put it into practice and Greece is the word. The Christian faith doesn't seek to butter us up by telling us that all's well with the world and things would be even better if we were all a little bit nicer. The world is broken with evil, oppression, suffering. And we don't have the answer. And we are part of the problem. To took at ourselves in the mirror and confess, 'I have sinned' is to begin to handle the truth.

But the 'sinner thing' is one of the factors that makes Christianity so unpalatable. Although we all live our lives with the tacit understanding that it is an accurate description of our human condition. Why bother with democracy with accountable political leaders, constitutional checks and balances, the rule of law, personal freedom etc? Why not get rid of the whole caboodle, leadership debates n'all and install a Great Man to rule and give him all the power he could wish for to get things done? Because as it has been said, 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'.

We know full well that given human fallenness, dictators can't be trusted to use their power benignly for the common good. When a culture ignores the stubborn reality of sin and begins to dream Utopian dreams that involve giving massive power to to unaccountable leaders for the betterment of the world, the result is always despotism and disaster. That's why Bolshevik Revolution started with off Lenin (not that he was that nice) and finished up with Stalin. Ironically one of the best bulwarks against totalitarian madness is a belief in human captivity to sin that insists on the separation of powers and the establishment of rigorous systems of accountability in the body politic.

So what's the answer to the fact of human sinfulness to which history and our own personal experience bear their tragic testimony? It's this. The God against whom we have sinned and whose judgement we deserve sent his Son into the world as one of us. He was born of woman, lived a sinless human life and was crucified, bearing the weight of the world's sin upon his shoulders. Jesus was his name. His Cross at once exposes our inability to save ourselves and demonstrates the costly love of God towards sin-ruined humanity. He was condemned that we might be justified. He was forsaken by God that we might be reconciled to him. He died in weakness that we might live by the power of his grace.

But this message of salvation through the Son of God crucified for us is hard to take on board. The preaching of the cross is an offence to the religious and foolishness to the intelligentsia. You want the truth? Here's the thing: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15). That's it. The question is, 'Can you handle the truth?'   

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