It's hard to keep track of all the nations that are in turmoil -- Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela. Even a wealthy, modern model of financial success admired around the world, Hong Kong, is beset with ongoing demonstrations and riots.
These aren't countries at war. Many third-world countries are in societal upheaval. People are resisting leaders who don't appear to be listening, administrations not addressing their felt needs. The only places where this isn't happening, despite economic injustice, are where human rights are stifled by oppressive force. Think North Korea or Iran. China is blocking its Internet so their mainland population won't learn about Hong Kong's civil unrest. When a U.S. Basketball coach tweeted support for Hong Kong, millions in NBA profits were suddenly at risk.
These are turbulent times. Being a president, prime minister, or a dictator can be thankless, tough, dangerous. Of course, I know about tough jobs, having been a parent, a pastor, and a reporter. Any government nowadays may face an insurrection, mob violence or a revolt. If civilian authority is seen as an occupying force rather than a preserver of law and order, the watchword becomes, "The natives are restless tonight."
Perhaps it's good that much of this unrest is due to economic aspirations. People want opportunity. They are protesting the ruling elites keeping the wealth in their own pockets. Politicians in power always find ways to steal and cheat. But corruption will get exposed. Unfair taxation, keeping people poor so they can be managed, once produced a revolution in America. Usually, revolutions have to do with shaking off racism or barbarism or overthrowing tyrants. Ethnic cleansing is another word for genocide -- the mass murder of a despised tribe or group. Being a minority in many places around our world can be disadvantageous.
Why are so many nations experiencing turmoil? I think it has to do with dissatisfaction due to ineffective governments. Any government that exists for its own sake, promoting the welfare of the people, is a government that's ripe for overthrow. Such leaders should be quaking. Despots do have term limits. They die or they're taken out by bullets or ballots. Thank God, here in the U.S.A., we get to peacefully overthrow our government every four years.
In America, mostly due to crazy court rulings, our national policies shifted about 60 years ago toward a secular political stance. Some Christians say the cultural shift was anti-Christian, anti-Bible, anti-church, anti-prayer in schools, and anti-traditional male-female family. A watershed change did occur. Whether we are better off or not, you decide. Our votes allowed it.
I've seen a principle in the ancient writings of the Bible. It's that any government is no better than the character of the king, the person possessing power. This also applies to the corporate characteristics of any ruling party. The scriptures describe various modes of human government without necessarily endorsing one over the other. In the Old Testament, Israel was founded as a kingdom with a king. Modern Israel is a democracy led by a parliament. Our government -- of the people, by the people, for the people -- is a unique experiment. Can we make it work much longer, beyond our 243 years? Sometimes I wonder.
Whatever form of government a particular nation has, another principle that applies is this: It must operate in righteousness. Injustice undermines any person, party or institution. A throne is established by righteousness. That's why political sectarianism, instead of loving truth and judging impartially, is dangerous to a democracy. The court of public opinion is rarely factual.
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Ron Wood is a writer and minister. Email him at [email protected] or visit www.touchedbygrace.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 11/20/2019
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