The other day, my wife asked me if I was looking forward to voting in the upcoming presidential election. About as much as I look forward to my annual visit with my urologist, though for different reasons. I trust my urologist.
When Jesus declared to Pontius Piliate that he had come to “bear witness to the truth,” the infamous Roman governor scoffed, “What is truth?” That same disdain for truth pervades the political campaign of nearly every candidate in American politics.
Truth is what political strategists decide it will be. Truth results from a carefully crafted spin of facts, disregarding any context.
At the Republican National Convention, Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan criticized President Obama for his health care law, saying, “The biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.” He is referring to a decrease of $716 billion out of Medicare. “So, they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.”
After a careful analysis of the law, Politifact.com concluded that it did reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion over 10 years, but it was not at the expense of the elderly. It aims at decreasing payouts to hospitals and insurance companies, but it does not affect beneficiaries in any way.
During the Democratic National Convention, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell stated, “Mitt Romney says he likes to fire people.” He was referring to a speech Romney gave to the New Hampshire Chamber of Commerce. Speaking about health insurance, Romney favors individual control of health insurance, believing competition stimulates higher quality insurance.
In context, Romney said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to get someone else to provide that service to me.” Remarkably different intent than was implied by Markell.
These half-truths and whole lies littered the convention platforms of both parties like the confetti at the end of the conventions. The truth-o-meter needle steadily oscillated during the political speeches of nearly every speaker.
Truth in politics has become as scarce as men in synchronized swimming.
This failure of integrity completely undermines any confidence in the promises that proliferate in the candidates’ speeches. The visions they espouse appeal to most Americans, because they always include prosperity and success – “a chicken in every pot.” The path for achievement is not always so clear. Even when it is, any sane voter would have to ask, “Can they really do that?”
What they do not say may be more important. The hidden agendas of power brokers that prop up the candidates often play a greater role in the scheme of events than the candidates’ visions. Deals under the table, in the back room and on secluded park benches can trump personal convictions in policy decisions.
With no way to vet every candidate adequately, voters ultimately rely on trust. Who can you trust the most? That trust may be as flimsy as a house of cards, but if it exists at all, it frequently determines the name that is checked in the voting booth. Unfortunately, too often, once they are in office, we remember what we didn’t trust about them.
In case you can’t tell, I have more confidence in picking a trifecta at the Kentucky Derby than I do in our political system. Campaign speeches provide little substance for building opinion. Debates entertain more than they inform. And campaign ads propagandize more than they proselytize. Any effort to know the candidates eventually exposes their very long noses. Pessimism gives way to despair unless something or someone can offer hope.
Jeremiah prophesied in a tumultuous period of Israel’s history. Kings were rising and falling like bowling pins. Egypt subjected this small nation for a while, until the powerful army of Babylon laid siege to its capital, Jerusalem. The prophet witnessed the devastation of that city and a massive exile of its occupants. He was left to live in the rubble.
Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. In fact, he wrote another book in the Bible entitled Lamentations. Yet, in the midst of this gloom and doom, he wrote a letter to those taken in the exile, announcing that God had promised to return the Jews to the land in 70 years. Then he gave this wonderful promise from God,
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11)
I believe it is naïve and inaccurate to apply this promise to any other nation in history – like America in the 21st century. But I do believe this promise applies to God’s people in every generation. Regardless of what we might have to endure, God has a plan for those of us who trust him. And he makes it clear that he can be trusted.
“God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Number 23:19)
The rulers of the world are pawns in his plan, a plan that will reveal his glory through those who trust him. The spin doctors cannot manipulate the outcome of that plan and the political power brokers cannot alter it.
At last, someone we can trust!