Sunday, October 18, 2020


We had a sermon on perspective this morning.  The text was Jesus taking the coin and explaining to the Pharisees "Give to Caesar what is his.  Give to God what is His." The intent is consonant with many other statements of Jesus about the Kingdom of God, that nothing in this world can compare to that life.  Give to Caesar what he wants.  You can easily afford it.  It matters little in the context of giving your life to God.

It is possible to slide into the opposite interpretation, that we should regard worldly commitments as important obligations, so long as we check a few boxes on the religious side.  You may say that no one has ever offered that interpretation, to which I say "Correct.  Not out loud, they haven't." Yet many believers over the centuries have done just that.  Make sure you get to Mass, and insist your subjects do too. Get those kids baptised. Donate money for buildings. Check that box "Christian" on the forms and identify yourself that way to pollsters.

We are in the midst of turmoil, yet much of our lives will not much change.  Historians try to look at both change and continuity in an era. If Trump is elected, we will have more continuity than if Biden is elected, because we know something of what we are getting with Trump.  We have seen him be president.  But there will still be changes, because we do not see what is coming.  No one saw a pandemic coming. We can now assert that once the international flights were allowed to leave Wuhan we - and everyone else in the world - were in for big changes of once sort or another. 

If Biden is elected, there will be changes.  Yet there will be much that is unchanged as well. Outside events will strike us either way over the next four years, and may be bigger drivers than who happens to be president at the moment.  There may be a dozen pivotal moments over the next four years, and we don't know how they will break.

Either way, much of our lives will be the same, and our spiritual call will be the same. 

Notes on presidents changing.  When going into a second term, the opposition party always warns that the if we give a president a second term, their true partisan radicalism will go full force.  All bets will be off.  They will have no restraint.  I think I have heard this warning about every president running for a second term in my lifetime.  I don't think it has been true.  Johnson was deeply partisan around the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying "We'll have those n-'s voting Democrat for 200 years!" But as Vietnam worsened and riots worsened, he very much became the president of the whole country and saw his responsibilities that way.  I don't say his decisions were necessarily better or worse, only that his attitude changed.  Most presidents change in that manner.  Not all, I don't think, though I will not comment here on who those are.

I think Trump has changed. He remains combative, argumentative, yet I think he is much more aware of being president of all Americans at present than he was 3.5 years ago. Certainly, his CoVid statements have come across that way.  Does that make a president's decisions better?  We feel like it should, but I don't know. The more common pattern, back at least a century and a half - no, I think it goes all the way back; Adams and especially Jefferson slowly became less partisan after being elected - is for a president to double down on his core ideas, but broaden considerably in who he thinks he is talking to. Not all presidents have fit that.


james said...

My senior year French teacher was a young lady from southern France (died of cancer a few years after). I gather she liked Sartre. We were given "No Exit" and "In the Mesh." The former is pretty well known but the latter doesn't even have an English wikipedia entry. It's a grimmer version of "Yes, Minister"--once you're in power your allies aren't and entities you didn't take into consideration before turn out to have overwhelming influence. And you wind up doing the same things as the tyrant you overthrew. (All with the best intentions, of course)

WRT changes--I'm fairly pessimistic. Whoever wins, soon or late we have some catastrophes waiting that nobody has cared to do anything to prevent; for example the debt. I mused on the possibilities a few years ago, and haven't seen anything to change that analysis. One thing that _is_ in the media and politicians' power is to destroy our social capital--which would make the crash far worse.

Texan99 said...

I think of how our attitude toward casual sex, not to mention, say, approaching a bloody accident victim, changed once the AIDS epidemic hit. The effect waned, maybe, but we never got that casual again. That was probably the first communicable disease that got my attention as scary. I'd been raised to think just about everything else was curable.

GraniteDad said...

Presidents do become more focused on legacy in their second term, for sure. Biden may be different and care more from the get-go due to his age. I still recall the stories of a post-presidency LBJ worried about the attendance numbers for his library and frustrated that he was seen as the president of the Vietnam War, not Civil Rights.