Power Traps

Bob McDonnellIt’s getting to the point that I’ve begun to wonder if there is anyone in government that’s NOT corrupt.

Living in Virginia, news hit last week about the verdict in the corruption trial of former governor, Bob McDonnell. Since the judge handed down the verdict of a 2 year sentence to the former governor, much has been written about the trial and the judge’s leniency in his judgment. During the trial, many had come out to speak on behalf of McDonnell as character witnesses.

Now, I’m far from perfect. While I don’t know if I would echo the words of the Apostle Paul and state that I am the “chief of sinners,” I can certainly share the spotlight as one who has been saved by grace. My life has not been without mistake, error, and sin. I am grateful for the grace of God and for the forgiveness that I receive through Christ.

McDonnell is spoken to have been an up-and-comer in the world of politics with many expecting great things of him as he was seemingly on his way up the political ladder. So, in many ways, his story is a tragedy, at least that’s the way that I see it. To be honest, it scares me a little bit.

You see, I have seen too many times in my short life how power has a tendency to corrupt. Power has a way of blinding us to truth and reason. It can seemingly make us think that we are invincible, untouchable, and completely immune to the corruption which eventually leads to our demise. That seems to be the nature of power. It can never satisfy, we always want more. In some ways, we might consider it like a drug.

Power scares me because I know my own tendencies. I know my own propensity towards thinking that I am above the law, that I can remain stealth in my bad behavior. I know my own tendency to never be satisfied with what I have, never finding true contentment in stuff when the stuff becomes the end rather than the means.

I begin to wonder whether any smart, self-respecting person would (or should, for that matter) consider running for political office. Ironically, there are some denominations and occupations that require people to pass psychological evaluations prior to entering into them. I wonder whether or not the same can be said of elected office. Frankly, I wonder if some who occupy these positions would even be able to pass these evaluations, or if these evaluations would indicate some amount of potential for future corruption that would unravel their worlds.

What is it about political office that has this power and offers this power? It would be naïve of me to think that this power was endemic to political office, it can easily be said to exist with any position where power is duly distributed. It just seems that the corruption that results is more pronounced within the political system.

In some ways, it becomes even more troubling when I see someone who seemed so winsome, likeable, and respected as McDonnell. It’s one thing when a person seems squirrelly or corrupt from the beginning, but when a person seems like an “average Joe” and they succumb to this corruption, it hits closer to home, making me realize just how powerfully one can be brought down with the temptations that seem so prevalent with certain positions.

I’m glad that politics have never been a draw for me. There are some who feel that being part of a pastor’s family means living under a microscope and feeling constantly scrutinized. Thankfully, my family has never really felt that (I’ve also never been a lead pastor, so that could change should my call lead in that direction someday). I would much rather be part of a pastor’s family than a politician’s family.

My heart breaks for McDonnell, his wife, and his children. I can’t imagine the emotions and feelings that have accompanied this trial and sentencing. Trying to dig out from underneath it to find normalcy may prove to be a daunting task. If good men and women can easily be taken down by the power that takes hold and corrupts, what kind of a system is being propagated and perpetuated by our political system? Is there hope for survival of any with a healthy amount of moral fiber and conviction in a political world that seems so destitute, corrupt, and ruthless?

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