Elections and politics are in the air today, so it might be good time to reflect how people of faith participate in them. Our first reading from the Book of Samuel let’s us look at politics in ancient Israel. “Appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us,” the elders of Israel say to Samuel at Ramah. “We too must be like all the nations, with a king to rule us, lead us in warfare, and fight our battles.”
The Prophet Samuel is a reluctant king maker, however. He’s wary about kings and recognizes the dark side of absolute political power.
“He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will tithe your crops and grape harvests to give to his officials and his servants. He will take your male and female slaves, as well as your best oxen and donkeys, and use them to do his work. He will also tithe your flocks. As for you, you will become his slaves.”
I suppose the advice we could take from this is: Don’t let people who govern have too much power. In a democratic society like ours that means being a well-informed and engaged citizen. Know what’s going on and vote. It’s our duty as well as our right.
There’s another piece of advice we can also hear in this selection from the Book of Samuel. God complains to the prophet that the peoples’ demand for a king is a rejection of God’s kingship. Some today might agree that politics is just for us humans; keep God out of it all.
But can we have a good and fair society without God? Is it all about public opinion and what the most votes dictate? Or do we have to ask what God would say about the way our world is run?