Elections are going on today in the USA and so how should people of faith engage in politics? The Book of Samuel tells us about 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 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. As we go to cast a ballot–and how many will?– what about the common good? The good God wants?
There’s another piece of advice we can also hear in the Book of Samuel. God complains to the prophet that the peoples’ demand for a king rejects God’s kingship. Some today might agree that politics is just for us humans; God has nothing to do with it.
But is God beyond the messy political world and has nothing to do with it? Is it all about public opinion and counting heads? Or do we have to ask for God’s help with the way our world is run? The worse thing we can do is leave God out of it.
O God, come to our assistance. O Lord, make haste to help us.