The political season is warming up again in the United States. (Actually, people could be excused for wondering if it ever cools off!) Already, candidates are jockeying for position and preparing their runs for office in the year 2000.
There is no question that politics can arouse strong passions. And maybe, before the political machines start moving at full throttle, we should look at the word passion. It can mean a very strong, almost uncontrollable emotion.
Someone running for office needs a deep commitment and a strong desire to win. And his or her supporters have to be equally committed to the ideals and goals of their candidate. But passion can lead to moral blindness and ethical lapses that actually jeopardize entire campaigns. Passion often seems to override intelligence. It's a bulldozer mentality that practices, and is susceptible to, manipulation. In the past it has led to abuses, the consequences of which have on occasions assumed the proportions of Greek tragedy.
In thinking about the kinds of mental forces that drive people, the founder of the Monitor wrote, "In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one" (Mary Baker Eddy, in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pgs. 82-83).
People often place expediency over ethics. The philosophy is that "the end justifies the means" - however bad they are. But "the divine Mind" - which is God - provides the intelligence to express ideas winningly; to develop strategies effectively; to discern the needs of the people and see how to meet them. Following God's leadings is effective, and there is no penalty attached to it.
This kind of reason and drive brings a success that passion is incapable of delivering. An example from long ago illustrates this difference today. Absalom, the son of King David, lusted after his father's throne. He began a campaign to succeed his father. In the process, he deceived the people and manipulated their opinions until, in the words of the Bible, he "stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (II Sam. 15:6). Eventually, civil war broke out, and Absalom died in the conflict.
King David, on the other hand, is known for his reliance on God. He shows the importance of seeking His guidance. Even when he made serious mistakes, David turned back to God - and emerged stronger from the experiences. When he allowed passion to influence him, he got into serious trouble; when he stood steadfastly with God, divine Mind governed him effectively and righteously.
Jesus denounced pride and naked ambition. His Sermon on the Mount points out the qualities of thought and action that deliver people from the excesses of passion. These same spiritual qualities are the ones that keep anyone responsive to God and enable all of us to hear His guidance. For instance, we can discern which politicians (they are out there!) demonstrate qualities like purity, peacemaking, wisdom, and humility. Embodied in a political campaign, these are winning qualities.
When passion takes hold, people often end up asking Jesus' question "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26). Absalom may have won the hearts of the people briefly. But passion's companion is disillusionment; they can't be separated. And disillusionment causes people to seek out something more dependable, more trustworthy.
Righteous government is one of the greatest needs of society. If individuals, beginning with you and me, recognize their need for the guidance of God (which is to say the guidance of good in all its facets), and seek it out, they won't be controlled by passion. And they'll be free from fear, which is truly the foundation of passion.
Knowing that God is true power - being willing to place our trust in God - we feel the peace and confidence that can only come from God. And our thoughts and actions can't help but honor Him.
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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society