The 21st Century version of an over confident Chinese Emperor Xi Jinping and a Russian Czar Putin jointly ‘take the platform’ at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. They pronounce that the autocratic power brokers have the Right to determine the definition of human rights, democracy and the correct view of the world and its people.
In other words, you can thank the autocrats for letting you play your sport in their stadium. The ‘stadium’ referring to ‘the world’ that you live in.
It was an ominous commentary made to a powerless audience gathered to celebrate sport. But that is how Dictators and autocrats function. They own the world view. They pronounce their version of reality and demand all to acknowledge and eventually submit to their views.
Yes. These two powerful national leaders. One who cannot field a national team at the Olympics because of his State sponsored doping of athletes. Two powerful leaders who persecute minorities, suppress information, poison or disappear political adversaries, drop barrel bombs on civilians and destroy hospitals. Terrorize civilian populations until they acquiesce to the demands of cowardly bullies. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a logical next step.
Autocrats, Dictators, Emperors, Czars all fall into the cesspool filled with the drugs of power and control. They love it. They want it. They can’t get enough of it. You don’t need to be at the supreme level of governance to have this addiction to power and control. But the power and control obsession is extremely dangerous at the supreme level of governance. These Dictators make war and kill at will and use others to do it for them. And they plead innocence.
The biblical stories are filled with examples of individuals who became great leaders and squandered leadership through their abuse of power and control. King David, granted great prominence in contemporary conservative Christian narratives, leaves much to be desired as a leader and community builder. He ensures that the husband of the woman that he desired was killed in battle so he could add her to his harem. And much of his great accomplishments as a leader were lost in the mire of his immersion into the cesspool of power and control. The Bible contains these stories to remind us of the fragility of our capacity to lead well. There is constant threat to efforts to enhance integrity and honor in our world views.
The autocrats and wanna-be autocrats of our world need to learn that only like minded monsters share their personal thirst for power and control. We don’t want to help make them richer, more powerful, more elitist. The main stumbling block for autocrats is that they believe their own deceptions and there is no one voice strong enough to convince them differently. The Biblical voice suggests how to eventually collapse and destroy these corrupt ways of thinking and living.
In contrast, most want to share in the freedom of learning how to grow themselves, be creative and love and serve each other. When we are at our best too we want all to have freedom to live magnificently different lives.
I prefer to learn these truths from the biblical examples than to have to live the sordid tragedies again in our time. And the Bible witness helps us to envision a different world without experiencing the holocaustic tragedies of the past. Making people suffer, destroying others, causing pain and death is godless human absurdity.
The belief in God challenges us to a higher calling in life. We are not here just for ourselves but for all generations, past, present and future. And the Bible shows us so we may learn about this higher calling from each other and the goodness of life as gifts from God.
Pastor John Goldstein