One of my favourite films is Dave. It tells the story of a man who runs a temp agency and is an uncanny look-alike for the President. One day he is hired by the White House to impersonate the President leaving a hotel, thus freeing the real President for a night of passion with one of his secretaries. During his tryst, the President has a stroke and Dave is kept on because the chief of staff needs time to work out a solution. Dave finds the longer he is in “office” the more he cares about what can be achieved and shocked at what isn’t. The film is one of those “what ifs” that believes the little amateur is more in touch with the real world than the big professionals.
However anyone who has worked in a “system” of any kind knows that systems put pressure on you to conform to its concerns and way of dealing with things. The amateur goes pro pretty quickly as the system points out the path to making the world a better place. Politicians are keen to tell you that politics is the art of the possible, but they don’t tell you much about how “possible” is defined. A cynic would say it is the art of getting re-elected.
A friend of mine has recently become a local councillor. He is a capable guy who genuinely cares about people. He cares especially for the poor and marginalised. He genuinely wants to see everyone share in the opportunity and abundance that our society claims to offer all who will take it. Sometimes he is a bit too partisan for my taste but his heart is in the right place and he has the skills and ability to take what is in his heart and make it work in the real world.
What will be interesting to watch is how long my friend the man can hold out against the system which wants him to be a politician. The vested interests of his party will require him to demonstrate he is “one of us”. There will always be compromises needed to get others to support his agenda to change the world. There will always be the danger of believing he has the answers and all the others don’t. There will always be the “possible” to be achieved which usually falls short of the necessary.
So I will be praying for my friend. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders not because they are appointed by God but because they are human stewards of power and authority. They need wisdom, a real understanding of their own limitations and a willingness to seek the whole picture even if it isn’t the portrait they wanted. In the Old Testament the first book of Samuel gives a clear idea of God’s view of human political organisation. His view of human rulers (and the powerful of any sphere) is that they take far more than they give back because that is what humans tend to do.
In an incredibly partisan and divisive western political environment our hope (which tends to be dashed) is not to find politicians who are “right” but rather to find those with broad and inclusive vision, who don’t issue solutions before understanding the problem, who converse with those who put them in power and most of all recognise they are stewards of power rather than owners of it. We want politicians who accept that they are flawed human beings and therefore tread forward with care.
So I will be praying for my very human friend as he exercises his stewardship. I’ll do that praying in the confidence that the world will be a better place because he has a seat in that council chamber.