My daughter’s boyfriend T.J. made a very prescient point at Waffle House on Sunday.
“When I was a kid,” the junior at UGA said, “I thought all these adults had it together and were respectable people. And then I grew up and I’m like, oh wow!”
Growing up, we tend to look up to adults, literally and figuratively. We are rightly taught to respect our elders. We tend to think they make responsible, non-selfish decisions. That especially goes for those in authority. Officers wear uniforms and carry nice guns. Presidents wear suits and live in the majestic White House, giving them the patina of respectability and authority.
But as we grow up, many of us are like Dorothy and her friends in that scene from the “Wizard of Oz”. When the little dog “Toto” pulls the curtain away, we realize that rather than an all-powerful king who rules the world, the wizard is really just a frustrated old man using cheap levers and smoke to fool the masses.
Some people think it’s a sad thing that we lose our youthful faith in others as we get older. I worry more about those who never give up that misplaced faith in human leaders. Never forget that Hitler was elected by the German people.
Our country was founded on good old-fashioned mistrust of government authority, which is always well-deserved. But it goes back much further than 1776.
When Christ started his ministry he did such miracles that the people began to believe in him. But the feeling, understandably, was not mutual.
“But Jesus didn’t trust them,” John 2:24 says, “because He knew all about people.”
And then, in case his audience didn’t get it, John added: “No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.”
That’s not to take the cynical view that we shouldn’t love others. Jesus died on the cross for these very same sinners, and also for you and me. But I think our society has un-learned the great truth the Bible teaches about human nature: that it is deeply sinful and profoundly broken. Remembering this great truth would have saved America a lot of unnecessary woe in the last year.
The American people allowed themselves to be cowed into allowing the biggest loss of freedom in our history. We were scared, so we put our faith in a government bureaucrat like Dr. Tony Fauci. Never mind that he changed his mind about everything from week to week. He was on TV and he had Dr. in front of his name. He must only want what’s best for us. We forgot what every elementary school teacher knows about human nature: people love to control others, and they relish the limelight.
Our county commission chairman often chides me for being too skeptical about government officials. When we dared ask questions about his efforts to take a cut for raising money for the hospital, or his efforts to steer county business to his ambulance company, he laughs it off as paranoid.
But I like to remind him that we are squarely in the camp with America’s heroes, the Founding Fathers, when we cast a jaundiced eye at those in power.
The author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, said if he had to choose between having a government without a newspaper or a newspaper without a government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter.
“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions,” said Jefferson, “that I wish it to be always kept alive.”
Skepticism about politicians and government is not an end in and of itself. That skepticism is merely a way to protect from them our freedoms and liberties that remain robust, which enables human thriving. If you want to love your neighbors, and to help them find the highest happiness possible on this broken planet, then you should work to keep a short leash on government at every level. The people will either fear the government, or the government will fear the people. Which kind of country would you rather have?