Send In The Clowns

Imagine chatting with a man who seems friendly and personable, but who reveals that he's had affairs with hundreds of women. Or imagine meeting another man who refuses to shake your hand for fear of picking up germs. Or yet another man who suddenly reveals that President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy involving "the military-industrial complex." Well, you might suspect these people needed psychiatric counseling. But you'd be really shocked to discover that precisely these kinds of people are being taken seriously as possible presidential candidates. A Newsweek cover story chronicles the emergence of what it calls "the wild bunch"—celebrities being seriously considered as viable candidates for president. The list includes former pro-wrestler and now governor of Minnesota Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who subscribes to the Kennedy conspiracy theory. He has also made demeaning comments about people who have religious beliefs. Then there's Donald Trump, who won't shake a stranger's hand for fear of contagion. There's also actor Warren Beatty, and actress Cybill Shepherd, and most recently, talk-show hostess Oprah Winfrey. What motivates some of these celebrity candidacies is truly bizarre. Cybill Shepherd's advisor has stated that the actress is considering running for president in order to oppose pro-lifers, people who, in her words, want to impose "mandatory motherhood." Really? Oprah Winfrey's champions say her qualifications are obvious: she's rich and famous. When asked to describe HIS political base, Trump pointed to the millions of people who visit his casino every year, as if separating people from their money is the basis of a political constituency. Well, one could laugh at this foolishness, and the campaign for the Reform Party nomination has indeed taken on a carnival atmosphere. But in truth, there's something frightening about this. The fact that any of these celebrities is being taken seriously illustrates how much we have trivialized American politics. The trivialization of politics began with the casual abuse of public office so common today. No matter what abuses our leaders perpetrate, they shrug them off—and so do most Americans. As a pointed example, no matter how many immoralities this president commits, he soars in the polls. Americans have simply lowered the standard. The result is that virtues like honesty and self-control are no longer in demand. Our celebrity candidates flaunt such things such as Shepherd's four marriages, Beatty's womanizing, and Trump's penchant for sleeping with women half his age. Well, Christians ought to be alarmed at this trivialization of the political process. Government is one of three institutions specifically ordained by God. Its task is to preserve order and establish justice. That's why Christian thinkers like John Calvin considered magistrates worthy of utmost respect and honor. Calvin saw political office as a calling ordained by God. Few Americans see politics as a calling. Instead, it's viewed as an extension of celebrity which makes a mockery of the political process. Christians must help their neighbors understand that, in a self-governing democracy, we get the leaders we deserve—the leaders who reflect us. The cover of Newsweek showing candidates clowning for president ought not to make us laugh, but, rather, weep.


Chuck Colson



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