Thursday, December 11, 2008

Government Corruption

As we have once again learned in recent years, Illinois, New Jersey and Louisiana tend to run neck and neck in winning the prize for Most Corrupt State Politics. At the moment, Illinois has taken a small lead over the two states. But obviously, political corruption is not confined to these states, or to state government. My own perception is that we truly have an epidemic of corruption, where 'public service' has been redefined as 'self-service'. This new definition has become increasingly mainstream. Nobody is shocked by political scandal anymore, because if it's not the norm in actual practice, it is the norm in public perception.

Total depravity doesn't break along gender or economic lines, and it doesn't break along political lines either. A 'culture of corruption' based in large measure on cynicism is part and parcel of a cynical culture that's in decline. One cannot promise to 'clean up corruption' without also promising to clean up the society that breeds corruption and looks the other way because "that's just the way things are". Freedom without form is every bit as deadly as form without freedom. To attempt to live without limits in a world filled with limits, many of them good, is to give corruption the exact footing it needs to prosper.

Human laws, as necessary as they are, are not the answer. Since the passage of campaign finance reform, which was ostensibly an attempt to clean up government, political corruption of every sort only seems to have increased. Gun laws don't always prevent the wrong people from getting guns. Traffic laws certainly don't stop people from driving drunk or driving dangerously. And certainly in the mainline, folks can hardly argue that church laws have unified the faithful under some utopian polity, or in the case of the church at large, have prevented episodes of the systematic abuse of children. While human laws certainly take the human heart into account, they will never cure the heart's core disease that necessitates the need for laws. Only Christ can do that.

Corruption is allowed to prosper when the only real remedy for corruption is marginalized or discounted. As America continues its drift away from Christ and into post-Christian entropy, we may find that our scandalous times of today will look tame by what's coming.