Power confuses and concerns me.
Here is the paradox:
- It is hard to do good without it.
- The more power a man attains, the more evil he commits.
In politics we often think: “If only we could get more power we could do more good.” But is this the case?
Three Stories -> One Question
Can you fix a broken system by taking power from bad men and giving it to good men?
Here are three stories to explore this question.
Lelouch Vi Britannia
In Code Geass, Lelouch saw his mother killed and his sister blinded and crippled. He dedicated his life to making the world a just and kind place. He denied himself earthly pleasures and refused to drink the perks of leadership. He received the power to bend others to his will. He went out to destroy evil.
But evil is not a person you can kill. It is an infection that infects even its attackers. Click to Tweet!
Despite his selfless motives, his desire to do good brought a harvest of evil.
The more Lelush fought evil the more evil he became. His goal of justice allowed him to justify unjust acts. The more power he attained the more destruction came to those around him. He is redeemed only through his death.
What can save such a man?
Boromir son of Denethor
Boromir grew up fighting evil. He could see it out his window. He could hear it in his sleep. He was a powerful man, but not strong enough to save his people. He knew they would die unless someone acted.
If not him then who?
If not now then when?
Then he had the opportunity for true power. The One Ring was within his grasp.
The ring used his good intentions to do evil. He lost his relationships with those close to him. As he reached for ultimate power, it destroyed him.
His redemption came only through death.
Absalom son of David
Absalom had everything it took to be a good leader. He had favor, good looks and brilliance. When someone tried to bow to him he would pick them up and give them a hug. But unlike his father, he did not know God.
His father David walked a path of brokenness and suffering that instilled godly character. Absalom walked the easy path of a wealthy prince. He lacked the character needed to temper his ambition.
His lust for power destroyed his relationships and everyone around him. Ultimately he lost his life, unredeemed.
The fruit of ambition.
In each of these three stories ambition led to betrayal.
Here is the progression:
- Longing to do good for others leads to ambition.
- Ambition leads to a lust for power.
- Lust for power leads to a love of power.
- Love for power grows to surpass love for others.
- Others are betrayed to gain more power.
- Betrayal breaks relationships.
Ambition hurts those closest to you. Can you name a powerful man who’s family is healthy? The difficulty of finding such a man breaks my heart.
The cost of avoiding power.
So should we forsake ambition? What happens when just men avoid power? According to Socrates, they are punished. They are ruled by men lest just than themselves.
Or put another way, evil flourishes when good men avoid power.
The villains of history wanted to make the world a better place.
- Oliver Cromwell wanted to make the world more peaceful & holy by removing Catholicism from Ireland.
- Millions died through starvation and war.
- Margarete Sanger wanted to create a world where every child was healthy and wanted.
- Millions died through abortion.
- Adolph Hitler wanted to remove war and disease by eliminating “imperfect” races.
- Millions died through holocaust and war.
- Joseph Stalin wanted a Utopian paradise by eliminating class and wealth.
- Millions died, frozen to death, in Siberia.
- Pol Pot wanted to create an agrarian paradise where everyone worked the collective land in peace.
- Millions died from starvation and murder.
- Peace is the justification for war.
- Saving life is the justification to take life.
- Pleasure is the justification for rape.
- Safety is the justification of slavery.
- Equality is the justification of theft.
America has killed perhaps more foreign civilians than any other nation. Our excuse? Saving lives. Why is it right when we do it, but wrong when Japan does it?
Does good justify evil before God? Does He judge our actions or our intentions?
Power does not corrupt.
In the book Whist by David Umstattd, Whist asks his mentor Skylock if power corrupts. “Heavens no” Skylock responds “Power only reveals your inner corruption.”
Perhaps Skylock has it right. What if power only magnifies corruption. One of the oldest sayings in the world says, “From evil people come evil deeds.”
Power x Corruption = Evil Committed Click to Tweet!
A villain without power does less evil than a good man with power. Click to Tweet!
The only cure for evil.
When God rebooted the world after the flood he only changed one thing: how long people lived. God limited man’s life to 120 years to limit the amount of wickedness man could perform. This heavenly term limit kept the world from going bad as quickly the second time.
We are born innocent, with only the seeds of evil in our hearts. As we grow older these seeds bring forth greater wickedness. Our knowledge, experience and reputation give us power to do evil which makes us evil.
Few ever see this process reverse. Old age may take away our ability to do bad, but who becomes more just? History shows us that many Christian leaders fail to finish well. Is the same is true for us? Do we just lack the spotlight of power to reveal our inner corruption? There will come a day when the light will shine on the strong and weak alike.
I am convinced that this is why people die. Only death can purge us from sin.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
One Last Story
In the movie Blind Side, Leigh Anne Tuohy has power to bend people to her will. But something is different about her, instead of doing evil, she does good.
- Motivation: Her motivation is love.
- Safe Power: Her power is inferential. Instead of forcing people to comply she convinces them to choose themselves. I think this is an important difference.
Instead of trying to get more power she does what she can with what she has.
What do you think?
- Do you agree with my analysis?
- Do you think that power corrupts or reveals corruption?
- What should our response be to the problem of power?