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    Diogenes’ Great Dilemma

    September 12, 2013 by Brandy Vencel
    If I were better at writing jokes, I’d tell you one right now about a Pharisee and a politician. Unfortunately, no punchline is coming to me at the moment. Perhaps it’s because politicians are amusing me less and less, and Pharisees have hardly ever been funny.

    I was reading out of Matthew 21 to my children recently, and something jumped out at me that I hadn’t paid much attention to before:

    And when [Jesus] was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”

    And Jesus answered and said unto them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?”

    And they reasoned with themselves, saying, “If we shall say, ‘From heaven;’ He will say unto us, ‘Why did ye not then believe him?’ But if we shall say, ‘Of men;’ we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.”

    And they answered Jesus, and said, “We cannot tell.”

    This time around, I was astounded.

    Jesus asked these men one of the central questions of their time. Who was John the Baptist? From where did his baptism hail? You’d think these guys would have already decided what they really thought about it.

    And perhaps they had.

    But still, I was struck by the idea that they didn’t actually entertain the question. Instead, they took a mental poll. Well, if we answer this way, these people will get upset, but if we answer this way, we’ll have to answer other uncomfortable questions. Hey, I have an idea! Let’s not answer at all!

    This is how I feel about politicians. Let’s take Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip, and supposedly my local representative {for whom I refuse to vote, even though I’m a registered Republican}. There are important things going on, but generally, we get silly updates from him concerning ancillary issues, like the prevalence of Valley Fever.

    Politicians major on the minors because it keeps them safe. They don’t have to ruffle any feathers, or deal with any dissent.

    They can keep hidden what they really think about issues and actions that matter to the polis.

    It is said that the Diogenes the Cynic wandered through the streets in broad daylight, carrying a lantern, and obviously searching for something. A man stopped him and said, “Why do you carry a lantern during the day? For what are you looking?”

    by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

    To which Diogenes replied, “I am looking for an honest man!”

    Get out your lanterns, people. Daylight is still quite dark, and like the Pharisees of old, our politicians are not statesmen. A poll does not an honest answer make.

    Oh, to be led by an honest man!

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    3 Comments

  • Reply Brandy Vencel September 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I love the connections both of you made here!

  • Reply sara September 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    This made me think of the earlier passage in Matthew 11 –

    “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces…”

    Our politicians, in many cases, are weak and soft, and unlikely to lose their head over anything as inconvenient and uncomfortable as principle or Truth.

  • Reply Dawn September 13, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Timely post for me, Brandy. Oddly enough last night the following was the final quote that I highlighted as I read The Roots of American Order:
    “Political virtue, Montesquieu had written, is eagerness to serve the commonwealth.”
    I was pondering whether this is even on the radar of modern day politicians as I put the book down, and this morning I awoke to your post, and I know that I am not alone if my query.

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