Diplomatic Notes

Principles and politics

The year is 2021 – The Bahamas is in the throes of a pandemic – but pandemic or not, we have elections coming up. Every five years, according to our Constitution, these elections must take place. The people must decide who will represent them. We live in a democracy, so in democracies citizens vote on who they want to govern for the next five years. This seems pretty straightforward, but every election cycle it seems to get more complicated and perplexing.

What is the problem you may ask?

The problem is that everyone we elect has the same issues that we have and the same dilemmas we face, and we have been hard-pressed to find a tangible difference between the opposing parties.

It seems every election cycle, it comes down to the same thing. Both parties promise to put principles over personal benefit, to be open, honest and transparent and yet it feels inevitable that we are disappointed that what was promised did not materialize. The parties point fingers at each other. They argue about who is the most deviant or corrupt, and we are left wondering when will we ever see parties operate by the principles they all agree are the right and best principles. This is an ongoing saga and ongoing dilemma. Unfortunately, I cannot give you a simple solution, but I know what the solution is.

The solution is exactly what all parties promise and few deliver on – putting principles above personal benefit, personal comfort or personal aggrandizement. Some of us take the posture that we are finished with politics and political parties. Some say there is no hope. Others say the people must rise up and take over. The only problem is that even the people who are advocating for change and a new accountability, if they ever get elected, it is very likely that they will do what their predecessors have done.

So, what is the solution?

I believe the solution is that we should expect from our politicians what we expect from ourselves.

Do we live by the principles we espouse?

Do we conduct ourselves honorably and put principle about personal profit?

Are we any different than them – and if we replace them, will we do anything differently?

These are questions we really want to avoid because it holds up a mirror we don’t want to look into. Could it be that they are just like us and the simple solution is that we must eat what we serve? Indeed, it is. If we want a government that lives by righteous principles, then we have to live by righteous principles. We must demand that they live by the same principles we are willing to live by. Some of the people vying for office believe that they will suddenly live differently and govern differently than their personal lives now reflect. Principles are no respecter of person or political party. The Bible tells us that, “Whatever a man sows he will reap”. It also says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. These are principles that cannot be avoided. Just like the laws of nature, like gravity and the weather, they will be the same no matter who agrees or disagrees or tries to avoid.

A principled government will come from people who live by the principle’s truth, honesty, accountability, righteousness and love. If the people running for office do not currently live by these principles, then what we will get is a recurrence of what we have always gotten.

Make no mistake about it, living righteously is hard. Very hard. It is also the best and most profitable way to live in the long run. The problem is that we are human, and we tend to look out for ourselves before anyone else. It is hard but possible – and until our politicians subscribe to this possibility, the endless cycle will continue. You, Mr. Businessman, you Mr. Preacher, you Ms. Teacher, you Ms. Doctor or Lawyer, you have to live it privately for it to show up publicly.

If you think you can separate yourself from “politics” you, too, are mistaken. Politics comes from the Greek word: politikos, and means “of, for, or relating to citizens”. It is the process of making uniformed decisions applying to all members of a group. It also involves the use of power by one person to affect the behavior of another person. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance – organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a usually hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities. We are all politicians. We may not run for office, but politics is “of, for or relating to citizens”. That means we are political. The question then is are we principled politicians or of the category of those who are politicians for personal benefit and enrichment?

I know I am not close to perfection, but I do believe I can say with some assurance that I live a life of principles to the point where I can demand of others what I demand of myself. Every election cycle, I face the same dilemma, and at the end of the day make my decisions based upon the same principles. When it comes to politics, I will never support a specific party because my primary allegiance is to a philosophy that has shaped my life and who I have become. I am issue-based and philosophy-based and support entities that share that philosophy. When they differ, I have to support my philosophy first. My government is based on the philosophy of what we refer to as the kingdom of God, which was presented to the world by Jesus Christ. It was this philosophy that transformed my life and brought me success, so it forever shapes my decisions and choices.

As we enter this season, I look not for public pronouncements but character and reputation of the personal lives of the ones who are shouting from the rooftops, “elect me”. If you are not already doing it, I don’t expect you to turn on a switch when you enter the halls of Parliament. It is now or never. Show me your principles before I accept your politics.

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.

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