..for it is the nature of kings that they will hold good men in more suspicion than the bad, and dread the talents of others.’ —Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline
Our President is not a king so one might object that the Roman historian, Sallust’s depiction of kings does not apply. Our President, however, performs as a king, taking great relish in the issuing of edicts and demanding that his voluminous lies be accorded the appellation of Truth simply because the words are coming out of his mouth. Despite evidence to the contrary, he will double down and triple down on his lies, as if by merely repeating the words he will magically make it so. Having addressed the positive in Mr. Trump, let’s ponder the negative for a moment.
In his book, Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar, Tom Holland writes, “Words, under the Caesars, had become slippery, treacherous things.” And then turning to the Roman historian of that age, Tacitus, describes the moment: ‘The age was a tainted one, degraded by its sycophancy.’ Tacitus, meet Trump.
This sycophancy—at least it seems to me—is the danger of the moment in which we live. Sycophants are servile persons who obey and pander to someone important in order to gain an advantage. What this means is we have a congress that refuses to hold the president accountable because they have an agenda of their own (they would like to be rid once and for all of Medicaid, render the safety net useless, deny medical care to its most needy citizens, the elderly and the poor, and burn billions of dollars building more weapons of mass destruction). They won’t check the President because for now, they want the President to check the boxes on their legislative agenda.
The banal chant of “fake news” has been taken up by an administration that has attached itself to White Nationalism. White nationalist apparatchiks [like Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Michael Anton] who fawn over fascists of previous eras have taken up residence in this administration with little objection from the party in control of both the House and Senate. Sycophancy has tainted our age and our government to a degree previously unthinkable. Here’s a tip though: when the alligators on your animal farm assert the swamp should be drained, you should think twice about who is faking whom.
Why would a pastor speak to these political realities? someone might ask. My response: The Church has since its inception worked out the Good News of Jesus Christ within the matrix of power and politics. It was Rome that crucified its Savior. And it was within the Roman history of which Tacitus and Sallust wrote that Christians had to live. They offered Good News, not fake news. They worshipped one King, the King of the Universe, not the tyrant that occupied the Roman throne at any given time. As the Gospel of Luke tells us, Jesus was born under the rule of Caesar Augustus. He was ruthless. He insisted upon being referred to as Divi Filius, son of a god. So when Luke tells the Good News of the birth of Jesus and the New Testament declares him to be the Son of God, it is a direct affront and counter to the tyranny of the Roman Caesar-god. As then, so now. The Church declares the Good News and thus opposes the fog machine of lies. Here’s a tip: when politicians and presidents declare they are being merciful, as Mr. Ryan has claimed about himself, or that they are born again, as the President has said he is, but they attack and assault the weak, the poor, the hungry, the sick, then you can chalk that up to fakery. The Apostle James was clear enough: “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress,. . .[James 1:26-27] May the Good News of Christ dissipate the fog of fake news of this Orwellian government. In such a time as this, do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. ~See you Sunday