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Ethics in government

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

August 15, 2002



It's difficult to see how governmental morals and ethics can be improved. The problems loom so large. Governmental bureaucracies seem so entrenched, and leaders seem so powerful. But despite it all, there is a "God in heaven" whose beneficent power can be brought to bear on any situation. It can diminish, melt, heal, any governmental problems, far beyond what we can accomplish through our most diligent efforts.

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In the Bible, David was a great king and ruler, but despite his efforts to govern righteously, he was often confronted with efforts to undermine him. The book of Psalms is full of his prayers to God to overcome these difficulties. And the record of David's success as a righteous ruler stands.

But can this same divine power be brought to bear today? Or are governmental challenges today more insidious and God less capable, less aware, less caring, than He was 3,000 years ago?

About 12 years ago, I had an experience in our town's government that convinced me that God's healing power is every bit as effective in this arena now as then.

Soon after moving to our new town it became all too obvious that it was run by a powerful, long-standing clique of "good old boys." This is not unusual, but the level of corruption seemed to be extraordinary. Bribery, kickbacks, and unaccounted cash payments to certain town officials seemed barely concealed. Town employees who didn't choose to go along with the system were isolated and ostracized. Citizens who dared question the status quo were condemned as fools and publicly humiliated. In some ways, it seemed our town government was about as dysfunctional as it could be.

I'm no hero, but I believe it's one's moral responsibility to confront such blatant wrongdoing. I had long considered and been impressed with these words of this newspaper's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "...those who discern Christian Science will hold crime in check. They will aid in the ejection of error. They will maintain law and order ..." (pg. 97). I took these words as my marching orders, my guidelines, my guardian – my guarantee.

I ran for and was elected to the town finance committee and was soon introduced to a wonderfully conscientious and fearless town employee who was prepared to risk his job and possibly even his career to help right the wrongs that we both could clearly see.

When it came to light that this employee was providing me with information that might lead to the undoing of certain town officials, he was fired. But the firing proved to be fortuitous.

The employee appealed and requested a public hearing. During the course of this hearing, significant information regarding corruption was brought to light. Not only did the employee get his job back, but a remarkable domino effect began, which, over the course of several years, cleansed our town government of corruption and corrupt officials. Conscientious and honest citizens waiting in the wings for the opportunity, came forward to fill the vacant positions. A whole new era of openness, respect, citizen participation, and trust suddenly dawned. The weight of fear and resignation lifted from the town.

Downtown buildings that had long been vacant and underutilized were rehabilitated and gained new businesses, merchants, and tenants. The crumbling parking lot was repaved, given new lighting, and is now daily full of cars. One formerly neglected area is a beautiful park. And, perhaps best of all, one of the notorious and unpleasant ringleaders of the "good old boy" clique took a job in a store where he cheerfully greets and waits on customers. I look forward now to seeing him on a regular basis. The rebirth continues, as our town is, in a modest but healthy way, a desired destination for vacationers, shoppers, and day-trippers.

This good did not come easily, and it didn't all happen overnight. Somebody had to get it started. I remember this statement by the apostle Paul: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase" (I Cor. 3:6, 7).

By following God's leadings and staying close to Him, we can help improve our governments.

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