Not since P.T. Barnum roared onto the scene have the words circus, suckers, and clowns been used so often. At least that's one conclusion from an informal survey of news stories on California's recall election.
The crowd of characters running for governor is so big and colorful, so the opposite of drab, that describing the event in circus terms is almost irresistible. Or it would be if the turmoil surrounding the vote and the fiscal chaos facing the state were laughing matters. Barring any last-minute legal obstacles, the vote to recall Gov. Gray Davis, and the election of a successor if it prevails, takes place next week.
In the meantime a solution-hungry electorate is, I believe, eager for sober words devoid of showmanship but filled with thoughtful insight. They want to hear problem-solving approaches to the crises that initially sparked the recall effort, such as mounting budgetary and energy troubles. They also are concerned about the recall process itself, which is widely regarded as needing repair.
One concerned citizen is Peter Ueberroth. He ran the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and later was the commissioner of Major League Baseball. For a time, he was one of the people running for governor. Perhaps in an effort to find some sort of middle ground on the key issues, he said: "I'm not throwing stones at the Democrats ... [or] Republicans. I'm throwing stones at the process" (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 16). When even the process looms Goliath-like, it's a relief to remember that the solution might be as close at hand as David's small smooth stone.
Prayer is like that stone. It is always available, seemingly small, often unnoticed and unutilized. But it can have a hugely favorable impact. More times than I can count, I've seen prayer, in all its quiet modesty, play a crucial role in resolving questions about who's and what's in control. Prayer is a sure means by which Californians and other citizens eager for solutions can now make uniquely healing contributions.
Try this. Take the word recall, but put a different spin on it. Can you recall a Bible passage touching on government? One favorite of mine is from Isaiah. It describes the Messiah, or Immanuel, which means "God with us." "The government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end" (9:6, 7).
If my thoughts of the California recall drift toward, "This is just too bizarre," I have a way to redirect them and recall how reassuring it is to have the government resting on the shoulders of God and His Christ, not falling into the hands of special interests.
If I believe the will of the majority usually turns out to be pretty good - but then am concerned that, because of a quirk in the law, a tiny minority of voters might prevail - I can recall that true government is in the care of the mighty God who is All, not in the possession of a mortal few.
Whatever your point of greatest concern, if you're familiar with the Bible, see if a favorite Scriptural passage doesn't lift your perspective and resolve that concern. (If you aren't familiar with the Bible, there are many favorite passages from it to be found on the Internet.)
That's the beauty of prayer. It takes one to a higher altitude of thought, a more exalted perspective on true government. This doesn't replace the democratic process, but it does underpin and uphold the best of it.
God's government isn't subject to perversion or exploitation. There's a steadiness to the divine nature, seen in those prophetic words quoted from Isaiah: Prince of Peace. Everlasting Father. Mighty God. Counsellor. Wonderful. If they hint at what you'd like to see governing, try acknowledging the spiritual fact that they already are.
Recall that the unerring Counselor, for instance, is in a very real sense on site to enlighten and to guide our political leaders. The key is to know this in prayer. That will help lift the general outlook above the circus-like pandemonium to glimpse wonderful solutions inspired by the Father. Solutions that are closer than a stone's throw away right now.