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Overcoming the power warp

President Joe Biden walks along the Colonnade of the White House Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, en route to the Oval Office.
President Joe Biden walks along the Colonnade of the White House Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, en route to the Oval Office. | White House/Adam Schultz

“I am your voice... I alone can fix it.”

Donald Trump was talking to the Republican Party in 2016 when he made that statement. He was referring to the “fixing” of the chaos twirling over the nation.

As The Atlanticnoted in an article about Trump’s speech, even Richard Nixon in 1968, a year of intense social violence, realized that he alone could not solve the problems facing the United States, and said: “Without God’s help, we will surely fail; but with God’s help and your help, we shall surely succeed.”

Nixon is accused of referring to God as a mere political expedient. I don’t think so.

Once I was detailed to escort evangelist Oral Roberts into a meeting with Nixon in the Oval Office. The day before I had drafted talking points for the President’s use. At the end of the conversation, Roberts looked at Nixon, and said, “Sir, when I meet with people, I like to pray with them, and then ask that they pray for me.”

I panicked: I had not written the president a prayer!

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It was too late as we moved to the center of the Office. In a few moments, my anxiety was blown away when I heard President Nixon pray aloud. I could tell it was not the first time, nor would it be the last.

The power-warp distorted other things spoken in that office, words that were delusionary and destructive of the values that could have brought healing to an even more troubled nation in 1969. The Lord’s name to which Nixon appealed in that same room a couple of years earlier was now uttered as an expletive.

The warping effects of power are not limited to the White House. It’s just that, as Lord Acton said, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

If ever there was an absolutist it must be Vladimir Putin. One wonders who in the Kremlin can break through the warping effect of the power that has charged up inside that mighty set of buildings for decades.

Who is telling Putin the truth? Who is blowing away the smoke that shrouds hard reality?

There are also moments when President Joe Biden seems to be speaking in a haze. Who clears the way for Biden to see things as they really are?

Who has the courage to pierce the hubris of Donald Trump and all the others?

Critics say that spiritual issues are not relevant in the hard-scrabble political world.  However, The Bible gives clear truth about dealing with the effects of the power warp:

1. Leaders should know the differences between true authority and raw power. Authority is granted from the higher to the lower, while raw power is seized. Authority is granted only to those under authority, but raw power is grabbed by those with enough muscle. Authority is sustained by servant leaders who build healthy relationships, giving encouragement and respect, but raw power is sustained by intimidation, domination, condemnation, and manipulation.

2. Powerholders need to understand the vital balance between the transcendent and the immanent in the application of power to which they have been entrusted. This means they must never take their power for granted but see it as a trust extended to them, and for which they will be held accountable by the people and to God Himself.

3. People in positions of leadership must heed the voice of the “Samuels” around them. 1 Samuel 13 tells the tragic story of King Saul, and how he lost leadership of his kingdom. There were two God-given offices of power that established stability in Old Testament Israel and Judah — the high priest and the king. Samuel occupied the position of high priest, and Saul that of king. A fierce battle loomed against the Philistines, and God gave the Israelites a stunning victory. Samuel had instructed that a sacrifice should be given to God in gratitude for the victory. Samuel had the authority for sacrifice, and Saul had authority in the civil domain. Thus, Samuel told Saul not to make the sacrifice, but to wait for him.

When Samuel was late, Saul called for the sacrifice, usurping the authority of the high priest. The result was that Saul lost his kingdom. The important principle is that leaders must respect jurisdictions of authority and not usurp the offices not given to them. Powerholders must understand the importance of power-sharing.

4. Men and women in powerful offices must have an “Amos” close by (Amos 7-9). Amos was the priest during the reign of King Jeroboam. Amaziah was the court priest. Amos, a herdsman and farmer, was a godly man, and the Lord appointed him to prophesy in the very palace of the evil king. Amos did so faithfully and spoke hard truth to the point that Amaziah warned him not to talk that way in the “sanctuary” and “royal residence” of the king. Amos would not be silent.

The Oval Office and all other centers of power should have open doors, not to sycophants, but to the prophets whom the powerholders should respect and to whom they should give heed.

When leaders give ear to such folk, nations, and the world itself are much safer because the warp no longer dominates the narrative.

Pray not only for the right people to be elected to office, but for advisors who can see clearly through the warp and have Amos-like courage to speak truth.

Wallace Henley is a former White House and Congressional aide. He is now a teaching pastor at Grace Church, The Woodlands, Texas. Wallace is author of more than 20 books, including God and Churchill, and his newest, Who Will Rule the Coming 'gods: The Looming Spiritual Crisis of Artificial Intelligence

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