Politics Without Principle

We’re in the season of Lent, for those few who are following the church calendar. Lent is like New Year’s resolutions: something you have every intention of accomplishing, but somehow gets sabotaged along the way.

My personal practice during Lent has been to study something. We’ve all heard of the seven deadly sins or, what I affectionately call it: the sin cycle. The seven sins are pride, envy, anger, sloth, lust, gluttony, and greed. This year I’m looking at what Mahatma Gandhi identified as the seven social sins or blunders. They are as timely now as they were in 1925! They are:

  • Politics without principle
  • Wealth without work
  • Commerce without morality
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Education without character
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice

Politics without principle. Oh boy. Where to begin?!? Talk about global timeliness! And talk about something that’s been an issue since the beginning of time … at least from what we know from the earliest recorded histories.

Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. We usually think of politics relating to governing and governments, but it also applies to institutions and special interest groups. If the decision-making process or people with the decision-making power are flawed, then there can be severe consequences for the rest of the group.

Political systems that are repressive and brutal are easy to spot. Blatantly corrupt individuals will eventually show their true colors. What isn’t so easy to discern are politics or political people who may not be as principled. This is where everything gets scary: people in power, making decisions or laws on behalf of everyone else with little or no regard for the rights, dignity, or best interests of the whole group.

Politics without principal is about character. What is the character of those in political power? Not only is the character of those running for political positions in the U.S. being called into question (as is appropriate), but so are their religious leanings (not so appropriate). I have to wonder about the true character of people who make comments like this:

Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal recently sent an email to his Republican colleagues citing Psalm 109:8, Let his days be few; and let another take his office. In a message accompanying the email, O’Neal writes:

“At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!”

What’s really offensive about using this verse out of context is that this verse is about vengeance, death and destruction of an individual and his family. A religious, political leader is publicly declaring these unprincipled comments about the President who was elected by our political process. We have to ask: Is something wrong with our political process or is something wrong with this political person? One or the other is unprincipled. I ask myself: If they’re unprincipled in their speech, can this person be trusted to engage in the public policies of others entrusted to his jurisdiction? What is this person’s character when no one else is looking?

Politics is complicated, principles are not … especially if a faith system informs our character. Politics is important because it informs policies and policies impact people. Principles are important because they mold a person’s character and a person’s character influences others around them. Gandhi was right. Politics without principle is a social sin.


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