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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Government Corruption

So I was teaching in Uganda recently, and ended up having a very interesting conversation about politics with a group of men there.  They had recently had their presidential elections and some were not happy with the results.  (The incumbent president had been re-elected ... again.)  At any rate, they spoke in cynical tones about the level of corruption in their government. To them, it was, among other things, a sign that their country is not good place to be.

So we started talking about how corruption is defined. They surmised that the election process, for example, may have been corrupted by the report that an estimated 5,000 dead people cast votes in that election.  I pointed out that the international community watchdogs had investigated that claim and concluded that even if it were true, it would not have been sufficient to throw the results of the election one way or another.  But my Ugandan friends said despairingly, "How can any election process be legitimate with this corruption in it?"

Of course many of my friends' tirades ended with their referring to how lucky I am that I get to live in America --- where (they assume) we don't have such things as corruption.  It's fair to say that they were more than surprised when I explained to them that even America has its corruption in government. I explained how the federal agencies squander money studying the mating habits of insects.  I introduced them to the notion of "pork" in government spending - and explained that many of our Congressional representatives brag most about how much money they are able to bring back to their home state from Washington.  I told them about $1,800 hammers and $900 screw drivers.  They were stunned with disbelief.

Then they mused that surely Mr. Obama is fixing that.  So I told them about the time last year when Obama used Air Force One - a Boeing 747 to fly his wife to New York for a dinner date.  And we talked about how much money that dinner cost the American tax payers.  I told them how much money our government shovels into other countries --- and how billions of it got lost (literally) in Iraq.  We talked about how the national debt has spiraled out of control during the Obama presidency.  Suffice to say, there was no shortage of examples of corruption and poor leadership in American government.

Like I said, my Uganda friends were stunned.  They couldn't imagine such things.  For they had always assumed that Ugandan corruption was unique in the world. And this allowed us to have a conversation about the source of corruption.  It didn't take long for us to agree together that corruption is probably inevitable given that governments are run by imperfect, sinful humans.  Perhaps more importantly, it gave us the opportunity to recognize the fact that God is still in control of even corrupt governments. 

And finally, we were able to conclude this conversation by talking about the good that we have in our respective governments. 

We agreed that, as Christians, we can be thankful for the freedoms that we have.  We can pray for our government leaders.  And we can honor God by submitting to the authorities placed over us and being good citizens, modeling godly citizenship.  It's true that every country in the world is plagued with corruption.  But it is equally true that God can bless us beyond measure even in the midst of the imperfect governments that we serve under.

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