Why Power Corrupts: Self-absorbed Leadership
by Kevin Probst
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Over one hundred years ago, Lord Acton declared that “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The concept was first demonstrated when Lucifer aimed to supplant God and God would have nothing to do with it, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God”. (Isaiah 14:12-13) There is a parallel passage in Ezekiel 28:11-19 that reveals that the ability of power to corrupt is not confined to Satan, but his plans are carried out through earthly kings and rulers who think just like the father they serve. They take to themselves what belongs exclusively to God. They make outrageous claims of divinity, just as Lucifer did before he was cast out of heaven.
The ancient Chinese rulers of the Qin Dynasty claimed to be the “Sons of Heaven”. The Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar became “the Divine Julius”. Imhotep, the ancient Egyptian physician was elevated to deity after his death when he was declared the god of medicine and healing. The early kings who ruled Europe often thought they were privileged with divine rights. Some modern day rulers are certainly so drunk on their own power, they also believe they are divine or have at their disposal divine power to rule over the mere mortals of earth.
So the question to be answered is this, “Why is it that some are corrupted by power and others are not?” When one contrasts Hitler, Stalin, and Castro with Washington, Lincoln and Reagan the differences are very pronounced. Who can explain the failure of Communism and Totalitarianism? Is it not true when man attempts to use power apart from God he becomes corrupt. Communist leaders who bought into Darwin’s theory of evolution hook, line and sinker had a rationale upon which to build their atheistic philosophies. The absence of God created an empty vacuum in their souls which they filled with the only thing that remains when God is removed, self. While one set of rulers refer to God frequently and seek his assistance the other group lifts their fist in the face of God and denies his existence. After they have declared God eliminated, there is no one to set a standard for morality or determine proper human behavior, so, the self-absorbed ruler declares that he is the arbitrator of all.
Jesus addressed this very idea of replacing God with self when he addressed a group of ruling lawyers and judges of his day, “…you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25) Why does death follow after political systems that reject God? The Apostle Paul gave us the answer 2,000 years ago: “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger”. (Romans 2:8) The leader who exaggerates his own importance often uses his power to attempt to create what actually does not exist. He wants to be the architect of a heaven on earth, a utopia, for the elite, those who share in the divine rights. The status of their divinity cannot be fully realized until someone worships them so they oppress the common masses and encourage class warfare to create a great chasm that separates them from the mere mortals.
They visualize themselves as creating a society of underlings who will live in total submission to them and will be overwhelmed with admiration for them because they were able to create a system in which all share equally in the wealth. The gratefulness of the masses will remove any bitterness that might be directed toward those who are living the high life. The ‘gods of the marketplace’ deserve to live lives of leisure and luxury because of their gift to the masses. While they fantasize their own divinity and revel in the worship of the multitude they are actually being set up for failure. “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.” (James 5:5)
A culture has a sure anchor of morality when it is centered on God. When God is removed from a culture, morality collapses and men, especially rulers, become nihilistic. Moral character becomes obsolete and nihilism takes its place. There are no exceptions to this rule. It is the same for a liberal or a conservative, for a Democrat or a Republican. The removal of God from the formula eliminates satisfaction in the soul and that individual begins to seek satisfaction from outside sources, mainly through pleasure, prestige and power. When God is replaced by self a peculiar panic develops within. Those who deny God are tormented by the illusion that there is no one in control. Frantic control-freaks begin to immerge from the godless. They begin developing rules and policies to govern the behavior of others. Apart from the wisdom of God, these regulations and mandates become asinine and absurd.
When men like Al Gore address the peons with statements like; “The world only has five years before it is destroyed by global warming”, and they roll their eyes at the absurdity, he is deeply offended. He has come to save the world. He knows better than we. We should not resent the fact that he wants us to ride bicycles while he is flown about in his private jet. He is the chosen one to save the citizens of the world from themselves. For those of us who understand the sovereignty of the true God, Gore’s behavior seems juvenile and maniacal. “Relax, Al. We don’t need another Savior, we already have one.”
The emptiness of the soul that must depend on self rather than God often drives them to a grandiose self-assignment. He tries to fill up his own emptiness, not with God, but by making themselves saviors. They visualize themselves heroes of the poor, the working class and the downtrodden. God-fearing leaders find their value in the God who created them and the God they serve. Those who have alienated themselves from God must find satisfaction in becoming their own deities, saving the world from environmental pollution, saving the whales, saving mankind from the threat of nuclear annihilation and eliminating poverty.
This self-appointed task of becoming savior leads to arrogance. This prideful spirit is always followed by disgrace and lack of wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2) Many think it is quite arrogant when President Obama strong arms the Supreme Court to approve of the ‘individual mandate’ in his healthcare law that is blatantly unconstitutional. Is he above the law? Does he assume the power to write his own laws and self-impose them on the rest of society? There is an unattractive self-centeredness in the president when he declares a policeman acted “stupidly” before all the facts of the case were gathered. How many Pennsylvanians were offended by his condescending statement regarding those who come from small towns in Pennsylvania (that would include the author) who “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion”. The inference is that he has a plan to rescue those small town people, a plan that guns and religion cannot possibly provide. Is this not more than arrogance? Is this not one who believes he has divine rights? Michele certainly thinks so as she recently stated that her husband has “brought us out of the dark and into the light.”
Can you not see the writing on the wall, just as Nebuchadnezzar saw? “You have been weighed in the scales and found wanting. The days of your kingdom are numbered, it is to be divided and given away”. (Daniel 5) There are no exceptions to this truth: when God is defied and removed he no longer blesses and destruction is sure to follow. Our future as a country and society will be determined by whether our leaders choose to serve self or others and by whether we embrace and worship the true God or continue to reject him.
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Politics in general is corrupt; because votes and principles are for sale to the highest bidder. Long ago, representatives have forgotten Lincoln's ideal of government by the people and for the People!