The Temptation of Caesar: On Power, Sex and Politics

We're aware of the statistic that 81% of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. We're also aware that this endorsement was a moral about-face from how evangelicals raged against the sexual sins of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton's sexual behavior made him unworthy of the highest office. 81% of evangelicals voted for a man who bragged about grabbing women by the p***y.


Because politics isn't really about morality. Politics is about power. Politics is about winning.

Evangelical leaders and 81% of their followers supported Donald Trump not because he is a good person. They supported him because they wanted to win.

And this same desire to win is now being played out in Alabama among evangelicals supporting Roy Moore. Maybe, it is agreed, that Moore did those things he's been accused of. But it doesn't matter. Because winning is the most important thing. Power trumps morality.

Liberals play the same game. Feminist pioneer and icon Gloria Steinem famously wrote an op-ed in the New York Times excusing Bill Clinton's sexual acting out. Nancy Pelosi defended John Conyers on Meet the Press. Feminist Kate Harding, co-editor of Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled "I’m a feminist. I study rape culture. And I don’t want Al Franken to resign."

What I appreciate about Harding's piece is how clearly she states the case about power taking precedence over morality. Democrats, she argues, are the party that defend and advance the causes of women. Franken, no matter what he may have done, is a Democrat. Thus, for him to step down and allow his seat to be taken by a Republican would, according to Harding, be handing more power to the misogynistic forces in America. And so, Franken should retain his seat. If you want to change the world for the better as a liberal, morality has to take a backseat to power.

Liberal Christians might not agree 100% with Harding's analysis, but I expect they are sympathetic toward it. Sympathetic in the same way many evangelicals became sympathetic toward Donald Trump.

The game of Caesar is a game of power. Winning is the name of that game. So when morality gets in the way, for both conservatives and liberals, power has to take precedence.

Now I want to be clear here that I'm not trying to draw a false equivalence between the two political parties. As someone who is politically liberal, I think Caesar's actions can be graded on a continuum of helpful to harmful. Laws and policies can be better or worse. I think, for example, that the tax bills currently in the Senate and House raise taxes on the middle-class to give tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy.

So my point isn't to draw a political equivalence. I'm pointing to a psychological equivalence, drawing attention to a moral temptation that intensifies as your faith becomes increasingly politicized. On both the right and the left.

My point is that, as your faith becomes increasingly politicized--liberally or conservatively--you will be increasingly tempted to play Caesar's game, increasingly willing to let power trump morality.

Power, we know, corrupts. And I think power corrupts in exactly this way. In the quest to win, power erodes morality. Influence becomes more important than virtue.

And I think this is exactly why Jesus, at the very start of his ministry, rejected political power as the means to bring about the kingdom of God.

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