By Asoka N.I. Ekanayaka –
The defeat of Sajith Premadasa in the Presidential election has no doubt been a bitter blow for the 5½ million people who, loved his personality, and were convinced by his sincerity of purpose. They were inspired by his vision and idealism. They could sense that there was something refreshing and exciting about the brand of leadership he represented. They had great expectations that he would be the one to lead Sri Lanka into a new and enlightened culture of governance upholding such values as equality, incorruptibility, and justice. Finally they were delighted with the prospect that he would set the tone in ensuring that henceforth rulers would be committed to sacrifice, hard work and a simple life style eschewing high and mighty privilege and pomposity, in the great tradition of being servants of the people not their masters.
All this was not to be. The emotions of supporters who are sullenly licking their wounds in humiliating defeat at this moment may include depression, disappointment and a sense of hopelessness. Others depending on temperament may bristle with rage, resentment and disgust Still others with their hopes dashed and prayers seemingly unanswered may be confused and disillusioned wondering why in the affairs of nations notwithstanding the best intentions of decent people so often good does not seem to triumph over evil. Nor are they helped by the cowardice and worldly diplomacy of politicians who with an eye on their own political future meekly cower before the victor and wish him well whose nature remains unchanged.
In this situation one might expect that many people in their anguish and frustration might fall back on their religious faith for consolation and some kind of understanding that would enable them to emotionally and intellectually come to terms with what has happened. This article seeks to set down how a Christian for his part reconciles himself philosophically based on the teachings in God’s spoken word in scripture ( the Bible ). Such a Christian perspective is admittedly radically different. It might appear outlandish and make no sense to many. But it needs to be stated and hopefully people of other faiths, Buddhist, Hindu and Islam would join in the conversation by explaining how at a dispiriting time like this they might find consolation within their own religious tradition.
From a Christian perspective the first thing to say is that Sajith Premadasa’s defeat comes as no surprise whatsoever. It is frequently said that people get the government they deserve. It would be more accurate to say that in a fallen world of sinful humanity where most people are selfish, mercenary, corrupt, bigoted and stupid they choose leaders after their own values, attitudes and prejudices. As the old quotation has it “Like attracts like”.Sinful subjects don’t vote saints to rule over them. Nor do bad people vote for good governments. It is a simple principle that holds true all over the world.
The Bible teaches that human sinfulness is universal. It emphasises the total depravity and spiritual blindness of unregenerate mankind on the planet in all ages. It records that from the dawn of history “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually where the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and the earth was filled with violence”. Corruption and violence indeed ! What a fitting description of human communities at home and abroad in our own day and age.
And no one is exempt from the stark reality of sinfulness in the depths of the human soul. According to the great apostle Paul writing to Christians in Rome around 57 AD “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” In the same letter Paul bluntly spells out the characteristics of sinful humanity who having a debased mind are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice,envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless”.
Despite outward pretentions that is the scope and magnitude of sinfulness that lurks in our own hearts and underneath the sanctimonious humbug of false religion in human societies in Sri Lanka and throughout the world. That is the Christian diagnosis of the human condition. That is the default position of every voter who enters a polling booth. So it comes as no surprise that all over the world sinful society should vote for those in their own image. It would be a contradiction if they didn’t. That is the pragmatic Christian consolation in times like this.
The ultimate example of this reality was the fate of the historical Jesus who came down to earth as the Son of God to save sinners. He lived a perfectly sinless life of infinite compassion and selfless service to his people. He was the long expected Messiah who had come to preach the good news of salvation to his people, liberate them from sin and death, reconcile them to God and show them the path to eternal life. Yet, given the sinful humanity his people represented he was despised and rejected before being brutally tortured and finally executed by being nailed to a cross. Given the choice between Jesus and a notorious terrorist called Barabbas the crowd by popular choice ‘voted’ to release Barabbas ! The pattern has been repeated innumerable times over the centuries as voters in the depravity of their human nature so vulnerable to psychological manipulation false propaganda and plain bribery have voted, exalting evil over good, falsehood over truth, injustice over justice. Such understanding is the basis of the Christian’s pragmatic consolation.
That popular democracy works in that way in every nation in every age is perfectly logical. For example, why should we expect populations with a penchant for violence to vote for rulers who are committed to uphold the rule of law ? It doesn’t make sense ! Why should we expect millions of ordinary people who are in their own way corrupt in daily life – to vote for incorruptible leaders ? It doesn’t make sense. Or take the specific case of thousands of mercenary government doctors who don’t care a hoot for medical ethics, aggressively make millions in the private sector and backed by the medical thuggary of a ruthless trade union enjoy the right to strike with impunity endangering the lives of patients. Why should we expect them to vote for rulers who might amend the Medical Act, ban strikes by doctors and discipline the medical profession ? It does not make sense.
Equally why should we expect the affluent selfish business classes to vote for a socially sensitive government that might raise taxes where they may have to settle for a plain Toyota instead of a luxury Benz ? And then there are the millions of ordinary folk who fatally intoxicated by the superstition, mythology, fantasies and historical distortions of Mahavamsa Buddhism believe that Sri Lanka belongs to the Buddhists with ethnic and religious minorities welcome to remain and be treated kindly like pet cats and dogs provided they know their place in the scheme of things. Why should we expect them to vote for liberal enlightened rulers who tilt towards a secular society and believe in the rights of minorities and the dignity and equality of all citizens ? Why should we expect a degenerate Buddhist establishment comprising numerous corrupt ferocious monks who probably wish that minorities did not exist, to promote anybody other than those who reflect the image of its own racist aspirations ? Such expectations are wholly unrealistic.
The human heart darkened by sin is programmed to turn away from the light. That is the harsh reality. Jesus said “ The light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil”. Given the universal depravity of sinful mankind on the planet the Bible sets the bottom line: “We know that we are from God and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”. It is a world that has for the present gone to the devil under whose influence human nature blinded by sin is basically bad.
The understanding of this unpleasant truth is the Christian’s pragmatic consolation when people cast their ballot having put their God given conscience to sleep – as in July 1932 when 37.4 % of the German population voted for Adolph Hitler who went on to exterminate over 6 million Jewish people. But this pragmatic understanding of human behaviour is always mixed with a glorious hope where Christians are defiant in defeat whatever the electoral battlefield .
Christians may walk through a minefield of consequences resulting from the tragic choices of their misguided fellow citizens. They may have to endure the bitterness and malevolence of those like the ‘educated’ woman who posted a disgusting insensitive fake picture of Sajith Premadasa in LTTE attire on Facebook, even though his own father had been assassinated by a LTTE suicide bomber !
Notwithstanding Christians walk with the supreme assurance of their eternal security in God’s glorious plan of salvation for his people. It is the overarching divine plan for humanity that overrides the puny plans of proud men elected by a debased electorate who “strut and fret their hour upon the stage and then are heard no more” – until the terrible day of reckoning at the end of the age when they will inexorably have to account for their evil deeds before the eternal Judge of all men. Meanwhile Christians go on their way singing with the great reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) :
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.