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David Cox | The challenge to hope

What arrogance. What audacity. What utter stupidity for anyone, already under investigation for graft, to try to sell the United States Senate seat of the arguably most-publicized president-elect of the United States there ever was.
What’s wrong with Illinois’ governor? Didn’t he get the memo that political corruption like that had just been repudiated by the electorate, or at least by the man who was elected on the concepts of a “new politics”?

Alas, Rod Blagojevich is far from the only member of the Clueless Club. He follows a very long string of clowns, crooks and murderers who, in the face of what is new and refreshing and even Godly, react as though nothing has happened. Sometimes, as here in a way, they react against the very one who brings that otherwise welcomed change.

Even Christmas itself has its evil character who fits that mold. King Herod’s depravity doesn’t appear in your average church nativity pageant, not only because his atrocity was so vile but also because it contrasted so utterly with all that the birth of Jesus represents. But beyond the foreground of the shepherds and donkeys, the star and the angels and above all the promise of the child born of Mary lurks a dark reality that was in part a very consequence of the story itself.

Magi from the east following the star over Bethlehem needed directions. So — as some jest, thereby proving that a woman with common sense was among them — they asked for help. They chose the most obvious but also the most dangerous person: King Herod. Who better would know what’s going on in his realm than the king? But he was also an old and experienced tyrant. He murdered his wife and two sons. Knowing that no one would mourn his death, he ordered that when he died, notable men would be killed to insure that grieving would occur.

In directing the magi to Bethlehem to find the “King of the Jews” they sought, Herod asked them to let him know so he could ever so devoutly worship him, too. Yeah, right. Since the magi, forewarned, returned without telling him, an enraged Herod massacred all boys aged two and under in Bethlehem and its neighborhood. Mary’s husband Joseph, of course, was alerted in a dream to escape to Egypt, so Jesus survived. (See Matthew 2 for details.)

Rod Blagojevich is no King Herod. But he exemplifies a consistency in human history that, just at the moment when goodness makes a new initiative, it immediately faces opposition. It’s how temptation works. Think of the post-Christmas diet: as soon as you start it, a piece of double-chocolate cake walks by (or whatever else will test your resolve). Or there are those who are too jaded or too self-centered or too enmeshed in old ways to climb on board the bandwagon heading in the direction of progress.

There’s nothing new about the Governor of Illinois, except maybe his nerve.

But for people to react as he does or as Herod did, however despicable or even bloody, never negates the good that comes. Many of us believe that God acted anew in the presence of Jesus: Herod tried to kill him and thus God’s initiative, but he failed. God abides.

Blagojevitch tried to profit venally from Barack Obama; he failed too. What Obama represents, though tested, also abides. It will face further challenges that will reveal how real this “new politics” may be. The ideal, though, remains. It is as old as our experiment in democracy and as new as the last election. Even if the Obama presidency fails to embody its highest scruples—for they are always beyond our human ability to fulfill — they are still worth pursuing.

Our highest hopes are always tested. But the only way to achieve them is by holding them and pursuing them, come what may.


– Column by David Cox

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