Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Faith, Machiavelli, and the Speaker election

How can you wrap a quick thesis around big ideas in a blog post? Why bother? You're bound to get it wrong. But that's a considerably smaller risk than many took in speaking their minds around events at the Legislature this week. So here it goes.

You cannot simultaneously read Machiavelli as a guide, condemn others who have more success implementing his teachings, and wrap yourselves in the mantle of faith. Or maybe I should say, you can, in the sense, that people did that this week, but you can't do it coherently or without becoming a joke.

We should be glad that legislators read political philosophy. Former Lt. Gov. John Wilder described himself as a Jeffersonian Democrat, for example. Montesquieu, Locke, Madison, Hamilton, even a Calhoun wouldn't be surprising in some reading lists. We might even allow for a Dewey (Lord, he puts me to sleep!). But Machiavelli? If we grant--and how can we not?--that he offers calculating advice on assuming and maintaining power, why on earth would a lawmaker admit any affinity? Can any Evangelical be an open partisan of a teacher who says that it is good to APPEAR pious? I'm as perplexed by that question as I am about conservative Catholics, who should know that The Prince used to be on the Index, complaining about Democrats taking extraordinary means to maintain power in the Legislature.

OK, so Machiavelli didn't work...let's haul out the Bible.

As soon as the Speaker's election was over, we shifted into the Maundy Thursday liturgy featuring Judas, an unnamed Messiah, and sermonettes on falsehood and forgiveness, but no foot-washing or communion. I don't recall the word f*c% in the original, but it appeared three times in the updated version.

No plan at the intersection of these two books can succeed. The narratives unravel leaving the actors alternatively shouting "Power" and "Righteousness" in their confusion. Maybe it's better to take the advice of one of the books--"No man can serve two masters." (Matthew 6:24, KJV)

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