Think about how much the world has changed in the past century. We went from having no electricity to having space missions to Mars and smart phones. We’ve gone from under 2 Billion people to 6. I’ve heard it said that as a President, George Washington had a lot more in common with Julius Caesar than with George W. Bush or Barack Obama.
I’ve been reading several books about the history of Ethiopia. Probably its most famous figure of all time was the last emperor, Haile Selassie. I’ve been trying to sort out all the different accounts and figure out if he was really an amazing guy or not. What I’ve concluded is that he really was a astounding leader, but that NOBODY on earth could have led a people through all of the last century. He took Ethiopia from 1913 to the 1950s with clever diplomacy, wise ruling, and a culturally aware modernization campaign. In any other century, he would have been beloved for his entire tenure and died a hero. But the 20th century was just too big of a change for any one man to swallow. He’s was getting old by the time the sixties arrived and he just couldn’t swing it. He just couldn’t understand. The world was changing and he knew an older world. He had adapted marvelously, but he couldn’t adapt 100% again. And so he was finally pushed out of power by young brash communist rebels without much of a fight. In hindsight though, everyone that followed him made a giant mess. Now, he is remembered as presiding over the golden age, even though he was very unpopular near the end of his reign. Ras Tafari was a man with problems like anyone else, but he accomplished a rather staggering amount. I guess I dare anyone else to do as good a job.
Reading through this history also caused me to consider a potential weakness of our modern democratic republics. The term limits of our rulers give a different rhythm to political and cultural change than post models. A monarch by birth could have forty or even fifty years to rule with a consistent vision. He does something stupid? Guess what – he has a chance to learn from his mistake and fix things a few years later. In contrast, we in America are on a 6-8 year scapegoat cycle. That’s about how long it takes for us to get fed up with the last guy and remove him in favor of his ideological opposite. Nothing substantial ever happens because NOBODY is in it for the long haul. In the meantime, the crooked financial institutions try to make a quick buck while everyone is busy looking the other way.
It seems that to some degree, secularism (no fear of God) must necessitate this. Despite the great failings of Christian (and even Muslim) rulers over the last thousand years, one thing they DID have was an eschatology. The future meant something. The world had an actual end and they were working toward it. A Godless system has no future. We are blobs of organic matter pretending to have meaning. It naturally (and I mean that in every sense of the word, ‘naturally’) tends toward short-term gains. It may claim to care about the children of tomorrow, but this is really just something it inherited from people that feared God and really did care about their children. Its nihilism is still haunted by the Creator. So now we have short-lived politicians that are hailed today and tossed out tomorrow. Just like maxing out our credit cards instead of saving toward a purchase, we look to the here and now. We build, at best, for our retirement. Beyond that, who cares? Those who fear God care, even if they can’t handle all the challenges and changes that come in their own lives.
* Disclaimer: I am not advocating a return to monarchy, but just questioning the alleged shiny awesomeness of our current setup.