Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Power and Corruption

So, we have a cyclone in Myanmar, a small country also known as Burma in Southeast Asia, and countless numbers are dead and goodness knows how many more are homeless and in desperate circumstances. As always, the international aid community, led by the United States, swings into action. Supplies ready, medical staff standing by. And, according to a report by the Associated Press, here’s what happened:

“Even as the death toll climbed, Myanmar's authoritarian regime continued to bar nearly all foreigners experienced in managing humanitarian crises from reaching survivors of Cyclone Nargis.

With hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed in the disaster zone, refugees packed into Buddhist monasteries or camped in the open, drinking dirty water contaminated by dead bodies and animal carcasses. Medicine and food were sorely lacking — even as supplies bottled up at the main international airport.”

Want a little more on this one? Here’s another quote from that report: “Children — many of them orphans — are suffering from fever, diarrhea and respiratory infections, it said. Many survivors complained of getting rotting rice while soldiers kept the best food for themselves.”

I’m just disgusted. That cyclone devastated the country on May 2. I’m writing this on May 12—ten days later. And aid is just now being let into the country. Why? Because a bunch of power-hungry people who control the county don’t want the world to know just how badly they’ve managed to muck things up over there. Why not let a few hundred thousand people die or suffer in unimaginable ways in order to keep the world press ignorant of their cruelty and incompetence? It’s worth the cost so they can stay in power.

Yes, I’m just disgusted. And I can’t even imagine how the Creator of the universe and of humanity must look at this. Surely God weeps over this travesty.

Power is such a dangerous thing. The ability to control the destiny of others opens the soul to corruption and rot and the insatiable need for more and more power and less and less accountability. It’s no wonder those in power made sure they got rid of Jesus, the sent one of God who said things like, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process?” (Luke 9:23-25, New Living Translation).

What is real power? Being able to give it up for the sake of others. Being so confident in the goodness of God that we can lay down our lives for others, rather than asking them to lay down their lives for us. At this point in my life, I tend to be pretty careful before suggesting that someone is in danger of eternal separation from God, but I’m guessing those military leaders in Myanmar are right on the edge of that place. I’m almost ready to say that I hope what they experience at the hand of God is equivalent to what they have forced upon the people in their regime. I hope we all learn from this horror what damage we can do when grabbing power over the lives of others and remaining unaccountable for what we do with it. Real power gives life. The kind of power we see in Myanmar only offers death. This is why Jesus said, “I am the way, the life, and the truth.” Let’s all try Jesus’ way and see what happens.

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