By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to otherthrow, to build and to plant.” — Jeremiah 1:10
Politics of change
Politics can be defined theologically as the stewardship of power. How we make use of the power and authority entrusted to us is our politics. There are those who make use of the power and authority in their hands to dominate other people and preserve the status quo. They have to make people toe the line of the present establishment and follow the politics of domination and preservation.
However, there are also those who would make use of their power and authority to bring about genuine and radical change. The distinguished Latin American theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, talks about two kinds of change, namely: super-versive and sub-versive. On the one hand, superversive change is initiated by the powers-that-be, by those who are “above”, the leaders of nations, the so-called victors of history. Subversive change, on the other hand, comes about through the efforts of those who are “below”, the marginalized people, the so-called victims of history.
The changes coming from “above” many times end up only in preserving even more the status quo. In most cases, genuine and radical changes come from those who are victims of history, those who are “below”.
God of Change
The God of the Bible is a God of change. Throughout the ages, God has been calling men and women to be instruments of genuine and radical changes in their own time and particular context. At the time when the Kingdom of Judah was at the brink of destruction, God called Jeremiah to become a prophet of change and transformation. Thus, God said to Jeremiah, “Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jer.1:10)
There are several things we could learn from Jeremiah’s call for our reflections. Firstly, that God is the ultimate source of power and authority. God said to Jeremiah, “I give you authority over nations and kingdoms.”. In ancient Israel, God anointed the kings through the prophets with the support of the people. There were times though when the people withdrew their support to a king due to his oppressive policies, like what they did to King Rehoboam (I Kings 12). This particular event was understood as a consequence of a king’s inability to rule according to God’s statutes.
In a supposedly democratic country like ours, the people bestow power and authority upon their leaders through elections. They say that the voice of the people is the voice of God. However, with all the election-related violence going on, it is quite doubtful if the voice of the people through elections is really the voice of God. But nevertheless, it is good to be reminded this election time that power and authority are gifts of the Divine.
Secondly, that God’s power and authority includes all nations and kingdoms. As a matter of fact, it embraces the whole creation. Leaders of nations and kingdoms are within the rubric of God’s judgment and grace. This doesn’t mean, however, that candidates for elections should always get the blessings of church leaders as some have been doing. But rather every one of us should always be reminded that God is interested not only on purely religious matters, but also on how leaders won the elections and how they would lead the country later on. In short, politics is very much part of God’s concern.
Genuine and radical change
And finally, that the power and authority coming from God is meant to bring about genuine and radical change. God said to Jeremiah, “I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah was given a threefold task: to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. This is genuine and radical change.
For many years, the Kingdom of Judah had been a vassal kingdom of imperialist powers – first the Assyrian Empire, then the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet when the Babylonians threatened his nation’s independence. Most of the leaders of Judah were anti-Babylonians, but surprisingly, Jeremiah was calling for his people’s acceptance of Babylonian domination, because for him this was the consequence of their disobedience to God’s laws. He believed that God would not defend them if they would fight the Babylonians, because they had not been faithful to God’s laws and statutes.
For Jeremiah, what his country needed was genuine and radical change in order that they could stand up against the imperialist powers. The change was not simply political; it was also social and moral. In his sermon inside the Temple, Jeremiah said, “Change the way you are living and the things you are doing…Be fair in your treatment of one another. Stop taking advantage of aliens, orphans, and widows. Stop killing innocent people in this land. Stop worshipping other gods, for that will destroy you. If you change, I will let you go on living here in the land which I gave your ancestors as a permanent place…I, the LORD, have spoken.” (Jer.7)
Jeremiah’s message is very contemporary. It is meant for all of us, especially those who seek government positions in the forthcoming May 14 elections. The politics of change seeks to change not only our politics, but also our whole way of life as a people. #