State Rep. Mike Ball: Corruption is a spiritual problem that must be defeated with spiritual weapons
During my long-running personal war with corruption, setbacks seem to outnumber victories. Even so, setbacks can serve to humble our heart, open our mind and toughen our skin. When that happens, they become a delivery mechanism for wisdom and discernment, two valuable spiritual commodities that always seem to be in short supply.
This never-ending war of attrition is well worth fighting, even if total victory is unattainable in this mortal world. The most dangerous and difficult corruption to combat, by far, is always our own. By focusing on our own corruption first and foremost, we can be better prepared to properly confront it when we find it in other places. Or it finds us.
Corruption is a spiritual disease that has tormented mankind throughout history. There is a simple but painful cure: the truth. Not the truth that bends to suit our feelings, or the truth that can be manipulated to help us fit in with our friends and condemn our adversaries. Not even that sort of truth that polls provide to us to help win elections. They are all frauds that can seduce us into corruption.
The antidote for corruption is the complete, unadulterated truth. Corruption cannot survive in the presence of truth. When the truth shines on it, corruption self-destructs.
Politics is a corrupting influence because of its adversarial nature. In the political arena, ideologies, opinions and personalities clash like gladiators in the Colosseum.
Their purpose is to accumulate power for themselves and their allies, while limiting the power of their adversaries. The causes and levels of passion may vary greatly, depending upon the intensity of the combatants’ devotion to their cause and fear of their adversaries’ cause.
In the political arena, winning trumps everything else, including the truth. The predominant weapon in the political arena is propaganda. Effective propaganda contains elements of the truth presented in a context that bends public opinion in a desired direction. A convenient scapegoat from the opposition greatly intensifies the power of propaganda to manipulate its victims.
All who become engaged in a political struggle are prone to become corrupted to some degree by its seductive influence. But the most corrupt are the self-righteous. They usually run with packs and gratify themselves by heaping scorn on their chosen scapegoat, like ravening wolves.
When the air of superiority that surrounds the self-righteous has suffocated any hope of self-examination for corruption, it becomes a terminal disease. Without humility and courage, they will not accept the cure.
Self-righteous blaming and shaming have become a sorry substitute for political discourse in our current media culture. Corruption has escalated into a spiritual pandemic that indiscriminately spreads its poison without regard to party, faction, or philosophy. A growing number of citizens have grown weary of this toxic self-righteous political gang warfare, but they seem far outnumbered. We are still a long way from herd immunity.
Maybe it has always been this way to some degree, and I was just too caught up in it to recognize it for what it is. Vanity, the precursor of self-righteousness, camouflages our own corruption and that of those we deem to be friends while it magnifies the corruption of our adversaries.
For those willing to take the cure but not sure what to look for, one of history’s greatest corruption fighters, John the Baptist, succinctly advised a small group of Roman soldiers, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14 KJV).
That simple admonition shines a bright light on the three major categories of corruption: the excessive and unnecessary use of force, false accusations, and greed. The underlying truth contained in those simple words delves much deeper into the human condition than just a bit of wisdom imparted to a few soldiers trying to do their duty during troubling times of deep political and spiritual division.
For those in the political arena, John the Baptist’s advice is difficult, but not impossible to follow. It calls for a change of heart and mind that is a distinct departure from the current prevailing mindset in which political power is sought by stoking fear and trampling the truth with propaganda.
Like it or not, the politicians in office reflect the collective attitude of the people they represent. Those people have been heavily propagandized by those who should be guardians of truth. The media culture has also been corrupted by politics, and they are super spreaders.
We tend to follow the beat of the drummer that we can hear best. Those who want to defend against the spread of corruption can begin by mustering the courage to ask themselves, “What matters most to me, truth or politics?” But only those who are also humble enough to accept the cure can drive corruption into full retreat.
Corruption is a spiritual problem that can only be defeated with spiritual weapons: truth and grace.
State Rep. Mike Ball is a retired major crimes investigator for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2002. He chairs both the Ethics and Campaign Finance and Madison County Legislation committees and holds a seat on the Judiciary and State Government committees.