Politics obsess Americans. Everything from a child’s education to medical care for the aged is now a political question—indeed, a national political question. Once upon a time, families chose how to educate their children and care for elderly parents, but in modern America this freedom is fast becoming passé.
Trapped in the ephemeral world of the political, we often need a reminder of the ethereal. Enter William Murchison and his new book, There’s More to Life Than Politics. In this medley of columns, Murchison delights and instincts as he explores the vexatious issues of our day. Describing himself as a “recovering political junkie,” Murchison leads the reader in a discussion of the limits of politics.
Though cheering the waning of totalitarianism abroad since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Murchison laments that “state power in our own country rocks and rattles forward like a freight train.” Unfortunately, Americans believe the state can do all. The recent debate over the national Ponzi scheme of Social Security is an excellent example. Rather than call for the abolition of the entire system, the reformers and the progeny of the New Dealers both agreed that government- financed retirement should be saved. The political combatants merely disagreed as to the means for preserving the state’s role.
Not one easily fooled, Murchison recognizes that, as Americans have abandoned religious teachings of the past, we have redirected our energies to the altar of the state. According to Murchison, a Christian nation would view the birth of Jesus Christ as
a rebuke to the pretensions of all those princes and princelings we are bidden not to trust overmuch. Who are they, these petty potentates with large titles, against the Son of God?
Nowadays, not only do we trust our elected potentates to cure what ails us, but we believe their sordid trailer-park morals can be separated from the tasks of governance.
But the blame for the state of American religiosity cannot be pinned solely on the political creatures who prefer the sofa and the Sunday morning talk shows to the pew and the sermon. Murchison correctly concludes that “religion is in flux, thanks to the official teachers of religion, many of them questing spirits who can’t believe truths can be true for more than twenty years at a stretch.” Hence, we have such obscene spectacles as the ordination of homosexuals and the use of the pulpit as a glorified political soapbox. Were it not for the singing, Murchison reminds us, modern worship services could easily be confused with a Planned Parenthood rally.
Such antics in the pulpit cause one to ask just who is in charge. Clearly, modem man prefers to think he, rather than an omnipotent creator, is running the show. In light of scientific advances such as cloning, the question becomes all the more pressing. Murchison remembers a time when we knew our place in the chain of being and
our fathers found lessons in the Bible, and in history. Neither consolation appeals profoundly to moderns, who, with their computers and power plants and government agencies, know both more and less than the old folks did.
And so what is Murchison’s prescription for our maladies? The author offers no grand plans or schemes. He simply reminds us that there’s more to life than politics. He causes us to recollect that the main business of mankind should be conducted in the twin settings of family and religion, where we “honor (or, alternatively, reject) historic teachings as to what life is for, how a man or a woman should live, what principles guide our footsteps, where our primary allegiances lie.” As for the author, his allegiances plainly lie with the angels, rather than the apes who reject the notions of limits. In an age of planners and pedantry, Murchison’s gentle reminders are refreshing and highly recommended.
[There’s More to Life Than Politics by William Murchison (Dallas: Spence Publishing Company) 279 pp., $22.95]