Politcians and Paternalism

good-shepherd-fresco1It’s a bit ironic that the liberal party of self-governance and civil liberty has served us up a celebrity for a president whose cult of personality has permitted him to exercise an unprecedented kind of political paternalism. He has looked upon his candidacy as a “teachable moment,” and upon his victory in the Democratic primary as an event which restored “his faith in America,” as though the electorate owed him some kind of proof of its loyalty. Now he is putting forward this preposterous mandatory civilian security service, banking on the power of his creepy personality cult.

It’s not that Obama is altogether a phenomenon unto himself. This has been coming on for a long time. Why have we ever cared what celebrities think? Our thought processes have been formed by American Idol, and now we bow down before the empty suites that we have neatly arranged for our own destruction.

I am not one to complain about patriarchy, but the icon of a father is not a red, white and blue Obama, looking down from his perch of wisdom upon his needy children. No the real icon of a father is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

One of the earliest images of Our Lord used in the history of the Church is that of the Good Shepherd. In the catacombs of Rome, Our Lord was portrayed as a beardless young man who carried a lamb on his shoulders, calling to mind the parable of the lost sheep. It is a beautiful image, but it is only half the story. In the Gospels the Good Shepherd according to Our Lord is the one who lays down his life for his sheep. The Roman fresco of the Good Shepherd illustrates the paternal solicitude of Christ for the weak and the needy, His personal attention to the individual who is hurting, but Our Lord Himself applies the title of Good Shepherd to the one who stands up to the wolves to protect His sheep from death and himself is torn to shreds in the process.

I once saw a child’s crayon drawing of the Good Shepherd of Jesus wielding a spiked club, standing between the wolves and his sheep, and bleeding from the hands where He has been bitten by the wolves.  That’s Our Lord on the Cross.

Why don’t we have leaders like this? Because we don’t want them. Heaven forbid that we admit that we are weak and needy. Far be it from us to allow ourselves to be led by someone who has our best interests at heart, based on a commitment to the truth of Christ. Instead we throw our babies to the wolves and thank the lupine divinity for being delivered from the responsibility to care for them.