Monday, November 7, 2016

Thoughts for my Students on Shakespeare, God, and the 2016 Election

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The general education you are receiving at Brigham Young University is also called "liberal" education -- not to be confused with liberal politics, but coming from the idea that a broad education is liberating: it amplifies one's freedom. It allows one to reason better, and to be more understanding of and compassionate toward the many whose lives differ from our own.

Studying Shakespeare, in my view, aids us in being better citizens because his plays take up issues of ruling and the accountability of rulers (as is so evident in Henry V, or Richard II, as well as in Measure for Measure, etc.). The grievances of common people, the need to have unity among diverse groups, the ways we justify war or deal with issues of equality -- all are in play in Shakespeare's plays. And in very general terms, Shakespeare so often makes issues problematic, requiring us to debate and refine our views. All this is very good practice for being informed, thoughtful citizens.

Of course, you may be so weary of all the debating in this election cycle that you are ready to say "a pox on both your houses," as the dying Mercutio said in Romeo and Juliet.
But at BYU the general or liberal education we pursue is tempered and refined by gospel perspectives. When a liberal education is combined with Christian faith, it opens the range of our views and the reach of our patience.

Along these lines, I'd like to quote from author Max Lucado's recent opinion piece in response to the anxiety that so many have felt with respect to this election:

I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 will bring. Another day of God’s perfect sovereignty. 
He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has His providence depended on a king, president, or ruler. And it won’t on November 9, 2016. [...] 
Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace.... Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.  [Source

​In teaching the history of civilization often, I have come to the conclusion that it is important to be comfortable with the messiness of democracy. Democracy only works when it is partly failing and forever in a state of repair​. But like the Founding Fathers, we can exercise faith in the general goodwill of the better part of the people and their better natures. And as believers, we can trust in the ability of individuals and societies to repent and renew, and we can exercise faith in a sovereign and loving God whose peace defies any and all present troubles.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. It reminded me that even though I'm upset with this election, I wouldn't trade democracy for anything. That's comforting. Also, I now have another reason for why I became an English major. Because Shakespeare helps me understand politics!