Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why do the wicked prosper?

The second season of House of Cards became available on Netflix yesterday. It is certainly one of the best television dramas (The British original, also available on Netflix, was good, too). Netflix makes the entire season of an original series available all at once — I am already up to episode eight out of thirteen. Frank Underwood (F.U.) continues his rise to greater political power completely unrestrained by any moral consideration. If you prefer drama that is morally uplifting this isn't it—although it does make vice repellant. I liked what Jordan Ballor had to say about the series in House of Cards: One Righteous Man:
.... The prophet Jeremiah lamented the apparent flourishing of evildoers, asking of God, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jer 12:1). Underwood’s career in the first season has been one of prospering, at least in terms of political fortunes and influence, even if it hasn’t been the most restful of sessions for the veteran congressman. Indeed, Underwood is like the wicked of the psalmist’s complaint, who “day and night prowl about” on the walls of the city without rest (Ps. 55:10), one of “those who are bloodthirsty, in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes” (Ps. 26:10). ....

In House of Cards, we have yet to see a character whom Underwood cannot find some way to cajole, coerce, or otherwise corrupt into serving his purposes. Frank can seemingly always find some way to extort or deceive. Everyone can be manipulated; everyone has weaknesses that can be exploited.

Frank Underwood has bought in to a fatal conceit: that seeking power to dominate and control others fulfills us and makes us strong. But as Augustine puts it, this is a basic “falsehood,” that “we commit sin so that things may go well with us, and, instead, they go ill with us. Or we sin so that we may fare better, and, instead, we fare worse.” Frank will ultimately be left with what Augustine observed about the fallen world, that “every disordered soul is its own punishment.”

The iniquity of the city of man on full display in House of Cards leaves us wondering whether there is even one righteous man for whom the city might be spared. .... [more]