Draining the Swamp - Pastor's Pen for 24th January 2020

Trump used the metaphor of 'draining the swamp' upon his shock, triumphant arrival on the Washington DC political scene four years ago. The implication of course was that US politics was full of slippery customers oozing their way around the halls of power in a corrupt, slimy manner. Ironic that now the premature resignations, firings and other ignominious departures have been coming thick and fast, the White House itself appears to have been quickly drained of life and bustle.

My impression of American politics is that both sides of the polarity are in need of a serious democracy makeover. Of course, if the US had anything resembling a viable Green Party, they would be advocating the restoration of the swamp and removal of deleterious pest species. Trust a property magnate to talk about 'draining the swamp.'

I wasn't sure whether to be fascinated or horrified upon recently hearing about the growing Hippo problem in Colombia. The infamous, late Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, had a private zoo containing illegally imported hippos. In more recent times, they have multiplied and migrated into surrounding swamp and river systems, where they have worked their way into the affections of some locals.

Unfortunately, this is less than ideal for the ecology of the local waterways or the health of indigenous species. Hippos may look cute, but they are rather large, very territorial and the African mammal most likely to kill you. They also produce a generous quantity of dung which has a big effect on the quality of river systems.

The consensus swings between sterilization and culling as a means to stem the population, which grows about 10% per year. The challenge for authorities is to manage the bad PR of shooting cute mammals or allowing the hippos to continue to destroy the local river ecology.

If the spiritual life was a conservation park, we would be all about pulling weeds, managing the pesky introduced species, keeping some to a minimum, and trapping and shooting others into oblivion. A friend in Hillsborough recently trapped about 75 possums one after the other on the back of his section bordering onto Belfast Bush. Presumably this is a sign council gave up trying to do so during Covid year? Anyway, our friends report the return of new buds, berries and birdsong to the valley.

In my own spiritual life, I've got some weeds and vermin that need dealing to in 2021. Is this a new year's resolution? Not really, just the ongoing saga of continuing in the body and keeping the spirit fresh. I prefer the image of 'creation care' or 'tending the garden' to 'draining the swamp'. Let's help one another with grace and prayer as we go forward.

And remember, as the good book says;"Why do you look at the exotic frog in your brother's pond and pay no attention to the hippo in your own swamp?" God bless...

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