Whether the concern is the exploding pandemic or systemic and violent racism, there is an urgent need today for leadership. This is not a political party debate issue. This is a pressing socio-culture life survival issue. There is today far too much raw, unchecked power, and unbridled acting out of control.
We need to be visionary leaders. We need to stimulate and help form teams of visionary leaders. One could call them contemporary Christian apostles. Or, change agents….truly anchored in the Gospel.
We are indeed on the edge of a kind of socio-cultural chaos. Covid-19 is spreading wildly. Unemployment is expanding. Fearful and ignorant people are promoting racial violence and hatred. And many religious leaders are not helping at all but stimulating, in fact, even more violence.
Last Sunday, a Catholic priest in Carmel, Indiana, compared Black Lives Matter protesters to “maggots and parasites.” In a written message to his parishioners he denounced the civil rights movement and the destruction of monuments honoring Confederate leaders and other historic figures. The protesters he said are “wolves in wolves clothing, masked thieves and bandits….. maggots and parasites at best, feeding off the isolation of addiction and broken families.” (Fortunately on Wednesday of this week his bishop suspended him from parish ministry.)
Yes. We need to create visionary leaders anchored in Knowledge, Wisdom, and Compassionate Humanity, qualities that stimulate the movement from chaos to social health and stability. Here are my brief thoughts about leadership formation:
KNOWLEDGE: We need to communicate correct and helpful information. Credibility is essential. Facebook, Fox News,“popular understandings,” and political rhetoric are too often phony and deceptive. (When checking the accuracy of quotations I like to use snopes.com.) In difficult times, people need credible information. Be honest, if you don’t know something say so but then do your research. (When people began to disparage him, I had to do my own research about Christopher Columbus. Using reliable historical sources, I did indeed discover that Columbus was a cruel and inhumane tyrant.)
Truth is real. Whether it is about Covid-19, U.S. racial history, sex and gender, the positions and statements of presidential candidates, or Christian, Jewish, or Muslim beliefs, a healthy and stable human society is based on honest and trustworthy information. It cannot be based on adjusted information, dishonest statements, or spontaneous emotional fantasy. We need to be and to promote leaders who seek and promote truthfulness in public discourse.
WISDOM: Trustworthy leaders explain their vision and strategy for a better tomorrow. They are positive. They draw from their own life experiences. They draw from what they have learned from their own ups and downs. They also explain the life experiences of people who have had a big impact on their own life and their own life outlook. Trustworthy leaders explain why they are making the decisions they are making and performing the actions that flow from them. If they have made mistakes, they are honest about that as well…..Transparency promotes trust in uncertain times. Trustworthy leaders ask for input. Dialogue is essential. Without asking for input, one can miss out on vital information. Collaboration reduces the sense of powerlessness that promotes uncertainty. We need to belong to and to form wise leadership teams.
COMPASSIONATE HUMANITY: Trustworthy leaders are visibly engaged as compassionate humanitarians. Like the Good Samaritan. In times of uncertainty, the reliable leader is the solid rock to which people can cling. She or he gives anxious people hope, confidence, and direction. We need good words but, without good actions, they are just pious observations…..As Christians we are all fellow travelers on this human journey. The historical Jesus introduced a major paradigm shift in human understanding. He stressed in words and action that life is stronger than death, that love is stronger than hatred, and people more important than institutions.
Christian moral responsiveness and leadership shape our human life journey. In that journey we do indeed encounter the Divine, the Sacred, the Ground Being — Human life can often be a journey with crosses to carry but it also comes with a transformative resurrection that transforms everything.
Indeed, the Man from Nazareth provides our Vision for the Future. Our faith anchored in the way of Jesus is not naïve. It is honest, strong, and real. A positive and encouraging outlook for tomorrow….