This past Sunday I spoke on servant leadership and how vital the principle is for our time. I’d spent the few days before preaching working on a new book I’m writing, and in the course of my studies, sat transfixed as I watched the movie “As We Forgive” about the Reconciliation Project that’s happening right now in Rwanda. The truth telling, listening, confession, and forgiveness that’s happening there, now, reminds me why God is at work in Africa, and why we’re so dysfunctional here.
We’re not dysfunctional because of Democrats or Republicans. We’re dysfunctional because the elements that constitute servant leadership, seen so clearly in Rwanda right now, are so clearly missing here. What things?
Truth telling and Listening – Sarah Palin is lying, and so is Nancy Pelosi. Both sides have been busy spinning health care and the only people that are listening are their own choirs, because the rest of us see it all as nothing more than posturing. Just once, I wish a democrat would say, “You know, future congresses are going to need a lot of courage to raise taxes, because without that courage, this bill could sink us all financially. We didn’t have the courage, because we knew the bill wouldn’t pass if we raised taxes” Just once I’d like to hear a republican say, “We think that there’s something to be gained by enlarging the pool of the insured – that having lots of healthy people in the pool might actually lower the costs.” I hear nothing that even approaches that kind of dialogue, by either party, or their die-hard loyalists. This disgusts me, because without honest words, all conversation ceases, and conversation and debate are vital to growth. The fact of the matter is I’ve even hesitated to talk about this subject on my blog, suspicious as I am that some will look for sound bytes and that if I don’t applaud their convictions they’ll label me as belonging to ‘the other side’, a label that would be presumptuous and wrong.
Confession and Forgiveness – McCain has declared that the Republicans won’t work with the Democrats on anything for the rest of the term. Sarah’s encouraged her followers to ‘reload’. The Democrats have demonstrated that in spite of their campaign promises of a different Washington, they’ve adopted every political play in the book to push their agenda. There’s certainly no preemptive forgiveness going on, but if anyone’s waiting for a confession before forgiveness, well, I’m betting it will snow four feet in Mexico City before that happens. Instead, the threats, vitriol, and polarizing rhetoric stands a good chance of leading congress to still lower lows.
Through all this, I continue to be astonished at the degree to which one party is characterized as “the Christian one”- I’m not seeing servant leaders on either side of the aisle. The absence of truth-telling, forgiveness, confession, and listening isn’t a party crisis: it’s a national crisis, and behind it, there’s a faith crisis.
A repentant church in Rwanda is building a new generation of leaders on the basis of servant leadership and radical reconciliation in the wake of a genocide, while a sleeping church in America embraces polarized and hate filled politics. We should be on our knees…praying for stronger churches to raise up people of integrity and discernment who will fill both sides of the aisle with some salt and light. Both elements seem lacking in the highest offices right now. God help us – and I’m confident He will.