Love & Leadership in a House of Cards

I write this having completed all the chapters but one in House of Cards Season Two.

The finale is going down tonight, and I cannot WAIT.

While much digital ink could be spilled about this season, and the series as a whole, I thought I ‘d offer a couple thoughts about the strange exploration of love and leadership that dominates the S.02 storyline. With Frank and Claire officially “in” the White House, the strategizing, manipulating, dealing, and backchanneling is at an all-time high. And the proximity to the ultimate level of power in Washington – the presidency – has produced unusually high levels of stress and pressure on the Underwoods. And yet, in the midst of all this, it is not only their political genius (and ruthlessness) that is on display but also their strong and committed love for each other.

Truly, as Frank said a couple chapters ago, “The road to power is paved with hypocrisy.” The leadership style of Francis Underwood is obviously, unapologetically dishonest, controlling, and abusive. When his aggression is not actively deadly, it is passively poisonous. As such, Frank provides us with a hyperbolic antithesis of what the Christian leader ought to be. His cutthroat ambition and systematic prioritizing of power and success over people (what he calls “ruthless pragmatism”) are diametrically opposed to the biblical calling of pastor or shepherd. Whereas Frank will stop at nothing, and no one, to achieve his political ends, the pastor serves the people not his power and does so to the point of giving his life for the sheep.

Unfortunately, we have pastors, leaders, and Christians in general who politick like Frank Underwood instead of pastoring like Jesus. They are pragmatic, to be sure. Their tactic works. It gets them success. Numbers. Big churches. Hefty salaries. Million dollar homes.

But what does it profit to gain the whole world and lose one’s soul?

It’s impossible, though, not to admire the Underwoods’ relationship. They are inseparably connected and drawn to one another, even if their sexual proclivities bend toward the bizarre. Their relationship, though, is about so much more than sex. It is about a shared purpose, a delight in seeing each other achieve all they desire, no matter the sacrifice, whatever the cost. And under extreme pressure and adversity, they remain totally committed.

Is something like that the essence of what love should be?

These are just a few thoughts. I’d love to hear yours! Just don’t spoil the finale in the comments. (Ok, who am I kidding. I will definitely not be checking the blog until after I watch tonight…)

About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

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