Who Do You Trust for Leadership? Part 1: Does ANYONE Get It?

That’s not a question to take lightly, given the recent exposure of significant failings of people long-considered as highly trustworthy. Up until ten days ago, even the most ardent Pitt fan would have conceded that Penn State coach Joe Paterno was an outstanding coach. He seemed to embody the best of Bobby Knight, only without Knight’s failings.

Unfortunately, the Jerry Sandusky scandal has exposed Paterno’s own failings. At best, he made an honest mistake that resulted in Sandusky’s continued abuses. At worst, he was knowingly complicit in a longtime coverup of child sex atrocities that were known in Penn State circles as far back as 1995. At best, he deserved termination and an unceremonious departure. At worst, he deserves a penalty larger than our justice system could ever provide.

Still, this post is not so much about Paterno or Sandusky or McQueary or any of the Penn State crew. This is about who you trust to provide leadership. Thomas L. Day, writing an op-ed for the Washington [Com]Post, suggests something I’ve long felt: you cannot look to our recent past generations for leadership in our emerging crises.

While there are small matters with his piece to which I would take some exception, those are minuscule. The larger issue here is that our past generations are overrated at best to downright morally bankrupt at worst. And when situations demand extraordinary action, the best of those generations–and even our generation–are going to come up lacking.

Let’s be honest, folks: Joe Paterno was the last person you would have expected to merely send a credible report of a former coach of his–sexually assaulting a child–up the food chain to his Athletic Director.

While his actions are not those of someone seeking to cover up an atrocity, he clearly failed to understand the gravity of the situation he was dealing with.

And that may be our biggest challenge right now. Before anyone can lead, he must understand the gravity of what he’s dealing with. That is not where leadership ends, but it must begin here.

Today, we have challenges as a nation. Those are materializing, or–more accurately–metastasizing. We have a government that is propping up an economy–inflated by multiple economic bubbles–with unsustainable levels of borrowing. Our ranks of citizens has sent a dual message to our government: we don’t like all the bailouts or deficit spending, but–DAMN IT–we want our entitlements! Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment…

My point is not about what you think of Democrats or Republicans but rather this: when this great house of cards comes crashing down–and trust me, it will–Americans will demand leadership.

But who are we going to trust? Where do we look for the answer? Does ANYONE get it?

The so-called “Greatest Generation” is more accurately-named the Overrated Generation.

The Baby Boomers are the Condom Generation: they gave us a false sense of security while we were being screwed.

Generation X–my generation–is the Deceived Generation: we rode the Baby Boom generation, expecting to gain prosperity, when in fact we were being sucked dry all along.

Generation Y is now the Bankrupt Generation: let’s face it, the end of the Ponzi is near.

Where are we going to look for our answers? Which generation can provide it?

And no, it’s not about one person trying to be a hero. Moses tried to be a hero and spent 40 years in exile before God called him to greatness. At age 80, he was a lot more humble about what lay before him. God instilled in him the moral courage to take action.

Still, after 40 years in the wilderness, Moses understood the gravity of the situation. And he finally understood the way out.

Today, do any of our “leaders” get it?

Thomas Day seems to answer in the negative. He points to Paterno as his last straw. Personally, I think Day was way too optimistic. I had lost faith long before Sanduskygate.

But where do we look? What qualities should we demand?

After all, recent history is littered with powerful, charismatic leaders who had a large degree of support from their people–and even abroad–and who all but destroyed their countries.

5 thoughts on “Who Do You Trust for Leadership? Part 1: Does ANYONE Get It?

  1. Amir, I would say that the solution is the gospel.

    I was having a dialogue last night with a friend of mine who is/was a member of the emergent church. He had posted a photo which contained a picture of a poor homeless person with his dog, and the following caption:

    Do you really want to hear Jesus say: For I was jobless, and you told me to ‘get a job’; I was homeless, and you called me a dirty hippie; I was destitute and you said unto me, ‘Helping you would only encourage a big government nanny state. Be patient, for surely my riches shall trickle down unto you.’?

    I reposted the photo on my wall, and pointed out that the context of this passage [Matthew 25] is in the context of the last judgment which is individual. I also point out that it is in the context of the lordship of Christ, as God is clearly the master who, in the previous parallel, gave his servants various amounts of money to be stewards of until the appointed time. I pointed out that the Lordship of Christ was the central theme of all of the passages that deal with social justice.

    However, the point that I also raised to him was the fact that, given the moral and ethical nature of this command to help others, there was no way for the government to get involved without either total chaos or authoritarianism which leads to chaos once it collapses. The problem is, in a secular system, it is impossible to tell the difference between a person who is poor simply because he is lazy [what you find in the book of Proverbs], and a person who is poor simply because of God’s providence, and not for lack of effort. It is also impossible to tell people who are rich because of greed, and those who are rich because they have been blessed of God for *not* being greedy.

    The point is, it is impossible to tell, given the heart nature of the problem of greed and the problem of lazy poverty, whether a person is rich because they are greedy and are unwilling to help those less fortunate, or whether they are poor because they are lazy. Both of these are issues of the heart. The problem is, in order to deal with issues of the heart, you have to be omniscient. The more rules you put in place the more you will, not only oversimplify the situation, and punish those who are doing no wrong at all, but you will also create laws with loopholes that people with wicked hearts can get around. In order to solve this problem, laws simply have to exact more and more control, to the point where the even have to control what you think.

    This is why secularism cannot provide a base for society. My friend immediately saw that the problem is between personal choice on the one hand, and government control on the other, and the two simply cannot be reconciled in a secular humanist system.

    However, as a Christian, I *have* a foundation in the scriptures, and, more specifically, in the gospel, as the gospel has the power to change hearts and lives. If the gospel changes the heart of both the person who is lazy because he is poor, and the person who is rich because of his greed, then the government will not even need to get involved, because both will start doing what is right because their hearts now have Jesus Christ as Lord. I would also add that the handling of our finances is also solved by this problem. When we deal with our finances, we want to make sure that we are dealing accurately and fairly, because God has said “Thou Shall Not Steal.” We will not depreciate the dollar, as that would result in unfair weights and measures, and we will be willing to pay back our debt, and actually get strategies to both borrow and pay it back, because we desire to be honest. However, this change of attitude cannot come about through government policies. It requires that the people making these policies have their hearts transformed by the gospel, so that they desire to do what is right.

    In short, the real problem here is the fact that we have lost Christianity as the basis for our society, and it has been replaced by secular humanism which cannot provide a base for society. As these pressures of poverty and inflation continue to grow, secular humanism will simply crush under their weight. There may be and authoritarian government, but that authoritarian government will not last long, as people will likewise be uncomfortable with an authoritarian government. The problem is that, once that authoritarian government is removed, there is only one thing left: chaos, and chaos is the antithesis of society.

    Unless we start having people whose hearts have been transformed by the gospel of God’s grace, there will be no way to solve this problem. We need to return to the foundation that we had during the Middle Ages and on into the Reformation, and that is a foundation based upon the message that man can be made right with God only on the basis of the substituationary death of Jesus Christ, and once Christ is put into the position of “Lord” in an individual’s life, that individual is changed forever, and will no longer seek to live for himself, but only to live for Christ.

    God Bless,

  2. Adam – through my divorce and being a single mom, i will tell you the church does not get this … or at least the churches where i’ve lived. shocking what they did and did not do to/for me and my kids. they would rather give their money and time and affection to missions (ie: people who they don’t know and will not have to see on a daily basis) than to those they sit next to in church. they’d rather have a check list of rules as to whether a person is worthy of their money than to simply give b/c God tells them to give. and, if you ever need just a relationship with them … family … people to love you and draw you into their home and care for you, tough luck. they might give you money … there’s a slight chance they’ll make you a meal … but don’t ask simply for a relationship and mentors for your kids. they’ll have to change their traditions and lives for that. and God forbid they allow their children to associate with children of divorce and single mom’s … don’t want to expose our kids to that sin.

  3. Ame,

    Isn’t it amazing how judgment begins with the house of God? It is amazing how the attitudes of the church so mirror the attitudes of the world sometimes, and can lead to these kinds of messes?

    I can say that, when I was unemployed and in financial trouble, my current church and the church I was in before this one helped me out a ton. However, you are right that some churches, rather than helping those in need, instead play political games. I have seen that very thing happen is some of the churches I have been a part of in the past. I have often wondered if a revival in the church will be necessary before we have a revival in the public square.

    The real key, though, is recovering the Lordship of Christ. Without that key ingredient, there goes any hope we have in *either* the church *or* the public square. Also, just as a side note, is it any wonder that you see a rise in these problems when you have non-Lordship salvation so popular? Just a thought.

    God Bless,

  4. While only a passable adminstrator in matters profound, I consider myself by God’s grace a good leader. However, a leader can only be as good as the group that follows…….. Its hard not to think back on my time in NW Iowa. During my ministry at that church, there was a season when that church was willing to follow the commands of the Gospel, and much benefit for the Kingdom of God ensued. Yet later, that same church rebelled against that same Gospel and the leader who weekly presented it in its fullness just as before. It was the same Bible, same Prophet, Priest and King, same messenger, and same congregation; but the season of Divine grace had come to a close, and the congregation no longer had eyes to see or ears to hear……… I don’t think a book can be written to “give 9 steps how to fix” something like that. I don’t think clever policies can overcome the kind of muddled thinking that church- and the current American public- manifests. Only prayer from the heart to God to send again His Spirit to soften hearts and sharpen minds; no matter HOW wise, holy and strong our leaders may be.

  5. “Only prayer from the heart to God to send again His Spirit to soften hearts and sharpen minds; no matter HOW wise, holy and strong our leaders may be.”

    i agree … there’s nothing anyone can say or do that moves one’s heart – only God can do that. God does use people as instruments, but we don’t get to choose how and when God takes what we have to move another – or what part of the process He uses us for when reaching the heart of another.

    if it doesn’t take over one’s heart, it doesn’t stick. and, if a person does not choose to continue to allow God to keep their hearts tender and teachable, then it’s gone.

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