Friday, February 19, 2021

The role of leaders. . .

Everyone knows the story of how the Americans wanted to make George Washington their king.  Though he demurred, not a few presidents have sought out the power if not the pomp.  Their are many complaints about the Trump penchant for the limelight, somewhat like an actor craves the stage, but we have seen the regal power of the presidency in Biden, who in his first month issued as many executive orders as some recent presidents did in a year or even a term!  The presidential search for power has only increased over the years -- in part due to the divisions in Congress and the decline of party power and the rise of individual personalities.  Sometimes you wonder if everyone in Congress is not positioning themselves for a possible presidential run.

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the way leaders work in business and industry.  CEOs earn so many times the annual average compensation of other employees that it is almost impossible to comprehend.  Yet they claim they earn it.  Business watchers and investors seem to agree that one single personality can make or break a business and such a successful leader is worth every dollar, perk, stock options,and golden parachutes given to them.  Are they?  In fear, the boardrooms of America seem inclined to go along with the cult of personality rather than hold in check the power and compensation of these larger than life leaders.

Media stars have always been larger than life.  From the era when publicists were able to kill damaging news or headlines and prop up images that bore little resemblance to reality to the present day when it seem every entertainer has learned the lesson that there is no such thing as bad publicity, we have worshiped our stars.  It has been said that the right name will make a movie profitable, sell songs that would not have sold otherwise, and make a style trend popular.  Maybe we are so desperate for kings that we will make royalty of those whom we adore.

It is not untrue that this has been a problem in religion as well.  Though we have seen the rise and fall of megachurch stars, it does not seem likely that the star power will diminish.  Some churches have made a cult following of their pastors who appear in cameos on Sunday morning but do not actually minister to their people.  Some are too busy writing books to make even more money to build even bigger houses and live larger than real life.  Protestants have turned this kind of leadership into a style and there are all sorts of organizations with the promise of turning you into a leader who your people will follow anywhere and everywhere.  Even Roman Catholics have had media stars -- Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Bishop Barron come to mind.  Perhaps the current Pope is a wannabe pop star.

The question under all of this is whether such leaders are helpful or beneficial.  I will let the voters decide about politicians and presidents but I am deeply concerned about an imperial presidency -- whether we approve of it or not.  I suppose I cannot do much about the exorbitant salaries paid to CEOs and the inequity applied to workers often viewed as liabilities to the success of the business instead of assets.  I have no power to reduce the unbelievable money paid to sports, music, and screen stars -- I already do not follow sports or watch movies or buy songs.  But I might be able to warn the Church against following the lead of politics, business, sports, and entertainment.  We are not well served by turning into royalty those to whom we entrust leadership in the Church.  It gravitates against everything Jesus says about servanthood and everything He warns against among those who lord it over one another.

Let me be clear.  We need to respect those who serve us in God's name.  We owe them ages that will enable them to serve us without distraction or divided loyalty.  We must know the Word well enough to recognize both their faithfulness and when they waver from the truth that endures forever.  We should listen to them for when they address us with God's Word, God is speaking to us.  But pastors are not and should not be like media stars or business moguls or kingly royalty.

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