Posted: January 3rd, 2011 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Christianity | Tags: authority, leadership, priesthood of all believers, starfish leadership, Tea Party | No Comments »
Anne Hendershott’s piece in the WSJ points out an underlying struggle for authority that’s being played out between Catholic hospitals and the clergy.
In a July 6 letter to Bishop Olmsted, Mr. Dean asserted that “this is a complex matter on which the best minds disagree.” Citing the opinion of Marquette University Professor M. Therese Lysaught on the permissibility of the abortion performed at St. Joseph’s, Mr. Dean appeared to suggest that the teaching authority of the Phoenix Bishop was just one more “opinion” on a “complex matter.”
This case points to the real problem in the church. For too long, the authority of bishops has been limited to issuing mere opinions. This is especially true at Catholic colleges and universities, where bishops have little effect on the culture and curriculum.
Anne sees a problem, but what you see depends on your perspective.
If the goal of the church (or any organization for that mater) is to create clear positions to answer each tough question it faces, it’s much easier to give one person authority to set those positions than to have a community of differing opinionsâ€”some even contradicting. On the other hand, I think it’s fairly unrealistic to believe that a bishop would be able to fully grasp the complexity involved in every moral issueâ€”especially as it relates to highly specialized fields like medicine and science.
In Protestant traditions there is a doctrine known as the “priesthood of all believers,” which basically states that every individual has the authority and responsibility to participate in the Church’s calling. While this model isn’t well suited to producing clear, publishable theological positions on every topic; it does provide space for each person to take seriously the task of integrating their spiritual and moral convictions with their daily livesâ€”including their vocations.
This decentralized authority model is similar to what many in business circles have started calling “Starfish Leadership”, based on the book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (Brafman & Beckstrom, 2006). The basic principle of the book is that as a decentralized organism, a starfish will regenerate if you cut off it’s armâ€”and in some cases will become two starfishâ€”whereas a centralized organism like a spider will die if you cut off it’s head. A recent example of the power of this kind of organization model was displayed earlier this year by the Tea Party movement, which had no central authority structure but was very effective nonetheless.
I would argue that there is no better person to decide on the correct moral action to be taken on a complex issue than the person whose job it is to carry out that action (for better or worse) and who best understands all of the realities of the issue (in non-theological terms). The job of the clergy would then be more accurately viewed as teachers, consultants, counselors, or guides who help to equip each individual believer for the process of integrating their faith with their life in a way that would lead to an expectation of church that was a community of incarnated faith rather than what has often been a hierarchical, theoretical religion that seems detached from people’s real lives.
Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Christianity, Politics | Tags: 1 Samuel, 2010 election, identity, race, religion, Tea Party | 1 Comment »
The book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament tells the story of how Israel asked God to give them a human king like the nations around them. Soon after, Saul was made the first ever king of Israel and so began the long tradition of people wanting to led by people that they could identify with.
There has been a lot of ink shed by political analystsÂ over the past 18 months trying to figure out what the driving force is behind the political backlash against the current leadership in Washington from the political right, especially from the Tea Party movement. A lot has been made of the sputtering economy and the unpopularity of the health care bill passed last year, and while both play a part in the debate, I don’t think either are at the epicenter of the firestorm we’re seeing played out in the media day after day.
In November on 2008, a perfect storm happened that left a major group of America’s population in a position where they simply were unable to identify themselves with the leadership in Washington. According to the latest stats from the Pew Forum, the largest religious group in America is Evangelical Protestants, a group that is 81% White non-Hispanic. Ever since the Moral Majority took the stage in the 1980′s this group has also increasingly viewed the Republican party as the true “Christian” party while seeing the Democratic party as the “non-Christian” party at best, and the anti-God party at worst.
So here after the 2008 elections you have this perfect storm where the largest single demographic in America woke up to a completely Democratic government led by a President who, for the first time in the history of the nation, didn’t share their skin color. If that wasn’t reason enough for a backlash (which it would have been in my view), the fact that this happened to take place in the midst of two wars and the worst economic situation we’d seen since the Great Depression should be more than enough to explain why a movement like the Tea Party was inevitable; people want to be led by leaders they share a common identity with.
In a week I fully expect the newspapers to be filled opinions about how the economy was the big story in this election, or how the Tea Party was a clear referendum against the current administration’s agenda. Don’t be fooled by the hype, the real story here is not a battle over ideas, but a battle over identity.
Posted: July 21st, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Politics | Tags: cornel west, fox news, glenn beck, Tea Party | No Comments »
In a recent interview, political scholar Cornel West shared his thoughts about the Tea Party movement in the United States:
â€œThe Tea Party might look a mile wide on Fox News, but itâ€™s only a few inches deepâ€¦Tea Party folk are not crazy people. Theyâ€™re just misguided. Theyâ€™re deeply conservative people who see the corruption of government. Theyâ€™re right about that. But they react by being antigovernment. Theyâ€™re wrong about that. They see the need for individual initiative and entrepreneurial possibility. Theyâ€™re right about that. But then they affirm a corporate agenda and donâ€™t realize corporations are a big part of the problemâ€¦Theyâ€™re much weaker than people like Glenn Beck think they are. But Iâ€™ll fight for the right of Glenn Beck to express his opinion. Even he has a right to be wrong, which he is most of the time.â€
I’m not sure if Dr. West is right or wrong about the relative political strength of the movement, but I do agree with him that the majority of Tea Party sympathizers that I know are definitely not crazy as many left-wing pundits would have you believe. Glad to see that a progressive leader like West would be willing to give credit to this conservative movement on areas where they’re concerns are valid even if he disagrees with their proposed solutions.
Posted: July 1st, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Politics | Tags: leadership, lindsey graham, ny times, republicans, senate, Tea Party | No Comments »
The article presents Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as the new “Maverick” of the Republican Party who is willing to do what no other GOP member seems to want to do right now; actually work with the Democratic Party to try to get stuff done. Â Regardless of your opinion of Senator Graham, the article is a fascinating look into partisan politics.
On the TeaÂ Party:
During a later meeting [with Tea Party members], in Charleston, Graham said he challenged them: â€œ â€˜What do you want to do? You take back your country â€” and do what with it?â€™ . . . Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent.â€
Regarding Ronald Reagan and the current state of Conservative politics:
â€œWe donâ€™t have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. RememberÂ Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats.â€ Chortling, he added, â€œRonald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.â€
Recognizing himself as one of the only Republicans in the Senate seriously willing to work across the isle on legislation, Senator Graham shared the following reflection:
â€œMy God, look what Iâ€™m involved in!â€ he said. â€œBy default, if for no other reason. How do you close Gitmo without working with me now? How do you do immigration?â€ He added: â€œWhat if I walked away fromÂ climate change tomorrow? . . . You know, all politicians like to be thought of in their own mind as somebody special. Iâ€™m past that now. Iâ€™m a little worried. This is not healthy for the country. Itâ€™s really not.â€
The takeaway: When everyone else is staying with the pack, the ones who are willing to go against the flow are the ones that create the leverage to actually make things happen.
Posted: May 27th, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Christianity, Politics | Tags: Jim Wallis, Libertarian, Tea Party | 2 Comments »
Jim Wallis has 5 critiques of the Libertarian philosophy based on Christian principles as he sees it.
The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue. Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition. The Christian answer to the question “Are we our brother’s keeper?” is decidedly “Yes.”