I am pictured here with Bishop Silas Yego in 2015. We first met in 2000. He is the leader of the African Inland Church of Kenya. He is a statesman who leads with a father’s heart. During his tenure as Bishop, he has courageously piloted one of the largest denominations of his nation through the stormy waters of significant and historical changes. One of the perks of my ministry has been the privilege to meet and get to know leaders of this caliber. Silas and his wife Roseline have graced us with their presence in Lakeview on three occasions.
Sadly, we live in an age when the words politics and politician have a negative connotation. I write “sadly” because a thriving community is dependent on moral leadership. A healthy and sustained community requires good government. A community is a political body lead by politicians. Political Science entails the study of politics, a topic way too broad for this writing. (Click on the link below for a further explanation of this discipline and its history).
MEANING, NATURE & DEFINITION OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
A thriving community is a diverse community. As my wife and I expanded our network of relationships and ministry venues over the years, we have discovered it to be an enriching process. Experiencing ethnic, political, cultural socio-economic diversity has been a catalyst for personal growth. It is too easy to remain comfortable within the confines of a homogenous cultural setting. Expanding the heterogeneity of a community enriches the health of society. Skilled statesmen have equipped themselves to govern a diverse population.
For the sake of this article, I will use the term statesman instead of the overused and often maligned term politician. (the term statesman is not meant to be gender-specific)
Definition of statesman
1: one versed in the principles or art of government
primarily: one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government or in shaping its policies
2: a wise, skillful, and respected political leader
Political leaders degrade their position when the focus is merely on their political ideology and tactics for enforcing their political dogma on others. Statesmen utilize their wisdom, experience, skill, and, their moral authority to unite diverse community members in ways that cause that community to thrive and prosper.
One challenge today is growing tribalism in our political process.
According to author Steve Almond, a “bad story” being promoted in our society today is, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” “Candidate debates are no longer forums to showcase competing ides. They are promoted and analyzed like prizefights” This “bad story,” says Almond, leads to negative partisanship. He writes further that, “Governance is about the art of compromise, about working with the other side to find solutions for all.”
Source: The story of us vs. them: Is it too late to create a narrative where we’re all on the same side by Steve Almond, The Rotarian, April 2018 p.28
Jesus, drawing upon his wisdom and moral authority, demonstrated statesman-like leadership during his earthly ministry. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus’ ministry. His ministry was also made effectual by His wisdom and moral authority. He represented His Kingdom well. Jesus was a model of Kingdom citizenship and leadership. Jesus taught about the nature of His Kingdom and revealed its future through His prophetic declarations.
Jesus ministered within the political and legal confines of the occupying Roman Empire and the delegated political authority of the Jewish Sanhedrin. He imparted a liberating message in an occupied land. Jesus respected the laws of the occupiers and rules of Mishnah except when they conflicted with his superior Kingdom boundaries. He taught and demonstrated an overcoming lifestyle in the face of empire restrictions and petty local rules of conduct. Jesus encouraged the Jews to honor Roman laws (e.g. “render unto Caesar”) and respond appropriately to arbitrary Roman practices (e.g., “go the extra mile”).
Jesus held the Jewish leadership accountable for not representing well the heart of His Father and for not being good shepherds for the people. He openly rebuked them for their hidden heart-set and abusive behavior toward their Jewish kin.
Jesus led a diversity of disciples. A couple of hot-headed anti-Roman zealots and a collaborating tax collector were among his closest associates. Jesus appealed to the marginalized of his day, (prostitutes and tax collectors) while at the same time attracting those who wielded political power, (the Roman Centurion and Leaders of the Pharisees).
When I have the opportunity to choose a leader, I look first at their character. The top consideration for me is to asses their moral authority. Moral authority increases as one navigates life with consistent adherence to a moral and ethical code of conduct and integrity in walking it out. Moral authority is an unseen power that enables a leader to be successful. The Apostle Paul uses the expression “power of godliness.” to refer to moral authority. Leaders who lack moral authority engage in brutal, short-sighted tactics to further their agenda. Such tactics include lying, bullying, fear-mongering, and vicious personal attacks on the opposition.
I also look at the experience of the potential leader. I want to review their experience in leading a diverse group of people. I also look at their experience in relating to the marginalized of society. I want to know if this individual has participated, for example, with a community service program that addressed the needs of the marginalized.
I continually scout the horizon for individuals or groups which are addressing the growing tribalism in our political system. During the lead up to the 2016 election, I came across a movement called No Labels. According to their website:
“NO LABELS IS A GROUNDBREAKING MOVEMENT LED BY AMERICANS WHO EMBRACE THE NEW POLITICS OF PROBLEM-SOLVING AND ARE COLLABORATING TO FIND COMMON-SENSE, NON-PARTISAN SOLUTIONS TO OUR TOUGHEST CHALLENGES.”
I am encouraged to know from this source and others that there are statesmen and stateswomen in political power today who are resisting the pressure to be tribal. They are seeking ways to govern virtuously over our very diverse culture. We should endorse, elect, and support such leaders.
Leaders inspire. For those of us in leadership, we should accept the challenge of continually seeking ways to increase the diversity of those we have the opportunity to inspire. As I have been crafting this prose, I have encouraged myself to consider just that. There may be a socio-economic group within our local community over which we have little or no influence. We might consider extending the umbrella of our influence beyond our local geographic region. Whatever the creative plan that may develop, it begins by asking ourselves, “How can I increase the diversity of the people who look to me for inspiration.