For the moment let us broaden our search. Remember this book-length series, now three weeks of blog posts in duration and about two more weeks shy of completion, began as a way to offer general advice to persons seeking a leader in Texas baptist life.
When I saw the latest "leader" resign to take another position, it occurred to me another would inevitably assume his mantle. In fact, the man has probably been chosen already. At some point he will be brought out, shiny and smiling. His selectors will tell the rest of the Remnant why they should find him attractive. He will be the leader because he is attractive. He will lead the Remnant back to the promised land. He will attract so many to his cause the Remnant will no longer be an isolated, frustrated, failing body of true believers. Prominence will be restored. The Remnant will be rewarded.
The conflicting reasons for admiring the immediate two previous leaders were barely couched in religious language at all. Each was a more admirable shepherd, the sheep were instructed, because of their relationship to Texas baptist churches during the nationally inspired conflagration in baptist Christian life.
Since there are only two sides of this combat the third fellow will be more of the same, one way or the other. Some talk as though he will be chosen because he is too this or that to even remember the Thirty Years Wars. This is nonsense. If he does not know your history he can scarcely be expected not to repeat its errors. If he does not know the wars still rage he is not likely to survive.
When the selectors present their shiny new trophy, what inscription will he bear? If he is not a champion he had better become one very soon. If he is a champion, how will you know?
This started me thinking. What is a champion? What is an admirable life? How will you know an admirable life if you see it?
In fact, how do you know an admirable life in our culture at all? The culture wars of the 21st century, it seems to me, will be fought between the two extremes I named earlier: nihilism and fanaticism. Neither can agree on anything admirable in the other, beyond passion for their own position.
Once upon a time we just knew an admirable life had to have something to do with God. We cannot agree on that anymore. The most recent Pew Charitable Trusts Study tells us 10% of Americans cannot think of anything positive about Christianity. Twenty-five per cent consider Christianity more bad than good. The few positives anyone can think of about our faith mostly have to do with things a social services organization could do as well.
The 2010 US Census indicates the fastest growing Belief group in America is UnBelief. Non-religiously affiliated individuals now make up more than 16% of the population.
In listings of the most admired persons in American society, the top positions are now held by business leaders. These person are more admired than military leaders, politicians, entertainers and religious leaders.
We are losing the Public Relations phase of the 21st Century Culture Wars. This century is more than 10% completed. Does anything point to a revival of favorable American cultural opionon, vis a vis mainstream Christian faith?
No, probably not. Christians meet in large conclaves, so superficial they are barely Christian at all. Or, Christians meet in small groupings, remarably certain of their local prejudices. The war we can see mostly does not note of Christian groups at all. The war is between the Nihilist and the Fanatic.
Remember the Nihilist has to insist on Nothingness as Reality. Nothing matters. Nothing lasts. Nothing is All. Death is velvet sleep.
Remember the Fanatic believes there is Something Greater Than Nothing. This Something is his in that it energizes him. He belongs to this Something. He has the Something. If you do not have his Something you are either an infidel or a barbarian. Death is vindication, not velvet sleep.
Which one do you admire? Do you reverence the fellow who sees Immortality as reward for a good life, as he and his group define a good life? Or, do you admire the fellow who holds himself to a rigid intellectual discipline without thought of individual survival after death?
Your answer to the questions in the paragraph just above will tell you if you are a closet Nihilist. For purposes of comparison you can then decide if you are aa Fanatic and, under that heading, if you are a half infidel or a true barbarian.
Do you see it? What you believe about our immortality determines how you live right now. If you believe you find your joy in belief quite because you settle the durative question. You will know an admirable life when you see it because you find a person who shares your highest ideal pursuit.
A Nihilist is a Fanatic who has not yet reached backward. He lives at one end of the thought spectrum as far removed from the Fanatic as he can get. In moving so far from the Fanatic he has become the Uncompleted Fanatic.
He his empty and you know it because his life answers ring hollow. He rings hollow because he can only reach forward in time and he already says there is nothing there for him. If he reaches backward he will touch his own fanatacism. He cannot be joyous.
The Fanatic is joyless for another reason. He must have you believe or he must destroy. His destruction can be C-4 or gentle persuasion but you must believe and he must cause you to believe.
The utter joylessness of the extremes makes the politically acceptable leader more attractive. He knows to affirm lunacy he does not believe, so he is an inner infidel. He is socially acceptable because he is attractive. He is attractive because he is neither too much of one thing or the other.
He is not admirable. He will write to you of leadership as a balancing act because his ambition drowns his courage. The crowd who applaud him do so because he touches their cowardice. He will bring change but not much. He will operate nobly but not so nobly he makes the multitude seem shabby.
He is attractive. He is not admirable. Beauty contests end with a crown but beauty fades early.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone.