Frank Farley studies courage. He identifies three kinds of courageous persons.
There are those who are professionally courageous. That is, there are those persons whose jobs and training take them into harm's way. They show courage, as in running into a building others are leaving. They are routinely courageous and occasionally exhibit phenomenal courage when the occasion arises.
Then, there are situational heroes. These are the persons who suddenly rush the cockpit of a captured jet liner, announcing, "Let's roll." They enter history as free men and women.
Finally, there are those Farley calls "sustained altruists." This is Gandhi, or Cicely Saunders or Malcom X or Aung San Suu Kyi. These are persons who adopt a noble cause at great personal sacrifice or risk. They give up a life of freedom and comfort.
I do not see many of these in religious life, per se, though many of the sustained or situational altruists have a faith background. Too often, it seems religious persons have adopted the focus of the TV preachers, who tell us to send money to God but give their own address.
My question is one in need of addressing. That is, how long will we follow those who cannot lead? At least, one would admit much of the current religious leadership is incapable of leading anywhere that matters. The great cause, the noble cause, is lost to product placement and some oddball program or other. Exactly how much longer can we afford to follow those who cannot actually lead?
Evil has enormous powers to use as ammunition. Fear of exile or of punishment, deprivation of rights or privileges, pain, death. Evil is unquestionably a leader.
Good has its problems. Good people are those who will most often question their own goodness, or their motives or their actions. Good people are those most likely to ask, "Who am I?"
Evil just moves in to take over. Evil asserts its own right.
Good men must hold their own salvation in their hands with fear and trembling. Good men are more easily torn down than evil men because evil men strike, back and forth, without worrying much about who questions their actions. Evil does not care what you think about his motives.
Good men have to assert themselves to do right, or to do as much right as they can find. In so doing, they must ask the dead to come to life. This is not easy. Men understand evil. Good is harder.
Let me suggest a good leader is one who pulls together. He knows our fears and foibles but appeals at least one level above them. He shows us what we ought to be and makes us believe we can be that thing we ought to be.
At least, he inspires us to try to be good.
Such a man may appear infrequently. He may disappear quickly if he cannot speak in the accepted religious cliches. He may suffer the condescension of posterity, wherein he is forgotten before he is buried.