Religious Governance: The Free Church Tradition, May 26, 2010

   "The difference between a cat and a lie is simple. A cat has only nine lives."

                                    —–Mark Twain

   The people who ask you to "get over it" and "move on" are the ones who are comfortable where they are and have no plan to move.

                           ——Rick Davis

   Any governance is as good as the people who govern. The man who leads sits in a prominent place. His word carries weight. He may create or destroy by an unspoken thought or an idle gesture. He is the most prominent politician of his time and his every expression is pondered by persons who want his favor.

   He is himself subject to the over simplifications and partisan distortions dictated by mass politics. The higher his office, the more distorted the image. He must work to be heard and work even harder to be understood, if it is understanding he seeks.

   The religious conventions (associations, denominations, et al) of our day have succeeded admirably in self-perpetuation, seen in their ability to promote themselves years after their last bit of effectiveness is lost. The smoke screen is thicker where the opposition is clearer. Any detractors are exiled and detractors are easier to define than ever. Anyone who does other than send money and smile is "not our friend." The truth-seeker is more defenseless than the truth-teller but no less hated. 

    Simply put, the religious governing bodies suffer from the same simple-minded distortions they use as their primary arguments for keeping their spot. None of them are either all good or all bad but all are exactly what their prime movers make them from within and what their adherents will tolerate from without. 

   The long history of religious governance in our nation has a self-perpetuating mythology to it. That is, the power structures are thought to be needed simply because they exist in past perception and in present reality. The powers are because they are, long after their potency vanishes.

   I remember trying to promote the Texas Evangelism Conference. People would remind me how much they loved the old evangelism conference and how much they  missed it. After a few reminisces, people would also remind me they had not attended the conference for more than twenty years and did not plan to attend in the future. The past is, to them, better left in nostalgic ideal. Most of us who have some history in "church" wax nostalgic over some long dead program or person, who is gone, lamented but clearly not resurrectable.

    What do we need in place of the late and lamented? I would suggest we need a clear thinking executive branch able to lead in a way that levels the playing field, too long dominated by this or that group, and willing, as well, to puncture the pretentious power elites.

   The power to level the field and puncture the pretentious requires an executive force of rare quality and vigor. Texas baptists did not have such a force in the last administration of the moderate forces. A sampling of the present administration's policies does not suggest visible improvement. 

   The person who can level the field and puncture the pretentious will have to be a more extraordinary thinker, on moral-political subjects. He will need to be able to think clearly, with depth and power. He will need clarity of mind and a firm will. He must be able to offer his thoughts and impose his will. He is not on the scene currently. He may not be on the horizon. He may not exist.

   If he does, he should offer himself soon, while there is something left to save. He should come forward quickly, to  see if we recognize him. He will be starkly memorable if he shows us the deep etchings of God on his character, different from personality, which may mark a fellow as likable but only likable, not memorable or deep. His character will make us see him, purposeful in personality, politics and morality. He will not change direction with the wind but only tack his sails to keep his course when the wind shifts from south to north.

   If can keep his course, we will then be able to set our own maps by him. One did not need a cartographer with the last administration. A ouija board would have been more helpful. If this not yet present fellow would lead, he must show quickly how his moral ideals intersect with his politics. He must be that rarest of fellows, one who can think think harder and see straighter than other men around him.

   Jesus, our Example, is a man who can see straighter and think harder. A woman taken in open prostitution is brought to Him. The law is plain, so her sentence is death, death by slow suffocation under crushing weight. Jesus sees through the case presented to Him. He thinks about the whole cast of characters. He sees the crowd's need for blood would suffocate them along with the prostitute. She would die then and the crowd would die a little with her. She would be relieved of her burdensome life. The crowd would continue down to final destruction.

   Jesus sees so straight, thinks so hard, He is able to save the prostitute and the crowd. He shows us how moral idealism and law keeping intersect, with liberty and justice for all. He is the most moral of leaders. 

   If real government is going to exist, for real institutions, secular or sacred, moral leadership will have to step forward and soon. Morality is not just rightness of conduct, but is the ethical force to guide by word and deed. Morality requires righteousness, which is the horizontal relationship(s) of one man with all men. Morality requires godliness, which is the vertical relationship between God and man. The fellow who would lead others has to have both righteousness and godliness.

Opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect those of any other person or group.

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