The Responsibility of Following

I’ve heard the idea hundreds of times.

“True leaders are those others choose to follow.”

Today, voters in the United States will go to the polls and vote. In so doing, we will signal to our government and to others what we hope and desire for the direction of our country for the next four years – perhaps longer.

Tonight, I will disappear into my home and watch election news stream in from all over the country. I will hear the predictions of ballot counts. Undoubtedly, I will go to bed long before the final results are in. After all, I’ve done my duty for this portion of our political process. I voted.

Tomorrow, I will awake to a new duty. We will know who our president will be come January – absent the pernicious presence of hanging chads. And I will begin my work – my responsibility – of following whoever that is.

If you can believe the pre-election polls, almost half of my countrymen will be disappointed in the morning. However, I hope that each and every one of us will rise to the challenge of making this country better in the next four years.

We don’t have to agree with everything an administration is doing or how they are doing it. In fact, we have the privilege of being outspoken about our values and beliefs.

But what we can do is make the best of what we have. We can teach our children to disagree with respect. We can find places to serve others. We can encourage that behavior from our elected officials, as well. And, if we are faced with others who don’t disagree with respect and who refuse to serve and officials who spew negativism, we can pray for them and for all of our leaders.

Tomorrow morning, I will choose to follow whoever is elected. I may not have voted for him and I may not vote for him to lead again. But I will follow . . . because it’s the right thing to do.

Art Credit – Creative Commons: DonkeyHotey

Political Endorsements & Undertakers

I have friends who, shall we say, have strong feelings about politics.

Don’t get me wrong, choosing who will lead us as a nation is an important undertaking. But it is an “undertaking” thus making those who go about it . . .”undertakers.”

The easy definition of “undertaker” is one who prepares the dead for burial. From my cynic’s perch, that’s pretty much what we do when we launch someone into politics these days.

We appreciate undertakers in our society. One of my favorite people is a local funeral director. Similarly, I appreciate those who make it their business to know about political candidates and to deliver that information to us as voters.

I suppose what disturbs me is when otherwise sane people begin to make politics the driving force in their lives. It’s all they talk about and tweet about. Their FaceBook posts take on the intellectual tenor of a pre-school playground. Their sense of humor takes a nose-dive into the dirt. They choose to believe things without checking out sources. And they make it plain that, if I disagree, I am a foolish and irresponsible person.

My friend who is a funeral director, on the other hand, never taunts me or derides me or insists on telling me every detail of his thoughts about the embalming techniques he employs with expertise. Nor does he insist on publicly humiliating me for my lack of knowledge about his craft. His “undertaking” is professional, effective, and caring.

So, friends of mine who are so emotionally invested in this dark pit of political undertaking, breathe.

God is in control. Your best guess of what is good for the world or any nation is foolish if it’s made without God’s will in focus. God wants, more than anything, to transform us into creatures in His likeness. What do people see when you’re in all-out, political campaign mode?

It’s perfectly fine to be an undertaker. I encourage you to dig deeply into the issues, make sound decisions, and to discuss those issues and decisions civilly. Just go about your work with professionalism, effectiveness, and concern for the rest of us. Make yours an honorable undertaking.

Who knows? You might change my vote.

Creative Commons: Vox Efx

What If the Quiet Words Were . . .

What if the quiet words between the two men were filled with respect?

As they enter the arena and make their way to center stage . . .

What if the greetings they shared were genuine in their concern for a fellow traveler on a difficult path?

As they smile broadly and shake hands . . .

What if they made every decision — what they will say and what they will do — based on what they really believe is right?

As one emerges a victor . . .

What if they both commit to work together to  make the world a better place?

What if the quiet words were . . .

The problem with “social justice”, part 5

This series of posts was inspired by the strong debate over the phrase “social justice.” Political conservatives view social justice as a redistribution of wealth intent on destroying personal initiative. Liberals counter that social justice is a necessary exercise because those who “have” show no inclination to help those who have not.

photo courtesy of Constantin Jurcut

That context left me thinking about the phrase and how much energy is expended defending the two ends of the continuum.

Most people I know — conservative and liberal — are in favor of helping those who are in need. And most people I know prefer a method of providing that allows those who give to have some discretion in guiding their philanthropy.

The problem, they say, is that people just refuse to do enough and, as a result, the less fortunate have had their rights diminished. Thus, we must vigorously pursue “social justice” to force the world into “doing the right thing.” When force is used, however, the “right thing” is more properly phrased as “the thing I believe to be right.”

That led me to assert the following statements in previous posts:

The problem with social justice is that it is based on justice.

The concept of justice as understood in modern culture is essentially self-centered.

Love, not justice, must be the foundation for addressing the problems of the world.

Yet, realistically, people aren’t reacting quickly or compassionately enough to stem the tide of hunger, disease, and atrocities that rises so quickly and routinely in our world. Thus, I made this statement:

Even though addressing social justice issues through the machine of justice is flawed, it is a necessary exercise while the world struggles to find a better way.

You may be asking, “Then why write this series of articles? What was the point?”

The point is this:

We should never give up on humanity. We must continue looking for ways to inspire and motivate right action — even when it is not legislated or demanded.

The model for peace I have been teaching for over a decade equates peace as being an equal balance of justice and mercy.  Just having one or the other is not workable. A corollary would be a model for love — where perfect love in community exists as a result of a perfect balance of social justice and “social mercy.”

In truth, it is the sense of “social mercy” that inspires those most adamantly pursuing “social justice.” Or at least I think it is. Unfortunately, the sometimes radical language of social justice without the equally radical language of social mercy inspires a competitive environment that defeats a spirit of love.

The theory of “social mercy” is not that difficult to grasp. Simply put, it is a willingness . . .

A willingness to take care of others . . .

A willingness to give others the potential to succeed . . .

A willingness to release our fears about the trappings of prestige and power . . .

A willingness balanced with social justice that naturally and gracefully places value on children, women and men as the creation of a God who loves.

The courts and armies enforce social justice. The kindness and will of caring individuals nurture social mercy.

The development of social mercy will require a shift in our priorities and a recalibration of our values. Neither of these can be legislated or mandated by even the most benevolent of dictators or legislatures. Social mercy will emerge as a societal quality when we have walked its path with our children, stopping along the way to bind the wounds of our enemies and to feed our neighbors.

Social justice isn’t the long-term answer. A competitive game only emphasizes the need for winners and losers. Our only hope is to develop our capacity for social mercy. And that capacity is built one person at a time.

I hope you will look for and join a social mercy community. I hope to turn more attention to this important quest in the near future.  Please share your ideas on ways this might be encouraged.

Love in Community = Social Justice + Social Mercy.

Become a leader in the social mercy movement.

The problem with “social justice”, part 4

Situational irony. I’ve been asked to present a brief devotional thought based on a chapter from a book that presents problems for me.

The book is on social justice and the particular chapter I’ve been assigned is entitled “Why Should We Do Justice?” If you don’t find that ironic, let me remind you what I’ve said so far in this series of articles.

The problem with social justice is that it is based on justice.

The concept of justice as understood in modern culture is essentially self-centered.

Love, not justice, must be the foundation for addressing the problems of the world.

In all fairness to the author, I haven’t thoroughly explored his concepts. But a quick scan makes it appear that he takes the opposite view on all of these statements. The author speaks of justice as the end game.  He sees justice as the ultimate in caring for others. And, he seems to say that simply asking people to love others is not sufficient because love does not provide sufficient motivation to achieve the purposes of justice.

I believe that the author and I want the same thing. We want to take care of people. We want to recognize the value of every individual. We want the basic needs of all to be met. We want others to join us in those initiatives.

The difference is really the underlying foundation of this whole series.  The problem with social justice as it is trumpeted politically is that it is ultimately based on self-centered justice. “We have decided what is right and good based on what we want and what we think that we deserve. Justice enforces our standards. Everyone else should comply.”

I hope you’ll read the following statement very carefully.

Even though addressing social justice issues through the machine of justice is flawed, it is a necessary exercise while the world struggles to find a better way.

When I teach others about peace, I use a model that defines peace as an “equal balance of justice and mercy.” As we go deeper into that model, we can further say that peace requires a balance of concerns for self and for others.

Thus, if peace is to live up to its reputation as the most perfect of conditions (and it is, by the way), it seems to me that . . .

“Social Justice” must be balanced with “Social Mercy.”

In my next article, I will explore ways that social mercy leads to hope . . . and how hope paves a path toward a better way.

(Photo courtesy of Shlomit Wolf at stock.xchng)