Sunday, July 16, 2006

In Sunday School

I'm a church guy. I really am. I'm there every week doing all the things which go with our church, though today I had to do it in tennis shoes because I forgot to pack the nice ones for our vacation. Nobody said anything (I was a guest), though none of THEM had sneakers on of any color. It was in Utah, so draw your own conclusions. One hundred degrees and ZERO humidity. Sandwiches dry out before you can even eat them.
Anyway, to Sunday School. The Old Testament is packed with interesting characters. Sure, they had some sins which we now find bizzare, like human sacrifice, but people don't seem to have changed much in 3000 years. Some of those people would seem right at home on the Springer show.
Today we were talking about good leaders, and bad. Rehoboam was a poor one. He became king after Solomon's death. All Israel approached him with a suggestion we can appreciate. "How about a tax cut, sir?" The idea seemed to take him by surprise and he asked for three days to answer the request. That part was probably Solomon's fault. A good dad will teach the family business to the kid before it's too late. Anyway, Rehoboam goes to his father's old advisors, who say, in effect, "Give them what they want, kid, and you'll have them in your pocket forever." This, for some reason, doesn't satisfy the rookie monarch, who goes to his old pals, the guys he used to party with in the Jerusalem hot spots of the time. Their advice is completely different: "Dude, you have to show those dopes who's in charge." When it comes time to answer the people, the new boss not only rejects the request, but adds a measure of vulgarity that doesn't translate well to english. This little rant leads directly to the division of the country into Israel and Judah, a poor circumstance for the people of BOTH countries.
So much for background. Bad leaders make bad decisions, which lead to bad results. But is the opposite ever true? Can bad people be good leaders? What about perfectly fine people who turn out to be poor leaders? I would suggest two things here. One is that certain leaders can BECOME well thought-of by the circumstances in which they are obliged to lead. So Lincoln becomes a great leader for freeing the slaves AND saving the union, and Buchanan is a poor one for doing neither. Secondly, the style of leadership is determined by the culture. In this regard, Stalin comes out as great since his country (the USSR) makes it out of WW II (barely) despite Stalin's screwups. In a totalitarian culture, the end really does justify any means necessary. Not so for Mussolini, whose country (Italy) just couldn't see itself as a global bully, a la Germany. So they killed him in the street.
I think bad people can be good leaders, at least for awhile. Nixon had a grasp on foreign policy that seemed to leave his rivals gasping. And good people can flop. As a native Iowan I would vouch for the often-mocked Hoover as a good man, if you see his whole life. Jimmy Carter is my relatives' favorite guy to make fun of as a president, and maybe they're right, but I can't see him as anything but a good person with good intentions. Of course, we didn't talk about any of these people in Sunday School, but we should have.


Blogger beetle1732 said...

Loved your first post dad. Very entertaining. Keep it up!


6:23 AM  
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7:21 PM  

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