Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Wednesday
Nov022011

WHIPSAWING THE PRESIDENT

Two of my recent blogs discussed "Our Dysfunctional Presidency". The blogs were Bill Moyer's interview with Historian Forrest McDonald. And McDonald made at least six points:

1.  Every president has two jobs – head of state, which is show biz – and head of government, which is management.

2.  It's nearly impossible to do both jobs well.

3.  Every two-term president is a lame duck on reelection.

4.  A second-term president is subject to being savaged by his own partisans in Congress, as well as by the media and the opposition party.

5.  A second-term president is largely powerless in domestic matters and thus concentrates on foreign affairs – which fosters crises and wars.

6.  In drafting the Constitution, the founding fathers designed the U.S. government to be incompetent.

As a Nation, we have no remedies for these problems. However, McDonald's analysis should clarify how we think of our presidents.

 

First example:  Here's a recent quote from Scott Wilson in The Washington Post: "Beyond the economy, the wars, and the polls, President Obama has a problem -- people. This president endures with little joy the Barack Obamasmalltalk and backslapping of retail politics, rarely spends more than a few moments on a rope line, and refuses to coddle even his biggest donors. His relationship with Democrats on Capitol Hill is frosty. Personal lobbying on behalf of legislation? He prefers to leave that to Vice-President Biden, an old-school political charmer. Obama's circle of close advisers is as small as the cluster of personal friends that predates his presidency. Obama is, in short, a political loner who prefers policy over the people who make politics in this country work."

Jeffrey ImmeltLet's reread this passage and apply it, not to President Obama, but to Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric: "Chairman Immelt has a problem -- people.  He endures with little joy the small talk and backslapping so common in corporate management. He spends little time with GE employees, customers, or the public. Even with major customers, his relationship can be frosty. He prefers to leave major sales to Marketing. His relies on a small circle of advisers in his management team. He is in short, a corporate loner, who prefers policy over people."

Perhaps your response would be the same as the General Electric Board of Directors: "Of course, that's what Jeff's paid to do, and he does it well."  [Comment:  I used Walnut Hills grad, Jeffrey Immelt, as an example.  I do not, in fact, know about his management style.]

But, do you see Scott Wilson's game? He's criticizing President Obama for not focusing on his show biz role, as head of state. In contrast, as head of government, President Obama works far harder, and with better understanding of government operations, than any of his four predecessors.

Commentators get a free ride. Whenever they want a sparkling editorial, they can whipsaw the president for not fulfilling the role he's currently not playing.

Next year for the election, President Obama – like all of his predecessors – will focus on show biz, the reelection campaign. If you've forgotten, he can do that well. He first came to our attention with his electrifying keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And he was an adroit politician in 2008, pulling the Democratic nomination away from Hillary Clinton, when she nearly had the nomination in the bag.

So, in 2012, look for the pundits to criticize President Obama for endlessly campaigning and shirking his government managerial responsibilities. It's inevitable. It happens to every president. The media and the public deride the president because he can't play both roles magnificently at the same time.

Why does anybody want this thankless job?

 

Second example: If President Obama is reelected, he faces not only the lame duck problem, but also the curse of genius. At the beginning of each century, the American people have elected an exceptionally brilliant man to the presidency: Jefferson, Wilson, and Obama.

Woodrow WilsonMost Americans don't know our own history well enough to realize that both Wilson and Jefferson were spectacular failures by the end of their second term. Wilson formulated basic concepts for the League of Nations after World War I, promoted the League in Europe, but suffered its rejection by the U.S. Congress. 

And Jefferson's failure? In 1807, as an alternative to a shooting war with Britain, Jefferson tried aggressive economic warfare against England. During Jefferson's administration, England was fighting Napoleonic France. So, Jefferson imposed an embargo that stopped American trade, particularly trade with England. The result: Our economy was hurt worse than England's – particularly in Boston, our largest city. The result was a furious reaction in the Northeast.

Can Obama (a) win the election and (b) beat the curse?  We can watch and pray.

[Note:  For a commentary on President Obama's chances for reelection, see the final paragraphs of my first blog, a year ago. Under the section "Politics and Government", click on "GOP Congress? A Blessing for Democrats." Scroll down the article to "What are the prospects for 2012?"]

The most significant qualities we should look for in a president are character and balanced judgment, and they are not abstract qualities. If you're with a person, they're evident. Unfortunately, there's so much media hype in political campaigns that it's tough to recognize the real person.

With presidential candidates, experience is not the best teacher. Warren G. Harding had lots of experience in government. So did Richard Nixon. And Bill Clinton. We need character and judgment in our presidents -- and all other elected officials.

 

Third example: Americans generally prefer show-biz presidential candidates to managerial candidates. Which is crazy.

Sarah PalinThink of the howls of outrage if your favorite NFL team hired a coach who had never played football and had negligible coaching experience. Yet, we do it regularly with presidential candidates. 

Think of the candidates who wanted to start at the top, with little experience either in elections or public office: Ross Perot, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain. However, the list is longer: Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barack Obama.

George ClooneyPerhaps more so than Democrats, Republicans lean towards candidates who make the right sounds – irrespective of their experience and proven ability. And appropriately so. Many Republicans want the United States government to focus on its traditional responsibilities – defense (i.e. empire-building), foreign affairs, a good highway system, crime fighting, and restricting immigration. They want the Feds to stay out of the economy – except for crisis bailouts – and out of our cities, our neighborhoods, our personal lives, and our wallets.  Above all, they want taxes cut.

Thus, Ronald Reagan is seen as an excellent president because, among other achievements, he systematically dismantled much of the Federal Government.  George W. Bush did the same, but with far worse results for the economy.

So, if you really want the U.S. Government not to function, why not go for show biz? Too bad George Clooney's a Democrat.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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