Saturday, July 11, 2015

Where Do Leaders Get Integrity? (Can the People Help?)

"David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the
Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals."


I'm noticing an interesting contrast in tomorrow's lectionary readings.

First, some context: I've been thinking about my work with World Beyond War, and, in particular, pondering a statement by one of our social media supporters during the past weeks: "As a growing number of people are recognizing the insanity of militarism and militaristic solutions in our world, pressure will increase irresistably to force the leaders to end imperialism and to demilitarize." (Kenneth Ruby)

"As a growing number of people are recognizing the insanity of militarism
and militaristic solutions in our world, pressure will increase irresistably
to force the leaders to end imperialism and to demilitarize."
(Kenneth Ruby - see World Beyond War July, 2015, social media campaign)

It made me start to wonder: what does it look like when we "force the leaders to end imperialism and to demilitarize" -- or, for that matter, force leaders to do anything?

Salome: you lobby your way, I'll lobby mine
The story of the beheading of John the Baptist in Mark 6:14-29 is a great example of the behavior we can expect from leaders most of the time. (Hey, what's the point of being king if you can't use your power to grab your brother's wife, and flirt with your new step-daughter, and . . . ?) It's a perfect negative example to be featured in the Gospels (and/or in an alternative sacred book, perhaps to be called "NOT the Good News . . . !"), and it's no wonder that Oscar Wilde had success with the play, and Richard Strauss succès de scandale with the opera.

The leadership exercised by David in bringing forth the Ark of the Covenant (described in  2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, and suggested in Psalm 24) seems to me to be the exact opposite of that of King Herod. To prioritize the worship and listening to the author of the universe, to the exclusion of all other distractions is not something that a leader can be lobbied into; (s)he has to figure it out on his or her own from the totality of discernible reality.

(David, of course, could make bad decisions, too; and with minimal encouragement. Herod, on the other hand, seemed only to go from bad to worse. Discuss.)

Which comes first, anyway: the power of the people? or the integrity of the leader?


Related posts


The decision about whether to live with the threat of nuclear annihilation is our decision. And that is why the entire country is mobilizing for mass action for nuclear disarmament in 2015. Are we capable of making sure the messengers -- Obama, Putin, the other agents of government -- hear their instructions from us clearly?

(See NEEDED: Heroes to Bring About Nuclear Disarmament )


Why is the U.S. in a permanent state of war? More than anyone else, the beneficiaries of permawar are the politicians who thrive on the power to make and control wars.

(See J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar)









In the past several weeks, the President of the United States tried to undertake an attack against a foreign country, but the American people said "Hell no!" and the Congress let the President know they couldn't support it. How often does that happen?

(See When THE PEOPLE Take Control: "Anything Can Happen")