A Refugee Crisis in a Leadership Vacuum
The past couple of months have been exhausting. Because I work for one of the 9 organizations who work with refugee resettlement, as well as one of the few organizations also on the ground working with refugees in the Middle East, the recent political broo-haa-haa has been significant. It's been one of those rare times that I've felt somewhat compelled to be involved with the debate - mainly because the debate involves the lives of millions of people, is the chief missiological event of our day and has generally been characterized by misinformation, fear and reactionary politics. While taking a much anticipated five day break from work last week, I took a bit of a break from social media, as well.
The American public and American political reactions to the Syrian refugee crisis have made me sad. Christianity Today posted a poll conducted by the pew research center back in September which showed that the majority of white evangelicals do not support bringing in more refugees from Syria. This is both sad and telling. Last week I was told that I am both liberal and leftist, un-American and unreservedly influenced the the liberal left because I publicly support the United Sates bringing in more Syrian refugees under the current Refugee Resettlement Program. I suppose there are worse things to be accused of, but these were not indictments from kindness.
Teach me to voice my opinion on Facebook.
I do believe this is an important issue. For our nation, yes - but it's an even more critical issue for the church in America. A couple of individuals this past week suggested that Islam was 'The White Horse of Revelation" and God's judgment on America for gay marriage, comparing us with Sodom and Gomorrah.
Could be. A careful look at Scripture shows that judgment on Sodom wasn't simply about sexual deviancy. Ezekiel gets pretty specific in saying that Sodom didn't "care about the poor and the needy" (Ezekiel 16:49).
This morning while walking the dogs, and praying for the church in America, it occurred to me that our nation is living in an enormous leadership vacuum, politically speaking. A politician is not necessarily a leader, and the way our country has been "led" (I use the word loosely) in recent days is really the epitome of poor government - and the presidential hopefuls with their rhetoric of ignorance and political posturing really don't give me a lot of hope for the future. Congresses reactionary Refugee Bill doesn't solve any security problems, but rather adds even more layers onto an already robust system, making it even more difficult, and maybe impossible, for refugees to resettle in America - potentially killing a system that saves lives, and is one of the few federal programs that makes a profit.
This makes me grieve for those who are suffering. It makes me hurt for Muslim refugees who are already in the US (from a place of perceived safety, they are legitimately afraid they once again will be persecuted, rounded up, deported or have to flee for their lives once more). It makes me wish that our country had fewer politicians and more leaders in leadership who lead. I deeply grieve over the American Church's reaction to the political posturing that's we've seen in the media during recent weeks.
As it stands, there is not one person in the presidential candidate pool at the moment (from either side) who I would vote for. Our nation needs a leader to lead, not a politician who (to use a metaphor from CS Lewis) "runs around with fire extinguishers in times of flood."
I've never put my hope in the world of politics anyway. My hope is in Christ, who has implemented "plan a" for establishing His Kingdom: the church.
There is no "plan b".
In light of that, I think there are at least three ways that leaders in the church ought lead through this crisis. We need leaders who will lead. I believe the church has an opportunity to step into this leadership vacuum. Will we?
Lead, don't react
Recent examples of reactionary, bandwagoning leadership (which is truly an oxymoron) in American politics is almost humorous; the kind of over-the-top parody that makes Monte Python movies entertaining. The problem is that we're not watching parody. It's flooding and most of our nation's leadership is tripping over each other with their fire extinguishers. We need leaders who will stay calm. Who will pause and listen long enough to get the facts. Who will respond according to truth and not sensationalism. I think that may be too much to expect in the surreal world of American politics, where the only goal is to get as many popular votes as possible. It's not too much to expect of the church. Stop reacting to the latest and loudest. Get real information. Think. Evaluate. Confer. Lead.
Pull, don't push
The person who leads my team at work has used this phrase a lot over the past several months. In looking for it's origin, I believe the term "pull leadership" was originally used in the business world by Stever Robins. The concept of "pull leadership", however, is in reality a rephrasing of the very Biblical idea of "servant leadership". We've seen push leadership in the news recently; congressmen pushing views and agendas onto others to force a vote, even if the vote is against conscience. The church should lead by serving. By being good stewards of what God has given us (namely the Gospel and all that the Gospel entails). By inspiration and attraction, not rhetoric and self-interest. There is more to be gained if church leadership will pull others toward what is beautiful than to push our agenda and ourselves onto unwilling subjects.
In Simon Sinek's book "Leaders Eat Last" (a recommended read on integrity and leadership), he says "the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own.” There couldn't be a more Biblical statement on leadership. Today, the church has an opportunity to shine far and above the politicians. Those of us who are Christ-followers have an opportunity to place the needs of others above our own. As we show Christ-like love and compassion to those hurting, suffering and rejected by the rest of the world, we lead. Rather than hiding behind so-called pundits in the American political scene and using misinformation as an excuse for apathy and inaction, the church has the opportunity to lead the way in serving the under-served around the world. If we will but lay down our lives, and lead.
As we move into the Holiday season of "peace on earth, goodwill toward all people," it's my hope and prayer that the church will indeed lead the world toward this vision. It seems like a larger-than-life outcome. But as those who are in positions of leadership in the church begin to embrace principles like this, I am confident a voice of reason and power will rise above the tumult of political pandering.