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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Do We Get the Leaders We Deserve?

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”
— Joseph de Maistre, 1811
A similar quote is often attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, though little evidence can be offered to substantiate it. Regardless, it is certainly a meme with legs.

Political analysts have a hard time leaving the idea alone. In a post entitled “The Country of the Blind”, Andrew Klavan gives several solid reasons why Barack Obama’s reelection confirms the truth of it, concluding with this zinger:
“No, I don’t think Obama can be held wholly responsible for the nightmare darkness descending on the world in the absence of American leadership. He won the election fair and square. But he won it in the country of the blind.”
On the other hand, lefty Dennis Loo of WorldCantWait.net says it’s untrue. The people, he insists, are not to blame: democracy is the real problem. He’s waiting for the revolution, or more likely hoping to stir one up.

Paul Laudicina, a contributing writer for Forbes, entitles his article “Do We Get the Leaders We Deserve?”, then adroitly evades the question to pontificate about trust instead.

There was a time in Israel’s history when they thought that Big Government was the answer to all their perceived problems. When God warned them through Samuel of the inevitable negative consequences that would come with it, they refused to hear him. “No!” they said, “But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

They got exactly what they asked for, and the consequences were exactly as God described. 

To top it off, after only a few victories King Saul found himself rejected by God as king for his disobedience against Amalek. By the time David appeared on the scene as God’s anointed replacement for him, a king who stood head and shoulders above his people was reduced to cowering in fear of Goliath and the Philistines. Given full opportunity to “go out before” Israel and fight its battles for it as the people had requested, Saul failed miserably to deliver the expected goods and had to watch a young shepherd slay the giant he was unwilling to face. The prototypical Big Government experiment ended in ignominy a few years later when Saul, wounded in battle, fell on his own sword.

So do we get the leaders we deserve? Sometimes, apparently, we do.

The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, to take only one example, did not happen in a vacuum. In The Pro-Choice Movement: Organization and Activism in the Abortion Conflict, Suzanne Staggenborg details the strategies of the activists who were eventually able to pressure the U.S. Supreme Court into a 7-2 decision that has now been American law for 40 years: the use of mass media; the deployment of feminists to “change the way women thought about their sexuality, their health and their reproductive rights”; the confrontationalism and street demonstrations. There is no doubt that a significant number of American men and women got precisely what they wanted in Roe v. Wade.

One could try to make the case that bad leadership and evil laws produced the estimated 55 million abortions that have taken place since. Except that bad law only permitted those abortions; it did not compel them.

So is bad leadership a product of the pressure exerted on government by thousands or even millions of wicked men and women? Or do the choices made by weak, corrupt or evil leaders make greater wickedness possible? Is it both?

There have been times in history it seems, at least, that very wicked men have led their subjects down passages so dark that I’d be reluctant to stand in judgment on the few scarred souls who managed to make it out the other side. Other times, as with Moses and Israel in the desert, even very good leaders have found themselves in charge of a pretty sad, faithless, ungrateful bunch. 

But these cases are rare, I think. And if we cannot affirm with certainty that government consistently reflects back the character of those over whose lives it holds sway, we can at least be fairly confident from Scripture that it is not in the power of governments or leadership to affect the moral condition of man for the better in any lasting way. The history of the judges, kings and religious rulers of Israel and Judah would give the lie to that utopian myth.

Or we could look ahead to the day in which men will cry out for the Biggest Government of all:
“[The beast] was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”
(Revelation 13:7-8)
I can’t say for sure whether men and women have always gotten the leaders they deserve throughout history, but in this instance at least, the leader they demand will be exactly the leader they have coming to them.

But that’s not the leader believers are waiting for. We’re waiting for a Leader we don’t deserve.

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