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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Friday, December 15, 2017

Conservative Christianity's Fatal Attraction To Leadership

Several times this blog has attemted to explain that because of its emphasis on authority figures and structures, we religiously conservative Christians are prone to embrace authoritarianism. And part and parcel to taking authoritarianism to heart is the act of hero worship with the object of our worship having said to possess leadership. This appears to be the impetus behind Owen Strachan's (click here for a bio), from the Gospel Coalition, review of the the movie Darkest Hour (click here for the article). That movie tells the story about Winston Church as he guided Great Britain through World War II.

It's not that leadership is always bad, Churchill's ability to direct and rally his people to overcome disastrous early losses to defeat the Nazis was essential to the Allies' war effort and the survival of England and a nation. But Churchill's type of strong leadership is not a trait for all season which means that, contrary to the claims of Strachan, Churchill was not a man for all seasons. 

To show that Churchill's kind of leadership was not wanted and/or necessary for all seasons, one only needs to study how Churchill was replaced as the Prime Minister of Great Britain immediately after the War. He was elected Prime Minister again in 1951 and served until his health forced him to retire in 1955.

The reason why Strachan wants us to focus on Churchill's leadership during World War II  is because he believes that the kinds of cultural and spiritual wars that are being waged against Christians today warrant the need of Christians to possess or have access to similar kinds of leadership traits and moral clarity that Churchill possessed. But not only that, he sees a little bit of Christ the King in Winston Churchill.

In all that Strachan says, there seems to be no recognition of the downside of Churchill and his kind of strong leadership. For what often accompanies strong leadership is a belief in one's superiority as well as the superiority of one's own group(s). And with the belief in the superiority of oneself and/or one's own group(s), comes the expectation of privileged places of supremacy over others in whatever larger groups, and society, one finds oneself. All of that is a part of Churchill's kind of strong leadership. For Churchill believed in white supremacy and thus expected others, especially non-whites who lived in the British Empire to respect that supremacy. That is what is reported in Richard Toye's book Churchill's Empire: The World That Made Him And The World He Made (click here for a review of the book) as reviewed in The Independent).

We should note that much of American conservative Christianity has followed suit on this idea of believing in one's own superiority resulting in the expectation of privilege in order to gain a place of supremacy over others in society. American conservative Christianity's treatment of the LGBT community has been horrid and harsh for centuries. Likewise, much of American conservative Christianity's support for Israel has meant very harsh results for Palestinians, even Christian ones, because of its faith in its superior understanding of eschatology and belief that foreign Jews are entitled to Palestinian land owned by indigenous Arabs.

The expectation of privilege does not end there. Conservative Catholics tend to believe that all governments are obligated to follow Roman Church's teachings on politics and society. And some religiously conservative Protestants believe that neither Muslims nor liberals deserve any leadership position in our own government.

There are other examples of this expectation of privilege and supremacy over others in society though we should note that not all religiously conservative Christians follow the leadership model, as expressed in the reviewed by Strachan, and believe in their own superiority leading to positions of supremacy over others in society. However, where we see a heavy emphasis on leadership, we are likely to see authoritarianism. And with that authoritarianism come the assumptions of superiority and thus expectations of privilege whether that superiority and privilege  in society or a part of society.

Why many religiously conservative Christians look for strong leaders is because they prefer to be told what to do rather than to use the Scriptures to reason it out for themselves. And at this point, we see a dilemma for the Church. For when the Church does not have enough adequate leaders,  then an anarchistic culture arises that allows those in the Church to make the Scriptures into a waxed nose. However, when there is too much leadership exercised in the Church, the Church becomes insular and unable to interact with the outside world because the authoritarianism that results from too much leadership causes the Church's members to demand that the world must listens to them while reserving the right to refuse to listen to the world.

At this point, what Strachan says about Churchill becomes irrelevant. What he says about the needs of today's Church indicates that he favors the kind of leadership that leads to authoritarianism in the Church. And this might be a reason why he is so impressed with the movie Darkest Hour and its portrayal of Churchill as such a strong and dynamic leader.


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