The term "reconciliation" makes a preacher think of 2 Corinthians. It makes most people now think of the health care battle. I find the term rather ironic at this point in history. "Reconciliation" is dividing the country. Don't even bring up "deeming." God help us all if the phrase "redeeming" ever enters this mess. As I write these thoughts on reconciliation, deeming, and trust in leadership, consider that:
- Nancy Pelosi objected to "deeming" so vehemently she took the Republicans to court over "deeming" back in 2005. Now, she believes it's a natural part of the political process and the Republicans are hypocritical for decrying its use now. That last part is true enough. However, in the interest of fairness, it wasn't on anything nearly this large, and regardless of Republican behavior in the past it's also hypocritical to use it when you were enough against it to take the matter to court just a few years ago. Hypocrisy cuts both ways.
- 81% of Americans say currently they believe healthcare will cost more than whatever the CBO numbers say it will. How's that for cynicism?
- The poll average for congressional job approval today stands at 18.7% and falling.
- Only 27% say the country is on the right track.
This all points to the fact that Americans don't trust government. This post isn't about whether Americans should trust government or not. It's not even really about the health-care bill. It's about leadership and trust. It's about what happens when trust in leadership erodes and how it erodes.
When trust in leadership erodes to the level it has at present, it would seem to me the last thing one should do is use obscure tools at one's disposal to avoid a vote on the issue at hand and risk lengthy court battles on the issue. Why? Because people will trust government (and by extension it's leaders) less.
Trust is the holy grail of leadership. Lose it and you lose your ability to lead. While I admit openly that I am not for the current health care proposal, most Americans agree with me that the process here has gotten way out of hand. I really would feel the same way if the same tactics had been used against the proposal. I don't trust government right now, and thus, I'm not in the mood to let it lead more than I must. It doesn't appear I'm the only one.
If in fact the health care bill becomes law through either "reconciliation" or "deem and pass" (especially the latter) I fear we are in for a fresh and powerful wave of cynicism toward government in this country. This cynicism will not exist primarily because of the bill's contents but rather the butchered process by which the bill came about—a process that appears to involve back-room deals and legislative trickery while ignoring of the will of a strong majority of Americans. While some assert that no one really cares much about the process, they couldn't be more wrong.
Government's current behavior is just not how good leaders do things, though I know some who believe that in this case, the end justifies the means. "The end justify the means" is certainly not a Christian way to lead. Neither is blaming prior regimes or conveying an attitude that says, "you did wrong, so now that I'm in power I get to do wrong. For you to object to me doing what you did makes you a hypocrite." Actually, it makes you both hypocrites, and both wrong.
I've seen this sort of leadership maneuvering in dysfunctional churches when elder selection processes, change of minister, or other leadership shifts occur. A new elder(s) is appointed and is ecstatic that he can now show the minister who is boss. A new preacher arrives with a preexisting agenda to take a church at peace and doing some great things headlong into some issue about which he feels passionately. He won't let anything stop him. He'll slip it in here or there, use passive aggressive tactics that eventually become simply aggressive tactics. Perhaps he even builds a coalition to pressure the elders. The next thing you know, Charles Siburt's phone is ringing. God doesn't bless it.
Those of you who read this blog know what a fan of strong leadership I am. It's vital to government, to churches, and society in general. Strong leadership knows how to persevere through tough times and opposition. America voted these leaders into office and need to set them free to lead in appropriate ways. We want our leaders to be strong leaders. However, strong leadership is different from abuse of power. While legislative reconciliation may be a legitimate tool under certain circumstances, in the opinion of this humble blogger, this is not such a circumstance. The process has become so questionable that, unfortunately, there is hardly a way for the President to win here.
If government wants citizens to trust and follow, it'll have to play openly, more fairly, with more integrity, and it's going to take time. It will have to do what it says it will do—whether working in "bipartisan" fashion, broadcasting discussions, or changing the way Washington works—for the better. People will follow trustworthy, strong leaders. They will not follow if they don't trust you. All church leaders should keep this in mind: they will not follow if they do not trust you—nor should they. I commented on this further in a post in February that seemed to strike a chord. In it, I said,
"In order for the church to prevail, we must get to a place where we choose to trust one another and to earn one another's trust simultaneously. If our default is set to "distrust" until trust is earned…all mistakes will be magnified and all victories seen from great distance. It will also take a looong time to develop and typically only one side is called on to behave in a trustworthy way. If we simply say, "trust us," without acting in ways that engender trust, we are asking too much…and real trust is unlikely to ever form."
This bill hasn't been voted through because America could hardly trust her leaders less. To be fair, Obama-Pelosi-Reid aren't the only government leaders to lead this way. However, they are in power right now and thus they are responsible for acting in ways they decried as unfair or unethical before they came to power. To them I say, you can lead with strength and integrity. We expect you to. To me and all my friends in ministry, God expects the same from us.
Questions: Why do you think some Christians find it hard to trust church leadership? What can church leaders do to engender trust?