Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Conflict with Leaders 1

Conflict seems an almost inevitable part of human life. Even those who try to please everyone eventually get into conflict when the people they want to please are pulling in different directions. "You can't please all the people all the time." Sometimes no matter what choice you make, you're going to upset someone--even if you make no choice at all.

Jesus got into conflict. Most of the time, Jesus didn't go looking for the conflict. It came to him. In that sense, Jesus is not a model for "in your face" zealotry. Conflict seems inevitable, but the only time Jesus sought out conflict was when he threw over the tables in the temple.

Nevertheless, those who like conflict sometimes think they are simply following Jesus' example. For example, there is the rebel, who uses Jesus as a model for being anti-establishment. Jesus "stuck it to the man." But perhaps they miss that Jesus ate with "the man" for a while until "the man" decided he didn't like Jesus.

Others use Jesus as a model of being against liberalism.  It's hard to know even how to make sense of this one. The Pharisees were far more conservative than Jesus was. And Jesus' objection to religious leaders largely had to do with their neglect of the poor and disempowered--hardly a position we associate with conservatism today.

When John the Baptist was arrested, it was Jesus' time to take over the mission of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Obviously the crowds liked most of what he had to say. But he also came into conflict with others as he furthered the mission. He came into conflict with those who wanted to follow the letter of the law. He came into conflict with the leaders of Israel. He eventually came into conflict with the state. In this chapter I want to look at Jesus as a model for conflict.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Conflict with leaders is inevitable at sometime in one's life. It is fortunate in our society that we can choose to vote for another leader or leave to associate ourselves with another leader, if we cannot come to a compromise or agreeable solution.

One thing that was important to Jesus was honesty. Honesty is important in our society to give respect and equal consideration for contractual agreements. Jesus confronted others "on their terms". But, Jesus did not allow "compromise", as "compromise" would undermine the "initiation rite" of the religious sect. This was considered "being a disciple". But, at other times, Jesus would warn his followers of "lording it over others", as such do the Gentiles.

Leaders who would follow Jesus example would be transparent, and not "lord it over" others, but seek to understand the other person's goals and see if there was a way to dissolve conflict with compromise.

Transparency (or honesty) in government doesn't seem to be a value these days for the bueracrats. But, then these leaders have "inside information" (classified) that only the "elect" are privy to. "Inside information" has been useful to promote "special revelation" that only the "elect" or those "initiated" into the "Christian cult" would/could have. Thus, the things of the world are "foolishness to God"! Such "spiritual understanding" dismisses what everyone else (the uninitiated) affirms as "real", or of value. This is how sects gain ground (power) through a re-orientation to their persecuted state (in imagining themselves to be "the elect of God").

No matter how you envision Jesus' life, he is useful for many human "understandings". When a "one size fits all" view is touted as the right one, a "political correctness" has become the "rallying cry" to a particular religious understanding. And "political correctness" is serving the political leader's vision for certain ends.

We have enough "political correctness" in our society that it is destroying many people's lives "in the name of the good"! And I think it is abhorrent to manipulate others with religious language! But, that is the only language religions understand; "a special revelation open to the initiated" or those that will choose to associate with the sect's "standards"...

Dick Norton said...

Ken, you're so careful with some things you comment on, but it's kind of entertaining how you are so predictable when you are making comments about "conservatives." You say that Jesus' objection to religious leaders had to do with their neglect of the poor and disempowered. This you say is "hardly a position we associate with conservatism today." I'm sitting here thinking about some great conservative organizations like World Vision, and Samaritan's Purse, and the Salvation Army, and Prison Fellowship, and many many others, and I'm thinking, "How does Ken think helping the poor and disempowered are not conservative positions? The only liberal counterparts are government agencies where the idea is to be "compassionate" with other people's money!

Ken Schenck said...

But wouldn't you agree Dick that Wesleyans are a strange bird to most "conservatives" in America. For example, we believe in women in ministry, a position that most groups associate with liberal Christianity. In fact, I perceive that many Wesleyans struggle a bit with our position on women (even some women pastors) because of the pull of our conservative bed fellows.

I think the same would be true of World Vision and the Salvation Army. Many in the denomination consider Joanne Lyon liberal because of her interest in social issues even though you and I know she is none of the sort. Many Wesleyans, I believe, have struggled to nuance their position on the poor (so no government help but it is the church's responsibility).

All that is to say that I think my statement is completely true with regard to the stereotypical "conservative." The Wesleyan conservative is a minority report, I believe.

But I am very open to being shown that I am wrong and often soften my writing when people push back.

Angie Van De Merwe said...


"World Hope" is JoAnn Lyons "baby", isn't it?

Wesleyans would like to use their particular NPO to further their "causes" to the poor and that is the right of those that want to commit to that as "their life calling". But, you prescribe that the poor are to be everyone's vocation. That isn't possible.

I think it is better to not use religous language to "form" a certain political viewpoint, otherwise, you limit "Christians" to a particular or limited "vision" for their lives.

Dick Norton said...

I don't define conservatives by their stance on "women preachers." After all, I included the Salvation Army in the conservative ranks. They have lots of women officers who preach. In fact, till recently, I believe, their whole movement was led by a woman. I define "conservatives" as people who believe the Bible is God's Word, that Jesus is God's Son and Messiah, that He died and rose again for our salvation. These are, at least, the "religious" conservatives. More broadly, I believe conservatives are those who believe that God has given individuals certain unalienable rights, and that, because of that, the true sovereigns in matters of statehood are individuals and those governments that are most directly influenced by those individuals. My kind of conservative believes that America was formed to most carefully guard those individual rights, and that the federal government has only limited "enumerated rights," the rest of the rights centering in the states and the people.

It is conservatives like that who are really much more in touch with the needs of people and who do the most to see that the poor and disenfranchised are helped. These conservatives minister, like Jesus did, out of compassion and out of personal sacrifice. They, of course, try to persuade others to join with them voluntarily. Most liberals seem to want to do their compassionate acts through force of government, confiscation of other's money, and intimidation. By this definition, I think most Christians I know, in whatever denomination, would see JoAnne Lyon as a conservative. They would also see "government help" as a very poor substitute for voluntary compassion. Consider, as just one example, how much money has been poured into "inner city ghettos" for decades, and tell me that the cause of the black family has been helped by this. How much money have we poured into "education?" And yet the educational outcomes have gone steadily down hill. All I can say is "no thanks" to that kind of liberal compassion. Only true Jesus-like self-sacrificing compassion will solve the problems.

Angie Van De Merwe said...


It is my present understanding that whatever one chooses to do is of "sacrificial service", but that doesn't mean "sacrifice" in the real meaning of the word, necessarily (though that is the Church's historical and theological understanding!)

I believe that my husband and myself have chosen to come to IWU as a sacrifice. But, as I've come to understand "sacrifice" not in literal but metaphorical terms, I understand that "Christian" is also a "metaphor".

Humans develop and as they develop, their understanding of "faith" also develops. Symbols are just that symbols that represent something else. And these symbols are allow "free reign" in America's understandig of "liberty of conscience". That is the moral understanding of our "Costitutional government, where individual liberties take priority over authoritarian dominance of "conscience".

Then, we have the "Christian standards" for human behavior. These also are matters of 'conscience", where each man is held accountable "to God". It is not for men to judge another man as to "meat and drink"....

Therefore, one's faith, moral and intellectual development all play into the "mix" of coming to understand oneself and where one decides to "fit" and commit. Others cannot determine that for a "man" (woman). The person themself must choose where they want to fit.

Ken Schenck said...

I smiled when I read your last comment Dick, because it probably reflects one of your key sticking points with me. To me, "conservatism" has to be defined in terms of a particular context, a particular time and place. What is conservative today here is different from what was conservative yesterday here or there or will be conservative tomorrow somewhere. In other words, I'm approaching the word sociologically, in terms of what is broadly associated with conservatism today in our culture at large.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

If you are approaching things sociologically, then your understanding of "conservative" is progressive, too. I can and can't "buy into" that assumption.

Church history has developed the theological understanding of what "Christians believe" in creeds or populism (evangelicalism).

Western civilization has progressed in the sense of scientific investigation. And American Constitutional government is the epitome of morality, as it allows for rights before the law to pursue one's own interests.

But, I cannot go with you as to "Internationalism", because I do not believe that the best government is the largest government, but one that is a limited government. The conservative would then be one that would not step into to a "U.N.' enslavement of the U.S.A.! such a "good" would undermine our economic and poltiical viability, where our dollar has no value and our power has little force. Even though "equality" sounds "good", it is problematic when coming to enforcing government to prevent others from excelling so that "equality" is the ultimate value, not liberty!

America has prospered because it allowed for the individual's pursuit of his own life! And that is liberty which is the foundation of individuality and the pursuit of excellence in a particular field or realm of influence...

Conservatism is the value of the individual and liberty, while liberalism is the value of government and liberty. This is a modern view of conservatism and liberalism.

The classical view of conservatism was "virtue" (self government) and the classical view of liberalism was "the natural rights position", which was the basis of the American Revolution in the Declaration of Independence.

The American Constitution defined our particular nation. But, now the question of American Constitutonalism is in question, because of a "higer end" of "human rights", which is a "collective term" (multi culturalism). And those in power are brokering "a new era" in Big Government, which is an "internatonal vision".

My question is upon whose/which value will "internationalism" lie? Will it be on economic interests or a religious interest where exclusivist religions will war for the "right" to govern the world? or particular scientific values form the "political vision"? And what will happen to individual liberty of conscience, when warring religious factions disturb peace, of the indivdual and nations and economic interests bring on war that disturb individuals and nations? and scientific interests limit indivduals as to choice and self-determination? Will Big Government come in to "rescue" peace, and at what costs? Won't it be the costs of everyone that isn't in the power elite that establishes what rules apply to "religious", "economic" and "scientific" interests? Will this not limit the liberty of the nation state and the individuals within? Will the "public interests and public good" over-ride all personal or private interests that might differ with the "politically correct" position? Will we have liberty, then?

Dick Norton said...

So, I guess there is no possibility of eternal, or even long term truths? Whatever the majority of folks believe or want at any given time is what we should agree to? I'm not assured or helped by your last statement.
What's the use of even using terms like conservative, if they mean one thing to you and another thing to me. What term would you then use to describe a person who believes in ultimate truths? A crank?

Ken Schenck said...

That's not at all what I'm saying and I want to make that very, very clear. I believe in timeless truths. I believe in truth. It's not the truth itself that I'm talking about here but the language we use to speak of that truth. What a word like "conservative" means is especially contingent on context because the word basically has connotations of being slow to change and having a bias toward the way things are or have been.

So in one language context, the Amish are conservative and you're a flaming liberal. In Methodist circles, I'm conservative and Bishop Sprague is a liberal. Etc...

I believe strongly in ultimate truth.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ultimate truth can't or isn't grasped by anyone because humans are limited, not just contextually, but as humans. Humans do not, nor cannot know everything about everything at any point in time. This was one reason why our Founders wanted a balanced and separated powers as to government! These did not trust men, but the "rule of law" to prevent abuses of power. But, even "the rule of law" can be useful nowadays to subvert personal interests in the name of "public interests".

The Institute of Justice has just won cases of individuals against the EPA. Government confiscating property or making unlawful demands upon people, without any warrant. Such grabs for power seem to be accepted by most as the 'government's right'. But, without understanding that limitation upon government power, we acqueisce to enabling government to abuses of power. It is called "tacit consent".

The states and the people were to hold the federal government accountable. Today, most Americans accept the regulations and standardization of our lives and dont' question it. This is incremental encroachment upon personal liberty.

It is not that govenrment doesn't think they have a right to co-erce or undermine personal property, or they wouldn't do it. Government does it because there is no resistance, and without resistance, questioning, or accountability, then power grows to become oppressive. I think Americans have been asleep way too long!

So what is "ultimate truth"? "Ultimate truth" cant be comprehened, but is often thought to be grasped within contextual focus/interests.

The Ultimate Truth for Government officials or those in government power is the "public good" or representation of constiuents. But, the "ultimate truth" for the property owner is the protection of private property rights.Our courts settled disputes of interests (conflicts) by judicial review of Constitutional protections.

Humans are self interested, therefore, it is important to admit to ourselves and others what those interests are, then there can be conscious assessment and coming to agreement under mutual contracts. Good government would protect contracts between interests.

Therefore, it is important to not claim that one has a "special right" of priviledge to subvert another's right to contract on an equal playing field, as none of us is privy to "ultimate truth".

Ken Schenck said...

To say that none of us have complete or unfiltered access to ultimate truth of course does not mean it does not exist.

Ken Schenck said...

Dick, would you be happier with the sentence if it was worded this way: "And Jesus' objection to religious leaders largely had to do with their neglect of the poor and disempowered--often considered a liberal cause today"?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

You speak of the "poor", but does that mean poor economically? in spirit? or socially? or intellectually? or morally? or culturally? or just what???

I recognize that there are instances throughout scripture that commend people to take care of the poor or widow. But, wasn't the whole economical and social system different than ours? Then can we really apply the "biblical principles" of economics to social realities that are different?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Okay, I get it...."Conflict with Leaders 1" least I think.

Jesus life or behavior threatened the boundaries around Pharisaic understanding. Pharisees were conservatives. Sadducees were the liberals, as they didn't believe in the resurrection.

So conflict with behavioral standards is how Jesus came into conflict with the religious leaders, who handed him over to Rome for insurrection.

Funny how leaders of all kinds can "do injustice".

FrGregACCA said...

Dick Norton wrote:

"I define "conservatives" as people who believe the Bible is God's Word, that Jesus is God's Son and Messiah, that He died and rose again for our salvation. These are, at least, the "religious" conservatives. More broadly, I believe conservatives are those who believe that God has given individuals certain unalienable rights, and that, because of that, the true sovereigns in matters of statehood are individuals and those governments that are most directly influenced by those individuals. My kind of conservative believes that America was formed to most carefully guard those individual rights, and that the federal government has only limited "enumerated rights," the rest of the rights centering in the states and the people."

To which Fr. Greg responds:

Of course, there is an inherent contradiction between these two forms of "conservatism" in that the Bible says very little about "rights" and certainly puts foward no philosophy of government, and certainly not in terms of any form of republican or democratic government. See Romans 13. For St. Paul here writing, as we believe, the inspired word of God, the pagan Roman Empire is "the minister of God".

No, the idea given above of political "conservatism" is in fact classical one iteration of "liberalism", grounded in the Englightenment, not the Bible.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Isn't the fact that we have come to "higher principles" in understanding human value, via the Declaration of Independence part of the Founder's "enlightened view" of "Man"?
Their re-framing government,based on a particular view of "Man" and Power, was to prevent "Man's" lower nature from ruling over others and granting each person the right to "self governance"! This was an important step in throwing out the view that government was "ordained by God", (Romans 13) as in the Divine Right of Kings, because the DOI acknowledged "Man's" right to overthrow government that did not affirm or acknowledge the natural rights of the individual.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

BUT, the DOI was only the beginning to working out "forming a government", which would limit power, and affirm liberty. Such a government is defined in our Constitution.

There are those today that would like to circumvent the nation states right to protect itself, or to define itself by its Constituional limits upon government AND NON-Citizens! These are "internationalists".

While I have nothing against those taht want to work in the internatonal arena, we cannot afford to enlarge government or give bueracrats more power than they already have. But, some believe that a world governed by the likes of the U.N. is desirable. I think it makes for more problems, because cultural values are so different....