These days, it seems that whenever I turn on the radio, NPR is talking about Iraq/Afghanistan or about the presidential election. This morning, listening to a story about the presidential candidates and their disagreements about Iraq (a two-for-one story!), I thought about all of the heat that Obama is getting for wavering on some of his positions. As the news moved on to another story about a bi-partisan group that is encouraging us to move beyond partisan politics in order to move forward with better energy policies, I thought about all of The West Wing that Matt and I have watched recently, and that show's portrayal of the partisan games that often get played in our government. There's no way I could make it in politics - when "winning" seems to be valued over the common good, and when staying faithful to your party seems to come at the expense of thinking for oneself.
Looking ahead at the next months of my life, when (God-willing) I will accept a first call and be ordained as a pastor, I have to wonder what responsibilities a leader has toward those she is leading.
In politics and congregations alike, we like to believe that repersentative democracy is the best option, where leaders have a responsibility to uphold the ideals of the people. In politics and congregations alike, there is always a danger of pandering, where leaders placate their constituents in order to achieve individual political gain. Both of these systems are present in both political and church spheres, and both of them put the people - the general populus - at the center. They function under the assumption that the people know best.
But do the people always know best? Hanging on the wall of my middle school gymnaisum was a poster that read "What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular." Without wanting to sound like a bad motivational poster, I wonder if we aren't expecting too little of our leaders (or thinking too much of ourselves!) when we are content to have them be merely the mouthpiece of popular interest.
Are leaders ever called to speak for what the people need instead of what the people want? Shouldn't we want our leaders to have vision beyond what we ourselves can muster up? Shouldn't our leaders be looking out for us and wanting the best for us, even if that means making choices that are different than we'd have them make for us?