I’ve been invited to share with some regional political leaders about the infusion of absolute truth into the current regional and national political atmosphere. The fervent desire of these leaders is to avoid those pitfalls that cause timeless principles for a safe and responsible greatness to come off self-righteous and futile. Here is just one of the things I’m contemplating communicating, something I believe the Holy Spirit is placing within me: Tell the narrative wherein timeless principles have contributed to true societal greatness.
Of course, I mention “true societal greatness” because it is critical that thoughtful leaders speak what is true and not just what is a dreamy reflection of the past. This means owning failures and short-comings while promoting those things that transcend failures and short-comings. Stories wherein timeless principles shine are those same stories wherein real failures are recognized and understood. Indeed, it is often on the well-worn anvil of failure that some of the greatest successes in life and for life are forged.
It appears to me, and this is utter intuition on my part, that those leaders who are not anchored well in absolute truth are the very ones who have mastered the art of the narrative voice. I suspect this is because such leaders know how to play well to the emotional and absurdly relativistic core of the masses in ways that definitively strike the inner-chords of perceived inequality and the oft-real wounds of victimization. It is an approach that plays strongly to the dark side of the individual, and it feigns presenting the very balm that the individual subconsciously believes is needed to soothe the wounds tucked away in the world of one’s dark side. Those who find their roots deeply embedded in absolute truth, or timeless principles for true greatness, need to recapture–or perhaps, simply capture–the narrative opportunity. It is absolutely critical to the promotion of bedrock principles for sustained and responsible greatness. After all, in general terms, we live in a geo-political society that thirsts for a narrative that connects. Technological advances, coupled with the development of a global village, beg for narrative. There is a reason I spend half an hour or more scouring my Facebook page on some days. I want to enter into the narrative which is the existence of my so-called “Friends.” This is also one of the reasons so many of my sermons have a narrative flair to them. Ideally the truth nuggets are easily grasped by those for whom a narrative approach is not as comfortable. But broadly speaking the generations to come expect, indeed live within, a narrative atmosphere wherein story unfolds, drawing one into the midst of a special moment, and wherein as many of the human senses are impacted, thus embedding truth or conviction or scandal deeply within one’s soul.
So it is then that I might recommend narratives that highlight the greatness of our national experiment known as the United States. Doing so with authenticity will also highlight the failures. Perhaps contrasting the two very different responses to recent natural disasters will be just one opportunity toward telling a compelling narrative for societal greatness. The response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans and surrounding areas is an example of missed-opportunity. So much was to be made of what a centralized government can and should do. In so many ways it still stands as the standard for failure in the face of crisis. Contrasting what could have been from a centralized vantage point was a modest tractor trailer from a church in Dallas that was the first to arrive in one of the local parishes with supplies. It was only long after that that civil authorities worked their way inward. One of the great features of the American narrative is the regular Joe helping his neighbor in need, all on his own, with a neighborly sympathy that is compelling and longed for. The response to the Red River Flood of 2009 in the Fargo/Moorhead area is a significant example of such common-man care. The people of this region made it clear that they could stand firm and work together to save the cities and communities from the awful threat of the rising Red River. Perfect strangers, even those at odds with one another at other times, served shoulder to shoulder to protect and defend what was important. No one demanded or cajoled. There was no bailout. It just simply happened. This is the fabric of America; a snapshot of why we can be great. This is a narrative reflecting timeless values and principles, a narrative lacking political punch but providing a visionary glimpse of who we want to be; indeed, who we can be. It is a vision for what can be that is not about right or left or the inherent divisions and destructive features therein.
It is about capturing, as honestly as is possible, who we are as a people and inviting multitudes to rise to that again and again.