The River is fed by many streams
This past Sunday, in speaking of people who lived by the courage of their convictions, I mentioned Ronald Reagan and Caesar Chavez, men with very different convictions and political world views. I thought I saw people wince, some at the name of a Republican president, some at the name of a farm labor activist. We like white hats and black hats. We like our party, or hero, or ideology to have all the answers – and we feel better about our own positions if we can paint the other side as so dangerous that the future of western civilization will hang in the balance of the wrong side wins an election.
Rubbish. The reality is simpler than that: Every leader will have blind spots and shortcomings – but not every leader will leave a mark of redemption. And those that do leave a mark should be honored for the mark they leave, and we should learn from their mistakes as well. If you grew up in Eastern Europe in the 70’s and 80’s, Reagan is your hero – he confronted totalitarianism and gave a voice to people who though they had none. The world is better for it. But Reagan wasn’t your hero if you grew up picking grapes in the central valley of California. Those people needed Chavez, who confronted then Governer Reagan about the plight of the laborer.
Each hero sees as 'in a mirror dimly', as the Bible says. That means no single leaders has all the answers. That’s why we need both courage and humility: the courage to name the evils of our day and the humility to recognize that the drum I’m banging, be it AIDS, the environment, homelessness, sexual purity, or poverty, isn’t the only instrument in the symphony that is God’s kingdom. We’ve much to learn – much to repent of – much for which to stand, if we’re to be a river of living water in a dry and thirsty land. But the streams that feed and pollute that river will come from the left and the right, and I need to have the courage and humility to live with that.