I am currently enjoying reading several books at once (as per usual). A book that I’ve re-picked up (stole) from my wife. The two authors shared a few conversations and the book, Follow Me to Freedom: Leading and Following As an Ordinary Radical, is probably one of the more important books on leadership that a Christian should read. John M Perkins is one of the very few (sadly) civil rights figures in contemporary Evangelicalism, he is also a visionary who helped to set the stage for the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) one of the leading bright spots unifying Evangelicals to strive for justice. Claiborne, a bit of a self-styled red-neck hippy Christian is also a bright spot in Evangelicalism.
Well, I should say they’re bright spots for me. Perkins and Claiborne are also provocateurs. Claiborne was banned from speaking at my brother’s alma mater – a conservative Christian college – by some concerned pencil pusher or another because of his outspokenness. One time I saw Perkins was the only time I went to Cornerstone Festival (a great music/arts/film/sessions week-long festival put out by Chicago’s own Jesus-hippy commune, Jesus People USA, that is, well, like much of Evangelicalism, predominately White [I mean the fest, not necessarily the commune]). He was preaching about the need for racial reconciliation between music shows (maybe before The Choir?) and some of my friends were mocking the old man, and how he was always going about that business. The other time I saw him, he was speaking at a fundraiser gala for my brother’s npo (which is decidedly focused on growing Christian leaders and disciples from within overlooked areas of Chicago) and spoke to the audience – much of whom are decidedly conservative – about the need to love our neighbors through voting for politicians that do not harm them. That helped to solidify my appreciation for him and my appreciation of being a leftist politics.
Some take-aways from early on in the book:
On the “Theology of Enough”:
Shane: There are enough resources. God did not create an economy of scarcity. God did not make too many people or not enough stuff. Gandhi once said, “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.” So why do a few have more than others, and so many feel that they do not have enough?… We have not trusted in “this day our daily bread.” Instead, we stockpile our money in banks, like the guy Christ spoke about who stores all his stuff in barns, when God is leading us to give it away. Stashing away our resources is not how we are supposed to live.
On Leading Through Shared Pain:
John: The leader who can tap into our pain part right and walk through it with us – bearing our burdens like Jesus bears them – is going to be a real leader.
Shane: Too often, well-intentioned leaders are quick to stand up to be a voice for the voiceless rather than being a voice with the voiceless. We assume that because people’s voices are not being heard, they’re not speaking. And the truth often is that people on the margins are weeping, wailing, and crying out from the depths of their souls, but the rest of the world has hands over their ears. Leaders are folks who can remove the earplugs and the blinders so that we all can hear and see and feel the pain of others; so that the ache touches us and we cannot help but begin to carry the burdens and wipe the tears away… People most affected by the pain and closest to the injustices make the best leaders… Every leader who is not indigenous to struggle needs to take that pilgrimage into pain.
John: Today, Christians tend to put leaders on a pedestal. We have megachurch pastors, televangelists and Christian celebrities. It is hard for the leader to enter into the pain of the people when he only sees it from the other side of the camera or sitting at the boardroom table. We do leaders a disservice sometimes. We think we are protecting them, prioritizing their time and doing wonderful things for them, when in actuality, by shielding them or filtering what information they get, we distance them from real people and real needs. By always having a catchy slogan, a positive spin, a trendy campaign or a big reward, we end up not dealing with real issues or the heart of the matter. I am not saying we cannot have slogans, campaigns, or rewards. And I am not saying that megachurch pastors cannot be justice leaders. But some leaders are talking out of that place of pain and others are just talking.