Where is Jesus Christ in Politics? Is servant leadership possible in politics?
Machieveli’s political manual, The Prince, has almost been a standard text book for most politicians.
Machieveli believed that the key issue in the art of politics is how to hold on to power once you have acquired it. He argues that every means should be used to stay in power.
He emphasizes the importance for rulers to seem to be virtuous but only when it serves their best interest. Hence he argues that a ruler must not mind a reputation for cruelty provided that he uses his cruelty for good ends.
He says a ruler should only keep his promise when that promise is to his advantage. He goes on to say that a ruler must seem to be honest, merciful, humble and religious when it is opportune to do so.
Machieveli considered moral sensitivity to be a weakness in a prince, because it renders his hold to power vulnerable to attack.
He thus writes “it is to be understood that a prince, especially a new prince, cannot observe all the things which are considered good because he is often obliged, if he wishes to maintain his government, to act contrary to faith, contrary to charity, contrary to humanity, contrary to religion. It is therefore necessary that he has a mind capable of turning in whatever direction the winds of fortune and the variations of affairs require …….. and that he should not depart from what is morally right if he can observe it, but should know how to adopt what is bad when he is obliged to”.
The passage quoted above from the Machieveli’s political manual ‘ The Prince’ represents Machieveli’s view of leadership and this sharply contrasts with the teaching of Jesus Christ that legitimate authority must be vested in rulers for the benefit of hose being governed and not for the purpose of keeping the ruler in power.
Moral values therefore which are in fact central to human development and the common good, cannot be separated from political decisions.
The SOCIAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH
In His letter Ecclesia in African 1995 Pope John Paul 2nd said ‘ we pray for holy politicians, women and men and for saintly Heads of states who profoundly love their own people and wish to sere rather than be served”.
If politics is a dirty game as it has been said then we need clean people to get involved. It cannot and should not continue to be dirty game. We need politicians who will promote the common good as first priority of public policy.
The common good has been defined by Church authority as “a sum total of social conditions which allow people either as individuals or as groups to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”.
The Pontifical commission for Justice and Peace in their compendium on t he social doctrines of the church(2004) argues that the subject of political authority is the people and that in various forms, the people transfer the exercise of sovereignty to those whom it freely elects as its representatives, but it preserves the prerogative to assert this sovereignty in evaluating the work of those charged with governing and also in replacing them when they do not fulfill their functions satisfactorily”.
JESUS CHALLEGED OPPRESIVE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL STRUCTURES
LUKE 4; 18-19
Jesus denounced the political structures which were oppressing people, just as the old testament prophets had done .Mt. 23 V. 4 ‘ for they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers’. Many years ago, prophet ISAIAH had spoken of the thogs and fetters that oppress the people Is. 58; 4-6.
In Luke 4; 18-10 we hear Jesus unfolding his manifesto when he reads from Prophet Isaiah: “the spirit of the Lord if upon me, He has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind sight, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the Lords year of favor”. If this was not a political statement – what was it?.
Jesus openly and repeatedly denounced the scribes and Pharisees for the manner in which they twisted the law. The scribes and Pharisees had brought in their own doctrines in teaching God’s word, to the point that God’s teaching had become oppressive to the people rather than being a liberating force from evil.
For example the observance of rules and regulations had become more important than ‘love’ and concern for the poor. The Pharisees and scribes were taking advantage of widows instead of caring for them and carpeted them for that. Indeed it was such criticism that led to his death.
Jesus had become a thorn in their flesh. It is therefore not possible to separate unjust social, economic and political systems from the manner in which a political system is functioning or entrenched .
Leadership has been defined by some scholars as “a process by which one or a group of people influence the thoughts, attitudes, and behavior of others. Leaders set a direction for followers and influence them based on goals envisioned for the future. Servant leadership therefore essentially means serving others selflessly. It means a leader puts the needs and interests of his or her followers first in order to motivate them, both for their own benefit and that of the community.
Service leadership has its roots in the scripture , learning from the way Jesus Christ Himself treated His followers and the people at large.
The concept of servant leadership has partly been brought to pubic life through the works of Robert .K. Greenleaf and the life lived by people like Nelson Mandela.
After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela straight from prison cells, went to shake hands with those who imprisoned him and told them “let us forget the past and build a new South Africa”.
In Matthew 20;27 Jesus says “The son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”. Yes, we must pray for saintly heads of state who profoundly love their own people.
SOME KEY PRINCIPLES OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP
These are(a) must listen receptively to the people (b) must be empathetic to the plight of the people(c) should desire to be compassionate(d)must be aware of current issuese must be persuasive enough to influence change(f) must be able to conceptualize desirable vision(g) must foresee into the future and anticipate the likely impact of current decisions(h) must be a source of stewardship. When the Roman Governor Pilate washed his hands and said ‘ I am innocent of this man’s blood ( MT 27: 25) he was abrogating and running away from his responsibility . He was the Governor of a powerful Roman empire and had powers and authority to let Jesus go free and he himself Pilate admitted and said “I find no case against Him.” Genuine leadership stands firm on the side of justice and do not wash their hands.
POLITICS AS A VOCATION.
The implication of the teaching of our Lord JESUS CHRIST as regards Christian vocation to politics and public life are worthy noting. It is not possible to separate unjust social, economic, and political structures from the manner in which a political system functions.
An unjust system can only survive to the extent that it is kept alive by people themselves and politicians play a key role in helping to dismantle an unjust political system.
Dr Kaunda and many others are examples of politicians who have helped dismantle unjust political systems here at home and in the Southern African region.
Politicians therefore do not separate their worship of God from their service of God’s people. Politics therefore can be and is indeed a vocation and as Pope John Paul 2nd said, we need saintly heads of state who profoundly love their own people.
Can Edgar Changwa Lungu provide servant leadership to this country? Can Hakainde Hichilema provide servant leadership to this country? Can Edith Nawakwi provide servant leadership to this country? Can Nevers Mumba provide servant leadership to this country? Can Wynter Kabimba provide servant leadership to this country? Or do we need to look somewhere else?
The author is member of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace(CCJP) and chairperson for the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection(JCTR). The author is also recipient of World Bank “award’ on good governance in the road sector. Email ; anjovu8@gmail. Com