Leadership

Last night I saw Selma for the second time. The movie tells the story of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. For those who have not taken the time to see this movie, please go. It is worth the price of admission. This movie is a stark reminder of a past that many would like to forget. 1965 was a time when Jim Crow laws shaped the daily lives of our brothers and sisters of color by instituting various racially motivated economic, education, and social hardships. These laws mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation including restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains.

In the midst of all of this a leader and prophet emerges, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had always assumed that leadership came easily to King. Hearing his sermons still takes the listener to a higher place. Who doesn’t resonate with “I have a dream” or “He’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I have seen the Promised Land”? King had a way of rallying people to his cause, of stirring people to action. I imagine that just being in his presence made you a better person.

The movie dared to expose a more personal side of King; a side that questioned, doubted, and wondered. Sometimes it is easy to assume that leadership is about confidence and strength. It was good to be reminded that leaders are human beings as well. King found ways to overcome his fears and questions. In doing this he became the prophet, pastor, and spiritual leader we needed and continue to need.

Today we still need people who can move beyond their fears, questions, and weaknesses to find the courage to speak truth to power. We need people to dream, to go to the mountain and see not what is but what can be.

Footloose

Last Friday my wife and I went on a date.  We decided to take in the remake of Footloose.”  I remembered seeing the original and enjoying it; we had both heard good things about this latest version.  The story takes place in the South a few years after five teens are killed in a car crash.  The crash is blamed on dancing.  The reaction to all this is that the town leaders, led by a local preacher, ban dancing.  From their perspective dancing led to drinking, sex and reckless driving and all of this resulted in five dead teens. The movie tells the story of a boy who has just moved to town, a rebellious preacher’s daughter and their “need” to dance.

About half way through the movie it dawns on me that I grew up in a church where dancing was wrong.  According to my mother, dancing led to sex. Since I was the preacher’s kid Satan was trying extra hard to entice me into dancing sex.  I never went to a dance until my senior year of high school. By then I was so afraid of dancing sex that I refused to get out on the dance floor.

This year my wife and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  I still don’t dance.  After years of worrying about dancing sex I am now afraid of embarrassing myself.

What is the point of all this?

I missed out on a lot of fun by not being able to go to school dances.  The family and church reasons for not going – the dance sex – only served to give me an unhealthy view of sex, my body and the opposite sex.  In many ways I am still working through consequences of living in that paranoia and fear.

I am not sure that the Christian faith was meant to be lived in fear.  In my youth it was dancing and what that might lead to.  Today there seem to be a lot of Christians who are afraid of anything that sits outside their particular world view – liberals, conservatives, Muslims, immigrants, socialists, and the list could on.

What would happen if instead of condemning the unfamiliar and different we start with the assumption that our ideas and perspectives might be wrong?