Leadership is a quality much admired and much discussed in political ranks. It is also a quality quite lacking, especially in American politics. In training leaders, the cultivation of vision, the courage to act upon the vision, and the character to maintain the vision, are all essential elements for effective statesmanship. This requires reading; and not just trendy periodicals or opinion polls! Rather, the reading of the best works of theology, philosophy, history, and that most neglected of documents, the Federal Constitution.
There is no easy way to obtain vision and understanding. In order to see, you must have knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge to the world in which you live. This is the process of thinking! In a political context, a biblical social theory must be revived, if Americans hope to have a new generation of righteous, enlightened, and dynamic leaders.
Courage without knowledge is the realm of fools! You may have great ambition and unquenchable zeal, but without the knowledge and political vision of John Knox or our Puritan forebearers, together with the example of their applications of the same, the only long term Christian hope in political life will be utter defeat—though you may look quite valiant in the fall! You see, the liberals have a working political social theory. It is messianic statism with a full orbed application to every part of culture. Until Christians develop a sound antithesis that is a bit more sophisticated than Rush Limbaugh, all the courage and savvy in the world will be of little use. After all, you can’t beat something with nothing! He who reads, leads!
Character is evidenced in the deportment and stature of the statesman. A true leader is able to command the field, more by what he is, than what he says. Character development is impossible without knowledge and the self-mastery needed to act upon that knowledge. Character is not built through confession anymore than standing in a garage makes one an automobile. The assails of life, the challenges of life, the purging of the soul through trial, temptation, and conflict, all these take our measure and cause our growth. Therefore, how will you answer political challenges that demean the spirit and intent of our forebearers? What will you do when your moral fiber is tested? How will you understand and react to the temptation of avarice? How will you defeat an adversary who is stronger and smarter than yourself? What reservoir will you draw upon? Perhaps your winsome smile and dynamic charm won’t be enough! “My people [God’s elect, mind you] are destroyed for lack of knowledge….” (Hosea 4:6).
He who reads, leads! Think you know it all? Whether it is theology, political science, economics, literature, philosophy, history, science, engineering, or for that matter, personal sanctification, do you think there might be some room for improvement? Or do you think you can defeat the Bill Clintons of this world with a single press release? Like it or not, Bill Clinton, the man we love to hate, reads on average, two books per week. Mind you, I’m not talking about Reader’s Digest here. No, “Billy” has immersed himself in law, history, and yes, believe it or not, theology! Oh, have you noticed? He happens to be president of The United States!
Many of us call ourselves reconstructionists. Unfortunately, I’ve observed quite a few “dust cover theologians” in our midst. Reading the back cover of major theological works simply won’t carry the day in the real world. How many of you have actually read the works of Cornelius Van Til? His philosophical pinions are the basis of a mature expression of a Knoxian social theory. Hence, can any real Christian statesman afford not to read Van Til? R. J. Rushdoony has many critics both within Reformed ranks and without. But how many of you have actually studied his foundational works? If you have not, why not? Bill Moyers, former press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson and radical liberal PBS commentator, has read all of both Van Til’s and Rushdoony’s larger works. Why? In order to defeat the very movement we are supposed to represent! Are you ready to debate Bill Moyers? If you are not, why not?
What about our children and the young people within our churches? Do they know the difference between the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Ludwig Von Mises? Have they read the Communist Manifesto? Have they ever heard of the “New Deal” or “The Great Society?” Do they know what the “Cold War” was all about? What was Luther doing nailing things to church doors anyway? How did Cromwell’s political views evolve? No, these are not questions for the intellectual “elite” and in fact, are basic ideas, that even marvelously mediocre students should know.
Explicitly Christian political leadership cannot be formed in a vacuum. Unless you read of great leaders and their principles of leadership, you will be defeated by those who have read and are implementing the same. Unless you read and understand theology, you will remain helpless to evil’s whim both from within and without. Unless you read, someone else will lead!
Jeffrey Ziegler is the new president of the National Reform Association. He is founder and president of Christian Endeavors and Reformation Bible Institute, moderator of the Association of Free Reformed Churches and the Ohio Reconstructionist Society, president of The Continental Group, a think tank for political activism, and an ordained minister who has lectured in over 600 churches and ministerial conferences. He can be reached at 35155 Beachpark Dr., Eastlake Ohio 44095, or firstname.lastname@example.org.