Today in the “Screens” section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was an article by media critic Joe Williams. Its beginning caught my attention:
Before a recent preview screening of the superhero satire “Hancock,” an emcee asked several audience members to name their biggest hero.
Most of them just shrugged. A few people mentioned their parents, two said Jesus Christ and one joker cited the Incredible Hulk. But nobody named and American public figure, past or present. No athlete or actor, no Obama or McCain.
While I would fault no one from citing their parents or Jesus Christ as heroes, that couple of paragraphs reminded me of some discussions had during the recent LCG Pastoral Conference. Dr. Winnail stressed the fact that the world seems to be in a crisis of leadership. What leaders around us today would anyone point to as a real example of leadership — an example for the ages? The title of author John W. Stanko’s book, So Many Leaders… So Little Leadership, seems to succinctly describe the age in which we live.
The world in such a desperate need to hear from real leaders, yet in the face of such need the silence is deafening. Not that the world is silent. In a YouTube-filled, blogging-from-birth world, there are more voices than ever. But how many are saying anything worth listening to? How many voices out there are of a nature to stir others to real action, ready to turn the world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6) — or, rather, right side up? Our TV shows us a virtual parade of characters, but how much actual character do we see on it?
Perhaps most frightening to me is the potential for such vacuums to be filled with predators rather than leaders. When Hitler and Mussolini came along, they were accepted because, among other things, they fulfilled certain needs and longings. Again, I am reminded of the oft-quoted comment from Dr. Paul-Henri Spaak of Belgium, one of the true “founding fathers” of what is now the European Union (and what is prophesied to be so much more):
“We do not want another committee, we have too many already. What we want is a man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all the people and to lift us up out of the economic morass into which we are sinking. Send us such a man, and whether he be God or devil, we will receive him.”
Personally, I believe the current state of affairs will continue to create in many people a similar longing. Who will show up on the world scene to satisfy that longing is, I think, yet to be seen.
UPDATE 1: I have written a follow up post here.
UPDATE 2: Someone has questioned the veracity of the Spaak quote, and I want to acknowledge that question here. I’ve dug for a bit, and I cannot find a primary source for that quote. Though I’ve come across plenty of secondary sources, I’m uncomfortable just letting it stand with that. Does anyone out there know of a primary source?