As we live in a world of fast-pace development and high rates of inequality, leaders of all kinds — be it political, business, religious, cultural — do play a significant role. Their roles could be prophetic (visionary), destructive or passive ( spectator or even opportunistic). Prophetic or visionary (in the way I understand) is necessarily inclusive development and not a crony capitalistic model believing in the so-called trickle-down economics. Destructive models are propagated by leaders who took advantage of the hatred (cultural/religious), ignorance (ignorance of laws), power and money to push forward the individual agendas destroying the fabric of the place or the country. Here I would like to discuss a little more about the passive (spectator) version of leadership. I would discuss two examples..
- In the first chapters of the Bible (Old Testament), there are 2 creation stories. These were considered to be literally true for quite a long time, atleast by faithful Christians. The development of the 'theory of evolution' and the developments in the science of interpretation has challenged such claims. Anyone (and specially priests) who study some theology or scripture are given the newer understandings. Today, informed Christians are aware of it. But I think, still a huge number of Christians consider the creation stories are to be taken literal. [I just said about the first few chapters of Genesis; not about the full Bible]. Now my question is, why the priests (and deacons and other trained people) who are given the current understanding of the church not ready to convey it to the common people. Is it justifiable? Our common justification is 'pastoral sensitivity' or we might say they are not prepared for it. They might be scandalized by it. Is not a priest (along with others) supposed to prepare them? Should they not obtain a more matured understanding of faith? [Some might see these are trivial things; but I don't think so. I do think it is very difficult in some cases; but such attempts need to be made]
- Christianity is considered to be a religion where there is no differentiation between persons based on any criteria. I have heard that there are places where there are different chapels for peoples from different caste groups. Such extreme situations may prevail in few places, but various types of injustices do exist in many places. Do the priests speak against (prophetic) or help to maintain the status quo (in the name of pastoral peace)?
[Both the above points are equally applicable to other religions too. I know pastoral prudence and pastoral sensitivity are much positive terms and we need them very much. But many use it as an excuse for failing to be the followers of goodness and mercy].
Now let’s come to the recent Padmavat (Padmavati) controversy in India. [It is true that any depiction of famous/divine characters, even in fiction, is not easily accepted by the present Indian society]. We call it as an act of deep respect/reverence. That might be true with the commoners. But with the leaders, I doubt it? Either they use it so that people are emotionally dependent on them or they support it to maintain their power.
I raise a few questions. How to go ahead with a visionary & prophetic leadership model depends on the context of each situation. It is not easy, but very much possible.