Yoda? To Follow a Leader or a Talking Sock…

Written by Chuck Gruenwald on November 2, 2013

What is Yoda? Really, Yoda is nothing more than a green sock that talks like it is full of wisdom. Now, if a green sock has the ability to appear as a wise, old sock – or whatever Yoda is supposed to be — then there is no reason why any human being cannot pull off the same song-and-dance.

When we look for leaders whom we choose to follow, such as the politicians whom we vote for, or the rabbi or pastor whose congregation we belong to, there is an expectation that those individuals not only have the gift of wisdom, but that they use it to fulfill their duties. Unfortunately, many people who are afflicted with a Yoda Complex have taken it upon themselves to either impersonate clergy or somehow win elections and serve in a capacity that is normally reserved for leaders.

With the likes of Alan Grayson, Hank Johnson, Dick Durbin, Jessie Jackson Jr. and Pat Quinn winning elections, it is easy to question exactly what a majority of voters expect from their leaders. Of course, there is the expectation that these types of politicians are not supposed to lead, only “repay” those who have made winning their elections possible. However, when people have the ability to choose their politicians and/or clergy with the expectation of those people actually filling a leadership role, is it more important that those leaders hold themselves to a specific level of conduct, or do the followers want someone who represents their current values?

About the same time that Jessie Jackson, Sr. had been counseling then-President Bill Clinton for his marital infidelities, the Reverend Jackson had been secretly dealing with similar issues of his own – with the birth of an illegitimate child as a result. In one of his first public appearances after making his issues public, Jackson was greeted by applauding followers in a Los Angeles church.

Both Clinton and Jackson had been seemingly forgiven by their followers. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between forgiveness and gullibility. Were these two leaders “forgiven” as a result of their regret and remorse for their actions, or were their indiscretions overlooked by those who have similar morals?

When a leader acts as anything but – and engages in indiscretions similar to those of his or her followers — those below him or her believe that they themselves are now vindicated for their actions. Forgiveness requires sincere regret and remorse on the behalf of the offender; gullibility is lazily confused with forgiveness when those who are hurt or shamed by the offender repeatedly “forgive” the sinner for repeating the same offense, since regret and remorse are void.

Back when KQTH FM talk show host James T. Harris worked for WTMJ, he talked with an inner city pastor who had expressed disappointment and rage toward some of his fellow pastors. This pastor had been upset by the fact that those other members of the clergy were trying to fill the pews instead of saying what their congregations needed to hear. The end results were sermons that avoided “offending” the flock – and parishioners who continued to engage in destructive behavior, but now with the apparent approval of their religious leaders.

If sermons are watered-down in the name of cramming butts into pews in small churches, the owners of mega-churches must deliver constant super-hyper-happy, “God is awesome, and His forgiveness is a rubber stamp” messages in order to pay for the bands, dancers, Jumbotrons, satellite churches – complete with satellite links to the mother ship, and everything else that God requires to spread a benign message of love.

A few years ago, one of my friends from high school described a visit that he had made to a local mega-church. The purpose of this trip was the “dedication” ceremony of a friend’s baby. Upon driving into the parking lot, he said that he had felt as though he were driving onto the grounds of some kind of compound. Having attended a funeral at another mega-church a few years earlier, I could relate to his uneasiness in that compound, er, church.

As for my experience in a mega-church, it is best described in one word: disturbing.

Funerals are very complex functions within a church. The clergy must do their best to make sense out of a tragedy that does not make sense. In short, presiding over a funeral is a job that requires nothing less than leadership and wisdom.

With this in mind, no one is helped when the leader of the mega-church appears just as lost and confused as the people who have turned to him for comfort. To add insult to injury, this leader tried to compare the deceased to an empty Pepsi can at the grave-site to her children. Nothing says “decorum” quite like pulling an empty pop can out of a brown paper bag at a grave-site.

Naivety is not a welcome feature of someone who takes it upon him or herself to lead others. Everyone who has a driver’s license has had to drive for the first time; nobody who takes it upon themselves to guide others should act as though they are only a part of the group – instead of the tip, since that is akin to “leading from behind.”

Every election is an opportunity to vote for someone who either has a sincere urge to lead, or vindicate us for our shortcomings via their own personally-destructive behavior. Every Saturday and Sunday is an opportunity to listen to someone who is willing to teach us and tell us what we need to hear, versus someone who wants nothing more than repeat customers. Anyone could talk as though they are full of wisdom, but it is up to us to know the difference between a true leader – and someone who is little more than a talking sock.

Images: http://geeknazgul.wordpress.com/category/frases/

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for uncommonshow.com