Kinky Friedman is a Chicago Jew who somehow ended up in Texas and keeps himself busy as an author of detective novels, a singer – song writer, a columnist for the Texas Monthly, and a variety of other odd-ball activities. His band, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, had a country music hit a few years ago called “They ain’t making Jews like Jesus anymore”. Quite a catchy tune too (“they don’t turn the other cheek, the way they done before…”). I first heard about Kinky when the governorship of Texas became vacant after a certain George W. Bush ended up as POTUS. Kinky, obviously not too impressed with his former governor, ran for the vacancy himself under the slogan: “How hard can it be?”. He received nearly 13% of the vote.
In 1980, fresh out of high school, I went out canvassing door-to-door for Ronald Reagan. I thought Jimmy Carter was a total loser. Now, almost 30 years later, I’m a big fan of Carter. Ronald Reagan, not so much.
In 2001 I became a member of the Green Party in the Netherlands. They had some good people at the helm then, some good ideas. But then, in the run-up to an election, a leading right-wing politician was assassinated and the Dutch political scene all kind of went sour. I decided I didn’t like being attached by membership to a particular party. I gave it up.
(When it comes to churches I’m as all-over-the-map as I have been with politics: I’ve been a (guest-) member of at least nine different church denominations in my life.)
I’m no “party man”, so to speak. In my view most political parties have moments of excellence to which I am happy to lend my support. My loyalty is to what I consider good ideas, rather than to organizations, and I suppose my mood determines which ideas I find most important at the moment. However, I’ve never been a single-issue voter, as far as I can remember.
As societies we are generally in agreement when identifying our problems. It is fairly easy to point out where things are falling apart, where our systems aren’t working. What we are not very good at is coming to agreement on how the problem came into existence, what our priorities are, and especially how to solve our problems – who is responsible, where the money is coming from, and how the job will be tackled. Enter political parties.
And then of course there are those who aren’t really concerned about problem solving anyway; their real motivation is gaining and maintaining power and influence for themselves. For them it’s all about control. That’s the kind of “politics” that becomes destructive, or at least non-productive. It’s the kind of attitude to which I increasingly have a strong allergic reaction.
The older I get the more I find that what I’m really looking for in leaders – political, church, or otherwise – are people who “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than themselves…looking not to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
I would gladly serve anyone who takes this approach. And I hope my own leadership, as limited as it may be, is more and more characterized by this attitude.