Simple Polemics

This upcoming Presidential election has me thinking about something.

I was listening to an interview on NPR of two pollsters -- one Republican, the other a Democrat. As they talked about the American perceptions of the Presidential candidates it was interesting to hear that people still say that they don't know where Kerry stands on issues.

My brow furls. I think, "Even after that great speech at the Democratic National Convention folk don't know what Kerry stands for? Even though they can go to and see in great detail his plans to lead as President they don't know what he stands for?!"

But then I come to understand something. And it's not just about Presidential elections. It's a lesson in leadership. John Kerry defended his variegated view of the complex issues that are before the people of this great country. Great, John! And that's great for you and your cabinet. That's great when your foreign policy makers and you sit down to hammer out how to handle Middle East unrest and genocidal African tribes. But folk want simple polemics. Just give them the soundbite. 30 seconds or less, doc, 30 seconds or less.

Admittedly, this is unfortunate. But it is the reality of the lives of the people who are citizens of this country. We are mentally modified for the ad. And ads say it quickly. That's what folk like about George W. Bush. "We're gonna hunt 'em down, smoke 'em out." Simple polemics from a simpleton. The downside of that is that George doesn't even understand that the issues are more complex than what his speechwriters put on the cue cards. Hence, when he was reading "The Pet Goat" to those school children in Sarasota, FL on 9-11 and received news of the terror attacks, he just kept reading. Why? He hadn't gotten the next set of cue cards. (I guess there is the danger of OVERsimplification.)

But it is still a lesson to learn. Even a fool can teach us powerful lessons. So, John Kerry, pay attention! George W. can teach you something. Give it to the people in a simple way. Keep it Simple, Stupid! Keep it simple. Dr. Benjamin Reaves, former President of Oakwood College and homiletics professor, always emphasized finding the subject and the predicate before you start writing the body of the sermon. What are you talking about? And what are you saying about it?

Kerry, the subject is Gay Marriage. Yes, the subject is complex. We know all about the implications of one choice over the other. But the folk want to know, what are you saying about it? The subject is that our sons and daughers are in Iraq? We are in a complex situation that we probably should not have gotten into. We are there. And the folk want to know, what are you saying about it? And so are the subjects of health care, and prescription drugs, and the economy. Give the folk the simple answer. Just the summary. Because in the final analysis, you're going to do ONE thing. The complex answer is really the noncommittal answer. Either you're going to permit gay marriage or not. Either you're going to bring our sons and daughters home or leave them there. Either you're going to cut taxes or raise them.

I said it's a lesson in leadership. Pastors of these megachurches understand that too. Simple polemics. Say it simply and courageously. Take a stand! And it doesn't even have to be what the decaying culture is saying. Lots of impacting churches have pastors who pull no punches on the question of homosexuality.

It's a lesson in leadership and understanding power over common people. Bush has his finger on the pulse of many Americans. They want strength and resolution. The key is THE RESPONSIBLE USE OF POWER. Knowing full well that folk either don't have the capacity or the will to understand the complexity of the issues, responsible leadership will give them the short answer but have examined the complex issue as to not lead or deceive the folk just because they can.

And guess what? People line up behind clarity. Where do you stand? What's your position? Yes, it is complex, but in the end, give the people what they want . . . simple polemics.


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