Obama as a Leader

Obama won the stimulus package, which was passed in a perfectly partisan way. I want to note a couple things about his leadership style.

Obama is doing what a strong leader does. Stay connected. State what you believe. Listen respectfully. He understands that the primary way to defeat slackers, freeloaders and complainers is to listen to those who are honest and trustworthy.

For example, by inviting leaders over for cocktails, by simply addressing the Republicans, contacting foreign leaders, appointing special envoys, Obama demonstrates courage and respect. The community organizer’s rule is there are no permanent enemies. He should know that he is not going to get Republicans to back him. It is enough if he simply creates a culture where work gets done.

Republicans seem to be digging their own grave. Obama’s popularity has been increasing over the country. By telling Citi not to purchase a personal jet, by speaking directly to the common concerns of the people, chastising the elite for their entitlements, he’s conveying to the voters that he cares and he’s in charge.

Daily Show Reports on Obama’s Church Hunting

The Daily Show does a piece on Obama’s Church Hunting. Church of the Epiphany is featured.

I think Fr. Charles is hilarious. He’s a ham.

I think Obama will choose St. John’s. It’s easy to get to, and Fr. Leon is a former community organizer.

The Capitalism Paradox

It takes religion to create wealth. As wealth increases, religion decreases. Wealth becomes a god for his own sake.

“To survive all of this it seems capitalism needs a new dose of restraint. But absent a vast religious revival in the West, which seems unlikely, where will a renewal of the virtues of the work ethic come from? That question becomes ever more difficult to consider because as religious practice fades and our institutions reject traditional values, so too does the memory of the role that these elements played in the rise of capitalism.” Steven Malanga in RCM

Nicholas Taleb

I love this guy. Skeptic, statistician, Christian, public intellectual, he has a perspective that is compelling. Here is a blog that refers to some of his recent academic debates.

From This biographical article: Let me introduce you to Brooklyn-born Fat Tony and academically inclined Dr John, two of Taleb’s creations. You toss a coin 40 times and it comes up heads every time. What is the chance of it coming up heads the 41st time? Dr John gives the answer drummed into the heads of every statistic student: 50/50. Fat Tony shakes his head and says the chances are no more than 1%. “You are either full of crap,” he says, “or a pure sucker to buy that 50% business. The coin gotta be loaded.”

Taleb’s top life tips

1 Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

2 Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

3 It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

4 Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

5 Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

6 Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.

7 Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

8 Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.

9 Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

10 Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

A couple thoughts about the inauguration

Like the two million people who went to the inauguration, I’m captivated by the change in administration.

Although my personal politics are non-partisan (heh, heh), I think that Obama has demonstrated – even apart from his political slant – sophisticated and agile leadership. The most important evidence is his ability to stay connected to people who think differently. He is motivated by curiosity and a sense that everyone has a view worth sharing.

I share some interests with our President. I moved to Chicago in 1992 because community organizing was part of the Divinity School ministry curriculum. Furthermore, the city’s physical landscape was organized around neighborhoods, and the city was a laboratory for many different kinds of effective, non-state institutions. In 1982 it elected Harold Washington, who some think was one of the truly great politicians of all time – a man who combined realism with idealism in a way that transformed Chicago. At the time, I was fascinated by Chicago much more than New York. And Chicago also gave me a full fellowship.

The university itself was also the center of rigorous conservative thought. It avoided an instinctive leftish position but was rigorous and fair, generally unimpressed by identity politics. Obama’s teaching at Chicago was a time when he would have been connected to social action, politicking, and conservatism that would help ground his ability to look at the world in complicated ways. I think this is a worthy gift – being able to see the world through many different lenses.

He inherits a challenge. Yet, our role is not to assent without understanding, to idealize without reflecting, or to worship. We must still organize ourselves as witnesses to love in the world, speak truth to power, and hold up a mirror to our leaders, holding them accountable for their actions. We can do so by remaining magnanimous and remembering the cardinal rule of organizing: there are no permanent enemies. Which is another way of saying, “love your neighbor.”

Gene’s Prayer

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN.

Via

Three Ways the Church can be a Mission Organization.

Over the next several decades, many churches will be closing.  They will have been unable to fund ministry, or call people who can train them for ministry.

The church should

1) Actively harness online social networking as a part of a more coherent communication strategy. How it does this will require tinkering depending on its cultural context. Westchester is very different than South Carolina.

2) Train priests and laity in the principles of community organizing and development.  This means identifying needs and leaders. Community organizing is fundamentally about discerning what people in the community believe about churches. In business it is a bit like “market research.” Evangelicals do this well.

3) Actively create partnerships with other effective institutions. Churches can partner with not-for-profits, becoming a distributor of care. It can also help raise money for those institutions mitigating sorrow.

Facebook, Meetup, myspace and NING allow for excellent opportunities to assist with gathering people.  There is still a fair amount of learning with this.

The principles of organzing is another way of building the “priesthood of all believers” and is essentially sof-style evangelism.  This is the primary way people create “buzz.”  The church becomes the voice of those people who are in the church’s radar.

Last, by partnering with other organizations, we harness and enhance our own effectiveness and visibility. Too often the church is insular and invisible.