Planting Seeds for Future Leaders

I’ve just finished watching the first presidential debate, and I’ve decided to tell you who to vote for.

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At one level, the debate was pure embarrassment, two men shouting words of disrespect in front of a global audience that had every reason to expect a modicum of decorum.

On another level, I wasn’t surprised. I mean, seriously, isn’t this what we’ve grown used to? Candidates are more interested in scoring points with one-liners and “gotcha” phrases. Big ideas hardly matter, and if you’re expecting the candidates to actually listen to each other … well, that’s just not going to happen.

But what choice do we have?

Lots of stories have emerged since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. One of my favorites is the deep relationship she shared with fellow justice Antonin Scalia. The two were on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum, but they were able to set those differences aside and know each other on a deeper, far more important level. They went to the National Opera together, shared hours-long meals together. The same was true of Ronald Reagan and Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who was the first politician to visit the president’s hospital room after he was shot. They prayed together. Imagine that.

There was a time when relationships transcended politics.

Do we have a right to expect the same of Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Mitch McConnell? I’d like to think so, although I’m not hopeful. They’ve become entrenched in name-calling warfare, so worried that giving an inch will lead to defeat. It seems that personal pride is more important than good politics.

So who do I think you should vote for this November? Did you really think I’d tell you?? That almost feels like Dan Waggoner’s question when I was interviewed by the congregation way back in 2009: “Are you a State fan or a Carolina fan?” I knew I’d alienate half the crowd no matter how I answered!

Here’s my response (to the election question): Vote for whomever you’ve deemed worthy of being the president. It sounds like a cop out, I know, but we all have our opinions, and I trust that we’ve all done our research. We come from different places with a wide variety of priorities. Vote for the candidate who you believe will serve this country well. The whole country.

Just as importantly, spend time preparing a new generation of leaders for our communities and country. I’m serious. It’s easy to become discouraged by the juvenile nature of politics these days.

Here’s my challenge: do something about it … and that “something” is to encourage good-natured young people to become passionate about their communities and willingly step into places of leadership. Raise your kids — and challenge the young adults in your families — to commit time and resources to organizations that are important to our community. Make sure they know the names of our community’s leaders and pray for them by name. Show the young people in your life how to engage in respectful conversation over important issues. Teach them the importance of listening. As David Frum said recently, “If you don’t go into an encounter ready to be different when it’s over, you’re not doing either of us any good.”

And finally, encourage them to run for office. Why? Because that’s the kind of person I want to vote for in a future presidential election.

As we cast ballots over these next few weeks, let’s commit to finding the right leaders for this particularly significant moment in time. Let’s also commit to planting seeds for future elections and future leaders. It’s what our communities and country desperately need.

Thanks for your good work in the garden.

+Pastor Rhodes


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