Wednesday, March 5

My normal day starts with a trip to school to drop off the kids. On the way, we listen to NPR. Usually, after the kids jump out of the car, I switch to ESPN radio to listen to Mike & Mike in the Morning, (Mike Golic used to be a local radio personality, and I like listening to him), but this morning I kept it on NPR. And heard that 53% of Russians think Josef Stalin was a great man.

Hold that thought while I bring another stream online.

Last night we had our small group meeting at my house. I started to exercise my normal leadership style, which is actually no leadership at all - really just facilitation. I realised quickly that these folks didn't want facilitation, they wanted to be lead. And further, that they would do what I said. I've had to make a conscious effort to lead rather than facilitate this meeting over the last month, and I have quite frankly been shocked at the eager acceptance these folks accord my leadership. I'm certain my shock is related to the fact that I would not be near so easy to lead as they are. But still, they desperately want to be lead and respond positively to strong leadership.

Hold that thought while a third stream joins the river.

The story I quoted from on 2/28 talks about how the first chapter of Genesis shatters the idols of day with the assertion that the one true God created everything. One of the most ancient myths of beginings is the Chaos/Order dichotomy. Choas is personified and is seen to be the overriding reality in all creation. Some great god fights with Choas, pushes him back and brings order, but Chaos is always lurking around the borderlands, looking for an opportunity to bring destruction and wreak havoc. The ancient Greeks developed the political philosophy of the Republic largely out of desire to bring order out of chaos rather than to bring freedom to the masses.

I heard in the voices of the Russians interviewed on the NPR program this morning the same longing for order. These folks honestly missed Stalin, wept at his memory and considered him a great man - because he brought order and because the country was strong and feared when he was the leader. They desperately long for leadership - any leadership -and are apparently willing to accept genocide as the price of pushing back Chaos.

I struggle to make sense of this. What is it about the Russians in particular, (and most people in general), that will embrace a strong leader who brings order and discipline - even if the cost is mass-murder? The 20th century provides a veritable laundry list of such tyrants. Hitler was actually elected by popular vote. Stalin rose to power on the back of Lenin, who was brought to power in a "people's revolution". Mao led a "people's revolution". Mussolini was lauded not just in Italy but around the world because he "made the trains run on time". Pol Pot, Idi Amin, the Ayatollah Khomeini - I'm just pulling these from memory. Wander backward along history's timeline and you will constantly stub your toes on these murderous despots who are fondly remembered by the very people they destroy. Does Saddam Hussein belong in this pantheon of pusillanimity?

And worse, how many of us are just like that? I'm independent to a fault and difficult to lead, and yet I know I long for strong leadership. The folks in my home group eagerly embrace my leadership. Does paganism have such a grip on this world that we still believe, (and fear!) the Chaos myth?

Does this horrify you like it does me? If Josef Stalin were running for president of Russia today, he would win. Is this the appeal of Napolean, (and Saddam)?

Does Islam appeal for the same reason - it is a strong denouncement of the chaos of the modern west? I'd love to hear comments from whatever readers there may be out there...

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