Thursday, November 10, 2016

Perceptions, Paradigms, and Politics (Part 2 of 2)

In last week’s post, I asked the question: How do we form our perceptions? Then, I asked a deeper question: How do our perceptions form us? These questions are on the heals of a series of posts regarding how certain people or groups perceived Jesus based upon Mark 8. Today, I turn to Mark 9, but bring in the political process as well.

On Tuesday night, much of the country tuned into various television networks or internet sites to follow the election results. What some had estimated would be a short night with Hillary Clinton being crowned victor, turned into many hours of a “stunning development.” Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, a new president had been chosen and the winner was Donald Trump. Of course, this fact is known, but what is unknown (and now dominates the conversation) is what kind of President will Mr. Trump be. So what do you think?

Capture the thoughts you just had. Now, why do you think that is true? Whatever you think, realize, we don’t know at this point. He has not been president yet, and so we cannot know. We can discern from his past comments and behaviors, but at this point President-Elect Trump is just that – President Elect – not President Trump.

This is the problem with paradigms and politics. Many Americans have deep feelings on how the country should be led. But feelings may be misguided or based upon unsubstantiated facts. I am not saying that feelings are wrong, because facts can lead us to incorrect conclusions as well if we misinterpret their meaning or their application. However, the feelings or facts that most citizens have are based on far less than a complete understanding of the full picture of government. Only a select few have “all” of the information, and even then, not every detail or consideration can be known. 

Therefore, our paradigms of how to govern are skewed. First, they are often based upon the perceptions of others and how do we know if their perceptions are correct? Furthermore, many develop the attitude that anothers ideas are completely wrong without having an idea as to how/why the other person formed their ideas. I have said before that I believe that almost every politician (in any relation to the “aisle”) initially goes to Washington (or wherever) with the idea of making the country better – from their perspective. Many changes can and do happen (deals, corruption, etc.), but the original intent was honorable – even if it is different from others.

So, how does this relate to Mark 9. Well, in the middle verses, a father brings his boy to be healed by Jesus. He has not come down the mountain yet (with James, John, and Peter), so the man asks the other disciples to cast out a demon. They are unable. After Jesus does heal the boy, the group heads south, and along the way, the disciples argue about which of them is greater. When they arrive in Capernaum, Jesus confronts them and says that to truly be great, one must serve. To be first, one must be last. Jesus is taking another opportunity to affect the paradigms of His followers. (A detailed look at this passage from Mark 9 is found here.)

Unlike our politicians who may (or may not) have good ideas, Jesus knew exactly what needed to be done. But He still needed people to choose to do it. The people (in this case, His disciples) needed to change their paradigm in order to truly accomplish their purpose. They would have to put aside all of their goals and ambitions in order to accomplish a greater purpose for God. Making this change would not be easy, but such a change was truly possible only if they altered their paradigm and began to see matters very differently.

Jesus knew that the leaders of the day “lorded” their position over people. They led by position (Level 1 Leadership per John Maxwell), which was effective, but only because of power, not true persuasion. Jesus knew that true change was possible if leaders would serve others first, gaining the trust of the people. The approach would help the leaders see the needs of the people from the people’s perspective instead of approaching the situation with a pre-conceived notion because of a paradigm that was developed from a completely different mindset. Jesus knew that an approach of servant-leadership would create an opportunity to persuade others over time. Covey’s idea of “Seek first to understand then to be understood” carries a similar idea in this context.

For you and I, we need to understand the foundations of our paradigms. As we begin to better understand what we believe, we should ask what stimuli helped form those beliefs in us and why? Only then will we begin to understand ourselves. And we can only truly begin to understand others after we have an idea about ourselves.

So, over these next few weeks as we watch the transition from one president to another, consider your emotions, your feelings, the facts, etc. But consider how and why these aspects influence you. Then attempt to consider the same information from the side of someone who may be on the opposite side. If you stop there, you will likely be discouraged, so step back to get an even different perspective and think not as someone with a preference to a political party, but consider the perspective as an American over party. If we all do this, we might find more common ground than we might otherwise imagine, and if that is true, we might truly forge a bright future for this country by learning to serve others again.

If you follow Jesus, you have one further step. Beyond considering yourself an American, it is necessary to find the Christian perspective. Thus, beyond seeking to work alongside others through a new paradigm, we must love others through God’s paradigm. Everything else can be the same, but the work and attitude must be expressions of love.

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