Society & Politics

Leadership Lessons from the Life of the Exiles Part 4

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Preston Manning, Senior Fellow

This article is the fourth in a series by Preston Manning on leadership lessons from the life of the biblical exiles. A member of the Canadian House of Commons from 1993 to 2001, founder of two new political parties—the Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance—and the Leader of the Official Opposition from 1997 to 2000, Preston works with the MI on the development and communication of faith-informed approaches to political leadership and public policy.



Deliverance From Evil: Evil to Good

In a previous article we explored the work of the forces of evil in twisting good into evil in the life of Joseph, in the life of Israel, and in society today. In this article we explore the work of God in preventing such transformations and in effecting counter-transformations of evil or potential evil into good.

Evil to Good in the Life of Joseph

Joseph, as we have already seen, experienced the good life of a privileged son in a God-blessed family transformed by the evil actions of his brothers into the life of a lowly slave in a foreign land.

But the greatest and most inspirational aspect of Joseph’s life is that he also experienced the counter-transformation—evil transformed into good—with that transformation being the more dominant and lasting influence in his life.

As a slave in the household of Potiphar, he rises by virtue of his ability and diligence to be put in charge of the entire household. When he is unjustly accused of attacking Potiphar’s wife, he suffers yet another crushing reversal as he is cast into prison. In the prison, again by virtue of his administrative ability and trustworthiness, he is put in charge of other prisoners. There he meets two servants of Pharaoh, his cupbearer and baker, who have been imprisoned for their faults. Joseph correctly interprets their dreams and the cupbearer is restored to his position in Pharaoh’s household. But the cupbearer forgets Joseph who continues to languish in prison until Pharaoh is also troubled by a dream which none of his advisors can interpret. The cupbearer then remembers Joseph who is summoned from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream of an impending famine. When Joseph does so and proposes the policy that will safeguard Egypt from that disaster, he is promoted to the position of vice-ruler of Egypt. And when his brothers come to Egypt to buy food, he reveals himself to them, rescues his entire family from starvation, resettles them in Egypt, and gives this remarkable testimony to the work of God in transforming evil into good:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, ”I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you … to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. … You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”[1]

In Joseph’s life, his abilities and ambition for leadership and his gifts for prophetic dreaming and interpretation were initially seized upon by evil forces and used against him with tragic and destructive results. But then came the more powerful and lasting counter-transformation—God in his mercy and providence taking those same abilities, ambitions, and gifts, and redirecting their manifestation and use for good, “the saving of many lives.”

It seems to me, therefore, that three of the primary roles of believers occupying positions of influence in the non-believing, secular, and materialistic societies and systems of today are:

  • To be aware of the distinct possibility that the good with which we may be associated may be transformed into evil in our lives and areas of influence.
  • To be alert to God’s call to be on guard against and resistant to such transformations, and cooperate with Him in resisting them.
  • To be alert to God’s working to effect counter-transformations—good from evil—and to join with Him in such work.

Certainly those of us who live as believing exiles in societies indifferent or hostile to our faith—as Joseph, Daniel, and Esther did —have ample opportunity to exercise these three roles.

Contemporary Illustrations

My illustrations of those opportunities and possible responses are primarily drawn from my experiences as a management consultant and an elected politician living and working in the largely secular society that Canada has become. But hopefully the sharing of them will suggest similar opportunities and responses to you no matter what your position or field of work.

Preventing and Combating the Abuse of Freedom

In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communications; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.”

I personally believe that Christians should be in the forefront of championing freedom, in particular the freedom of conscience and belief on which both religious and political freedom depends. I am also of the view that freedom is indivisible; a threat to one freedom, such as freedom of conscience, is a threat to all freedoms, and therefore to be resisted.

But as Christian believers acutely conscious of mankind’s fallen nature and propensity for evil, do we not also have a special role to play in recognizing the potential in ourselves and others for abusing freedom—for exercising freedom irresponsibly and toward destructive ends—and the need to prevent and combat such abuses?

For example, I am a believer in the freedom of economic enterprise and when I was in the management consulting business I had ample opportunity to assist clients in the energy sector in the exercise of that freedom. But as a Christian believer I was also acutely conscious of the potential for individuals and corporations to abuse freedom of enterprise and the opportunities afforded by free markets. Gradually, I found my consulting practice led, by this awareness rather than by design, into assisting energy companies to responsibly discharge their obligations, not only to customers and shareholders, but to the communities in which they operated and the environment from which they extracted resources.

But if there is one area where we as believers need to be especially alert and active with respect to preventing and combating the abuse of freedom, it is with respect to abuses of religious freedom. I am convinced that the greatest threat to religious freedom in our society comes not from the academic challenges to faith from atheists and secularists, but from abuses of religious freedom by religious people themselves. Such abuses provide critics, governments, and other institutions with the public support and justification for actions to suppress or circumscribe all religious thought and expression.  By abuses of religious freedom I mean the use of deceit, coercion, and threats and acts of violence to achieve religious ends—as when children, women, or minorities are oppressed in the name of religion; when abortionists or gays or physicians engaged in euthanasia are threatened with violence in the name of religion; or when non-believers and believers of whatever stripe are made the objects of religious vendettas or jihads. None of these tactics are the way of Jesus who never coerced anyone to follow or obey him, but rather invited people to choose to follow and obey by the exercise of their own free will.

Safeguarding Science from Unethical Uses

Suppose one is thoroughly convinced of the merits and benefits of science and is in a position of managing or directing public resources in support of scientific research and development. As believers, acutely conscious of mankind’s fallen nature and propensity for evil, do we not also have a special role to play in calling attention to the potentially dark side of science—its application to unethical ends—and the need to safeguard against such applications? Performing such a role should not be presented or seen as “anti-science” but as assisting in the protection of science from applications that discredit it.

Thus when I was in Parliament, and later a member of the board of governors of the Canadian Council of Academies, I strongly supported the idea that major science projects—for example, those involved in the study and manipulation of the human genome—should be subject to Economic Environmental Ethical Social Legal (EEESL) studies[2] and constraints. Such studies involve attempting to determine the implications of scientific research and development projects in these areas and proposing measures to avoid misuse and mitigate negative consequences.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Health in our House of Commons I was also involved in hearings into the application of the latest scientific techniques to assisted human reproduction through enhanced in vitro fertilization and stem cell research. This provided opportunity to address the perennial question as to what extent the state should encourage and support scientific experimentation, the results of which may lead to serious harms as well as benefits. My colleagues and I sought, for example, to have a provision written into Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act[3] stipulating that where there was a definable conflict between that which is scientifically possible and that which is ethically preferable, it would be the ethical course of action that would prevail.[4]

Application

You may not be embedded in or involved with an energy company or scientific establishment as referred to above, but you are no doubt embedded in or involved with some organization or institution—a school, a hospital, a union, an interest group, a political party, or a business of some sort where you are employed.

And if that is the case, could it be that your role as a believer is to be alert to instances in the life and work of that institution where the forces of evil are fastening on to things that are inherently or potentially good and twisting them into something bad? Perhaps it is the pursuit of returns on investment turned into exploitation or environmental degradation, bargaining power morphed into intimidation, communications twisted into the spin and the lie, or the pursuit of organizational efficiency and effectiveness rendered destructive of human relationships.

And no matter what our role in society, do not all of us as professing Christians have a responsibility to guard against the abuse of religious freedom, in particular, by the overzealous members of our own faith communities? The psalmist David was discharging this responsibility when, conscious of the “zeal that consumes,” he prayed, “May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me…; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me….”[5]

Let us continue to pray, as Jesus instructed, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” especially the attempts of the evil one to turn even our faith toward means and ends that will discredit the way to God in the eyes of those who so desperately need to find it.[6]

Footnotes


[1]Genesis 45: 4-17; 50:20

[2] Recognition of the need for such studies within the scientific community itself arose out of retrospective reflection and regret concerning the ethical implications of the development of nuclear science, which made possible the creation of the atomic bomb. Following the Second World War, the US Department of Energy specifically monitored the genetic implications for persons exposed to nuclear fallout, which in turn led to the project to sequence the human genome. But this time provision was made for 5% of the budget of the Human Genome Project to be committed to the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Research Program to foster basic and applied research on the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic and genomic research for individuals, families, and communities. It is significant that Dr. Francis Collins, co-director of the Human Genome Project and a strong supporter of such studies, is a practicing Christian. See The Language of God: A Geneticist Presents Evidence for Belief, by Francis S. Collins (Free Press, 2006).

[3] Assisted Human Reproduction Act, S.C. 2004, c.2.

[4] Regulating Assisted Human Reproduction and Related Research: Canadian Alliance Minority Report, by Preston Manning, M.P.; Diane Ablonczy, M.P.; Rob Merrifield, M.P.; James Lunney, M.P.  December 10, 2001.

[5] Psalm 69:6

[6] Matthew 6:13



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