Matthew R. Perry

Are We Loyal to Personalities or Philosophies?

In Church Life, Politics on March 16, 2007 at 10:08 am

Peggy Noonan is one of my favorite writers. She is clear, articulate, and very insightful about the political and cultural scene. She writes every Thursday for the WSJ’s Opinion Journal — and this installment rose to the occasion. Her article is entitled “The Trouble with Loyalty: In Politics, Ideas Are More Important Than People — or At Least They Should Be.” Here’s an excerpt:

We were marking a birthday. I was seated next to a politically experienced businessman, an acquaintance of many years. He kept talking about the presidential race. I asked who he’s supporting. He was surprised I had to ask. “Hillary,” he said.

I nodded. “Tell me why,” I said.

“I’ve known her for years,” he said. “I’m a loyal person.”

I waited for him to say more. But he didn’t.

“Your reason for backing her is that you’re loyal?”

“Yes,” he said.

As if that were enough.

I was puzzled. You’re loyal. So what? You have a virtue, good. But that doesn’t mean the person you’re loyal to should be my president. That’s not enough.

And I said this, in a more polite and less concise way.

Which made him defensive. “You should talk,” he said. “You were loyal to Reagan.”

“No, I wasn’t,” I said. “I agreed with him.” I didn’t know Reagan when I went to work with him; I only knew his views and philosophy and supported them. I wanted him to succeed because I wanted what he stood for to succeed. In time I came to feel personal loyalty. But agreement came first. And if, in his presidency, Reagan had turned into some surprising, weak, tax-raising, government-growing, soft-on-Soviets guy, I would have stopped backing him. I would have thought him very nice and a bit of a dope, like Jerry Ford. I wouldn’t feel I had to hold high his memory and meaning.

Loyalty has nothing to do with it, not if you’re serious.

Or rather personal loyalty has nothing to do with it.

Don’t we see how we do this with our pastors and ministers in our churches as well? The ministers become larger than life and we find ourselves loyal to the person rather than loyal to their faithfulness to the Word of God?

What do you think of Mrs. Noonan’s article? I think she is right on the money. She makes the case that we must truly delve into the person’s worldview and philosophy rather than personality. Many heretics over church history have had very charismatic personalities — yet were pagan to the bone.

And since Mrs. Noonan brought it up, it is crucial for us to begin educating ourselves as to the candidates running for president. We know the names: Hillary, Obama, Rudy, Mitt, McCain, Newt. Some names we don’t know: Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, etc. We need to get past the soundbites and the personalities and find out what these men and women hold dear. What makes them tick? What do they plan to do? What is their vision for the United States of America?

We need to do this as well for our convention — we need to make sure our convention is not simply led by strong personalities (read: clerical celebrities) but by faithfulness to God’s Word and God’s mission.

What think ye?

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  1. I think ye right brother! Unfortunateley, as you know I had to learn first hand why “not” to put our pastors, leaders, etc. on a pedastal. Excellent point!

  2. It’s easy to do — especially when those leaders prove themselves capable and even start out faithful. One person warned me, “Don’t always believe your own press!” Stay humble!

  3. […] Expectations Run Amok Yesterday, I wrote some reflections about an article written by Peggy Noonan dealing with whether we should put personalities above […]

  4. Matt: Great post! I feel a book coming down the shoot from you called, “Personality Driven Church.” I think this is why our churches get so much of the “transfer growth” rather than “conversion growth.” Most people follow personalities when looking for a church. If pastors will just stay put where they are currently serving (and congregations support them of course), then maybe people wouldn’t get so jittery and leave thier churches when the pastor takes another church.

    Concerning the convention, yes, I agree, I yearn for the day to see small church pastors and no-names filling the boards and leadership of the SBC. I do feel that we are on the brink of this with Dr. Page getting elected against some very strong personalities on the ballots.

    Again, great post!

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