I spend a lot of time hoping I'm going to be wrong. Does that sound like a strange thing to say? Let me explain. I tend to think the worst of most people, but especially those who are our leaders. Be they political, religious or whatever I'm usually of the opinion that those who want to be leaders are the worst people for the job because they want it.
Most people who strive to be leaders of anything from a country to a clubhouse do so with the intent of imposing their will on whoever is subject to their leadership. How many leaders of anything do you know who have genuinely striven to reach a consensus of some sort among those who they lead? I don't care what the politics of the person are, whether I agree with them or not isn't even relevant; they don't give a rat's ass for those who have a different opinion.
Leadership these days is all about divisiveness and the obtaining of power, not about building a unified country or whatever. You can tell there is something wrong with the system when one of the most important polls for a politician is his disapproval rating. As long as I only alienate this many people I can still cling to power and impose my will on whomever I'm ruling. Now that's leadership.
I'm not naïve enough to believe that anybody is going to be able to have a 100% approval rating; there are always going to be extremist elements of a society who aren't going to be satisfied with anyone or anything. But shouldn't the object of a leader be to try to find common ground with as many people as possible while guiding his or her organization, country, or religion to achieve its goals?
That's right, I said its goals, not his or her goals. Most countries already have a series of goals laid out for them to try to achieve on a daily basis – it's a thing called a constitution. In Ontario, Canada, where I live, when you incorporate a company as a not for profit organization you write out a constitution that contains the objects of the firm and how you plan to go about achieving them. So if one of your objects is the eradication of child poverty, you have to say how you're going to go about getting that done.
If you are going to be the leader of a country, your focus should be on how are you going to fulfil the objects of your country's constitution, not how you are going to impose your will upon the country. If your constitution says "All men are created equal", or guarantees freedom of speech, and the right to assemble shouldn't you be trying to convince people that you have the best plans to ensure those objects are fulfilled?
But what we mostly get for potential leaders are those who want to impose their will upon a country, or even worse leave their mark on history. Leadership is all about ego and the expression of personal power, no matter if the person is on the left or the right. In fact far too many leaders tend to look on their constitutions as things they have to circumvent in order to do what they want to do, or that it should be changed to reflect their view of the world.
Secular leaders are bad enough, but when it comes down to it the worst ones for abusing their positions are religious leaders. Then again, religion lends itself to having such a multiplicity of interpretations even among just one faith; it should be no surprise that each faction would have a leader trying to impose their vision of the faith on the flock.
Even within the individual sects (or denominations as Christians say when referring to themselves) there are divisions. Not all Catholics believe in the same ways of realizing the objects of their faith any more than all Sunni Muslims agree with how Mohammad should be worshipped. Other religions, like Judaism with its reform, conservative, and orthodox divisions, have degrees of belief that signify the intensity of their adherence to the laws of the faith.
While Muslims may have individuals who speak for, or claim to speak for, an area's population of adherents, and there is a Chief Rabbi in Israel, and Tibetan Buddhists have the Dali Lama (I'm not familiar enough with other faiths to speak about their hierarchies) only the Catholics that I know of have a process akin to an election for their leader. Not that we're talking about broad-based participatory democracy here, as the only folk voting are the Cardinals, who were all appointed by a pontiff in the first place.
Here too they are divided into the usual political factions, ranging from the very liberal to the very conservative. The person who is elected pope gets to set the tone for the church's response to issues, and dictate to Catholics and non-Catholics alike whether or not they are being good. While the adherents of that faith may have ceded him that power through their acceptance of the system that elected him, the rest of us are none of his business.
When Pope Benedict (literally translated from Latin as good word or good speech) was first elected slightly over a year ago I had the feeling he was going to be one of those who had to pass judgement on matters that are none of his business. Of course his argument is that everything is his business as he is the representative of Jesus Christ on earth it's his duty to see that we're all adhering to the laws of Christ as interpreted by Benedict.
Instead of simply being content to minister to the souls of the millions of Catholics around the world, which ought to be more then enough power for any one person, he wants to flex his muscles so that he is considered one of the major movers and shakers in the world. He already has the press eating out of his hand, in so far as they will record verbatim any comment he makes, giving him access to the world stage.
He's had the gall to tell Canadians that they are turning their backs on God because we believe in freedom of choice and equal rights for all people. Not being a Christian I always make the mistake of thinking that Christ was about compassion and understanding, but according to the gospel of Benedict there is either his (Benedict's) way, or a path to Hell.
If it's not bad enough that he deems himself fit to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, he also seems to think he has the right to make speeches where he quotes dialogue critical of the Muslim faith without saying whether he believes it or not. Not only is it offensive for the leader of one religion to be critical of another, taking shots at Muslims like that shows an amazing insensitivity to the world around him.
Preaching a sermon which contains "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman…" is about as stupid as throwing kerosene on a fire in an attempt to quench the flames. What could he have hoped to accomplish by saying that without any explanation as to his motivations. Vatican officials are saying that it was his attempt to open a dialogue between the faiths, but the majority of Muslims, from the most moderate to the extremist, are understandably taking it as an insult. Maybe he's looking to be martyred by a suicide bomber so he can have a fast-track to sainthood,
Is he so proud that his thinks because of the position he serves that he is allowed to point out to other faiths the error of their ways? The second part of that quote says: "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The head of the Catholic Church has a hell of a lot of nerve criticizing anyone for using force to spread the word of God in the name of their faith. They have to have one of the worst records in history for doing the exact same thing.
In fact up to slightly more then a hundred years ago, the Muslim empires were far more tolerant of diversity among their populations then their Christian counterparts. They may have charged Jews and Christians an extra tax for practicing their religion, but they never tortured them into converting, or forced them to flee for their lives.
What good is Benedict doing the world he so devoutly claims to serve by spewing forth hatred and hypocrisy? The only thing being served is his pride and his ego. It's like he is saying, I'm the pope, I can say what I want whenever I want and you have to believe me because I'm the only one who knows the difference between right and wrong.
I really wish that the people who become our leaders weren't so damn predictable. Instead of trying to fulfill the objectives of their country as set forth in their constitution, and working with others to do so, they impose their will and push their personal agenda no matter the relevance to the country's objectives. They became leaders so they could be powerful, and they are going to be powerful whatever the consequences.
I'd really like to be wrong more often.