Character, Citizenship and Leadership: Kent’s Perspective

Growing up who were your role models?  My role models were many.  My Dad modeled a life of quiet decency.  He never raised his hand and rarely raised his voice when angry.  He was dependable and kind.  As a building contractor he was honest and set high standards as a craftsman. His faith life was foundational to how he lived and who he was.

Conversely at age seventeen I worked for a manager in a supermarket who showed me what not to be.  I watched as this manager humiliated and bullied his employees.   He wanted to make the point that ‘he was the boss’ and people should do what he wanted out of fear.   I remember thinking, ‘I’m not going to be like that’.

In these first 100 days of the Trump presidency where are the people of character?  Who are the positive role models that we want our youth to emulate?

David Brooks, New York Times columnist and conservative commentator wrestles with such questions.   In his  book, ‘The Road to Character’ introduces us to people well-known and little known, who exhibited positive values and qualities that we call ‘character’. He focuses on the deeper values that inform a well lived life. He challenges the reader to rebalance the scales between our ‘resume virtues’ – achieving wealth, fame and status – and our ‘eulogy virtues’, those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty and faithfulness.

Brooks points out what is painfully obvious, that to often our leaders, political and otherwise, are driven by ‘resume virtues’. Such leaders are caught up in accumulating power, wealth and status and will do whatever it takes.  Character is secondary to outcomes.

In the Netflix series: ‘House of Cards’ we are introduced to Congressman Francis ‘Frank’ Underwood and his wife Claire.  These characters played by actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, are devoid of character and will do whatever it takes to achieve their end.  In ‘House of Cards’ the ends justify the means.

In watching the Trump presidency unfold I see a president and administration who will do what ever it takes to achieve their ends… Make unfounded accusations (President Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower) and make unfounded statements as fact as in a recent interview in Time Magazine:

Thus far with a few notable exceptions the Republican controlled Congress has overlooked President Trump’s falsehoods to get the ends they want:  Repeal of the Affordable Care Act; overhaul of Tax Code; deregulation of environmental safeguards etc.

Is this the message we want to send to our children?  That the ends justify the means?  That you can do and say anything you want in service to what you consider a greater good?

I’m not going to be like that.  How about you?

Our nation is desperate for women and men of character.


About Kent Harrop

I am bi-coastal...I was raised in New England (Rhode Island) and for twenty years 1994 - 2014 served as pastor of First Baptist Church McMinnville, Oregon. In May 2014 I moved with my wife Tricia back to New England and serve on a team of ministers at the First Baptist Church in Beverly, Massachusetts. I love the beauty and geographic breadth of Oregon and the north shore of Massachusetts. A growing edge for me is the integration of the contemplative and prophetic life. Tricia and I enjoy gardening, camping and kayaking on rivers and ocean. We have two grown daughters who are strong, smart and adventurous. The purpose of the blog is to explore the relationship between faith and the wider culture. The views expressed here are my own.
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