Let’s get this straight; I don’t support City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or Leeds. But I have been recently musing the widespread adulation of Sir Alex Ferguson that has now led to 2 MPs (Tony Lloyd, Graham Stringer) calling for his elevation to the House of Lords. You cannot argue against the proposition that he is one of the most effective football mangers of all time, the facts speak for themselves. But I am concerned that further public recognition will send very damaging signals to society about attitudes and behaviour in public life. He is a person who regularly uses intimidation as a tool to control others. Psychological intimidation is an outrageous abuse of power in any situation and, such is his position, that he usually holds all the cards (e.g. the recent incident of the exclusion of the journalist who dared to ask about Ryan Giggs). Love is the very opposite of overbearing control- it comes from inner security that generates freedom and encouragement. It is not self-obsessed; it cares more about others than its own reputation. Sir Alex Ferguson has shown that when he feels affronted, he withholds forgiveness and co-operation (e.g. The BBC’s investigations into his son’s activities as a football agent that has led to years of non-communication). These may be understandable reactions but they are hugely damaging to everyone concerned and should be challenged not encouraged by further decoration. A friend once said ‘I’m interested in having courageous conversations’. I hope those around him are having such conversations to help see reconciliation as the better way. And in the meantime, elevation to public office seems entirely inappropriate- do we want playground bullies up and down the land to be given a large, public seal of approval?
With the background of ‘bullygate’ and its repercussions, today we have a plea for more team dynamics in the heart of government instead of paranoid control freakery. And it’s not simply a Labour problem; a number of comments have been recently made about excessive control from Conservative Central Office, too. Wherever there is desperation for power, desperate methods are employed to minimise divergence. This (non-listening) strong hand on the rudder leads to a very unhappy ship’s company and it’s surely no surprise when shipmates jump overboard seeking freedom. Leadership we want, decisive leadership we need. But overbearing, oppressive regimes?
I was preparing a session on Paul’s use of the body metaphor recently (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and was reminded that it was letter written to a highly dysfunctional group of people. They fell out over spiritual gifts, rather unsurprising given the worship of idols endemic in the pagan culture they came from. The baggage they arrived with at the church in Corinth lead them to rate the showy, outward gifts more highly than others. Is it so different today? Our culture includes the mantra, ‘education, education, education.’ Within the church do we elevate the teachers above all others? Do we dare to question aspects of church leadership? Because an unaccountable leadership is a dangerous thing, it leads to assumed authority and potential abuse. There is nothing more healthy for the body than a loving word of encouragement that includes a rightly-motivated challenge. Difficult to get right- agreed. But not to be ignored.
At a CARE supporters’ event last night someone stopped me to ask whether I thought a hung parliament might provide a good opportunity for a different form of politics. Absolutely- it gives that possibility. Politics has a distinctive flavour in Scotland, for example, as no one party can implement their programme without the support of others. Wouldn’t it be great to see more constructive problem-solving rather than sound bite knee-jerk knockabout? Of course the media would attempt to prise any co-operation apart. And healthy opposition in parliament is an effective way to keep the executive in check. But as people of hope we desire that kingdom values of respect, integrity and teamwork win out over partisan, aggressive behaviour in the body politic. Make it a team effort, politicians. And for those of us with obstructive woodwork obscuring our eyesight, make it a team effort, Church of Christ.