Today's emerging generation of Christians is beginning to cry out for leaders whose lives are characterized by solid values and virtues. These young believers have not only been disgusted and exhausted by the hyprocrisy permeating the institutional Church, but are growing equally dissatisfied with the laissez faire attitudes often found among a new breed of spiritual leaders. These are leaders who, although they are pioneering new expressions of what it means to be the Church, lack the moral backbone to say "no" (when needed) to our increasingly permissive society.
Radical egalitarianism (where all ideas, beliefs, and endeavors are considered equal, regardless of merit or effort) seems well under way in it's programme of wreaking violence within the Kingdom. Married to the self-autonomy of individualism, today's radical egalitarianism stands as a clever and relentless enemy to the gospel and teachings of Jesus, with its emphasis on self-sacrifice, ministry to the poor and marginalized, and passion for God's kingdom and will above our own. Early followers of Christ were unashamedly known as "The Way", but such exclusivity claims are increasingly viewed today as antiquated, intolerant, and driven by institutionalized power-brokering. And in our world's postmodern reality -- where not only are the legalistic structures and practices of our Enlightenment-influenced faith being deconstructed and discarded, but so it seems are the morals and virtues of our ancient faith (one would hope for a little more healthy re-construction). The effects of a permission-giving culture are certainly visable here. It's no wonder young followers of Christ are starting to shake their heads in disappointment over the lack of solid and visable virtues in the lives of leaders.
The Church in all it's various expressions (Orthodox, Catholic, Denominational, Independant, Emerging, etc.) therefore has a strategic opportunity to pioneer a "revival of virtue" among it's leaders -- so very much needed in a time when priests and pastors and the like continue to be viewed by the world with suspicion and distrust. Virtues such as social responsibility (e.g.caring for the poor, getting involved with local government), financial responsibility (e.g. the disciplines of saving, giving, and debt avoidance), honesty (e.g. not cheating on taxes, not breaking copyright laws), and sexual purity (e.g. saying 'no' to fornication, extramarital affairs, and internet porn) are desperately needed in today's amoral landscape.
Deepening this need even further is the effect that contemporary notions of tolerance produce when mixed with today's radical egalitarianism. When no one is "wrong", injustice inevitably will go unchecked. When truth is always "relative", accountability and virtuous living are much more difficult to define and maintain. The concept of "absolutes" is widely being reexamined and deconstructed today. Either-or, in-or-out, cut-and-dry, right-or-wrong thinking is becoming increasingly rare. Granted, some of this is a good thing.
Yet, everything in life cannot simply be reduced to "both/and" thinking. All truth cannot merely be relegated to community agreements or the oft-confusing realm of relativism. God and truth and our purpose for living cannot simply be a matter of our own creation... can it? Young people (and I suppose, older people too) are quickly tiring of leaders who seem preoccupied with raising questions. Well, questions are important, and often lead us through deeper reflection and consideration to the truth. But people also want answers. Solid answers. And they want leaders. Solid leaders. Leaders who lead. Leaders who believe in virtue, and who live virtuous lives. Why? Because on many levels, this world of ours is becoming more and more insane. Forces like radical individualism and radical egalitarianism have delivered unto us a world of endless opinions, feelings, power-claims, and of course -- conflicts of interest. This is what happens when everyone lives for themselves and does his/her own thing. It's weak.
Screwed up parents. Screwed up friends. Screwed up teachers and ministers. Screwed up politicians and business executives. Today's emerging generation of Christians are tired of the plethora of weak people today's world is producing. They know somehow that Jesus offers something better, a better way of living -- a better way of living a life filled with virtue. And they long to see this lived out and modeled for them.
We must answer this call. The time is now for stepping up to the plate... for starting to live lives that are more principled and less haphazard; more sacrificial and less permissive; more in love with our Savior and less in love with our culture.
The cry for virtue is only bound to grow louder.
How loud must it get before we act?