Whose Banner will we stand under?
The news highlights of the past ten days have been very disturbing, particularly with regard to a lack of integrity in leadership: the corruption and bribery which has been going on in FIFA for many years, the police commissioner’s report exonerating Zuma from paying back any of the money spent on his Nkandla home, and the leader of the NPA seemingly being paid off – to name just a few. It seems to me that these events are not only politically and morally problematic, they are also deeply problematic on a spiritual level.
In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius there is a powerful meditation on the strategies of two diametrically opposed leaders; Christ, and Lucifer, the deadly enemy of our human nature. Ignatius invites us to imagine two armies each under the banner of one of these.
Lucifer uses three main strategies to bring people under his banner. The first is riches, the second honour and the third is pride. While Christ, who is imaged as standing in a lowly and beautiful place in a great plain in the Region of Jerusalem, seeks to bring people under his banner by means of an attraction to the opposite values of simplicity and a humble desire to serve.
The strategies of Lucifer seem to be working better than ever! In the public sphere we see the attraction to wealth at the heart of the corruption we have seen in the FIFA fiasco not to mention Nkandla. The attachment to honour and pride mean that no-one seems willing to admit that they did something wrong.
The problem when things go even slightly off-track spiritually is that they tend to snowball. At first one may make what seems like an insignificant compromise. And that leads to another. And then to lies necessary to cover it up. Deals are made and people end up doing things against their values so as to keep their wrong-doings from being made public. Before very long one can be caught up in a web of darkness and deception from which it is not possible to easily extricate oneself.
We are all vulnerable at times to the lure of what is not of God, but when it happens to people in key leadership positions the repercussions for our society are huge. For example, some people whose jobs depend on Zuma’s goodwill may be tempted by the attraction to money and power to compromise their integrity; the lives of some of the poor which might have been changed for the better had the excessive expenditure on Nkandla been spent on service delivery remain poor; and young people have only the example of ‘leadership’ which has self at the centre to aspire to.
Some, like Thuli Madonsela, are standing up publicly for justice, for truth and for integrity of leadership and yet, as she rightly points out, the battle for justice and truth is not hers alone to fight. It belongs to each of us.
We are no longer just in a battle of political leadership. The battleground is one which is between good and evil, truth or deceit, corruption or integrity, destructive power or servant leadership. Whose banner will we choose to stand under? Hopefully the banner of Christ.