The impending mayoral special election should remind many pastors and churches of the importance of being civically informed and engaged. During every election cycle candidates for whatever office visit our churches and appeal to potential voters. Car windshields in the parking lots are covered with campaign literature or propaganda against contenders. Sometimes it feels as if churches are taken for granted…until election time. The fault lies not just with politicos; it also lies at the feet of pastors who don’t demand more from those offering themselves for elected office. Pastors are courted for their special prayers, votes, and full throated endorsements without promised accountability. Few pastors weigh the candidates’ visions, strategies, and histories before backing the man or woman of their choice.
I think it’s time for a paradigm shift here in Jackson. Not just in this special election, but for all future elections and the “in-between” times. Pastors and the people of God must demand more of ourselves and politicians so that persistent, measureable progress can be attained with moral convictions.
As a Christian leader, I am well aware that when we go to the polls we are not electing a pastor or bishop or denominational leader. I also know that pastoral involvement should in no way hinder the democratic expressions of candidates and our fellow citizens. Whoever our elected officials are, they must represent all Jacksonians regardless of color, class or creed. Nonetheless the Church is to be salt and light and seek the common good for all the city. In many ways we preachers and parishioners have failed to be that both in the past and presently. We must confess our sins and seek the Lord’s mercy.
My prayer is that pastors going forward will seek candidates who will represent and be accountable to more than a popularity vote or to assurances of prestige and political access. Pastors and politicians who desire to serve the capital city must be held to high standards of transformational servant leadership. This means that we must love the people more than we love position and power, and that we must lead them from a place of service and not selfish gain. Since the mayoral election is coming up April 8, I think it’s fitting to offer how I think each candidate in this and future races should align themselves to virtues essential to public servanthood.
Integrity and Independence
Our next mayor must be a man or woman with deep moral conviction, unbought and unbossed by idolatrous corporate and/or political interests, and whose personal and professional life will not come to bring reproach and shame on our city. He or she must be a principled servant leader and have a trustworthy track record of doing the right thing, even when it costs them transient pleasure or power. They must answer ultimately to the higher power and a higher good, thereby not betraying the people she or he is privileged to serve.
Imagination and Innovation
Our next mayor must be maladjusted with the status quo of previous generations, possess the capacity for long range strategic visioning, and be daring enough to take necessary calculated risks that will bless every ward of our city. He or she must demonstrate an ability to communicate compelling vision where average citizens are central and excellence is always the minimum standard; and have the innovative perception to collaboratively realize such visions through corresponding policies, programs, and practices that support and sustain equitable economic growth and opportunity for everyone.
Intelligence and Insight
Our next mayor must be well read and well informed both of comprehensive city affairs and of state, national and global opportunities and threats. He or she must have considerable business acumen, fiscal dexterity, and a depth of knowledge concerning the dynamic functions of government and how efficiency and progressive public policies can improve our citizens’ quality of life. But he or she mustn’t simply accumulate information— she or he must know how to interpret and glean wisdom from it. Lastly, he or she must already show he or she can surround himself or herself with a competent team of wise and just advisors, while also being humble enough to actively listen to dissenting voices and disinherited citizens.
Inspiration and Industriousness
Our next mayor must be an ambassador and champion able to inspire citizens to civic hope and action both in his or her word and deed. They must already have put some work in, demonstrating they rallied diverse and dedicated coalitions that get righteous things done. Additionally, they must be capable of brokering the necessary yet virtuous partnerships within and beyond the city that will be catalytic for further positive movement and development throughout Jackson.
Inclusion and Impartiality
Our next mayor must be confident in his or her values system representing the concerns and yearnings of a religiously, racially, economically, ideologically, and politically diverse city. She or he must be aware of the enduring legacy of racial and economic injustice and hold precious the concerns of the materially and spiritually impoverished. They must be fair and just in their decisions and visioning so that all Jacksonians— especially the least of these— can flourish.
The man or woman who possesses these qualities is best prepared to progressively lead our city; best able to cast an aspirational vision through whose fulfillment all wards prosper; and best accountable to the people she or he serves and not the vices of power, privilege, and position.
May the Lord lead us in our discernment and may God grant us the right leader for such a time as this.
Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all we can ask or think according to the power at work in us, be glory in the Church and in our capital city. Amen!