Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Chris Vallotten - Transforming Culture

I have just listened to Kris Vallotton talking about leadership (Serpents and Doves) at Bethel Church in Redding CA. Using Daniel as an example, he said,

If you don’t have real signs and wonders, you will end up with picket signs.
That was good. Kris then talked about how Christians are called to influence nations and transform cultures. I really like the way he is getting stirred up about the Kingdom of God and is moving away from Jesus is Coming tomorrow escapism. He has some good great insights, even if he sometimes confuses the Kingdom of God with American culture. I am not too worried about that, because he is a man who listens to God and has a heart to go where he leads. He will eventually get there.

Kris has one important thing right.
Great leaders understand that real change can only take place when people are transformed from inside out, not from the outside in.
This quote is true and really important. Unfortnately Kris used the situation in Iraq to illustrate his teaching in this way.
The Iraqi war taught us the hard way that displacing an evil dictator is not nearly as hard as replacing him. We overthrew Saddam in thirty-seven days and declared victory on a battleship, but we have spent several more years and the lives of countless soldiers trying to establish democracy in a country that has only known tyranny for hundreds of years… Often people who are liberated after being controlled all their lives do not know how to behave in culture of freedom and soon create another prison for themselves.

We underestimated the nature of transformation. We thought that if we freed the people of Iraq, they would act free and they would want government that gave them choices. What we did not realise is that when people live under tyranny for generations, they know no other way. We underestimated what happens when a tyrant runs a country and people don’t get to think for hundreds of years. And suddenly you release people into governing themselves for themselves by themselves,
The first sentence of this quotation is true, but the rest of the quotation is quite patronising. Saying that the Iraqi people have not thought for a hundred years is unfair. I am sure they did a lot of thinking about what they wanted in place of Saddam Hussein. Some of their thinking is obvious.
  1. The Iraqis do not want a government imposed by an American invader. That is just swapping one tyranny for another. They do not want a president who is an American puppet. They want to choose their own method of government, whereas many American leaders assume that they know what is best for Iraq.
  2. The Iraqis want a government which is influenced by their religion. They do not want a secular government like the see in the United Sates. They see no evidence that America has worked out how to integrate church and state without the church becoming the handmaiden of the state. This is a challenging issue that Christians have not resolved yet. It is even more difficult when the boundaries of your nation include three strong and different religions. Democracy is not the solution, because it just results in one religion dominating the others. That is not what the people of Iraq want.
  3. A government that does not takes into account the strength of family and tribal relationships will not work in Iraq. Most Americans do not have a clue about how this could work. This is odd, because reading Deuteronomy, I find that God is really into tribal government. Democracy is not the solution, because it gives the largest tribe power to control all other tribes. This what Iraqis really fear and is the reason for much of the current fighting.
Kris tends to equate democracy and freedom.
Democracy emerges out of the Judeo Christian ethic, which values freedom above religion and highly esteems religion over control. The highest core value of democracy is a freedom that transfers power from a dictatorship to the people. The greatest challenge of freedom is teaching people who lived in virtual slavery how to make healthy choices for themselves by themselves. Free citizens are given the right and the responsibility to make up their own minds, to decide who is going to lead them and to vote for laws that will guide their society.
Freedom is not the same as democracy. Hitler was elected to power in a democracy. In a tribal culture, democracy destroys freedom by giving one tribe dominance over all others. America has democracy, but is losing freedom as people look to the government to free them from the credit crunch. Many Americans will choose political slavery for the sake of economic prosperity.

Kris then makes this great statement.
You can bomb people into submission, but people are actually changed from the inside out. You do not transform people by scaring them into a new behaviour. The greatest battle is not being fought in the streets of Baghdad, but is being waged on the battlefield of men’s hearts. The future of Iraq will be determined by the culture that is cultivated inside the souls of people.
Unfortunately, because the American military and political leadership assume they know best, they want to graft American democracy into Iraq. I suspect that they are incapable of helping the Iraqis develop a culture of government that will work in their environment.

Kris does understand the keys to changing culture.
When you love your enemies, you destroy your enemies. We went into Iraq, and capture Iraq, but we have not captured their hearts yet. The battle for Iraq or Afghanistan will not be won on the streets of their cities. The real battle is on the road to their hearts.
Having said this he still supports the war in Iraq, presumably because he thinks it necessary to protect America from terrorism (which is surprising given that the 9/11 was mostly organised in Hamburg Germany).

Kris ends with four strategic keys. Here are three.
We can stand strong in integrity without putting it on everyone else. Daniel did not make the king eat vegetables. He did not mock meat eaters. You can keep your own convictions and be a message instead of preaching a message that is not really a message at all.

You can honour people without agreeing with them. When people know you value them, you can influence them.

The world has heard our message. They are waiting for us to become it.

Daniel rocked ancient Babylon. He did not beat them with military might. Instead four boys tore down Babylon from the inside out.
Good stuff. Let’s start doing it.

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