romney and the pharisee

Today’s gospel reading is the story of the woman ‘who was a sinner’. She crashed a Pharisee’s dinner party and began washing the feet of Jesus with her tears, and anointing them with fine oils. (Luke 7:36-50) Luke turns the spot-light onto the host, who cannot understand why Jesus would waste his time with this woman. Doesn’t he know who she is?

The Pharisees are portrayed in the gospels as self-righteous and judgmental souls. Their lives were focused on rules and regulations, easily measurable means of good and evil. Doctrinal blinders were screwed tightly onto their heads, blocking out the messy greyness of life. Grey is a nuisance, because it requires a radical paradigm shift from the much easier, black and white view of the world.

The leaked video of Mitt Romney addressing a $50,000 a plate GOP fundraiser have rightly sent out warning signals to voters, and have left Republican strategists scrambling into damage control mode. In the video, Romney characterized Obama supporters as,

There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.

The scary thing is that Romney is not apologizing for these words, even though commentators are pointing out the crass falseness of his statement. The 47% includes retired elders, who are now collecting the social security they have paid into all their working years. It includes the working poor, the under-employed and families raising children. It includes service women and men. AND, it includes millionaires with sufficient tax breaks to avoid paying taxes!

This video shows a man completely out of touch with the people that he wants to lead. Lead. Obviously not serve. Speaking to a room full of wealth, he projected an exclusivity and sense of entitlement that does not bode well for the common good…We are the rich and we have earned it. We did not and do not need anyone to help us. And, we do not want to help anyone else. Those who don’t pay taxes are lazy, dependent, victim-minded losers. And, we don’t need to waste our time with them.

The Pharisees were a self-righteous lot, too. They believed that they had earned God’s favor and looked down on those who had not attained their idea of holiness. They, themselves, were God’s chosen. The rest were unclean sinners. And they did not want to waste their time with them, either.

Doctrinal blinders or the blinders of wealth and privilege have no place in leadership. Yes we need doctrine, for it can provide a spiritual and moral foundation to our lives. And no, wealth in itself is not a sin. Money, when used wisely, can bring great good. But, we cannot be so focused on either that we forget to look outwards, beyond our cocoon of like-minded souls.

Leaders are called to serve all. Self-righteousness, sweeping judgments and exclusivity has no place in leadership.