Spiritual Shape Shifting – Christian Leadership in an Amoral Society


Introduction

“…the moral elements are among the most important in war. They constitute the spirit that permeates war as a whole, and at an early stage they establish a close affinity with the will that moves and leads the whole mass of force, practically merging with it, since the will is itself a moral quantity. Unfortunately they will not yield to academic wisdom. They cannot be classified or counted. They have to be seen or felt.”

–Carl von Clausewitz

On War

The value system of American society has become increasingly more relaxed towards the rights and freedoms of individual citizens in establishing and living by their own values. “Morality” has become a dirty word in many societal circles as criteria for determining right and wrong. Leaders sometimes avoid spiritual discussion asserting that it does not impact effectiveness. We can certainly desire only to be effective leaders and describe and justify those traits that will lead to effective leadership. But if that is all we aim for, then we have removed the moral component out of that description and we should not pretend that the resulting traits are ethical. ‘The ends do not always justify the means.’

It is not sufficient that we allow our success to determine what the core morals are. This is because the way we act largely determines the kind of people we become. Since dishonest people and criminals do not live the good life, it would be irrational to act in such a way to become such a person. Leaders require integrity, discipline, accountability, commitment, innovation, and intelligence to inspire and direct others to achieve goals. While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, nor a complete account of the leadership values, it does illustrate how one can derive and justify relevant virtues.

Leadership versus Management

“Leadership is a function, not a position.” (Lewis, 1996) There is a continuing controversy about the difference between leadership and management. It is possible that a person can be a leader without being a manager (e.g., an informal leader), and a person can be a manager without leading, or manage without subordinates (e.g., a manager of financial accounts). Nobody has proposed that managing and leading are equivalent, but the degree of overlap has been a point of sharp disagreement. The essence of this argument seems to be that managers are oriented toward stability and leaders are oriented toward innovation; managers get people to do things more efficiently, whereas leaders get people to agree about what things should be done.

The current research in leadership is overflowing with books describing the virtues of leadership. Recent authors include Stephen Covey, Principle Centered Leadership (1991); John Kotter, On What Leaders Really Do (1999); Phillip Lewis, Transformational Leadership (1996); Aubrey Malphurs, Being Leaders (2003); and John Maxwell, Developing the Leader within You (1993) to name a few. The argument with the most merit was John Kotter (1988), that “leading and managing are distinct processes…” and that to label people as either leaders and/or managers does little to advance our knowledge or understanding of leadership.

“The word ‘manager’ is an occupational title for a large number of people and it is insensitive to use the term in a way that fosters an inaccurate, negative stereotype of them.” (Yukl, 1998) Leaders and managers are not different types of people but rather the same people in different situations or processes. After reading Kotter, Yukl, Covey, Lewis, Malphurs, Maxwell, and the biographies of military leaders from throughout the ages, the conclusion seems very clear. While the models that examine leadership principles may change, these principles are timeless; this includes moral dimensions. “…leaders who know God and who know how to lead in a Christian manner will be phenomenally more effective in the world than even the most skilled and qualified leaders who lead without God. Spiritual Leadership is not just for Pastors and Missionaries.” (Blackaby, 2001)

Core issue: Moral, Immoral, or Amoral

“The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.”

–Sun Tzu

The Art of War

“Morality is a complex system of principles based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which an individual determines whether his or her actions are right or wrong.” (Wikipedia, 2005) For many individuals, morality is influenced, to a large degree, by religion or theology; but for others, secular and ethical codes are also followed. Religions typically hold that morality is not a human construct, but is the work of God. Such as in the Judeo-Christian religions, the Ten Commandments is held to have been issued directly to mankind by God. Non-religious individuals justify morality on the basis that helping humanity is itself fundamentally ‘good’ and base morality on humanitarian principles.

“Immoral” refers to “a person or behavior that is self-consciously within the scope of morality but does not abide by its rules.” (Wikipedia, 2005) The thief would agree that stealing is wrong but inconsistently try to excuse his particular act and shoulder the blame onto others by saying that he had no choice and so on. In day-to-day conversations, “amoral” and “immoral” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, “Amoral” must be distinguished from “immoral” in that “amoral persons either do not possess ethical notions at all as a result of an unusual upbringing or inborn traits (such as the so-called Antisocial personality disorder) or else do not subscribe to any moral code.” (Wikipedia, 2005) Someone may maintain that he will do as he likes and let others do the same, if they so desire, without turning this into a general principle. Because whoever says so only expresses his personal preference about the way he is going to act, the position is consistent.

Many organizations focus more on ethics rather than morals. Ethics is an intellectual approach to moral issues that asks questions such as how one ought to behave in a specific situation (for example, is abortion morally permissible?) Wether or not the claim necessitates a specific ethical stance is a matter of debate. As stated earlier, contemporary American society encourages members of its diverse population to establish their own values which leads to cultural relativism. “Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual human’s beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture.” (Wikipedia, 2005) What follows is that a particular aspect of morality may be questioned or reasoned away, especially by younger generations in society. At times, this questioning extends to the society in general, even to the extent of liberalising laws which prohibited certain behaviors. Such as in the case of abortion, it’s her body or in the case of same sex marraiges, it not my business who marries who. Cultural Relativism also leads to a culture’s justification of immoral beliefs. Such as in the case of racial slurs; ‘It’s fine for blacks to use derragatory words towards other blacks in casual conversations or music videos but it’s wrong for a person of another race to do so.

US Military Value System

“If the theory of war did no more than remind us of these [moral] elements, demonstrating the need to reckon with and give full value to moral qualities, it would expand its horizon, and simply by establishing this point of view would condemn in advance anyone who sought to base an analysis on material factors alone.”

–Carl Von Clausewitz

On War

The US military has a responsibility to itself and society to set and adhere to high moral standards. This requires the kind of moral courage that is critical to successful leadership. It also models a healthy value system for a society that may be in danger due to its own abandonment of such traditional values. The military value system is based almost entirely on the laws that govern it, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ applies to all branches of the military including the Coast Guard. Most of the issues covered in the UCMJ include: bringing cases to military courts, the different types of court-martial, treatment and apprehension of prisoners, and the trial process. Additionally, rules and regulations govern military behavior and standards of conduct. It is the very nature of military leadership to promote virtuous behavior for themselves and those who follow rather than passively follow the crowd that is liberalizing its values to accommodate contemporary social trends.

The professional military leader is stuck in the middle of this conflict between traditional and contemporary values, on one hand being a member of a dynamic society, and on the other hand called to lead in an establishment steadfast on traditional moral principles. But you may have noticed that people with military experience have certain intangible qualities. Things like self–confidence, pride and a sense of purpose. The military instills these qualities in enlistees because it makes them good people. By embodying such core values as Honor, Courage and Commitment; men and women build character and confidence, develop strong team skills, and learn to accept responsibility and accountability for personal actions. In the Navy, for instance, the same bedrock principles or core values of honor, courage, and commitment have carried on to today since the naval service began during the American Revolution.


Military Perspective on Homosexuality

The military law expressed in the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) and Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is clear on the US military’s view of homosexual behavior. UCMJ Article 125, Sodomy, declares: “Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.” The MCM provides a detailed description of what it considers “unnatural copulation” that clearly addresses the sex acts of homosexuality. It sets the maximum punishment for guilt of this offense as dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement from 5 years up to life (depending on whether the act is consensual and whether the act is committed with a child). This is just one of many longstanding provisions of military law based on moral acts. Many would argue that the Department of Defense (DOD) policy on homosexuals in the military called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has weakened the military’s position on this issue.

By citing homosexual behavior as an illegal act, military law makes a strong value judgment of its unacceptability. Moreover, by describing this conduct as an “unnatural” act, the UCMJ and MCM make a moral determination that homosexuality itself is wrong. Indeed, there is no mention in the UCMJ Article 125 or in the applicable MCM provision of the need to prove a negative influence of this activity on order, discipline, or image of the armed forces. Conduct of the act alone is enough to constitute guilt. There is a historical moral basis of condemning homosexuality in the American society, leading me to conclude that this value judgment is also based on traditional moral principles, such as those found in the bible: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman.” (Leviticus 18:22, KJV)

American Societal Value System

“America today is in a virtue deficit where our standards of right and wrong have become increasingly hazy. Out of this haze have arisen great problems within our society including: hostility towards organized religion, sexual exploitation, the homosexual agenda, the demise of the family, and the culture of death.”

–Gary Bauer

President, American Values.org

Similar to the military value system, most of what American society believes to be right and wrong (i.e. morals) is defined by our laws. Centuries ago, our Founders boldly proclaimed to the world a distinctly American faith in democracy; a faith rooted in the self-evident truths that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator”, this statement alone denotes Judeo-Christian roots.

‘Public Agenda’ is an organization that was founded to help our nation’s leaders better understand the public’s point of view as well as assist citizens in understanding critical policy issues. In 2002, Public Agenda conducted a detailed study of more than 1,600 American parents with children between the ages of 5 and 17. The study focused on a preeminent challenge of parenting: “how to raise children who grow up to be responsible, honest, humane, and considerate adults.” This study carefully looked at issues facing today’s families and the task of raising children of good character. “From every direction, today’s popular culture seems bent on emphasizing the violent, irresponsible, and squalid aspects of life. Nearly half of parents (49%) say they worry more about raising a child who is well-behaved and has good values, than about providing for their child’s health and physical well-being (23%), although a quarter (25%) of parents say they worry about both.” (Johnson, 2002) These statistics are a testament to the impact of a decaying moral society that has abandoned its traditional value system.

American Societal Perspective on Homosexuality

The American society’s position on homosexuality has changed dramatically. Laws against sodomy in this country go back to the American colonies, which enacted strict prohibitions against homosexual acts based on the strong influence of Christian colonists. In recent years, homosexuals and lesbians have demanded that people accept their sexual orientation as an “alternate lifestyle.” In 2003, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court verdict overturned all remaining sodomy laws in the United States in Lawrence v. Texas. The court exclaimed:

“A law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the State’s moral disapproval of that class and the conduct associated with that class runs contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause, under any standard of review.”

Homosexuals also demanded that benefits be given to “domestic partners” and that we accept gay marriages. Business structures are at the forefront of submitting to the demands of gay men and women. “Approximately 45% of companies within the Fortune 500 offered domestic partner benefits and nine of the top ten companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.” (Wikipedia, 2005) The gay rights movement has led to changes in social acceptance and in the media portrayal of the gay community. The portrayal of homosexuality in the media reflects and guides societal attitudes towards homosexuality. Significant portrayals of homosexuality include television shows that glamorize homosexuality such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer as Folk, and Will and Grace. Homosexuality is just one aspect of where American societal values have changed due to a spiritually amoral stance on leadership values.

Conclusion

“He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil—this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied and water will not fail him”. (Isaiah 33:15-16, KJV)

While this study has shown the lack of popularity in contemporary society of addressing morality, it has also cited sources that argue that the moral dimension is critical. Moral strength is essential to successful leadership, as well as to the health of a nation. It is critical that today’s Christian leaders prepare themselves to deal with the value systems clash described in this paper. The US military and the American society is just one example of the moral standards gap, and it appears to be widening. As members of society and those called to lead a young generation, it is probable that leaders will have ample opportunity to demonstrate the importance of moral leadership. I believe that the Christian leaders have an obligation to challenge this moral dilemma. Giving extra care to their moral foundation, moral leaders should reinforce the moral value system that made this country strong.

Glossary

Amorality. The quality of having no concept of right or wrong. (i.e., morally neutral.)

Cultural relativism. The principle that an individual human’s beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture.

Ethics. A general term for what is often described as the “science (study) of morality”. In philosophy, ethical behavior is that which is “good” or “right.” The Western tradition of ethics is sometimes called moral philosophy.

KJV. King James Version (of The Holy Bible).

Military law. The statutes governing the military establishment and regulations issued to carry them out. In a limited sense, the term has been equated with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM).

Morality. System of principles based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which an individual determines whether his or her actions are right or wrong.

Moral Relativism. The position that moral propositions do not reflect absolute or universal truths. It not only holds that ethical judgments emerge from social customs and personal preferences, but also that there is no single standard by which to assess an ethical proposition’s truth.

Sociology. The study of the social lives of humans, groups, and societies, sometimes defined as the study of social interactions.

Sociological perspective. A point of view that focuses not on individuals but their group, or society. In that perspective, human social structures, including cultural and governmental institutions and behaviors can be explained using social facts or social forces.

Values. A set of beliefs and ideas about general concepts.

Value system. The ordering and prioritization of the ethical and ideological values that an individual or society holds.

Virtue. The habitual, well-established, readiness or disposition of man’s powers directing them to some goodness or act. Virtue is moral excellence of a man or a woman. The four classic Western “cardinal” virtues are: prudence/wisdom, justice, fortitude/courage, temperance.

Bibliography

10 USC Chapter 47 (2001). Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

American Psychological Association (2001) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th Edition. American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.

Bauer, G. (2005) Statement on Culture & Religion. American Values.org retrieved electronically on May 10, 2005 at [http://www.ouramericanvalues.org/issues_culture.php].

Blackaby, H. and Blackuby, R. (2001) Spiritual Leadership: Moving People onto God’s Agenda. Broadman and Holman Publishers. Nashville, Tennesee.

Griffith, S. B. (2003). Sun Tzu. The Art of War, Translated by Samuel B. Griffith. Running Press Book Publishers; Miniatures edition.

Howard, M. (1984) Carl Von Clausewitz. On War, Translated by Michael Howard. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ.

Johnson, J. (2002). What Parents are Saying about TV Today. A report from Public Agenda for the Family Friendly Programming Forum.

Kotter, J. (1988). The Leadership Factor. Reed Business Information Inc. Waltham, Massachucets.

Lawrence et. al. v. Texas (June 26, 2003) Syllabus, majority opinion, concurrence, and dissents. Entire 52-page written document compilation. http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-102.ZO.html.

Lewis, P. V. (1996) Transformational Leadership: A New Model for Total Church Involvement. Broadman & olman Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee.

Malphurs, A. (2003). Being Leaders. The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Manual for Courts-Martial (2002). Includes amendments dated April 11, 2002.

Wikipedia (2005). Homosexuality. Retrieved electronically from Wikipedia (Web based, free content encyclopedia) on May 09, 2005 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality.

Yukl, G. (1998). Leadership in Organizations, 4th Edition. Prentice-Hall

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Kenneth Rice


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