Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When youths are your leaders

" And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tender-hearted, and could not withstand them." - 2 Chronicles 13:7

Question: How old do you think "young and tender-hearted" Rehoboam was?

Answer: " for Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign" - 2 Chronicles 12:13.

According the word of God, Isaiah 3:4, being led by the young is a judgement of God upon a nation. " And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them." This ought to be obvious; younger people have less experience of life and of the world and of making mistakes. They can of course much better understand the points of view and experiences of people at different stages of life. Therefore when leadership is characterised by youth, something is wrong.

The last UK prime minister to win an election, Tony Blair, became an MP aged 29 and became prime minister aged 43. 43 is also the age of the two leaders of the two main opposition parties fighting the present election. Nick Clegg entered parliament aged 38, and David Cameron did at age 34. The present prime minister, Gordon Brown, entered parliament at age 32 and became shadow chancellor at age 38, then the real thing at 43. The present shadow chancellor is 38, having entered parliament a month after leaving his twenties. If David Cameron becomes the next prime minister, he will (all being well with his wife's pregnancy) be the third in a row to have shared 10 Downing Street with a baby.

In other words, these aren't one-offs; it's a trend. And the general opinion of the public is not that we are just blessed with an outstanding batch of prodigies; the public stock of politicians and their leadership is at a long-term low.

The Bible requires that church leaders prove themselves in their families, and particularly with their children; "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5). This does not necessarily mean that a church elder has to have grown up children; the fruits of parenting policy can be seen well before this. But the basic assumption is that nobody is entrusted with responsibility in a larger area of life who has not proven themselves in a smaller. The UK has 58 million citizens; it cannot be and is not (as can be seen by reading their biographies) true that its political leaders learnt and achieved more in the 10 or so years of adult life before entering parliament than many other people did in the, say, 35 years before reaching age 55 at which perhaps suitable political leaders would become clear. Remember: at 41, according to the Word of God, Rehoboam was a youth.

Of course, there are prodigies; Spurgeon was a pastor in his teens, and Calvin wrote the Institutes in his twenties. And of course age does not automatically bring wisdom or blessing - we'd surely choose all of the above politicians in preference to Robert Mugabe, for example. But the point is that such as Spurgeon and Calvin are prodigies. When youth leadership is the norm, you are not witnessing the unfolding of God's blessing, but his curse. And the fact that nobody comments on this phenomena or finds it remarkable (or even thinks it's good, which presumably we must do, as these people didn't become leaders without winning chains of popularity contests) shows how far the curse has gone. That is the situation that the UK presently finds itself in.

1 comment:

Ned Kelly said...

How very interesting, I had not previously thought on it thus, but the phenomenon is not unique to the UK, though perhaps the UK leaders are younger. What is even more curious, giving a counter intuitive slant, is that this is happening when the general age distribution is trending towards increasing age. Interesting that the politicians are less representative of the age demographic. This has been true in the past, but the other way around, but I wonder whether that was in any way a result of wars depleting the stocks of young men. The theological angle though is worth pondering.