Which is better, an ideologue or a pragmatist? It depends who you ask, I guess. For some, if you don’t have ideals it doesn’t matter what you try to do you have no mooring. For others, if you can’t practically work things out it really doesn’t matter what you believe. Which is better? Again, it depends who you ask.
If you’re wondering why we need to even have this conversation it’s simply because we’re now at the center of a national shift in leadership from pure ideologue to pure pragmatist. If you’re trying to figure out why our nation is divided down the middle, this is it. Part of our country clinging tightly to a philosophy of government that most of our nation has never known. Then, another part of the nation scratching their collective heads wondering why none of these ideals seem to work—practically. (Of course, there’s a third part of our nation just wondering what the big-deal is as they watch it all happen but that’s a different conversation).
We’re now all waiting to see what happens in our nation. It’s probably anyone’s guess at this point, however, we all can learn something if we stop and think a little.
Ideology alone in leadership leads to a lot of failed programs. How do I know? Just look at the mess that is the Affordable Care Act. Driven by purely ideological elitists who think they know better than everyone what everyone actually needs. It’s a mess. Why? Because pure ideology cannot lead—it has no ability to do so. Pure ideology has great reasons to do things, at least in the ideologues mind, but in the end takes actions that at times seem quite unreasonable.
Pragmatism alone, however, is not the answer. Pragmatism without ideal blows with the winds of change and culture and tends not to be moored to much of anything. What does it look like when the leader of our nation is a pure pragmatist? We’re about to find out. The only thing we know is that our nation will now be led situationally. That is, what ever crisis’ arise, whatever economic changes occur, whatever international conflicts come calling, these are things that will decide the direction of our nation now.
Let me ask again—which is better the ideologue or the pragmatist?
For Christians and church leaders the dichotomy between ideology and pragmatism is nothing new. We’ve been dealing with it for years. Most of time, just as in our current political culture, those who argue each position lob psuedo-theological polemics at each other. The ideologue contends that pragmatism is evil and the pragmatist that the ideologue is at best out of touch and at worst completely incapable.
Those who are paying attention to truth, history, and theology, however, understand that there’s nothing more profitable than doing something and knowing the reason why. Without understanding why, the what doesn’t matter near as much.
In his younger years as a leader, King Solomon understood this well. As a matter of fact, he understood this truth just enough for it to scare him a little. That’s why, when it came time for him to make a request to God for what he felt he needed most to lead his people correctly, Solomon asked for wisdom. Not just wisdom, but “an understanding mind to govern [God’s] people” and the ability to “discern between good and evil.” Solomon asked for understanding and discernment. In other words, Solomon’s request to God was simply that in order to lead effectively he needed to know the “why.”
Knowing why is wisdom.
Wisdom is where knowledge meets ability. True wisdom has more than ideals, it knows what to do with them. If we want to see how that works, we need to look no further than the early life and reign of Solomon.
What’s the point?
Well, the point isn’t really about who’s president or even the hope that he may have the same conversation with God as Solomon did.
The point is this: God has given everyone one of us an incredible gift. It’s the same gift, though in different levels of gifting, that Solomon received—who was the wisest man who ever lived. We have the ability to know why. We have the opportunity in our day to day lives, when we lead our families, when we go to work, when we influence our neighbors, and when we lead our churches to know why we do what we do. We have a God-given gift to live both by ideal and practical application. Truth and practice.
Ideal without practice is simply a head-in-the-clouds daydream. Practice without underpinning belief miss reason and eventually results.
Here’s the question: Why do you do what you do? If you know the answer to that question then what you do each day, when moored to objective truth and grace, not only has purpose but is also practical. What you do matters. Why you do it matters too.
Which is better the ideologue or the pragmatist?