Monday, November 9, 2009

The Crisis that is NZ Political Leadership

In my mind, NZ political leadership is under the microscope. First, we have the business of MP's housing expenses. MP's like deputy PM Bill English were exposed for rorting the system. Then, we have the problem of travel expenses with MP's like Chris Carter, Roger Douglas, Hone Harawira and Rodney Hide. These MP's and others have been exposed for taking spouses and partners on trips and turning them into junkets. The whole things smacks of corruption, even if it supposedly legitimised. Finally, we have the problem of Hone Harawira's email.
This email speaks of "white man bull****"; "white mother *******" who "have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries". It describes the rules of government expenses as "puritanical bull****."  He defends his right to take his wife with him on the basis of her years of support. Those of us who know our history, know that Maori have suffered greatly through colonisation. However, is this necessary?

Essentially we have on display in these MP's corruption and racist abuse.

Going further back we have a government that defies the majority of NZers over the anti-smacking legislation. Whatever you think about smacking, it is an arrogant and defiant government who, in a supposed democracy, flicks the bird at over 80% of its citizens.

If this is the standard of our politicians at the moment, we are in serious trouble. What we need is a new generation of NZ leaders who will lead with honesty and integrity. People who are statesmen and women, and can rise above such anger, abuse and who are determined not to rort the system. We need people who lead with grace, truth and wisdom.

The challenge for training institutions like Laidlaw College is to continue to increasingly become environments that equip people for the challenge. We have the greatest role models in Scripture to draw on: Jesus of course, Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, Timothy, Deborah, Moses, Abraham, David and more. In the history of God's people there have been many role models like Wilberforce and others. We must be inspired to take seriously the patterns of leadership laid down for us, take them into our churches, into our schools, into our communities, into our social clubs and into our parliament. We have to learn the art of servant-leadership and, taking up our crosses and towels, go into these hard places, and lead.

We have to do so humbly, without assumption of power, without resorting to the patterns of corruption and power-abuse which dominate our world. Sadly, our churches are not uncommonly led in false ways. Some have been in the news recently. We must go into a new era of determination to lead as Jesus' led.

I don't think NZ will change quickly. I think it will take years of faithful service from ministers in church and state (cf. Rom 13). It will be hard, as Christians learn how to be political while remaining principled. It might take a few generations. Some will be crucified along the way. Some will fall and fail. However, some will show the way. Let's not slip back into Christian ghettoism like "Christian" political parties, and get in amongst the big players in NZ politics. We must have generations of NZ Christians who, without resorting to moralism, bring true humanity into the public realm.

To be successful will take brilliance and much much more importantly, character. Character is the missing link in all of this. Character not to rort the system, even when it is "legal" to do so. Character not to resort to anger and abuse when one is challenged. Character to stand firm in one's faith, yet work with others of different views for the desired goal. Character to learn the art of debate without being defensive and retreating. Character to die for Jesus in the public realm. Character to lead not for popularity and pragmatism, but with humility and principle.

It is a supreme challenge, it is the narrow road. But with God, all things are possible.

All Blacks Starting to Look Good

Having flogged Graham Henry and his team for he last 2 years, I am getting really encouraged about the direction they are taking. They lost the last world cup in my view, because they had the wrong game plan for the top level. They continued to believe NZ could outrun every other nation with pace and flair. When they hit the finals stage of the World Cup, that style did not work. They lost an arm wrestle with France.

What I am seeing is that they are now starting to play the right game to win the tough ones. To win the big ones the All Blacks won't win with the free flowing game that we are used to. The fitness of the modern players and the rules mean that it is a kicking, forward and defence game. They thus need a ruthless, uncompromising pack that plays 80 minutes game after game relentlessly. They need to win the breakdown and have great set pieces. They need an inside back combination that can control the game. They need brilliant destructive defence. They need a great kicking game, especially goal kicking.

All the signs are there that they are getting it. The last three games have been excellent. We out muscled the Australians, and on Sunday morning, the Welsh. The Welsh can moan all they like, but they were lucky to get as close as they did. The disallowed tries could easily have been awarded, and the All Blacks would have won by 21 points. The second half was all the All Blacks and they were dominant. The pitch evened the teams out. The Welsh were pathetically negative when it came to kicking goals in the second half. They were not even trying to win, seeming to be satisfied with a draw. They completely over-rate themselves.

The All Blacks are tracking well. The weak spots to me are Tialata who lacks mobility. If Hayman comes back, or MacIntosh succeeds as a tighthead, this will strengthen us at tighthead. We are blessed at hooker and loosehead, Crockett was great. We have locks everywhere with Williams, Borich and Ross at home. Our loosies are a good unit now with Read and Kaino complementing McCaw, the best in the business, really well. I am not a Leonard fan, but Cowan and Carter are a great combination. Smith is now the best centre in the world. Guilford adds the sort of pace we need and should retain his spot. Muliaina is great and Jane is very good.

At home and not on tour there are a host of All Blacks like Mealamu, Borich, Mackintosh, Hosea Gear, Whitelock, Ali Williams, Weepu, de Malmanche, Lauaki, Elliot, Evans, Wulf, Masaga, Ross and Toeava. There are also some amazing players emerging like Sean Maitland, Granger, Heskith, I. Thompson, Cruden, Israel Dagg, Colin Bourke, Colin Slade, the Waldrons, Stephen Brett, Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Bekhuis and  David Smith among others.

So, things are looking good. The South Africans are peaking now, doing and AB's. We are building. If they get the selections right, a blend of the old and the new. And they peak right. And they get some luck... who knows, perhaps they have a chance in 2011.

One more thing. The attitude of the Welsh before the game talking themselves up, and then after the game whinging about the referee - when rubbish refereeing kept them in the game (3 disallowed tries, 2 of which should have been awarded) - is pathetic. They need humility. They are not as good as they think. You would imagine, after 56 years, they might have found humility and what it means to be a good loser. They are not good losers and they lack humility. When they find it, they might go to the next level.