Editorial comments abound on Obama and the Nobel Prize. The usual sneering from the right has been joined by disbelief from some of the more pacifist elements on the left. The president’s own most gracious words of self deprecating acceptance seem to have been lost in the babble. My own take goes in another direction. We just returned from several weeks traveling about Italy, Greece and Turkey, quite luxuriously I might add. I tried to poke my nose into the news about local politics and world opinions in the places we visited, and we found ourselves in the company of other tourists mostly from England, Canada and Australia who had a lot to say from their perspectives. Apparently the sun still never sets on the British Empire if one thinks of it as a river of English speaking tourists flowing around the world. But I digress. The point is that in every place there was renewed confidence in the United States as a respected nation of moral world leadership – not of world dominance but of moral world leadership. Obama is for them the symbol of that restoration. Whether earned or unearned is irrelevant. Our nation had become despised as just another corrupt super power. All of that has changed in slightly less than a year. To be sure, public opinion is fickle and all could turn again in a moment, but I believe that it also indicates how important moral world leadership is.
Now, here is the question. Why is the Christian Church not a symbol of moral world leadership? Why is Christianity, as an ideal, not a symbol of moral world leadership? Do we have to wait generations for the occasional Mother Teresa or Bishop Tutu to arise as moral world leaders? Are such Christian saints that rare? Is the institutional church incapable of that sort of leadership?