Professor offers perspectives on faith and leadership

Boaz Johnson

Boaz Johnson participates in Northeastern Illinois University's Annual Interfaith Conference

CHICAGO, IL (November 26, 2008) – The relationship between faith and leadership was the topic of Northeastern Illinois University’s 10th Annual Interfaith Conference on Wednesday, November 12. North Park University professor and chair of biblical and theological studies Boaz Johnson along with leaders and professors representing a variety of religious groups across the Chicago area were invited to participate in panel discussions, which took place on Northeastern’s campus one week after the historic national election.

Johnson was asked to address the dynamic between faith and leadership from a Christian perspective, highlighting principles exemplified by the life of Jesus. Other religious leaders addressed the issue from their religious perspectives, including Zoroastrian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh.

An effective Christian politician and leader must be a strong imitator of Jesus, Johnson asserted in his presentation. The modernistic philosophy that has asked people to eschew religion when they enter the political arena has only produced what he calls “schizophrenic leaders,” who ultimately exhibit weak leadership.

“Leaders in recent times who have claimed to be Christian leaders have shown what I call ‘window dressing’ Christianity, “ notes Johnson. Many, he says, have only touched on very superficial aspects of faith instead of following the example that Christ himself provides. Christ-like, prophetic leadership requires vulnerability, Johnson explains, but ultimately promotes reconciliation.

He used Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4 as a biblical model for reaching out to outsiders in order to bring about social, economic, and spiritual healing. In spite of his elevated status as a Jewish rabbi, Jesus chose to engage with one of society’s outcasts—a divorced Samaritan woman with a checkered past and questionable moral convictions. Johnson suggested that President-elect Barak Obama will have to navigate through similar cultural complexities as he engages with global society.

Now an American citizen participating in the U.S. political process, Johnson also emphasized that Christians should avoid a partisan mentality. “The work of prophetic Christianity is to incisively diagnose the problems of society from a biblical perspective—not from a Republican or Democratic perspective,” he clarifies. Avoiding these biases, Johnson says, would give Christians the ethos to speak to the leadership of both parties.

This year’s Interfaith conference was an excellent opportunity for Johnson to address what he sees as a relevant and critical topic for our nation and its leaders, raising important issues for the next generation to consider. Adds Johnson, “On the whole, I think it is crucial for North Park University to be involved in discussions and dialogues of this kind.”