I’ve heard it said that the Creator in his infinite wisdom chose the Cree leaders and that we should respect his or her choice. Several people, in letters-to-the-editor and in public meetings, have offered this view.

I have a few problems with that idea. First and foremost, it negates free will. We are supposed to have the freedom to choose between good and evil, or, in Christian terms, to have the choice to be damned or saved. If God choose for us, then free will is out the window and everything is predetermined. So it wouldn’t really matter what we do. God would have already chosen those who will go to hell those destined for heaven before we are even born. Life in this scenario would just be a cosmic joke.

Secondly, it supposes that each and every decision the leaders make is made with the Creator’s blessing and we should not question it. Once again, this goes against free will and suggests that anyone given a special mandate or mission to fulfill becomes an infallible superman or woman. Is this really how we believe the Creator works in people’s lives?

Let us consider the question in terms of world leaders. Do we maintain that all world leaders are chosen by the Creator? If not, then this presupposes that we Crees are chosen by the Creator as his special people. A nice thought, but why are we so special? Is there a godliness about the Cree no other peoples have? If we think this then it implies a form of superiority, which in turn leads to racism. If the Creator singled out the Cree, it follows that all other peoples are inferior and should come under our rule. I don’t believe this and I don’t think Crees would be that racist.

If we follow the thinking that leaders are chosen by God, then all leaders in this world, whether political or spiritual or both, must also have been chosen by the Creator. If this is so, then to explain such leaders as Hitler, or the Rev. Jim Jones, who led his whole community to perform mass suicide with poison kool-aid, we must surely say that some leaders are chosen to test us and our free will. Otherwise the Creator would be more of a devil, considering some of the leaders we have seen on this planet. If such leaders are indeed chosen to test us, that leaves us with two possiblilities: we may choose to follow our leaders no matter what – even where their leadership leads to evil and death -to the peril of our immortal souls. Or, is it that we are being asked to respond by questioning our leaders, as often as we feel necessary, to test how well we are using our great gift of free will? This second possibility reminds us of the role of the community, and of the voice of each of its members in affirming or challenging the decisions and authority of its leaders. This is more in keeping with the traditional democratic voice that Crees have always used in community decision-making.

Thirdly, we must ask whether we are confusing different concepts of leadership when we talk about our political leaders as “chosen” by our Creator. Religious leaders may experience a “call” before becoming priests or ministers. It is a rare woman or man who can honestly say she or he has heard the Creator say in a vision, “I want you to run for chief or band councilor.” The only leader of a people I’ve heard of who received a vision from the Creator was Moses. As Moses stood before the burning bush, the Creator told him to return to Egypt and free his people. He also went up Mount Sinai and spent forty days in closed conference with the Creator to receive the Ten Commandments. His reign as leader was marked by the Creator in the form of a staff being turned into a snake, plagues, the parting of the Red Sea and other biblical happenings. I must say that none of these signs has been evidenced by any of the Cree leadership to date. So until I see the Creator give such evidence that the Cree leadership is indeed chosen by the Creator and not by ballot, then I must disagree with this doctrine of infallibility.

Indeed, it could be said that it is through the wise partnership and responsibility of a community and its leaders that the Creator gives us the gift of healthy leadership – and this can only come where the voice of every member of the community is heeded and the ears and eyes of every leader are open to the concerns of the people. Just take a look at what happens when King David loses sight of this. This is where David is smitten with Bathsheba and sets up her husband to be killed in battle. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, read 1 Samual 11 & 12. Fortunately, the prophet Nathan has the courage to tell a story that shows him the error of his ways, and David has the humility to pay attention.

And lastly, on a ligher note, I know the Cree leadership can walk on water, but let’s see you do it in the summertime and I’ll be a believer.