I just finished viewing “An Unreasonable Man,” a documentary on Ralph Nader. The title comes from the words of George Bernard Shaw – “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
No doubt, if these are the terms, Nader is the Unreasonable Man. I remember my first exposure to Nader. He spoke at Old Dominion University in 1968, the second semester of my freshman year. He was all fire and zeal, and filled with more where that came from. He combined facts, rhetoric and integrity as a force of nature. I listened but probably not well enough. He deserved more support than he received.
A couple of things stand out in my mind. One, he bought a lifetime supply of shoes from an Army-Navy store. Simple, inexpensive, and without wasting time on unimportant things. The second was that he chose not to marry for the purpose of focus on his mission. He chose not to have a personal life outside of the crusade he had launched. Of course, it reminds me of Christ’s words about being a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom.
Much of the political world turned on Nader when he supposedly became a spoiler in the Bush v. Gore presidential election. The liberals turned on him viciously. He refused their money and influence bribes as well as the threats to turn on him. He refused and they did. Wow, did they ever. Liberals aren’t very tolerant on some things, like democracy! General Motors sought to entrap him in a sex scandal by paying women to seduce him. They weren’t successful. Much of what Nader has done in terms of consumer protection has been overshadowed by the election that was decided in favor of George Bush. But, as Nader said, he wasn’t doing what he was doing to have a legacy but to save lives.
It is hard not to think how so many of our church leaders could learn some lessons from Ralph Nader. Focus, focus, focus. So many of the things we take for granted today are signs that Nader has been on planet earth.