A Culture of Cowardice (part nine)

In this series, we’re examining a culture of cowardice that, in my view, seems to saturate much of the American Church—contributing to our diminishing influence in society.

Consider how often we cover up truth when a Christian leader falls.

For several decades now, we in the Church routinely sweep these humiliations under the rug: the priest is relocated to a new parish, the pastor takes a seminary position, the missionary goes on furlough, and the youth leader enrolls in graduate school.

Those close enough to the transgression to have been among the collateral damage just leave…the church…the faith…and our stand for liberating truth. [John 8:32]

Paul counsels Timothy against favoritism in leading the church and administering discipline.

And yet, isn’t that exactly what we’re doing?

14 pablumYears ago, I learned about an egregious ethical compromise by a nationally visible leader with whom I worked. My attempts to influence a correction were thwarted, so I resigned. The public explanation the leader provided was typical of the positive-sounding pablum of most such announcements. It said … nothing.

And, saying nothing, it succeeded in communicating one clear message: “You are not getting the truth.”

So, when people close to the situation asked why I’d resigned, I told them. I shared my errors in judgment, my failure to act years before when prompted by God: the ways my cowardice contributed to the leader’s collapse. And, I shared, honestly as I know, what this respected leader had done.

No cover up.

Full disclosure.

14 lightWhen we claim to be “children of light” and switch off the light when what it reveals is unpleasant or uncomely or uncomfortable… are we not hypocrites?

In a way, aren’t we strengthening the darkness? Doesn’t the darkness thicken when the Church fails to stand as light in life?

Paul, to the church in Ephesus wrote: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them… But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.” [Eph 5:8-14]

Living in a Culture of Cowardice, we find it awkward to expose darkness the way Paul instructs. Orienting ourselves around the least mature, our response to moral failure is to go easy on the fallen leader. We tell ourselves that the “restoration” of the fallen leader is most important. So we keep the indiscretion secret. We keep it in the dark.

Paul didn’t see it that way.

In the business of making mature disciples, courageous leaders will mourn with those who fall and warn everyone else, lest we disavow the truth we profess by the way we lead…and undermine Christ’s message to the world.

Clear?