While cases of sexual misconduct and moral lapses by clergy do grab the headlines in a nation with a voyeuristic appetite for scandal and hypocrisy among church leaders, the church itself needs to learn from those stories of how secular and civil leaders are brought down by moral scandals. The church assumes the right to make moral proclamations to the nation, but then views the moral lapses of its own leaders as personal failings but not as public spectacles. Civil leaders on the other hand, in an extrovert driven culture, are always public spectacles and so their personal moral failures are always viewed as of public interest. Which is why leadership moral lapses by church leaders are viewed by the public as particularly heinous hypocrisy and certainly are considered fair game for how the public should judge the church’s moral authority as a whole.
John Baldoni writing in the WASHINGTON POST suggests If David Petraeus Wrote a Book On Leadership (30 Nov 2012) it should address “how a leader can recognize when he is too full of himself, and too tempted by indulgence, that it harms not only his character but also the organization’s.”
Baldoni says leaders need some lessons in how to deal with temptation, because for leaders temptation turns out not just to be personal but impacts an entire organization. He says:
“Every human being is at some point tempted to do things that aren’t right. But when such temptation comes to a leader, its lure may be more potent and its effect, if indulged, more catastrophic. The result is often a loss of that trust, which was the very source of leverage the leader had to get things done in an organization.”
Trust is the true power that leaders have. In a meritocracy, that trust is earned, and it can be lost. Some however in positions of hierarchical power forget that trust is earned and they assume the power they have is despotic and so can never be challenged let alone taken away from them. Baldoni continues:
“When people rise to positions of authority, they grow accustomed to having things their way. One of the unfortunate effects of this is that they often develop a soft spot for flattery and a blind spot for criticism and warnings.”
His warning is certainly echoed by many things one can read in THE PHILOKALIA.
It is interesting in the church that often those in power want the authority of the Apostle Peter – the rock upon whom they believe the church is built. They see this power as being unquestionable and that it gives them the right to lord it over others. Yet, Peter was not the disciple whom Jesus loved who laid close to his breast. The beloved disciple was the youngest of the Twelve, the least of the brethren in an age conscious hierarchical society.
There are many signs of power in the church, not all of them are under a Byzantine miter. There is the power to bind and loose, to forgive, to show mercy to Christ in the least of His brothers and sisters, to heal the sick, to evangelize, to speak in tongues, to prophesy, to teach, to administer, to bring people to repentance, to drive out demons and especially to love.
In THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, Dostoyevsky contrasts the power of the Grand Inquisitor to intimidate and cower people with the power of Christ to love and raise the dead. Both had power, and the people certainly feared the power of the Grand Inquisitor which was real – the power to arrest and imprison Christ. It is the power of secular Rome. It was not however the power of eternity or of divinity. That was found only in the love of Christ.
Power corrupts, they say. Power also weakens, for it lays us open to more temptations. While, like the famous butterfly effect of chaos theory, each sin committed by any Christian causes the whole body to suffer, the sins of leadership are exponentially more destructive in their effect on the entire Body. Good reason for church leaders to have a real sense of what power and powers they have access to as they endeavor to lead by example in the church.