Thursday, May 07, 2009

Loyalty, Disloyalty and Dissent

The May 11-18 issue of Newsweek has an essay and a book excerpt by Richard N. Haas, who worked in both Bush administrations. In the essay entitled "The Dilemma of Dissent," Haas acknowledges that dissent is sometimes seen as a sign of disloyalty by leaders, but he makes a case for the idea that that isn't necessarily the case.

Dissent has been hailed as noble and necessary by our leaders. None other than President Dwight Eisenhower said that Americans should "never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion." Fomer senator William J. Fulbright declared, "In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith."
He continues, on page 34:

Speaking truth to power is actually a form of loyalty. It is the best and at times only way to make sure that government (or any organization) lives up to its potential.
I agree; and I think that the aforementioned quotation would certainly be applicable to the local church (which would fall under the categorical heading of "any organization").

Pastors have a tendency to assume that criticisms of their policies or their actions are tantamount to attacks against them or their churches. But that's an unfair assumption to make, inasmuch such criticisms are sometimes motivated by a desire to see those churches and their pastors live up to their potential.

It's a shame that so many of our churches are led by egotistical pastors who act as if disagreement with them is synonymous with disagreement with God. There are exceptions, thankfully, but it seems to me on a purely subjective level (based on personal experiences) that such humble Christian leaders are getting harder and harder to find.

I remember one pastor saying the following from the pulpit, roughly 20 years ago (when I attended that pastor's church in southwest Missouri): "The church is not a democracy." That was his response to people who had the audacity to think that they ought to have a voice in church policies, in spite of the fact that they weren't part of that church's privileged "inner circle".

When he said that, I was tempted to reply, "No, but neither is it a dictatorship." I suspect (based on his leadership style) that if I had replied in that manner, he would have begged to differ.

Humility is an essential aspect of discipleship. How do such pastors expect to teach humility to others, if they do not lead by example?

No comments: