Whistleblowers and Churchgrowers?
Last week Time magazine presented their Persons of the year award. Sherron Watkins (Enron), Coleen Rowley (FBI) and Cynthia Cooper (WorldCom) got the award. Here is an excerpt of the article:
These women were for the 12 months just ending what New York City fire fighters were in 2001: heroes at the scene, anointed by circumstance. They were people who did right just by doing their jobs rightly—which means ferociously, with eyes open and with the bravery the rest of us always hope we have and may never know if we do. Their lives may not have been at stake, but Watkins, Rowley and Cooper put pretty much everything else on the line. Their jobs, their health, their privacy, their sanity—they risked all of them to bring us badly needed word of trouble inside crucial institutions. Democratic capitalism requires that people trust in the integrity of public and private institutions alike. As whistle-blowers, these three became fail-safe systems that did not fail. For believing—really believing—that the truth is one thing that must not be moved off the books, and for stepping in to make sure that it wasn’t, they have been chosen by TIME as its Persons of the Year for 2002.
We desperately need some whistleblowing in the church of Christ! These women reminded me of Paul and his exploits. One day he confronted one of the ‘pillars’ of the church, Peter. Unflinching he challenged him on his dubious practices :
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? Gal 2:11-14
The Trio who were named Newsmakers of the year, got the award for something that should be ‘normal’. Unfortunately we have drifted so far in our image and status infected society that we do not challenge wrongdoings! To quote from the article again:
In early December TIME brought all three together in a Minneapolis hotel room. Very quickly it became clear that none of them are rebels in the usual sense. The truest of true believers is more like it, ever faithful to the idea that where they worked was a place that served the wider world in some important way. But sometimes it’s the keepers of the flame who feel most compelled to set their imperfect temple to the torch. When headquarters didn’t live up to its mission, they took it to heart. At Enron the company handed out note pads with inspiring quotes. One was from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Watkins saw that quote every day. Didn’t anybody else?
– The church is the pillar of truth (or it is supposed to be that), it is time to burn some temple baby.
– Are we living up to our mission, the one Christ our Shepherd gave us?
All the scandals in corporate America were, to tell the truth – shocking this year! Thank God we are part of the church of Christ. Then again if all we are doing is based on what corporate America is doing then Enron and WorldCom might be an unwelcome blueprint of what is to come. Scary thought. If on the other hand we follow God’s instructions for preparing His bride, then we might have the relationships and accountability in place to prevent the prolonged deception. One of God’s instructions is an elder led church. A group of godly men giving leadership to a community – keeping ego and other vices in check. When I read this part of the interview I shivered:
TIME: Would any of you go back and change anything you did?
WATKINS: I wouldn’t not do it. [But] what I really failed to grasp was the seriousness of the emperor-has-no-clothes phenomenon. I thought leaders were made in moments of crisis, and I naively thought that I would be handing [Enron chairman] Ken Lay his leadership moment. I honestly thought people would step up. But I said he was naked, and when he turned to the ministers around him, they said they were sure he was clothed.
TIME: What would you have done if you had known?
WATKINS: I would have gone to the board.
TIME: Would it have made a difference?
WATKINS: There’s a slim chance Enron might not have imploded. It’s hard to say. People are much more forgiving than we think. The scary thing is the amount of resistance we met. People I thought were my friends and I thought would support me backed away. They said, “Sherron, you’re on your own on this.”
COOPER: [Nods in agreement] It’s a lonely road.
Unfortunately most elders are just board members.
People are afraid to speak the truth and confront untruth.
Interestingly Paul in his letters to the Ephesians said that the church will grow as it speaks the truth in love (a verse often quoted in the context of marriage relationships). No truth, no growth.
Churchgrowers will look different when churchgoers become whistleblowers.
Anyway, this is the end (for now) of my soapbox.