An Admirable Life-32-Failure

"Affliction is a good man's shining time…"

            —English Poet Edward Young


   If you play enough games, you lose some. If you live, you suffer. Draw breath; you thus court death.

   On that cheery note, let me proceed to offer a more dreary notice. Religious leadership will fail more often than it succeeds in Post-Modern Western culture. In fact, religious leadership, particularly organizational leadership, is set up for failure.

   Denominations and conventions are artifices. Artifices are artificial. In an organic age, this is not good.

    A religious organization wedded to slogans is naturally prone to dismissal by its disappointed clientele.  When said organization picks a leader he must be a man able to hear the word "No," without immediate panic.

   Failing organizations do not call noble men. At best they may call a person with honorable potential and hope not to ruin him.

   The noble man fights himself. He gathers round him those who do battle with their own inner nature. The sycophant cannot find a place at the true man's table.

   From birth to death a good man must fight the internal push to be superior to others in squalid things, like wealth and rank. If he loses this battle he can never be spiritually successful.


   "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?"

                Jesus, Known as The Christ

   The internal faith struggle is ongoing through life. Lose it, lose your soul.

   When men find you most acceptable, then, you may have no home with God at all.

   So, he, the leader you will name too soon, and then put in front of the flock, the one you will praise, probably amiss, will need to find a way to show his soul. He will most likely make it available to you in his failures. 

   How does the noble man handle earthly failure? Well, he does not curse God and die.

   He does not look askance at his caddy when he misses a two foot putt. He does not talk for three hours at a "listening session."

   He does square his shoulders, tilt his chin slightly upward and tell people not to fear tomorrow just because they are afraid today.  He does not tell people not to fear. He just eliminates the most specious of fears, if he can even do that.

   Affliction is the time when a good man shines. When John Adams was first ambassador to France during the American Revolutionary Struggle he shared the post with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. Adams arrived late on the scene, surveyed the wreckage of the American legation to the French court and eventually sent word to Congress saying changes should be made.

   When Congress at length replied, they appointed Franklin the sole ambassador to France. They dispatched Arthur Lee to Madrid to serve as ambassador to Spain.

   Adams? Congress never sent him a word about his fate. He was not told to stay, to come home or to look for work elsewhere. John Adams risked his valuable life in a winter sea crossing, sacrificed personal fortune and the consolation of kith and kin to represent America in France. He was not so much as told, "Attaboy, Johnny."

   Adams wrote to James Warren, saying he would never again allow himself to the sport of either wise men or fools. He sailed for home on his own mission. Shortly after arriving his home state asked him to serve them in writing a constitution. He was soon dispatched again to France to plead the American cause.

   Adams had not solicited or expected to be retrieved from the trash heap of history. Simply put, his country needed his experience, expertise and integrity. The one man they had not thought o include in their prior instructions was the one man Congress found it could let alone.

   Adams, injured, was still not Adams, impaired. He had not failed even when his times and the usual collections of dolts made him seem a failure. 

   For it all, despite his obviously injured feelings, Adams went to Paris again. When Congress needed a noble man, they stopped choosing from again their own usual set of friends, and sent again for Adams.

   If Adam's days were those in which a patriot should choose to live if given the chance a real religious leader might just as well choose today. Not since the Axial Age has Man been at a more precarious spot spiritually. The culture wars are now fought between the nihilist and the fanatic, with little or no room in between. You are losing, my convention friend, but do not seem to know it.

Opinions expressed here are mine alone.




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