Familiarity may breed contempt but more often fosters conformity. People still drink their favorite sugared soda, sans opium, because they remember its taste from their childhood. Americans still support a two-party system, masking, as it does, the encroachments of huge "soft money" contributions sure to make your congressman's constituency irrelevant next to his clientele. Still, we vote for one party or the other and ignore anything new as "wasteful."
If you live your life in one religious system or the other you notice what some call the arrogant heavy-handedness of the installed position holders in denominational life. One fails to notice the dessication of these office-holders if they are found without office. The leadership exists to perpetuate the leadership it seems and reform is the illegitimate child at the family picnic.
Approach the leadership, however, and one finds their arrogance is not arrogance at all. Instead, closely observed, the arrogance of the installed leadership is a benign smugness. Their smugness is benign since it does not intend either harm or good. It cannot, then, be benevolent or malevolent. At most, it is benign; there simply because it is there, there because it is accustomed to existence, existing because it once had a purpose.
The smugness is a relic. It disappears if one once allows himself to forget what once was, years ago. In the same way we now know our favored sugar soft drink is not good for us, we can also see that something existing simply because it exists is not purposeful because it owns a past. Leadership has to lead forward somewhere, rather than point backward at a glorious past.
The perceived smugness of the aristocracy is actually defeatism. Without anything substantive to offer the installed must hold the reformer at arm's length. Uneducated as to the reality they face the incumbents must hope to snow the masses with the technical language of the corporation.
Here is our challenge to the installed. If your defense of the corporation is not simply a safeguard to your own position, make this visible by personal sacrifice. Behave as a Christian. Perhaps Christians will then heed your call.
Leadership is not leadership at all if it must decry bold action because its followship lacks "the stomach for the fight." The queaziness you feel may be just your own full belly, Mr. Leader. The people in the pew may know better than to opt for appeasement and simply have no outlet.
In short, leadership (religious or secular) cannot simply serve as a museum tour guide. One of the para-church organizations in Texas no longer exists, in fact, because it could not decide how to lead substantively. The organizations it sought to preserve will follow this lost one into oblivion shortly if they do not find new leadership.
They are looking in the wrong places. No one who faces looming catastrophe should take counsel of nominal allies who urge caution or combat depending on their own felt need of the moment. No leadership is emerging to call for action. Sacrifice is not the order of the day, unless it is the continued sacrifice of the grass root folk for aggrandizement of the installed peerage.
There is no going back, as those who look back should know. Religious organizations cannot simply return to the halcyon days of yore. There is no possibility one can return to the old roles and simply work harder at them. The roles themselves no longer have meaning. This is why you speak to an empty hall, Mr. President, because you ran as a reformer and then led as a lover of the status quo. The hall will be emptier next year.
Clowns are amusing and cowards despicable. No one actually follows a clown for long and no one wants a coward for a monarch.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone, not those of the church I serve or any other person.