Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Mega-churches explode in overnight growth, build big, borrow big, and explode big as they collapse. Compassionate non-profit ministries, rich in compassion, often drown in red ink. Christian colleges groan and die under the weight of complexity in a competitive world.

Why is it that people who intend such good through the creation of non-profit organizations often close the doors of the same organizations in embarrassed shame?

The Americanization of Christianity has shaped a religion that is, if anything, nice. Offense is intended toward no one. Being liked is the quest. Overlooking incompetency, arrogance, or laziness is easier than confronting it. And the result is that such organizations spiritualize their problems rather than confront them. They form a culture in which sabotage works. And given the human propensity toward evil, organizations eat the fruit of the culture they nourish.

Edwin Friedman writes in A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix:

In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a middler, someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his disability seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like mustard gas – one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often nice, if not charming (pages  13-14).

Serving as president of a Christian university, I can testify to the gravitational pull of the niceness. Rather than making hard choices, leaders are asked to make people feel good. “Forgive the person; he meant well.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” “Don’t make waves.” “If you step out on a limb, the cost could be your job.” I’ve heard them all as excuses for not doing what is right for the organization.

The Americanized gospel has shaped us to expect the blessings we desire without any suffering en route. If we’re nice, we deserve to have it. A gospel that does not confront our selfishness, our narrowness, our incompetency, and our arrogance eventually forms us to be saboteurs of any leader who dares stand on conviction that disagrees with ours.

We have grown our own terrorists. Our institutions collapse, not from evil without, but from a cult of niceness within.