The sin of in

Heard this phrase from Bill Moyers describing his time as press secretary for President Johnson during the Vietnam War. The “sin of in” is the privileges those on the inside grant to themselves – the right to secrecy, failure of transparency, to keep what is true from being known, to grant oneself an exception from the rules.

I have been a leader and know this sin first hand, not through others but from self-reflection. Leadership is hard enough all of its own. The desire to make it easier than it is leads to dark choices. Very nice people in the church let leaders get away with it because they are, well, nice. But, in fact, I am not sure you can be suspicious enough of a leader. Not meanly suspicious. Just aware that a lot of stuff needs to come to light, and we are all better off when it does so.

While a person might be invited into a position of leadership because of past achievement and evidence of character, as a leader he or she will face a whole other level of ethical decisions, the primary one being a life of transparency. Leaders hide. It is their chief vulnerability. And in that hiding things go on that would otherwise be unacceptable.

Of course, I haven’t only seen this in myself. I have been in church long enough to see “first families” give themselves certain rights to control, which gives them a “suspension of the ethical.” They have served longer, given more money, sacrificed more time, etc. This gives them not only the right to have more things go their way but also gives them the privilege of not having to play by the rules. I have seen certain charismatic figures give themselves a pass on ethical behavior because their influence convinces them they are above the ethical demands others have to submit to.

Utlimately the “sin of in” is the sin of  “us versus them.” Once that mindset is in place, no one is safe. It takes a lot of soul work to root this out of the core of the church. It is so much work that it rarely happens.

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