I've recently spent some time looking at how my life and how I interact with the world around me.
I learned how to lead in the Boy Scouts. The leaders I looked up to lead by example, not by directive. Probably the biggest thing I learned from nearly 20 years with the BSA is that leaders are human, too. Every leader makes mistakes and bad decisions. It's the ones who admit it that are the strongest leaders, the ones who are on the level with those who follow. They don't lead by rank, but by ability to overcome similar obstacles in a visible way.
Faults are inherent in leaders. We are more likely to find a leader in someone who has overcome something we face than we are to find in someone who has never been in our position.
Maybe this is why people keep calling me a leader. I don't really want to lead anything more than my Grove right now. I know I have a calling to lead my Grove. I don't have a calling to run a Guild or to manage a business. I don't have a calling to be ADF Preceptor or a Regional Druid. The international level of ADF isn't for me today, and I often consider resigning the two minor posts I hold at that level, LDG Scribe and Deputy Preceptor. I can't resign the first until shizukagozen can work it without me or it starts to stand on its own, and I can't resign the second due to projects that need completion. I've never aspired to hold any office, and the constant referral to me as a leader in ADF sometimes leaves me dumbfounded. I'm one of the lowest leaders on the food chian, actually. But I accept that people will continue to call me that, even though I really do so little on the organizational level.
Over the years, though, I have come to the conclusion, that leaders who show no faults are more likely to command blind faith than those who do. Those who are willing to be wrong, to expose themselves from time to time, don't get that. I never, ever wanted blind faith, and I'm very fortunate that my Grove has never shown any.
I was flipping through channels last night while waiting for Smallville to come on (amazing episode, btw: I was shocked), and came across a "Dateline exclusive" about the Daystar Assembly of God fraud case.
This is a huge story in the Christian community, and a lot of people have written about such frauds. A search for the Daystar church turns up very little, but I found a couple of things that reference this case or similar cases of fraud: [Link 1 | Link 2].
I was caught in rapt attention with this show because the Daystar fraud case is what happens when a leader of a religious congregeation (or anything, for that matter) looks consistently strong, assured, and right. Basically, the con-man bilked the pastor, who encouraged his 400-member congregation to purchase bonds that would be repaid. These bonds would be from a Christian group, one that invested the money and promised an impressive return. The pastor, taken with the con-man's story and promise of a new, larger church, never questioned the story in public. Of course, he had his doubts: he never invested a dime. But those doubts, those fears were never expressed to the congregation. He presented a very strong front to the congregation, one of confidence and sureness. He had never shown he'd been wrong before, and the congregation was comfortable putting up their own money, plus taking out a $2.5 million loan with their building as collateral.
The church lost its building, and the con-men came out $4 million ahead.
Fortunately, the con-men were caught, but most of the money, obviously, was not recoverable. It only took a month for the scam to come to light, and everything was gone.
This really struck home with me. I admit that I admire the style and ability of evangelical pastors to get their congregations whipped up into a religious frenzy, complete with experiences of speaking in tongues and faith healing. If I were Christian, I'd be making my living through the Word of God, no question, holding tent revivals on Wednesday nights, planting shills in the audience, and handling de-fanged snakes to show the dominance of the Word over Satan.
Some days, it still speaks to me. Some kids want to run off and join the circus, and I want to run off and join a seminary.
The Daystar Assembly of God filmed their services for television, and they also filmed their business meetings. I watched, amazed, as the pastor brazenly called for money from the pulpit to a chorus of "Amens" and "Halleluhjas." I watched business meetings with graphs and pie charts and a model of the new, promised church devolve into miniture services, with Jesus being called on for guidance and the most frightening words I've ever heard coming out of a pastor's mouth: "If we don't give our money, God will forsake us!"
And the people followed the pastor. He was so strong, so confident. He knew that this was a good idea, and he never showed a sign of doubt or trouble. He never talked about his prayers for guidance in this investment, but spoke only of how he was sure this was the way to go. Yet it seems so obvious that he had his doubts, for he never gave any money to the con-men.
In the end, after it was all over, he was interviewed by Dateline. He was still confident and strong. He spoke of his tribulation as if he had come out of it. I watched him closely as he spoke of his fault in the matter: it was totally behind him. I began to wonder about what his fault was. I settled on it late in the program: the pastor appears to have never seemed to make mistakes. He never seemed fully on par with his congregation. Because he was the pastor, he *seemed* as if he was wise and pious and on the right track. In other words, the congregation didn't see his struggles and his faults, because the leader of a congregation is supposed to have fewer than the congregation does, and he never displayed them.
A very large portion of my work on Chronarchy.Com and on LiveJournal is focused on remaining honest. Watching the Daystar fraud unfold last night really showed me what I was afriad of: appearing to not make mistakes.
To me, honesty has never been about telling people the truth when they ask for it, but it's about being open, and not hiding who you are. It's standing out in the open, shouting, "Yes, I'm an idiot sometimes, too! I'm afraid, I'm hurting, and I'm just like you!"
And that's why I leave everything open. That's why you get to read it all. I cannot be honest with myself if I am not honest with everyone. "Honest," to me, has always been associated with "public." If no one can see it, it's not honesty.
I've been struggling some recently in this regard. It's easy, so easy, to simply pretend things are all right. It tempts me horribly leave out details that are potentially hurtful and that deal with some of my darkest thoughts. A voice in the back of my head commands that I duck and cover, hide within myself, stop posting to LJ because it brings attention that the voice says I don't want.
There are people I need to talk to about some very, very serious issues that I simply haven't been able to. I experience emotions I've never really known before. Some of this is getting in the way of my relationships with certain people, and some of it is preventing relationships with other people.
Through it all, I'm doing my best to laugh. Some days, it works. Some days, it doesn't. I've put my application for clergy on indefinite hold due to the events of the past few weeks. I cannot apply in good conscience until I figure this out.
But I need to post, to talk about these struggles. To be open about the fact that I have them, and to try and discuss them. I firmly believe that if anyone is going to rely on me for strength, they need to know that I have doubts and fears and issues that reflect their own.
I've thought a lot about my openness recently. Events have sort of forced me to, and so this is part of an attempt to figure out why I post openly. I've never had a friends' lock on any posting because the concept bothers me. All of my old journals are going online slowly, no matter how embarassing they may be. Some of those, too, might be painful for some people to read. It's hard to say.
But I'll continue to post like I have been, I'm afraid. Several people will find that troublesome, I think, but it's an unfortunate side-effect of how I see honesty. This, of course, doesn't imply that I find journals that use the "friends' lock" as dishonest. . . I simply cannot live up to the level of honesty I believe I should be at if I lock things down.
Now, if I could only remember what I had to say about obsession.