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September 30th, 2005


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04:06 pm - Honesty and Obsession
Today, two things stand out to me. Actually, these things have been standing out for a few days: honesty and obsession. I'll address the second point when I remember what I wanted to say about it.

Honesty:

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.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: "Something so Feminine About a Mandolin", -JB

(42 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:unnamed525
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
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We haven't known each other long, but you can't talk to me about anything.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:15 pm (UTC)
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*snickers*

I'll keep that in mind.
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:19 pm (UTC)
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Your comment on tent revivals amuses me. I could see myself doing the exact same thing and enjoying it immensely! I think I make a very convincing Christian when I try; maybe it's because people just expect me to be Christian. I don't know, do I 'look' Christian? Hehehe.

When I chose to do so, I am much better at being the quiet, intense, deeply devout Christian than the theatrical tent Christian. This is simply because when I am being revivalist it's all hysterical and ridiculous, making it far more obviously a make-believe parody in my eyes. Doesn't mean I can't do it convincingly, but that it doesn't convince MYSELF and others might find it a mockery too. But when you go for that intense, sweet-natured but frighteningly serious Christian... yes, that's a much more fun game to play. ;)

Now I feel like anything I say about honesty would lack any merit. XD

[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC)
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No, it wouldn't lack merit. In fact, I'm not entirely sure that what I wrote has any merit. It's kinda rambly.
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and we still need to go to Mass. Badly.
I am the worst Catholic ever. :(
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC)
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Ha. It can be arranged.
[User Picture]
From:valkyrvolva
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:36 pm (UTC)
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Honesty and LJ's...my favorite obsession that I am not going to blather on about here.

I am trying to remember where I read an article by yourself addressing the need for leaders to be aware of the public nature of journals/emails/posts on message boards and such. The article sounded to me as though you were calling for, well...a very deliberate sort of honesty as every one of our words may reflect on ADF (right or wrong). I may have misunderstood you. Nevertheless, it (the article) was a contributing, albeit small, factor in my decision to lock some posts in my LJ.

""Honest," to me, has always been associated with "public." If no one can see it, it's not honesty."

I disagree with you, but not in any way that is integral to this...erm, well, we aren't really having a discussion, are we?
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:September 30th, 2005 08:46 pm (UTC)
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Entirely possible that I did write something like that. In fact, it sounds quite familiar. I wouldn't be surprised.
From:tanrinia
Date:September 30th, 2005 09:00 pm (UTC)
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soooo....you want us to all shout 'amen' and 'hallelujah' in business meetings from now on?
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:September 30th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC)
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Only if I bring in a new member who has a brilliant scheme to get us some cash fast.
From:tanrinia
Date:September 30th, 2005 09:06 pm (UTC)

okay, and now for the serious comment...

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i think 'all honesty all the time' is fine and desirable in a person, leader or not (it's probably in one of them there virtues, somewhere)...i think one (not just you, but you brought it up :) ) has to be very careful when one is taking the liberty to be public about things with which others involved may be less than comfortable. i don't think that's self-censorship necessarily, or any LESS honest...it's being sensitive and respectful. does that make sense?
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:September 30th, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC)

Re: okay, and now for the serious comment...

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*nods* Oh, I don't think it's any less honest for others to do a level of self-censorship. But to me, honesty is equated with openness.

And yes, you're right about others not being so comfortable with that level of honesty.
[User Picture]
From:qorinda
Date:September 30th, 2005 09:07 pm (UTC)
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I cannot be honest with myself if I am not honest with everyone.

Similarly, you can't be honest with others if you are not honest with yourself. In fact, as a dear friend told me once, you can ONLY be as honest with others as you are with yourself. How many of us really take the time to BE honest with ourselves, to really look at ourselves objectively? How many little lies and exaggerations do we tell ourselves to make it okay - or conversely, to put ourselves down? It's a never ending journey, imho.

I appreciate this post, and reiterate that it is your journal, and is meant to hold the stuff that you need it to hold. As I have told you, I certainly wouldn't want anyone trying to dictate what goes in mine!
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:September 30th, 2005 09:18 pm (UTC)
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*nods* While it is my journal, I understand a need to limit what I put into it. On the other hand, I feel the need to stretch the freedom it provides as far sa I can. I'm not ashamed of anything I've written, though I may not be happy with the effects it may sometimes have.

But I find that I have worked very, very hard at remaining open recently. It's been an uphill struggle, because it would be so easy to fold and hide. . . but that isn't me. That's not what I do.
From:ceolnamara
Date:October 1st, 2005 12:06 am (UTC)
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You know my take on all of this, no point it writing it out again.

Good seeing you today.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:October 3rd, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC)
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*nods* Good seeing you, as well.
[User Picture]
From:nontacitare
Date:October 1st, 2005 04:47 am (UTC)
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In a different vein, I completely agree with you about Smallville. Personally, I'm hoping for a Lex/Chloe pairing.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:October 3rd, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC)
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haha. Lex appears after Lana. Is there anyone not after that girl?
[User Picture]
From:smithing_chick
Date:October 1st, 2005 08:07 am (UTC)
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You've hit on two things I've been restling with lately myself.

I never planned on having any locked entries or filters or anything. Then I found myself in a situation where I couldn't be honest if I knew there was a chance of certain people reading what I wrote.

The other is that once again I seem to be running into the attitude that I must be a shitty leader if I make mistakes. Always makes me thing of a line from a Concrete Blonde song-- "Who did you think you get? Ha! Well you got me instead."
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:October 3rd, 2005 12:25 pm (UTC)
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Oh, certianly levels of honesty can change. In some events, honesty requires you to be completely transparent. Other times, transparency to everyone will lead to hurt rather than honesty. Once you fear to post something, you can no longer be honest. In such a case, cutting someone out would be the only way to continue honestly.
[User Picture]
From:creature_tamer
Date:October 2nd, 2005 12:23 am (UTC)
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I don't think competence alone is what I look for in a leader. To me, it has to be a blend between competence and caring. That's what distinguishes a leader from a mere role model (someone who is emulated without personal interaction).

A good leader is able to inspire others to action or inaction. And while it's certainly possible to deceive people into acts of "blind faith," I think this is most often done by pretending to care about them. In your example, the minister is an unwitting accomplice to the crooks. Perhaps the congregation was influenced in part by thinking he was a perfect person incapable of mistakes... but I'm certain it was also largely because they trusted his motives were focused on helping them.

When there is someone who is successful at overcoming the challenges you face AND he seems to care about helping you overcome them... to me, that's leadership.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:October 3rd, 2005 01:44 pm (UTC)
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You're right about the pastor's motives and their perception. The pastor was seeing a new building (with three restaurants, no less!) and the ability to reach out to more members, and the members were seeing a new influx of congregants and a nicer place to worship on the whole.

Everyone's desires were being met here, or so they thought. But the interviews I saw were not focused on how he'd wanted to help, but on his sureness

"Had the pastor not supported it, would you have invested?"

"No way. He seemed so sure. We wanted to be that sure."

That's what I remember most clearly from the special.

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