Let’s face it. As a society we are not huge fans of institutions any more. Whatever Postmodernism means it is certainly a rejection of everything institutional. In the last 100 years, the word “President” has changed its meaning from “a position of great authority” to “person we elect to hate and blame our problems on.”
I did not realize how true that was until I began pastoring in a small town in Oregon. The town voted Republican and claimed conservatism but it was not long until I realized their brand of conservatism had nothing to do with social issues like abortion and homosexuality and going to church. Instead they hated everything institutional. Whether it was big government, big church or big business, anything that smelled institutional was flatly suspect. To put it more simply, they weren’t conservative as much as they were libertarian.
That town is not alone. It is becoming true of all American towns and cities but it is more prevalent in the Northwest. We seem to be the forerunners in tearing down institutions.
This is bad news for NNU because “Northwest” is its first name. Whether you supported the President’s actions this week or decried them, chances are you became involved because anti-institutionalism is in your bones.
Concerning the events surrounding NNU, on one side we have the fundamentalists who hate institutions more than probably any other group. The creeds and dictates of the historical church are suspect just because they came from the historical church. The reality that a professor has been approved by several governing boards over and over again proves to them how errant this professor is. Surely an institutionally approved professor is anathema because, after all, institutions are the source of all cursing.
I would venture a guess that if a professor was terminated for not agreeing with the made up doctrines of any given fundamentalist, that fundamentalist would make up new doctrines and use them to attack other professors. They are not doing this because they love the institution but because they are decidedly against any institution telling them what to believe. Instead they hold that the institution should be made to believe what they believe and teach what they want them to teach, not the other way around.
On the other side you have those of us who love the community at NNU and have fond memories of our times there. We want is best for the community, particularly the individuals therein. A lot of us became involved not because we dislike NNU but because there was a threat against a friend who happened to be on staff. However, anti-establishment runs through our veins too. So it is easy to attack those with the institutional titles just because they are leaders of an institution.
I wonder if this Oordeal ends with the resignation of someone with an institutional title, if the next one will be able to do better.
After all, in such a climate having an institutional title, like “President” of “Director” or “Head of the Office of University Advancement” stacks the chips against you from the get go. You are suspect just because you were dumb enough to let them call you “President.” You thought it was a title of power and prestige. We all knew we just wanted someone to attack and investigate when things go wrong.
Then there is Facebook, which made the world flatter than anything else before it. In this new age we can trade notes and compare data and put together the truth behind every action. The surprising thing this week is not how many vague superstitions filled Facebook but how quickly the truth got out and went around the world. There is now no control over the truth. It will get out there. In fact, as politicians know, the best way to fight the truth is to fill the internet with half truths and lies. It is admirable that no Christians want to do this. However, it is the only way to win.
You know, I take that back.
There is another way to win. It is to act in the way of Jesus: With integrity, honesty and 100% transparency.
In this day and age, where everything an institutional leader does is both public and highly suspect, that is the only way to go, unless you want to dive into the realm of lies and half truths. Us younger types have known this for some time. It is still quite shocking to me that the older leaders among us have not figured it out.
Still, if anything has happened within me this week, it is that I have been completely cured of my desire to ever have an institutional title or position. Thanks but no thanks. I will not volunteer for that witch hunt!
If you didn’t follow all that, the cartoon below might help. In the 21st century Northwest there are no room for bosses, only leaders: