“In the West it seems that everything is about winning and losing…..”
Walking back across the bridge from the Convention Center tonite, the observation of my Central Conference friend kept ringing in my ears. Of course, I had to admit he was right. The go big or go home mentality pervades every aspect of our lives. It is a symptom of what is wrong with our political; educational; social; and dare I say, our religious institutions. At least 9 or 10 times a semester, I will have a student come into my office and tell me they are dropping my class—not because they don’t like it; not because they won’t pass it; but because they won't get an A in it. As one student put it to me, “ I simply cannot afford not to be a winner at everything I do.”
It appears that every piece of legislation that made its way to the floor today was shaped by a zero sum mentality of if you win, then it must mean I am a loser, and I won’t be a loser—so you can’t win. The pettiness of the disagreements extended to even an inability to take a simple test vote to determine which Apostle was the delegate favorite. It took 4 times for the Apostle Peter to get a majority and I honestly don’t think Jesus would have fared much better. In the two major votes today: to establish a set aside Bishop and to limit Bishop terms could not come to a 2/3rds majority with the house almost evenly split. Now think about the insanity of that reality. No we don’t want Bishops to have power but no we don’t want to take away Bishops positions of power--EVER! Such inconsistent deliberative outcomes indicate a deeply troubled and flawed organization that is moving fast toward a major life cycle crisis. Organizations like people are living entities. They are born, they live, and they will eventually die. The only thing that extends life is a willingness to change, otherwise the descent is slow but the descent will happen. When an organization focuses on short term, immediate gratification motivated by personal needs such as winning and losing, its an indication that an immature organization is going to descent even more quickly.
Even the news of a compromise legislation being developed between the IOT and the Plan B folks didn’t assuage the reality of the winner and loser concept being at work. The only thing that finally got all those good folks in the room (which they could and should have done oh say 8 months ago) was that nobody wanted to go home a loser. They knew they could not let their legacy be that they failed to address the needs of the Church, so finally they sat down and began what you would expect intelligent, caring, Christians to do—WORK IT OUT. Interestingly enough, as I predicted MFSA was left out of the room by all accounts. True, their ideas may have shaped some of the compromise but as a negotiating body they were left on the bench, which is what happens when you wear swimming trunks and flip flops to a football game. The reality is, that if MFSA had not been trying to WIN on Saturday, we may have averted this legislative crisis in the first place.
When you talk to people around the conference the one sentiment is that everybody is afraid of losing something--losing jobs, losing security, losing power, losing respect, losing voice or losing visibility. Sadly, it is becoming crystal clear that for many delegates and leaders of our denomination, their self-identities are wrapped up in the outcome of every vote that is taken. Isn’t it funny that a group of people supposedly led by a leader who told them to lose everything so that in turn they could have everything is struggling so badly with the idea of loss?
My friend from East Africa, who was a member of the General Administration Committee, continued to lament that he just could not understand our obsession with winning at ALL costs. As I looked down at my IPhone to check the Texas Ranger’s score to ensure they were beating down the BlueJays, I said mournfully, “Neither do I”.