On my recent trip to South Carolina, I bought What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception by Scott McClellan. It’s fascinating to read, and the fallout in Washington and the political talk show circuit from the book is even more fascinating still. I’m surprised the book is generating such a gut reaction from Republicans and conservative talk show hosts. McClellan obviously likes Bush and respects many of those he worked with in the White House. His critique is pretty specific–that a lack of transparency by the Bush administration in relatively small controversies led to some very large consequences. The tone of the book is not accusatory. Instead, he seems to be trying to show how good people with good motivations can still make bad decisions. It’s disturbing to watch the gut reaction by some against what he has said. Instead, I would think all good people everywhere would want to stop for a moment and really think about the processes we go through in decision making.
As I think objectively about this book, it seems that McClellan’s experience and the reaction to this book are not unlike things that happen in the church. If McClellan is being honest about his experience, I think there are some important life lessons here.
1) The best way to put controversy to rest is to be completely transparent, even if it leads to criticism of yourself. Deal with the criticism, don’t deflect it. If you made a mistake, admit it. Correct it. Repent of it. ONLY THEN will you be able to freely move on. If you refuse to acknowlege your mistakes and repent publicly, every good thing you try to do from that point on is tainted from others’ point of view.
2) We have only one true loyalty–that of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. We have to constantly evaluate ourselves in light of the truth of Scripture. And sometimes, our convictions may bring us into tension with friends and family. Disloyalty and betrayal are only issues if we are disloyal to or betrayers of our God and His work. When we have made mistakes, we must correct them no matter how others read our motivations.
3) Don’t get defensive. Just examine yourself. Don’t read into others motives. Just examine yourself. This one is especially hard for me. I have a terrible time hearing constructive criticism without bending over backwards to defend myself and my motivations. Sometimes, even when my heart is in the right place, I can still make mistakes. And it is good and right that I stop and hear the truth of what happened and how I can correct it for the future.
It’s called sanctification.
And just to make sure my points aren’t misunderstood–I am not likening the Bush administration to the church. I am saying basicly that I read a story about, say, squirrels, and something about the story on squirrels reminded me of some things that are also applicable to the church. That’s the only correlation I want to draw. Also, I strongly desire this blog to stay away from politics, so I don’t want this to seem either pro or against the Bush administration. It is what it is, and I think it is food for thought for ethics in any realm, particularly the church.