Thursday, April 21, 2005

Collateral Damage

I attended a PRSA Detroit luncheon today Dick Martin, former head of PR for AT&T, gave me something to chew on that I had not thought about before. He was talking about the PR and other gaffes AT&T made since the 1984 breakup settlement with the Department of Justice. In Martin's opinion, one of the things that put the final nail in AT&T's coffin was the Worldcom fraud. Worldcom drove the price of long-distance down so far that it sucked the profitability out of the business. Then they hid it by making up numbers to satisfy Wall Street.

I never viewed AT&T as a victim of Worldcom's fraud until today. I always viewed the employees and shareholders as victims, but I had not thought of their competitors as victims before. But they were. They were competing on price against a company that was just making up numbers to keep the shareholders happy. And in the process, AT&T killed itself.

Think about the innocent victims that get wiped out in everyday life. In years past, many farmers were driven to bankruptcy by rising property taxes created by urban sprawl. When houses went up on the fields next door, it raised the value of the cornfield if it were sold. But if a farmer just wanted to grow crops, he didn't get more money for the crop just because the land was theoretically more valuable. But he did get taxed.

I believe evangelicals are guilty of a lot of collateral damage due to their over-emphasis on the vertical (me and God) relationship at the expense of the horizontal (me and the church) relationship. The attitude of "my sin is between me and God" ignores the damage that a believer's sin causes to others. When a church leader, lay or pastoral, has their sin become public, many people are damaged. Certainly their families are hurt. Their fellow laborers for Christ also suffer. Some lose faith, others encounter more opposition and resistance, and others cannot find the funding they need because of a lack of confidence in church leaders. The thought that my sinful actions could cause a child to reject Christ scares the pants off of me. And when I am tempted to do something that I know better than to do, keeping the thoughts of who might be affected in my minds helps me to remain obedient. It may not be the greatest motivation, but it does work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thought-provoking, Roy, thought-provoking. We are, indeed, the body of Christ . . . and, when one member suffers . . .