First, the Scott McClellan book.
Am I the only person on the planet who has never, ever thought the press secretary–any of them–had the first inkling of what he was talking about? Listen to these guys at their daily press briefings. They hem and haw, fill the air with words of little or no meaning, promise to “get back to you on that,” and justify whatever it was the administration has just done, no matter how asinine.
I think of Ron Zeigler, Nixon’s mouthpiece. Was there ever a worse press secretary? Then, run through the dozen others to hold the position since. You might come up with two or three who seemed to have had some integrity of his own, who brought credibility to the position–Tony Snow comes to mind–but they didn’t hold the job long.
The other thing I wonder is didn’t they know when they took the job the nature of the beast was that they were hired as window dressing, sent to prettify what the president does?
I wonder if there has ever been a press secretary who stood up to the president and threatened to “go out there and tell the truth,” instead of meekly caving in to the occupier of the Oval Office.
And the book. Which I haven’t read and don’t intend to.
There is no way on earth to know whether McClellan is lying now to sell a book or was lying back then to keep his job. Why is the administration surprised by what he has written? Did he not have the integrity to tell them of his concerns, of his disagreements, of his plans at any point in the past? Did they not know this man?
I realize the loyalty bit can be overdone. The mafia don stresses loyalty to his henchmen, the heads of Enron and World.com no doubt emphasized loyalty to their underlings, and a dictator makes a big deal of loyalty to his party hacks. But that does not negate the importance of the genuine article.
A church staff member exercises loyalty when he stands up to the pastor in private to resist a wrong direction the minister is taking or a faulty doctrine he is promoting. If it costs him his job, then he is free to tell others what happened. He leaves with his integrity intact and the higher good being served.
If he keeps quiet to hold his job, then you have found the price he places on his own soul.
The United Church of Christ in Chicago is back in the news with a guest preacher spewing forth weird teachings calculated to please his audience, no matter how bizarre or unChristian or unbiblical the doctrine. One has to wonder why that church champions such extremists, or at least why they don’t put a stop to people video-taping the sermons!
Such preachers have always been with us. They are aptly described in Scripture by the 8th Century B.C. prophet Isaiah. “This is a rebellious people, false sons…who say to the prophets, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions.'” (Isaiah 30:9-10)
Smooth things. Pleasant words, the kind we want to hear, talks that satisfy the congregation, that rouse them from their seats to clap and applaud and cheer. Tell us how wonderful we are and how right are our opinions and prejudices.
In the last days, Paul told young Timothy, people “will not endure sound doctrine.” Instead, “wanting to have their ears tickled, they will draw teachers to themselves according to their own desires.” (II Tim. 4:3)
The wonderful KJV says, “Men will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
One of my teachers used to say it’s unclear from the Greek whether Paul meant the preachers would have itching ears or the people in the pew. My guess is both.
Here’s how Eugene Peterson paraphrases that passage from II Timothy. “You’re going to find there will be times when people have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food–catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.”
Unstated but most definitely implied in Isaiah’s and Paul’s words is that true prophetic preaching will often be upsetting, disturbing, and contrary to the positions and doctrines held by the listeners.
Sometimes the true test of a man of God is not how many people stood to applaud but how many wanted to stone him.
As Scott McClellan illustrates so well, it’s safe to say contrary things and give critical opinions from a distance.
God bless the man and woman of courage who will speak truth to the king, and preach the Word to the congregation.