“The Tragic Necessity of Institutions”

churchI was very fortunate to have Pastor Ronald Lavin as my pastor growing up.  He was the product of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother and became a Lutheran minister.  His theology was deep and rich.  When I expressed my own desire to enter the ministry, he immediately put me on the Evangelism Committee at church.  In Pastor Lavin’s view anyone who expressed any kind of interest in the church deserved to be called on by the church.  If we were to be disciples of Christ, we had to be Christ-like in reaching out to people, and he taught me that although this may be the most difficult work of the church, it is also the foundation of the faith that we express.  The index cards we were given only had the individual’s contact information, so I called on everyone regardless of race, gender or social-economic status.  It served me well as I learned the meaning of “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Pastor Lavin had a very charismatic personality and that alone was enough to draw many people to him.  He also was not afraid to speak his mind, so when he was asked to address the graduating class of a local college, his address was called, “The Tragic Necessity of Institutions.”  In it, he discussed how the logistics of operating schools, churches, governments and corporations often contradicts the missions they are trying to fulfill.  “When our response to a situation as a church contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ, we are in danger of violating the principles that the organization is built on.”

Evil is resident in the world.  Because of that, many ships (institutions) get tossed over in a storm. In my line of work (I am a Certified Public Accountant), I often see those storms in terms of financial fraud that takes place.  Other moral atrocities may be allowed to storm a ship, but don’t touch the money.  The reaction to financial fraud becomes almost as rancid as the fraudulent act when I see the crew of the ship searching out a captain to flog instead of concentrating on setting the ship upright. We have a tendency in this country (or maybe as humans in general), to want to blame the victim.

In Boy Scouts, we teach that when you point a finger at someone else, you have 3 fingers pointing back at you.   That lesson could be an important one in helping institutions avoid making tragic mistakes.

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