Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Yesterday I read about a very popular "hip and trendy" Buddhist teacher who has come under investigation after multiple reports from his followers of sexual misconduct. Just before that there was the resignation of Evangelical mega-church pastor Bill Hybels for sexual misconduct. A similar thing came to light recently with the revered leader of a very large Tibetan Buddhist sect. Then yesterday the horrific report was released about hundreds of priests sexually abusing thousands of children in Pennsylvania over a period of decades (and the Church's apparent complicity in covering it up).

There are many aspects to this, but one that I've been pondering a lot is the danger of elevating other humans into positions of authority over our lives. Leadership is valuable but--whether celebrities or politicians or religious leaders or bosses or military officers or coaches, etc.--when we elevate people and give them inappropriate amounts of control and power over us, it is a recipe for abuse to occur.

Every human is susceptible to the moral corruption that comes from possessing power over others without adequate transparency and accountability. This is one of the things I love about the Quakers of old: they were very intentional about trying to level things out. They eschewed elevating people, except those (such as slaves) who needed to be brought up to the same level of worth and empowerment as everyone else. They engaged in radical transparency and sought to give everyone a voice by practicing communal discernment in decision-making. They weren't always successful at it--human nature being what it is--but they genuinely tried.

Jesus challenged the theocratic authorities of his day, and their oppressive holiness codes, which they used to control others and elevate themselves. He sought to "level up" the "unclean" and marginalized people.

In one of the Buddha's best known teachings (his discourse to the Kalama clan) he advised to not give authority to teachers or traditions or scriptures or concepts but instead to test everything for ourselves and see through practical application what works--what leads to "welfare and happiness."

Surrendering our autonomy to people who claim to represent God or have access to higher truths has proven, time and again, to not lead to "welfare and happiness." It should be abandoned. 
-DC

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