Friday, November 18, 2011

Crude Leadership Crystalized as Failure

Canada wanted to sell some oil. But President Barak Obama didn't want to risk his re-election chances by approving a new pipeline down to Houston. So now, it appears all that oil may be headed for China.

The Schuller family wanted to find a way out from under tens of millions of dollars in debt from their Crystal Cathedral in California. So they've sold it out from under their congregation to the Catholic Diocese of Orange County for $57 million.

Oil and religion usually only mix in Texas. But this week, we've seen two entities try to save their reputations by pitching both oil and religion to the highest bidder: themselves.

Indeed, it's not entirely about money. Obama has no direct financial payday from his desire to placate ardent environmentalists. And it's unlikely the Schuller family will see much - if any - of the purchase price for their glassy trophy church, since their whole ministry is mired in bankruptcy court. But self-preservation, rather than optimum benefit for a community, has once again proven that integrity and faith are only as important to some people as their own neck.

And unfortunately, for both Obama and the Schullers, these similar scenarios aren't even all that surprising. Disappointing, and downright exasperating, but not surprising.

Even though he's already amassed a re-election war chest the size of every Republican candidate's campaign combined, Obama simply couldn't bring himself to do something even some environmentalists were ambivalent about: running a pipeline from the province of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, where extant refineries could help turn North American crude into a modicum of energy independence for the United States.  Technically, he deferred a decision on the pipeline until after next fall's elections, but by then, China may have already secured a contract for oil that's literally in our back yard.

Schuller's temple to himself in sunny Garden Grove may have been designed by a world-class architect - three, actually - but it's always been more charade than church.  If his possibility thinking really worked, there should have been dozens of Crystal Cathedrals all over southern California and the world, but all of that prosperity malarchy Schuller and his ilk shill on television only works for them, because they're the only ones who benefit from the chain-letter type fundraising they promote.  So to have the "ministry" - and I use that term as loosely as possible - fall into bankruptcy was eventually inevitable.  But to sell out his few remaining faithful followers to the Catholic Church, even after a college offering a long-term leaseback arrangement upped their offer, smacks of the very same hollow theology upon which Schuller's entire career was based.

Not that the Catholics won't treat these architectural gems with care.  They've already announced that they're going to use the magnificent Crystal Cathedral for their diocesan cathedral for their bishop.  But converting the buildings built for protestant worship - ostensibly - into spaces consecrated for Roman Catholic worship is both a literal and symbolic upheaval.

But then, leadership is all about having the courage to make tough decisions.  Leaders rarely get the chance to make everybody happy at the same time.  In order to make an omelet, you've gotta crack some eggs.

From where I'm standing, it looks like a lot more eggshell than egg is making it into that omelet.  Then, too, sometimes leaders face tough decisions because their own mistakes have brought them to that point.

And don't even talk to me about happiness.

Happiness is something that happens when you do something for others, instead of yourself.  Not just benefiting a small sub-set of special interests, like fringe ecologists or bankruptcy attorneys, but a broader community of which you claim to be a part.

There aren't a lot of happy energy consumers in America today, or Crystal Cathedral members.

So much for thinking change you can believe in was ever a possibility.

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