At what point do any one of us, become culpable for the decisions made by leaders in whatever situation from the national arena to the local arena. Can any one of us ever be excused for carrying out policies and actions clearly against the scruples of conscious.
Questions relating to disagreement might centre on - What are the alternative options available? Is submitting a protest (writing a letter, discussions …) problematic for your own position and future? Is the only process, in reality, is to remove such a leader? Do you know all the facts?
Is therefore, becoming a follow traveller the only real option open to any one of us if one wishes to stay within that system – nation, job, social club, sport, church, mission? These examples to illustrate the difficulties:
Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler had many camp followers (as it were). Was Hitler and his leadership team alone to blame or was there a broader picture? The respected theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an example of someone who was clearly not a camp follower. (en.wikipedia.org)
On the other hand, it wasn't so clear cut with Dr Horace Greely Hjalmar Schacht, described as the most brilliant economist of his day, who put his energies into re-establishing the economy of Germany up to 1939 before eventually seeing the error of his ways (politically) and therefore ending up in a concentration camp. (en.wikipedia.org)
At the Nuremberg Trials, it was found that Hjalmar Schacht's goal in restoring Germany's economy was not a criminal offence nor a crime against the peace. Yet it was Hjalmar Schacht who devised ingenious methodologies for keeping Germany an economic power house and empowered the remilitarisation for the Nazi's.
In these political illustrations, Bonhoffer pays for his disagreement with his life whereas the camp follower Schacht who enabled the Nazi's to build a strong and energised economy for war, is exonerated by Nuremberg.
The Whistleblower in any situation find themselves in a very difficult situation. The Sydney Morning Herald recent highlighted a situation within the CSIRO where two whistleblowers were retrenched but those officials who were the subject of the complaints remained employed. (www.smh.com.au)
The work place
The work place is particularly difficult especially when the economy is tight and there is an emotional conflict between retaining employment and providing for your family and that of taking a higher road. This latter path may mean losing everything and in reality, nothing (or little) changes in the work place.
How many people 'say nothing' - when they see something they consider 'morally wrong' or just plain 'unlawful' going down?
Is there a case for 'above and beyond' - that this is my business as I too am responsible for my workplace, safety and personal integrity, OR, is the path to responsibility just too tough for one person.
Is the trade union movement a possible out, in that bringing such a situation to notice to union officials? Does this move the responsibility elsewhere? One difficulty in this option is that the union itself may have other fires to burn and one such complaint disrupts a bigger policy picture. Perhaps it might serve as leverage for a claim, thus creating a legitimate reason for the employer to dispense with the whistleblower's employment.
Does staying put and saying nothing, make you "equally as culpable" to the injustice or breaking of the law or even serious safety issues? Accountability is not simple in a fallen world.
Church and Missions
People within Churches and Missions also find themselves in similar situations. In one case some years ago, a witness to a physically threatening abuse scenario within a Mission, stated he would not come forward as he couldn't afford to lose the car benefit provided by the Mission by "becoming involved".
In innumerable situations members of Christian congregations in dispute, find themselves torn between remaining with friends of many years within the church, especially where they realise no one is going to address the culpability. Alternatively they leave, and all to often, sadly, leave church life entirely.
Does staying put and saying nothing makes you equally as accountable to the injustices? Is there a case to be made for enduring the pain and saying nothing. Is it a cop-out to say: "I'll pray for the situation!"
Now to put the cat among the pigeons.
The Scriptures illustrate both scenarios as they were as true to life in Biblical times as they are today.
Stephen didn't let things lie in his preaching and it cost him his life.
Paul, the anti-Christian aggressor and murderer, after his Road to Damascus encounter, spent three years away before his missionary endeavours. Then on more than one occasion Paul took the better part of valour and escaped with his life from angry mobs (in one situation let down a wall) and institutional violence (appealed to Caesar).
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html