My family comes from a rather diverse background. My father is of German descent via Kentucky and my mother is Greek via Chicago. Her dad, my grandfather Constantine Bouzanis, came to the United States as the result of having watched his father and mother hanged to death on the front porch in their little village in Greece by the Nazis who had come to take my grandfather's sister along with the other young women of the village. Connie's (grandfather's) dad refused to allow his daughter to be mistreated and shamed in such a way and so, seeing no other solution, took a knife and ended her life. For that offense, he and his wife were hanged forthwith.
Connie's brother, my uncle Bill, left the village and came to the United States through Ellis Island and earned his citizenship. Bill then returned to Greece and brought Connie over. Connie joined the army and served our country faithfully throughout the duration of WW II, and for doing so, he receive his citizenship.
Upon leaving the army, Connie went to Chicago to start a supper club. Unfortunately, being an immigrant, obtaining a loan was an impossibility. So, Connie turned to the only people who would take him in . . . other immigrants. He obtained a "loan" from some local business owners who he called the Boys. From that meager start, Connie turned one super club into several of the finest in Chicago and became very close friends with area politicians and other business owners. In fact, Mayor Richard J. Daley became a close personal friend of Connie's, frequenting his supper clubs and granting Connie with an honorary position in the Port Authority. Connie had hit it big.
He would use his earnings to benefit society. He even sent money back to his home village in Greece to bring running water into the community for the first time. He would periodically bring family members to the states and help them get established in businesses of their own. He paid for one family member to come to the U.S. and go to medical school in order to return home and practice medicine in his own village.
At his funeral visitation in the early 1980's, shortly after everyone had left for the evening, a group of men came in through the back of the building to pay their final respects to Connie's wife, Estelle. They looked like something out of the Godfather movies. When asked who they were, I was told by my parents, those were the Boys. I had seen a couple of them at different times at the restaurant, but there they were, all together. They had come to say goodbye to one of their own.
Nice story, but so what? While my grandfather started off in the world's eyes as a nobody, he quickly became a somebody; not because of who he was, but because he was one of the Boys. Whenever he had any difficulties, the Boys would look after him. After he was gone, it was the Boys that made sure that Estelle was taken care of. They were a great group of guys. I would have been hard pressed back then to have seen any flaw with any of them. Why? Because they had done SO much for my grandfather. These guys were heroes! Some, even became legends.
Here's my point, this same "good ol' boy" group that took my grandfather in and provided for he and his family, blinded my young eyes to the wrongs committed by them. I could never think of them in a negative light because of all the "good" things they did for him, and ultimately, us. But the truth was that these men were wrong in many ways. I just couldn't see it because I felt as if I owed it to them to always speak of them in a positive fashion. After all, I wouldn't want to appear ungrateful.
Since having become involved in state and national denominational life I have seen much the same sort of blind loyalty to those to whom our conventions feel a sense of loyal obligation. It seems as if the fact that some individuals have taken a right stand on certain issues and led us correctly in a certain direction, demands a blind obedience that is never to be questioned. It seems as if issues always devolve into matters of personality rather than substance.
I hear so often statements made like, "we owe it to [so and so]", or "have we forgotten that without [this person] we wouldn't be where we are today." I am so glad that our conventions have had sound leadership in recent years that have helped us turn the tide of liberalism, but I question the wisdom behind granting Julius Caesar the title of King, even if it is behind the scenes.
Ask most anyone in denominational life, off the record of course, if they have not witnessed this firsthand. I've heard some of the kings in our state convention speak of exactly such evils on the national level while never recognizing the strangle hold they have upon their own convention. The unwritten rule is that you never speak against one of the Boys. To do so is to subject yourself to being labeled "moderate", "liberal", "Big Tent Conservative", etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Suggest that you support thinking differently about methodology in missions and you're an alcoholic. Indicate that casual dress might be more appropriate in some worship services and you're inviting strippers to your church. The rhetoric that is used to guard the ideas and personalities behind the status quo is appalling!
I have heard in committee meetings things said such as, "Well, [so and so] says they're okay, then that's fine with me. I figure if the higher ups approve them, then I should too." I know of an instance where one individual bucked a local king on an issue and ironically enough, our committee never received his nomination for service as a trustee even though the president of that institution assured me that his information had been presented. When I asked, I was told that no one ever saw the information.
Now here's what I'm getting at. I believe that if we are ever going to see God move in a Great Awakening sort of fashion in our state or nation, it will only happen if and when we can move past this mentality of blind loyalty to the Boys. If I may be so bold, it wasn't the Boys that brought these conventions around, it was God. To substitute one "good ol' boy" network which was liberal with one that is "conservative" is wrong.
I know that some have already called me Brutus, but I cannot with a clear conscience be a mute member of a machine that operates at the whim of an individual no matter how great they are rather than the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I was just not cut out to be one of the Boys.