When gene pools are somewhat skinny

Todd’s post of last week points towards an important aspect of the YRR movement which explains the ubiquitous multitasking of key figures: the highly limited gene pool of its self-perpetuating leadership.  For a movement beset by scandals among some of its key players over the last few years, from those who do not understand the importance of the Trinity through to abusive leadership practices and adultery, it has proved remarkably resilient.   Even when leaders have had to go because of terrible public scandal, they have simply vanished with no subsequent public soul-searching by the organizations who made them great or who were happy to ride on their reputations until such time as that became uncomfortable.


Two factors seem key in this.  First, the major organizations involved in spearheading the movement, such as TGC, Desiring God and the CBMW, tend to have significant overlap in top leadership personnel.  This makes problems in one branch of the movement less likely to be critiqued by others.  Silence on key issues is easier to maintain when different groups share a common pool of leadership.  They thus have both a vested interest in that silence and a means of enforcing it: a virtual monopoly on the trusted media outlets where such critique might appear, and a powerful framework for keeping discipline among the lower orders -- platform patronage and jobs for the boys.  Break ranks and you lose your potential place at the table/conference/blog/bookstore.


Second, the powerful personality-driven nature of the movement also makes it hard for the rank-and-file to offer criticism.  Over recent decades, psychologists have noted a strange phenomenon relative to some financial scams: when people have invested so much in them, it becomes virtually impossible for them to stop giving money, even when they know they are scams, because the emotional cost of accepting that fact is simply too high a psychological price to pay.   It seems that a similar thing happens in religious movements when people invest in a particular organization or person: what has been notable about the various scandals surrounding the YRR is not that these have led the rank-and-file to a more sober and modest assessment of the movement’s leadership but that they have frequently generated even more passionate uncritical devotion to the cause, as anyone who has ever dared blog a criticism will know.


The YRR started with high hopes and did much good.  But the interconnection of its various parts and the clear emergence of individuals in the movement as brands has served to foster a leadership with a very skinny gene pool which cannot serve the church well in the long run.