Shortly after Equifax announced the catastrophic security breach, I tried to be in touch to determine my exposure risk. The website didn’t allow me to enter for some reason, so I called the suggested phone number. First attempt I was told to call back later. Second I was on hold for 20 minutes before getting a guy to whom I explained I was interested in understanding my exposure risk. He asked if I had tried the website which is where I could find my answer. I told him my sad story about the site’s unwillingness to let me enter. He apologized…and asked if I tried the help line. I asked, “For the website?” He mumbled something incoherent. I added, “That’s why I called you.” He said, “I don’t have that information, you have to get it off the website.” I said, “Can you access the site where you are?” He replied, “I can’t do that from here, I’m just part of the response team.” I said, “Well, what’ s the response team supposed to do?” And he said, and this is an exact quote: “That’s classified…” I burst out laughing…but he wasn’t really making a joke. Then he apologized again and said there really wasn’t’ anything he could do for me. I hung up…
Everything about the Equifax debacle displays astonishing incompetence and disregard for clients. We need not rehearse all the layers of ineptitude, beginning with why we’re supposed to need something like Equifax in the first place—that’s not the small point I want to make here. I want to observe how easy it is to get distracted from things that matter most of all. In the case of Equifax, I would imagine that ironclad security and outstanding customer service are two essential deliverables.
Every business and organization has their version of this, the few things that define the reason for their existence. We’ll judge them based on how well they deliver on those few things. In our consumerist, capitalist culture this judgment often shows up in how we spend or give our money, equally true for profit and not-for-profit entities.
This is certainly the case for churches. If a church affirms that its principle vocation involves the love of God above all things and the love of neighbor as oneself, there should be evidence that’s the case, as in vibrant worship coupled with tangible, actionable opportunities for up-building the common good. And if a church claimed that God loves everyone but then either implicitly or explicitly excluded a whole class of persons for some reason, we would likely assert they had failed in their mission.
We could aver a similar thing for each one of us. How does what we claim as principle obligations and commitments actually show up in perceptible, substantial behaviors? For instance, if, as a follower after the way of Jesus, I affirm that love is my guiding first order business and there is little evidence of this, or worse, contradictory evidence, a la Equifax, then, whether covertly or overtly, I’ve been lying to myself and others.
This matter describes a dimension of integrity, one of the hallmarks of mature spirituality. Does my life have coherence? Do my actions reflect what I say I value most of all? Are the outcomes of my behaviors consistent with affirmations and commitments I have made? Does any of this actually matter to me?
Immersed in a culture of indifference to matters of character and integrity, conscious intentionality seems essential. Writing this to you helps me remember my core values. Establishing habits of prayer and generous giving, worship and service to others, helps create a sustainable environment for personal integrity. We help accomplish this for each other. I have a lot of gratitude for this, for you. It’s a good thing to have each other’s back in this way. One of the hallmarks of a healthy church.