Sermon Backstory

The Sermon on the Board Room Table’s core theme is honesty.  Although I hope the listener will find their own “story” in it, I find it necessary to be completely open regarding what The Sermon “is about” – as much as that means anything in Art.

The Sermon is a piece of art therapy. It is not “based on a true story”, which is always a lie, but instead it’s a reflection on the lived experience of working for a very large state institution for more than five years. I saw some things I was morally opposed to, I stood up and pointed them out. Then I was made an example of in retaliation. It’s the same old boring tale of corruption and bullying, but with The Sermon I wanted to highlight what came after that experience of frustration and humiliation.

Here are the things I learned directly from my experience “living” The Sermon. I present them in bullet point format as that’s the language of modern business and you’re probably already getting tired reading these things known as “paragraphs”.

We are encouraged by “the motivators” of an organization to mindless ambition, leading to a desperate need for status and privilege.

  • After my ordeal and in the time of COVID my superiors were desperate to hold meetings because the “meeting” was their entire existence. But with so many, many meetings in the pandemic they ran out of things to say and resorted to making us watch motivational videos from YouTube and LinkedIn Learning.
  • The central theme of all of these meetings and videos was essentially ambition is good, ambition requires constant change, do not resist any form of change or you will not “rise” in the working world.

Status and privilege in the workplace can only be expressed through bullying / suffering.

  • It came to me that these people don’t really have an identity, they think of themselves in terms of only what other people think of them. They have no core values other than this mindless ambition which at its root is just unbridled and unrelenting greed.
  • The ambition they have won has to be expressed, others have to see “success” in order for it to be real.
  • In an office environment this can be expressed in only two ways – the ability to reward and the ability to punish.
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Bullying is expressed through racism, sexism, religious intolerance – Intolerance of any form of "otherness". These things are the symptoms of greed, they are an expression of status, not a cause.

  • In a corporate world, reward can really only be expressed through money. Money in the corporate world, especially in the corporation known as “State Government”, is extremely hard to give out – damn next to impossible frankly. So by default the only way “success” can be measured is in doling out punishment,
  • Bullying becomes the essence of corporate status and privilege. As we climb the ranks we earn a more and more grand status which can only be expressed through the privilege of sadism. The higher you rise, the more your decisions are allowed to hurt other people.
  • This is the true source of all forms of bullying. Racism, sexism, religious intolerance – any form of punishing “otherness” springs from this system of status and privilege.
    • In my world it was prejudice against black women and Jews. But there was also a general prejudice against anyone who wasn’t white, protestant and married with children.
    • My “otherness” was the fact that I was a straight white Catholic male who had no interest in getting married and having children. This was considered an outright rejection of our system of status and privilege.

Left unchecked entire systems are built to enable this sadism.

  • I’m an idiot with a degree, so of course I fought back against this system with pen and paper. I started writing things down and passing them up the ladder. That’s when I discovered that the people and organizations with names like “Equal Employment” and “Diversity and Inclusion” really existed to maintain these privileges associated with status.
  • If your status didn’t allow for racism, sexism and bullying these departments would punish you.
    • If your status did include these privileges, however, these departments would defend that privilege tooth and nail. I was told, and this is a direct quote mind you, that I was “a problem and why would anyone want to help me?”. The words "not a team player" came up a lot too.
    • My status did not grant me the privilege to stand up to the racism, sexism and anti-Semitism I was recording and the powers that be were simply staggered that I would even try.
    • As a final example I will tell you soon after my troubles began a man was promoted over me who, in my opinion, could be trusted to use his minority status to file complaints of racism and retaliation against anyone our supervisors, managers and executives wanted punished. It was only because I was diligently documenting and recording everything around me that I didn’t fall victim to this man’s unfounded accusations. Though the department of “Diversity Incorporated” spent six months trying.
  • This is the very heart of systemic racism, sexism, religious or sexual intolerance – Entire departments that exist solely for the defense of status and privilege as an expression of the “success” of mindless ambition.

 This is a tale of Christian hypocrisy.

  • Status, privilege and mindless ambition are all antithetical to Christian teaching,
  • Everyone one involved in this experience from myself all the way to the highest executive was an expressed Christian.
    • I can’t tell you the number of Bibles and Bible quotes that litter our offices and hallways. All of this took place in my home state of Georgia, so I think you can probably imagine what I am talking about.
  • The destruction of status and privilege lies at the heart of Christ’s own “lived experience”.
    • It is the very essence of Christianity that He who possessed the highest status died a torturous death on a wooden cross for those with no status at all.
    • We all have only one status – “Sinner”.
  • His lived experience also shows that mindless ambition, the greed of daily life, has no place in a Christian existence.
    • He speaks of our daily bread, that our duty and sacrifice today will foster and nurture the actions of tomorrow and so on and so forth for all of eternity.
    • He literally preached against the sinful anxiety of worrying constantly about the excesses of tomorrow, next week, next month and all the glorious five year plans of the world.
  • I hope to remind others, as I was reminded, that these prophets of goals, accomplishments and success are indeed false prophets.

 In the end, when a Christian is asked “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time” we have been freed from vice in order to say “Exactly where I see myself today and tomorrow, always trying to love God with my whole heart, body and soul and trying to love my neighbor as myself – and the rest will take care of itself”.

Peace,

Will Leamon
Athens GA