Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Greg Mortenson, Take 3

As this piece points out, it's been 10 months since the news of Greg Mortenson's alleged fraud broke. I've written about this, here and here. It's a hard thing.

At the end of the day, it matters, and why and how matter. I don't think Greg Mortenson intentionally set out to get rich off of schools in Pakistan. If so, that's an entirely different matter, and downright criminal.

But. What he did was irresponsible, dangerous, and thus, completely inexcusable. He built an organization around his story- not the stories of people who's lives he was trying to change. I'm sure Mortenson thought no one knew the community he was working with (or his mission or his contacts, or whatever) as well as he did. All of us think that way, and Mortenson had more reason than most. But still....this is pride, pride at its worst. I can't think of a more dramatic example of how our sin can affect others. And it lives in us all.

Madeleine L'Engle wrote about this in A Circle of Quiet...she writes about a quotation from G.A. Young a student brought to one of her workshops: "The compulsion for me to get my cotton-pickin' fingers on my fellow man is the natural result of my belief that I have the word. If I do have the word and feel surrounded by unmolded clay, I have no choice but to mold. When I do this, I begin playing God, and as a result usually raise the devil." L'engle responded with a quotation from George MacDonald: "Am I going to do a good deed? Then of all times,-Father, into thy hands: lest the enemy should have me now."

L'engle, with her characteristic clarity, identifies the difference between the two statements: "George MacDonald implies that as long as we put ourselves into God's hands, then maybe something good can happen, not because of us, but because he helps." Being a lifelong Anglican, she continues"I've just remembered another quotation: this one's from the Psalms. Whenever I'm going to teach a class or give a speech, I always think of it, and hold onto it: Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give the praise; for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth's sake."

This is where hope lies. We each, like Mortenson, have the ability to destroy the good we set out to do...we can devastate our own compassion. But there is grace, there is Christ, and therefore, we don't have to. Greg Mortenson is neither monster nor hero, but a man made in the image of God, a man who needs forgiveness.


Anonymous said...

Greg Mortenson has done more good than I ever will (and I'm writing this 10 days after my father's death ~ I've lived with my parents for 7+ years to see them through to the end). Probably more than you ever will, too.

Let's let him alone to get that work done. Don't donate if you don't want to. Don't recommend the books to others. Just leave him and the Institute alone to do the work.

In October, once he had the medical OK to travel, he headed to Tajikistan to broaden the work and the good effect of that work.

Go to ikat.org to keep up to date on the work, if you like. Read the MT AG's report that's coming out soon and think whatever you like.

But the work and the organization and the man keep going ~ no matter what you say or do. Thank God for that!

Susan Hale Whitmore
Silver Spring, Maryland

charis said...

Thank you for your comments, and thoughts. I'm not sure if you read my previous posts (linked earlier), but this is part of my journey in working through my own devastation and pain at the charges that have been leveled against Mortenson. My personal conclusion, at least for the moment, is that while what happened was human and understandable, it was also incredibly preventable. Honestly, I'm not sure the organization or the man will keep going after this - I hope you're right. That's been part of my struggle with the whole thing.

Jared Simonson said...


Montana Attorney General to Release Findings of Investigation 
into Greg Mortenson, Central Asia Institute

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock will announce the findings of his investigation into Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute (CAI) during a press conference call at 11 a.m. MST Thursday, April 5.

The Attorney General launched the parallel investigations into allegations of mismanagement of assets by Mortenson, co-founder, executive director and board member, and the charity on April 19, 2011.

CAI is a nonprofit organization incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Bozeman, Montana. The charity’s mission is to empower communities of central Asia through literacy and education, particularly for girls, and to promote peace through education in the U.S. and abroad.

Mortenson co-authored the books “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones into Schools,” which collectively told the story of how CAI came to be and of its accomplishments in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What: CAI Press Conference Call
When: 11 a.m. MST Thursday, April 5
Who: Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock