#63 Confronting Abusive Leadership

“At the Meetings Snowball often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches, but Napoleon was better at canvassing support for himself in between times. He was especially successful with the sheep. Of late the sheep had taken to bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad” both in and out of season, and they often interrupted the Meeting with this. It was noticed that they were especially liable to break into “Four legs good, two legs bad” at crucial moments in Snowball’s speeches.”  George Orwell writing in Animal Farm

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Editors: Tikie has written a new post with further thoughts on abusive church leadership. We publish his new article here for the first time.

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Confronting Abusive Leadership

I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss some common questions and comments, as they appeared on my original blog. I hope that these comments will be of some help today as people, sadly, continue to wrestle with authoritarian Christian leadership.

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Touching God’s Anointed

Phrases like these were oft posted on my original blog:

“Tik you should approach those leaders who have sinned against you in private, writing about this publicly is not what Christ taught us. They are Christ’s anointed Ministers.

Invariably Matthew Chapter 19 was the proof source for these comments.

However, Matthew 19 deals with private offenses between two parties. Christ said, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.

My story makes abundantly clear that the sins of MCM leadership did not just involve me, but ultimately involved tens of thousands of people. And this is true of authoritarian leaders who abuse their congregations.

Regardless, the leadership at MCM (and other authoritarian groups) set up processes, or rituals, whereby it was impossible to face leadership privately without finding yourself on the hot-seat, or, expelled from the group and declared apostate.

In my own story this occurred when I confronted Marty, my shepherd at MCM. For my trouble I got a three-hour exorcism session with two other brothers and the loss of a good night’s sleep thrown in for free. The word of my supposed temper tantrum (Marty’s words), my later “hootah session”, as well as my confessed sins, spread throughout the Auburn Ministry. I learned the lesson well about what happened in MCM if you confronted God’s anointed privately.

I submit that anyone who privately confronts a leader, in an authoritarian group, comes to grief publicly if they do so. This is a lesson in deterrence that members learn just quickly as I did. For who wants to confront a leader and then find themselves labeled as rebellious (or in the case of women “Jezebels”) and have their supposed sins broadcast to the entire congregation?

These authoritarian leaders are well aware about how discontent among the flock could grow and fester.

This public abuse of those who privately confront leadership serves another purpose beside deterrence alone. For the shaming of the private confronter, far from inciting the membership to question the leadership, instead rallies the membership to their beloved, and wrongly accused, leader.  Chanting, “Four legs good, two legs bad” at the accuser, the broader membership solidify the ties that bind them to the leader. Abusive leaders love nothing more than playing the martyr.

However, Paul tells us to take on abusive church leadership PUBLICLY.

Writing in Timothy (Chapter 5) Paul tells us, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels.”

Furthermore, how are we to give warnings to those that are about to step into the trap of a sociological cult if we cannot recount examples and stories of such?

What would have happened, if a week before Ellen and Randy’s visit to my frat house, had I read a book, or article, on Bob Weiner and MCM that contained the hard truth about MCM? Perhaps it would have saved me, and others, much heartache. To take this one step further, I submit that the Bible is full of stories that publicly recount the mistakes, and sins, of leadership. But one example of this is the story of King David’s adultery and his brutal murder of his lover’s husband.

No, we must publicize the sins and failings of abusive leadership if we are to help those who come after us. And if we find ourselves in a congregation with clearly abusive leaders we are to confront them publicly.

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The Good Intentions Problem

Another  other frequent comment posted to my blog would read like this: “Bob/Joe/ Whoever’s intentions (or leaders of any authoritarian group) were good they just went a little adrift in their execution.”

Well my Grandma Reese had the right of it with her acid riposte to such nonsense, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Let’s take a moment and play a mental game that uses an absurd example (reductio absurdum) involving good intentions.

Suppose I told you there was a group dedicated to eliminating poverty and suffering on earth. That, like  Christ, they wanted to prevent the abuse of the humble and poor by the rich and powerful.

What if I told you that the members of this group proved over and over again that they were willing  to be exiled, imprisoned, and even die, for their beliefs. That even their mortal enemies admired their strength and dedication to the cause and to their holy text.

What if I told you the leader of this group lived a modest lifestyle, owned only two changes of clothes and cared not for fine foods. What if even this leader’s enemies, who hated him, admired his dedication and work ethic; openly admitted that his goals were worthy, even his methods seemed harsh.

What if you  learned that the group’s leader had died from overwork and that at his funeral tens of thousands of people stood in line to walk by his open casket for hours during a terrible blizzard and wept openly while doing so.

Would you join this group, founded by a selfless well-intentioned leader? Would you join this group that possessed what were clearly good intentions?

Since his intentions were good wouldn’t this prove that the leader was ultimately good, even if his ideas went a bit off track in during their execution?

Of course I am referring to Vladmir Lenin, whose modest life style, and well-intentioned goal of eliminating poverty and abuse of people by their betters, resulted in the death of millions. I am not accusing MCM of being Lenin like. Rather this absurd example points out that good intentions don’t mean diddly.

And this is the true meaning of Christ’s reference to each of being judged by our fruit.

Only God is privy to what Joe Smith, Bob Weiner, and other authoritarian leaders,  intentions truly are/were.

The rest of us can only judge them by their fruit.

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Mistakes Were Made… Good Was Done.

The corollary to the good intentions argument is the, “Well Tik, MCM did carry out some good,” comment.

“No doubt,” I would reply.

But at what cost?

To risk going over the top again, Hitler brought us the Volkswagen, the Interstate Highway System in the US (a direct copy of his autobahn), ballistic missiles, jet engines, and holiday only cruise ships. Once again I am NOT comparing MCM’s leadership to Hitler, so please save the outraged comments.

Rather I am pointing out that, yes, MCM did some good but at a terrible cost.

For Christians not only should the ends not justify the means, but the means must be worthy of the end. In fact, I would argue that the means, for Christ, were just as important as the ends.

A minister of Christ should never explain away abuse of the flock with the, “Mistakes were made but a lot of good was done” argument.”

For Christ said,“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

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Tik Tok  August 2017

 

 

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