And so inevitably I couldn't help but discern the similarity between the Daleks' mantra of 'obey or be exterminated' and the 'submit or be excommunicated' way of operating espoused by some christians. Christians and Daleks with so much in common! Who would have thought? See what I did there ;)
Anyway, as I shared in Part 4 of my story, the concept of enforced submission played a large part in the conflict I experienced as an elder in our church. One man had been proclaimed by the board to be ‘God’s anointed’, a message he desperately wanted to believe. That same man seriously wanted to be seen as the leader, to be the one in authority over others. So regardless of his behaviour, or how he treated those ‘under’ him, I was expected to submit to him.
No matter how many times I tried to spell out the pain and distress his behaviour was causing, no-one wanted to know. (There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear!) The board member who delivered the ‘submit or leave’ ultimatum to me said at the time, “If there had been any impropriety involved it might have been different.” I could only assume he was referring to sexual misconduct and, as crude as it sounds, all I could think was that obviously screwing someone’s wife physically was regarded as 'bad', but screwing them emotionally was just fine!
Sadly, this attitude is not new. Teaching that unquestioning submission is somehow 'godly', coupled with the insistence that this will guarantee some sort of spiritual 'covering' (protection) has caused untold pain and suffering throughout the body of Christ. It places one brother over another in terms of authority, it demands submission and it threatens dire consequences to those who do not comply. (How godly is fear-based submission anyway!?) And yet, this teaching is still being employed by countless leaders who insist on absolute submission to their authority, their vision, their rule.
As there is extensive teaching on this subject available on-line, I won't even attempt to replicate it here. But the following article is a great place to start: Under Cover: Authority, Obedience (& Abuse?). Another very useful website which explores this topic quite extensively is Covering and Authority.
Let me finish with one last thought. Throughout the New Testament, christians are encouraged submit to one another (mutually). It is a seen as a gift, something we can offer another, but not something to be demanded. Once we step over into that territory it becomes coercion, and that makes us just like the Daleks.