I was sitting in the lounge room of elder R because I wanted to talk to him before I got officially shafted by the board. I was hoping (in vain!) that if I shared my concerns about the behaviour of elder J and his wife, and the board members backing him, that he'd realise there was something seriously wrong. I told him that if we'd been in the workplace, instead of a church, I'd have a good case to bring a charge of bullying against elder J.
Without blinking or missing a beat, elder R replied, "And he'd have a good case against you, too."
I was stunned! Elder R had not been privy to J's bullying behaviour towards me because it mostly happened in private encounters. But beyond that, he hadn't even been in the same country for much of that time!
So if he had anything to say about the way people had been treated, it was because he'd listened to, and accepted the accounts of, the one doing the bullying. (In hindsight, I've realised what a political animal elder R is, and how well he plays the game to win. He was never going to back the 'losing' side.)
Months later I phoned R in desperation. My husband and I had hit a crisis point over the elders' latest refusal to deal with things, and I was absolutely frantic. Despite my obvious distress, elder R calmly informed me that he was not in town and couldn't help us. No word of concern for us. No effort to make sure we had someone else to call on. No hint of taking any responsibility for the agony we were in. Apparently, he just didn't give a toss.
Eventually, I swore at him and told him he cared more for 'his' church than he did for the people in it. And with that I served myself up to him on a silver platter. It was exactly what he needed to prove that I was beyond the pale - emotional, irrational, fit only to be ignored. And he's never spoken to me since.
But despite my highly emotional state and my 'bad' language, I spoke the truth that night. By his actions, this man showed more concern over protecting the reputation of his church than he did over the lives being torn apart by it. It seems we were just collateral damage. No biggie.
It is a dangerous reality that christians - leaders especially - like to play God by creating 'church' in their own image. And then they find themselves having to defend that image against all comers - sometimes even to the 'death'. They don't necessarily set out to hurt people. They don't plan from the start to sacrifice others on the altar of their church's 'success'. But it happens nonetheless!
Jesus said he would build his church, but man has usurped that role. (Apparently some men think they can do a better job of it than Jesus.) And just like Victor Frankenstein's attempts to breathe life into a collection of dead body parts, they've created a monster. Ironically, they all too frequently become slaves to it. They must serve it at all costs. And tragically, that cost is too often paid for by others.
Because this monster demands not just obedience, but subservience; unquestioning allegiance; unswerving loyalty; blind faith.
It's an unthinking, unfeeling beast. It knows only one 'right' way, so you'd better have the correct answer every time. Make sure you submit to its every whim. Conformity and uniformity are your only hope.
When someone stands up and asks a question, or expresses a doubt, or suggests a different way, they must be dealt with. God forbid that anyone should stop to listen to these trouble-makers. They might start to see the monster for what it really is! These rebellious, un-submissive backsliders must be silenced.
And the easiest way of doing that is to deflect your own guilt onto them. If they question the wisdom of doing things this way, question their wisdom. If they say they've been bullied, accuse them of bullying. If they react out of their pain, use it as proof of their guilt.
The monster-makers cannot afford for one minute to see what it is they have really created (or how far it is from the picture Jesus painted), and so they must lay blame at the door of anyone who points out the monster's existence. These 'trouble-makers', these 'bitter, unforgiving' people, these 'false prophets and jezebels' are fed to the monster feet first. Judged, denounced, shunned.
But those who've created the monster can't escape it because they dare not acknowledge it exists. To do so would be to shatter the illusion of the greater good and expose the ugliness that lies behind. They'd lose their reputation, their position, their power. And they can't let that happen because they've convinced themselves that they must have those things so they can do great things for their god.
And so they fight to win because they must. They're on a mission from God and they can't imagine why people are so difficult. They are the anointed ones and if only everyone would just submit to their authority their church would be able to do the great things they dream of doing. They can't have these rabble rousers stirring up trouble - they must protect the flock. They're just trying to serve God, but these trouble-makers keep distracting them from their glorious mission. If they can only deal with these agitators, everything will be perfect.
So relax. No need to struggle or be angry. It's nothing personal. You're just being sacrificed for the good of the