In the first part of this post I dealt with Churches That Abuse: Why Bad people do Bad things. I wrote:
The Christian church attracts people with ulterior motives. Generally, Christian people are very trusting. When someone gives a testimony of redemption most Christians readily embrace the lost sheep that is now found. Tales of addictions, sexual immorality, prison, violence and the like find a sympathetic ear with most Christians. The worse the sinner, the greater the testimony of God’s wonderful, saving grace.
There is no doubt that many sinful, fallen people have found deliverance through what they believe is the saving work of Jesus Christ. Many vile people now live productive, grace filled lives as born again Christians. They are to be commended for the change that has taken places in their lives. While I no longer embrace the Christian church and its message of saving grace I am quite ready to admit that religion transforms and changes multitudes of people.
Because Christian people are trusting and accept people at face value they are an easy mark for people who have evil intentions. In amongst the sheep are criminals, thieves, child abusers, and sexual deviants,to name a few. These people make an outward show of Christianity but inwardly they are ravenous wolves seeking sheep to devour. This is true not only in the local church but also in Christian camps, group homes, and Christian schools
Churches make it easy for deceivers to set up camp in their midst. The deceiver quickly embraces the church family, begins to regularly attend services, and even gives money to the church. They are soon embraced as brother or sister. Before too long they are given access to places of responsibility within the church. They now have access to the treasures of the church. (monetary, physical, spiritual)
In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject. It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when it is committed by evil people, wolves in sheep clothing. It is much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people.
How does a good person, a pastor, deacon, or Sunday school teacher, go from a life as a devoted follower of Jesus to a acts of abuse and perversion? It is easy to dismiss this person as a person who secretly was always an abuser. but, what it they weren’t? What caused them to turn from a follower of Jesus to an abuser?
I will not offer any iron-clad answers to this question. I do want to suggest that there are teachings and ideologies within many Christian groups (especially those of Evangelical or Fundamentalist persuasion) that are instrumental in turning good people into abusers. They become Good People who do Bad Things.
My focus is on the churches I am most familiar with, Independent, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, and often Baptist churches. I could spend the next hour detailing the heinous acts of people I personally know, men and women considered to be devoted followers of Jesus who became abusers of the very people they were given charge to care for.
I do not want this post to come off as a justification for the behavior of abusers. When 9-11 happened our focus was rightly on the terrorists who murdered thousands of people. Over time a few people tried to raise questions about why the terrorists did what they did. These people were viciously attacked. “Who in the hell cares WHY they did it. We know they did it and that is all that matters.” I understand this sentiment, but refusing to answer they why question leaves us open to a repeat of the 9-11 attack.
Multitudes of people have gone through a personal 9-11. They have been attacked, abused, and often emotionally and spiritually destroyed by people they trusted. Their tales of abuse are heart wrenching and I have no problem understanding their hatred for those who abused them. What I want to gently do is try to understand WHY the abuse happens. I will understand if you say “let them all rot in hell. I don’t care what their reasons were, or why they did what they did.” I have not walked in your shoes so I have no right to tell you how you must respond to these issues.
However, I spent the first 50 years of my life in the Evangelical and Fundamental church. I believe I can give some answers to the WHY questions. I want to look behind the abuse and see what led good people to become abusers. I am convinced there are things within the DNA of Christianity that lends itself to breeding and growing abusers, especially within the Evangelical and Fundamentalist church.
What are the reasons a person joins a Church?
- They are born into the church. At a later date they make a public profession of faith and are baptized.
- Their family has always attended a particular church so they, keeping with family tradition, join the family church.
- They get married and their spouse attends a particular church. They join the church their spouse attends. It is important for couples to be on the same page spiritually. (or so they are told)
- They move into a new community and find a church of like faith to join.
- They are dissatisfied with the current church they are members of and they are looking to join a church that best meets their needs.
- They think there is no Church that meets their needs or standard of belief so they start their own church.
- They are friends of someone who attends a particular Church. They visit the church, like what they see, so they join their friend’s church.
- They attend a Church, hear the preaching, fall under conviction of their sins, and are saved. They are baptized and become a member of the Church. They are called a “new convert.”
What I have listed above pretty well covers the reasons why a person becomes a member of a particular church. I recognize the reasons I mention lack nuance but I think they will suffice for what I plan to write later.
There are countless numbers of people who are not a part of organized religion. They are part of fellowship groups, cell churches, home churches, study groups, etc. While these groups are detached from the organized church they are just as capable as being abusive as any group mentioned above. I know of home churches that are just as fundamentalist, if not more so, than any independent, fundamentalist Baptist Church.
Every church and denomination has its own orthodoxy and its own orthopraxy. When trying to determine why good people do bad things we must first look at what a particular church or denomination believes and practices. This is essential to understanding why people, in the name of God, people who are committed followers of Jesus, abuse other people, often doing despicable things to those they are supposed to love and protect.
Most Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches teach:
- The Bible is the inspired word of God, and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the varying arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, that the Bible is God’s truth. If they don’t they are not an Evangelical.
- That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
- The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
- The pastor is called of God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership.( I am well aware that a few churches have multiple pastors, elder boards, et,c but the vast majority of churches are pastored by one person)
When we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. They believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God.
God has given them a man or a woman to teach them and guide them in the teachings of the Bible. The pastor is linch-pin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of the pastor, one person above all others, in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.
How do pastors gain such power over people?
I will answer this question in my next post. It is going to take me a few posts to fully develop my thoughts on Church Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things.