In my “Listening for Abuse” two-part series, I discussed what could be a very controversial notion of abuse, especially because it would end up labeling a lot of people as abusers.
I know. That’s why I’m writing.
The reality is that this sort of abuse is almost the norm within certain Christian circles. I’m looking at just about every pastor in the Acts 29/Mars Hill systems, John Piper, RC Sproul, Ken Ham, most Christian political activism organizations (Focus on the Family sticks out), and a whole host of others.
If you’re just coming in or have forgotten, I define abuse as “inflicted being-for-others.” You can look at my other posts if you want a better understanding of what that means. In a short sentence, abuse is someone forcing “you [to] live for the approval of people other than yourself as opposed to seeking after what is good in spite of what others think.” In particular, abusers force you to live for them.
A professor of mine said he would prefer to reserve the word “abuse” for cases like Westboro Baptist or Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, but I actually disagree. These cases are certainly abusive, but they are not a particularly dangerous sort of abuse. No one is marching off to join Westboro or FLDS; their primary recruitment method consists of making babies and then brainwashing them as they grow up. They are child abusers, to be certain, but they really don’t abuse the rest of society; they only annoy/offend everyone else.
On the contrary, the more subtle and pervasive sort of abuse does a lot more damage than any of the obvious cases. Satan comes in the appearance of an angel of light, so to speak, and Westboro is no angel of light. The real danger of Westboro et al is that it gives other abusers a scapegoat to distract you or their own consciences from their abuses (“I’m not such a bad guy; look at them“).
For example, Mars Hill Church in Seattle is one of the fastest-growing churches in the states. Head Pastor Mark Driscoll and his lackeys are “edgy” and thus attract lots of young people. By “edgy,” I mean that they will berate and abuse you into conformity — and they’ll get away with it, because they also talk about Jesus, and everyone loves Jesus, right? Well, except for Barack Obama (in case you don’t follow the link, I don’t actually mean that).
If you don’t care to sift through content in the links above, a cursory Google search will reveal a whole host of people claiming that the ways in which Mars Hill has abused its members. Here are some highlights:
- Beat people into submission to your authority (obviously not literal, but still disturbing)
- Fire anyone who stands between you and absolute authority
- Share intimate details of counseling to shame the members you can’t control
Well, Driscoll, I have one quite fitting question for you, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” I’m pretty sure you think you’re the next great reformer or something, drawing men to some sort of perverted, chauvinistic ideal which you think is “Biblical masculinity.” Only God knows your heart as it truly is, but I would caution you with Matt. 7:22. Make sure you’re not that sort of person. All evidence points in one direction: your heart is seriously deranged.
It’s more than just Mars Hill, though. Focus on the Family, once a household name for me growing up, regularly distorts research — over and over and over. And over. And over some more. It’s their primary method of discussing homosexuality. James Dobson is a thief of ideas and of the work which so many scientists and researchers have done. He (ab)uses others’ work to further his own ends. I cannot speak low enough of Focus on the Family or anything James Dobson does. It is an organization which trades on lies, yet it masquerades as perhaps THE Christian family values organization in America. I guess honesty isn’t a family value (maybe Dobson had to pick one between honesty and authoritarian control).
I could write a long list of complaints against others, but the fact is this: there are a lot of corrupt pastors and organizations claiming the Christian name but doing nothing but abuse their followers while throwing a few semblances of Christian doctrine out to keep people hooked. It’s time to identify these people as such and call them out, because Mark Driscoll has already caused way more damage to society than Westboro ever will. Westboro is ugly, vitriolic, and annoying, but that’s it. By contrast, these abusers who have claimed the popular throne of Christianity are parasites on the body of Christ.
That is why I call it abuse: I care about the body of Christ, and it is suffering horribly under these people.