Yesterday at De-Conversion.com, in a wonderful post entitled, How To Discover Counterfeit Christianity? some comments were cited from a blog called In Defense of the Gospel. The comments pertained to a young man who is questioning his beliefs and has been visiting De-Conversion to acquire some food for thought. Lou Martuneac, the author of In Defense of the Gospel, exemplifies a fundamentalist Baptist mindset. In his post of January 5 he draws his readers’ attention to the young man’s questioning of faith and he calls for the young man’s religious employer to intervene.
LM’s post is a prime example of spiritual abuse. Such abuses take place in various ways within fundamentalism and a good portion of evangelicalism. Rather than communicating quietly to the Rev Wilkins, LM publicly spotlights the man’s alleged sin of independent thinking and questioning and calls for his readership to pray and intercede for the young man, whom he identifies by name. Such open outing and spotlighting are tools of the spiritual abuse process. In addition to being used to humiliate the person being highlighted, they are also used to discourage others from coming anywhere close to engaging in similar behavior. Further, those who may agree somewhat with the person being highlighted are implicitly discouraged from speaking out in defense without putting their good names and reputations on the line.
Similar “interventions in Christian love” take place in fundamentalist and evangelical congregations and colleges across the country. Students and congregants who have alleged complaints frequently “intervene in love.” I am not in position to question the motives of particular practitioners, but their actions certainly create pain and heartache. Often, the complainants have shared “confidentially” their concerns with two or three others under the guise of seeking their prayer support before approaching the person. It is not uncommon for those two or three individuals to then share “confidentially” with an additional one or two people.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a person or two to ask at a prayer meeting for prayer for the individual in question. Even when few details are given, enough information is hinted at to give rumor mongers fodder for a wide range of speculation. Sometimes prayer is sought by outlining the situation of an unnamed “a friend.” Therefore, before the “intervention in Christian love” actually occurs, rumors frequently have been quietly whispered.
If the person being confronted does not immediately “repent of his or her sin,” the interventionist often takes the news of the alleged sin to a wider circle. There are pastors and church leaders who will openly do on a Sunday morning what LM has done on his blog.
The justification for the practice is Jesus’ instruction that, if a brother or sister offends you, go to the person quietly to talk about it. If the matter is not settled at that point, then one is to go to a spiritual leader, who will then meet with the complainant and the alleged offender. The third person is intended to bring balance. As it is possible that the complaint may be unjustified, the third party is in a position to listen to both side before speaking on the matter. The third person is to keep in mind that it is possible that one or both parties, or even neither party, may be in the wrong.
Those who point to Jesus’ teaching to justify their actions have themselves disregarded the process. They have become the complainant, judge and executioner all in one. These interventions have thereby become part of a control system, a means to force a person, sometimes subtly and sometimes strongly, to conform and “repent.”
A faculty member at a Christian college once noted that one of the worst phrases on campus that any student can hear are, “in the love of Christ I need to talk to you.” I would extend it further, it is a phrase that it is one of the worse phrases in the Church and more often than not signifies that the person is being abused.