Abuse, Part II: Spiritual Bullying

In Part I, Spiritual Abuse: Shape Up or Ship Out, I addressed the spiritual abuse of authoritarianism. In this post, I am confessing my sin of authoritarianism expressed in a specific scenario. Even as I recount it, I am horrified by what I could fully justify to myself and approve of for over 2 decades! It is perhaps even worse than my “worst sin” of losing $1,000,000. I am very sorry and repent of what I did. I now wish to be an advocate of anyone who has suffered similar spiritual abuses in the name of Jesus. Do share your stories in a safe place without reservation and let the healing begin, as perhaps I am attempting to do.

Spiritual abuse or “bullying” by churches/church leaders is a very sensitive, delicate and difficult issue to address, because the abusers are usually sincere older Christians who are leaders and who have been in their church the longest and who mean well. Abusive leaders truly believe that what they say, do and decide is for the good of the church, and even for the good of the people they are “abusing” in the name of “shepherding.” There is always an extremely fine line between shepherding and manipulation–which is spiritual abuse.
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Spiritual Abuse: Shape Up or Ship Out

For over 2 decades as a UBF fellowship leader, my uncompromising implicit imperative to others was, “Shape up or ship out!” Looking back, it is a surprise that anyone has stayed with me. Clearly, this is God’s grace and not my work! Without a doubt my sinful default is to be authoritarian. To break this inclination feels like going against every grain in my body. My only recourse is the gospel: Jesus loved me in spite of me (Jer 31:3). When I am touched by grace, God softens and transforms my heart. It does not mean that I become a wimp. But only by God’s grace, I may not be authoritarian.

This post and quotes are from a blog by Duke Tabor, a pastor who has been a Christian for 33 years: Spiritual Abuse: Shepherds Ruling Like Royalty. He regards spiritual abuse as “a very real and tragic problem in our churches.” Obviously, I know that very well.
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The Hunger Games

For the first time ever, I saw a movie by myself on the first day. I felt odd in that everyone else seemed to be under 30 years old, with the majority under 20. Also, everyone went in pairs or groups. There was a group of 27 teenage kids sitting all around me at the 11:30 am showing. But I went by myself, since my wife dislikes violence, especially of teens killing teens.

The Hunger Games is about a fictional futuristic dystonian society where 24 teenagers from 12 U.S. districts (a boy and girl) are chosen by lot to fight each other to the death. This is an annual televised live event, called the Hunger Games, which is for the amusement and entertainment of the people. The lead character, Katniss Everdeen, volunteered as a competitor (Tribute) because her younger 14 year old sister was chosen from District 12. She offered herself in place of her sister. Continue reading →

The State of Christianity in Korea

The quotes below are from a report from a two-day intensive Gospel in the City conference held in Seoul on Feb 20-21, 2012 (written by Stephen Um, a Korean pastor in Boston): The Gospel in a Changing Korea. Do you think his observations and conclusions quoted below are in keeping with what you have observed and read in UBF reports over the last few decades?

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The Importance of Being Disillusioned

It feels like there is an imposter claiming to be the bride of Christ. She wears a similar veil so that it is often difficult to tell the difference until you come close and begin to lift it and rather than finding safety, compassion, and embrace you find protocol, judgment and exclusivity. I feel like our decision to move on is a desire to experience the true bride where vulnerable intimacy, unconditional embrace, and true rest exist and where protocol is not in charge except for the protocol to love. What is additionally discouraging is knowing that I have been seduced by this imposter and tried to entice others into her arms, explaining away her institutional nastiness while redirecting attention to her surface-level ‘pretty gown’.

This is a quote by a young pastor who decided to leave the institutional church. He didn’t give up his vocation as a pastor. In fact, he maintains that he can do more with Jesus outside the church than within it. He began to reengage in his community and found ample opportunity to serve Christ there.

Many today are leaving their churches not because of a lack of faith but because of disillusionment. Some find another church; others don’t. Leaving one’s church is a difficult decision that should not be made lightly. However, I do believe that there are healthy aspects to disillusionment. Disillusionment with church may lead some astray, but in many cases it leads to new and deeper expressions of faith.

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Thoughts on Christian Friendship

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord (Acts 15:36-40).

I don’t know about you, but whenever I read this passage in the book of Acts, my heart always aches a bit. My heart hurts because genuine Christian friendships have always meant a great deal to me. And this story in Acts seems to be the one instance in the Bible in which there appears to be a tragic rift in a holy friendship: the broken fellowship between Paul and Barnabas. Even more, it seems all the more tragic since it involves two of the greatest pillars of the early Church. Perhaps one might even say that the Paul/Barnabas split is the first recorded “Great Church Split” in the history of the Christian Church—even before the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox split, or the Roman Catholic/Protestant Reformation split.

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The Way of the Cross is Dialogue

Bowing to alternative views that appeal to us has always been a temptation. We refuse to believe there is only one way of salvation, only one way to the Father. We choose to believe there are many paths to God.

Why? Because if there are many paths to God instead of just one, then we can willfully and selfishly choose the path we want. We can live the way we want, and never be held accountable by God. We can choose a religion that appeals to our own pride and vanity.

This quotation by evangelist Michael Youssef recently appeared in a friend’s Facebook post, and when I saw it, I instinctively felt a negative reaction. I hope you don’t mind humoring me as I try to explain myself, because this matters to me. I am not objecting to the content of Dr. Youssef’s words, but to the tone and attitude behind them as they are likely to be perceived in our present historical context. I think that his words are unlikely to accomplish what he hopes they will, which is to bring sinners to repentance.

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Porn and Christian Leadership

My first encounter with porn. I first saw porn in 1979 after a friend gave me several dozen Playboy magazines when I was a young doctor in Singapore. I could not stop watching them many times every day. Though I was not a Christian, I felt dirty and guilty and worthless. One day, I thought I made a mistake and that I had killed a patient of mine. I thought my career as a doctor was over. I immediately returned all the magazines. The next day I found out that the patient died of a brain hemorrhage. I was not the cause of his death.

Why am I writing about porn? I saw a newsflash this morning that a Wheaton College professor of Christian education was arrested and charged with possessing images and videos containing child pornography.

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