Christian Bullying

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The topic I am about to address may incite a lot of strong emotions and opinions.  The subject matter, though negative, nevertheless is something that is worth addressing.

Bullying is considered a serious offense in today’s public arenas.  Thanks to the tenacious lobbying efforts of its past victims, its danger is being recognized and addressed.

Bullying has been identified rightfully as a nefarious conduct in the secular arena.  The religious sector though is a different matter.

Bullying in the Christian sector has taken virtuous sounding names such as “authority”, “leadership”, “submission”, “obedience”, “spiritual guidance” and perverted those names to mean something different than their original design and definitions.  Insidious abuses of these words have spread their nocuous modus operandi to the devastation of their victims.

The religious sector often attaches a “spiritual” name to a personal action and/or personal belief system and think the name somehow makes the action and belief more acceptable.  They then use that personal belief to pressure others to adopt the same standards.

The belief and action may not be actually Scripturally-validated, but because the word chosen to describe the belief is from the Scriptures, the belief or action itself is accepted as being “Scriptural.”  Not enough time and research is dedicated to the actual Scriptural meanings and applications of these words to recognize the difference.

The secular sector has recognized many of the abuses of the above terms within the religious sector.  The result has been that words like “authority”, “submission”, “obedience” are by association often considered negative.

The secular sector has reacted.  Wedding vows often emit the word “submission.”  Parental authority and discipline is often challenged.  Even the word “no” has been considered too constricting and negative to use in response to a child’s wrong behavior.

The problem is not with the correct usages of these words.  The problem is with its abuses.

The perfidious nature of bullying is that it uses coercion, deception, and intimidation to control its victims.  The greater the bully, the greater is the arsenal of weapons it uses to manipulate.

The danger with all deception is its very nature.  Deception is often very subtle in its moves.  It often parallels the truth or is sometimes so close to the truth, that the difference is hardly distinguishable.  That is why the lie is so believable. 

Deception is often truth with some error added to it. 

Christian bullying produces a lot of the same negative results as any other type of bullying: intimidation, fear, guilt, judgmental attitude, pride, false sense of self-righteousness, attempts to prove self-worth or self-righteousness.  There is a spirit of striving and much effort on the part of the victims to attempt to prove themselves.  The motivation of their efforts is fear.

Bullying manifests itself in social pressure to adhere to someone else’ standards or to pressure someone else to adhere to your own personal standards.  It’s more about finding acceptance than it is about encouraging one another to grow in a personal relationship with God.  It’s an attitude that disrespects others.

The “victims” are condemned and live with guilt if they do not completely adhere to all beliefs within the system.

Note: this is to be separated from those who are overly sensitive to anything that speaks of “rights” and “wrongs” and therefore overly react and judge any rule or principal as “judgmental”.  This is speaking of attitudes that are smug in their condemnation of those who are “less.

There is a sense of our efforts equal our worth or our “spiritual” performance merits our standing before God.  In other words, “how we perform equals God’s love for us.” If we perform well, He loves us well.  If we perform poorly, God’s love for us is also affected.  This is not necessarily clearly stated in words but strongly implied.  Subtle.  Very subtle error that wreaks havoc!

Christian bullying uses a combination of man-made rules along with some Scriptural principles, thrown in for validation, in order to indoctrinate its victims.  Again subtle but insidious!

Practical applications of these errors can be seen in specific attitudes:

  • Men are viewed as superior to women.
  • Wives are thought of as not needing respect — only romance.  The “romance” is often bestowed with “favors” for the husband as the ultimate result.
  • If a wife challenges a husband’s decision, she is immediately viewed as “unsubmissive”.
  • Children and pregnancies are used as objects to control the wife.
  • Women are encouraged to be uneducated.
  • Children must obey every rule dictated by the parents without question.  (Children should be taught to not question everything.  The subtle difference here is that children are not allowed to have a divergent view from their parents.)
  • Different view-points are not tolerated within the home.
  • Pastors of these types of systems are viewed as the final authority.
  • Anyone who disagrees or does not fully comply with the system is subtlely discredited and dismissed.
  • Leaders within these movements are held up on a “pedestal”.  There is little or no accountability.  The leaders’ “accountability” are often family members and perhaps a few others who are intimidated or brainwashed into maintaining favorability.
  • An individual’s salvation is frequently questioned if all their beliefs don’t match up with the system’s beliefs (these beliefs are specifically unrelated to salvation itself).
  • “Spirituality” is judged by outward appearances: family size, dress standards, music standards, educational choices, etc…
  • Past sins are regularly held against the questioning individual and/or used to manipulate that individual.
  • Individuals within this system find their “faith” is more about struggling to achieve a feeling of “spirituality” then it is about growing in an intimate (personal knowledge/experience) with God.
  • Husbands can also be constantly criticized and belittled, if viewed as spiritually lacking.
  • Children are treated as inferior to adults.  (Their opinions are not treated as important as the parents’.  Children have much to learn from their parents.  The subtle difference here is the attitude.)
  • Discipline is enacted through “righteous” anger (can take forms of belittling, disciplining in anger, and a parent feeling personally offended).
  • The focus of discipline is on correcting wrongs rather than on discipling the child and restoring the relationship.
  • Adult children are treated as children, needing parental control.
  • Insecurity is familiar  to the “weaker” members.
  • Pride is considered confidence to the “stronger” members.
  • Those who are “higher up” in the chain of authority are deceptive when it comes to their own personal sins but require those under them to be completely transparent for “healing”.
  • It is felt as necessary to address any supposed or actual sins seen among others.
  • Those who are guilty of bullying feel it necessary to act as the “Holy Spirit” towards those they view as weaker Christians.
  • God’s judgement is emphasized over His grace.
  • God is related to as a vengeful God rather than a forgiving God.  The key is “related to”.
  • Salvation doctrine focuses more on God’s wrath and our depraved condition — rather than on teaching God’s love that offers salvation freely because we are in need of a Savior.  (More could be said on this.)

Many more examples could be given, but time will not lend itself to so lengthy a list.  Suffice it to say, the above examples are tragic situations!  They are harmful both to the victims and to the bullies.

There is a movement of people being awakened to the harmful nature of bullying within the religious sector.  There are still many though who are deceived within the systems where Christian bullying is present.

God, though desires healing for mankind.  The healing starts with His people.  He says,

2 Chronicles 7:14

New King James Version (NKJV)

14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

In order for Christians to positively impact our world, we must have that which is different from the world: truth!

It starts with having a proper understanding of God’s nature and our relationship before Him.

We first must recognize that He wants to heal our brokenness, to transform our darkness, to replace our emptiness with his life and love!

God is not the author of evilHe is a righteous God, who only wants what is best for us! 

The truth is always right for us.  At the time, it might be painful because it may mean releasing our hold on false traditions.  Traditions, though perhaps wrong, can give a sense of security.  The familiar, no matter how dangerous or duplicitous, often feels like the safest thing to do or place to be at the time.  Subtle manipulation.

God though asks us to allow His healing “light” of truth to shine into our dark places in order to not just expose them but to cleanse, repair, and transform them!  The exposing is not for condemnation; it is for our redemption. 

As long as we hold onto our “rags” of hurts, abuses, and times when we too have been the “abuser”, we cannot open our hands to receive the richness of His grace offered freely to us.

God brings us to repentance not for the purpose of leaving us condemned.  His purpose is to help us recognize that we need help so we seek and then receive it. 

A doctor may diagnose a patient with an illness and prescribe medication.  Unless the patient acknowledges the illness and his need for the medication and then seeks to obtain the medication, the patient will not benefit from the doctor’s diagnosis.  The purpose of the doctor’s diagnosis is to orchestrate all necessary avenues for the patient to receive proper help.

So, it is with God.  He reveals our natural state in its broken and flawed condition and then works to orchestrate all channels possible to encourage its absolute and comprehensive healing.

God’s love has never been about our worthiness.  It has always been about the fact that He is Love.  Love is “love” by its very Nature — not reliant upon the nature of its recipients.

The very nature of God’s Love and the fact that we were created to be His sons and daughters is what gives us meaning and purpose!  As a result of that love, we freely and lovingly seek a closer relationship with the One Who loves us so completely and unconditionally.

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9 thoughts on “Christian Bullying

  1. Here is a comment from a reader: “Interesting article, it didn’t go quite where I expected it to go. I agree with most of it, but also can’t say that I totally agree with it. I think in a loving Christian home a lot of those things fall into line without even thinking about it. For example, if the parents are giving rules in the way intended, then I think the child should obey without question… and while I don’t think ‘inferior’ is the right word, children are still very early on their learning curve and sometimes, especially when very young, they don’t get to be the focus. (not sure how to say that well) I DO see people who put a pastor on a pedestal and will NOT call out obviously bad behavior that they wouldn’t tolerate from anyone else.”

    My response: “Thank you, Carrie! I completely agree with you. Children do need to learn to obey without questioning everything. This blog is more addressing the abuses of this — where a child is taught to never think for themselves, or they are considered disobedient and rebellious. I address here the attitude of viewing children as inferior — in other words they aren’t as important as my wishes and commands are. Subtle but profound differences!”

  2. Thank you for your excellent post. I fully agree with you.

    Might I suggest that “Christian Bullying” is the worst form of bullying? I say this because it drives people away from Christ, not towards Christ! Christian Bullying has eternal consequences.

    I know someone (as I’m sure many of us do) who grew up in a harshly legalistic church. For example any who dared to break the rules were brought to the front of the congregation to be shamed before the whole church! Not surprisingly he will have nothing to do with Christianity today. So, so sad.

    Thank you again for addressing this serious issue.

  3. Ron

    Truly, sin is everywhere, even in the church. Fortunately, God’s grace is bigger than our sin. To learn that, God designed the church in such a way that we experience His grace through fellowship with other believers. Unfortunately, most churches, as well as a lot of individuals, do not follow the clear teaching of Scripture. And that’s where we go wrong.
    Thanks for your post. There are very subtle distinctions between the proper use of authority and the abuse of it. I believe it is Satan’s tool to discredit God’s Word and to render all authority as powerless (for example, the discipline of children by their parents). Very thought provoking article indeed.

    1. Ron, you are so right! The lie is often very close to the truth. Subtle indeed! I agree with the proper meanings and usages of submission, authority, obedience, discipline, teaching, etc… As you mentioned, the problem is with the subtle errors that perpetuate in the form of abuses within relationships: church, family, social interactions, etc…

  4. I also wanted to mention that this doesn’t mean you don’t ever say the “hard” thing or take a firm stance with your children. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong to stand against or for something. What it does challenge is the motivation, the attitude with which it’s done. Too often, Christians try to be the “Holy Spirit” in another’s life — rather than being led by the Holy Spirit and waiting on His leading.

  5. Crawford

    I thought the article was well written! There are many churches who are guilty of bullying. No one should be bullied for any reason: gender, age, sexual preference, doctrinal view, culture, language, disability etc. It’s very sad when Christians use scripture to manipulate and control others. It’s not the way of Christ. Of all people Christians should be the most tolerant while not condoning sin or error.

    I’m not a parent so can’t say too much other than to say it must be a fine line between how much a parent controls (training up) and how much freedom to allow the child. I have seen some parents do this well and others fail terribly.

    In society I feel Christians are often guilty of bullying. I cringe when I read of what believers say about others online. I don’t think the Lord would bash people like so many Christians do and justify it in the name of truth. I personally believe it’s why many people don’t come to Christ when they see the vicious attitudes of professing believers.

    1. Great thoughts! Thank you! I am a parent to five, and I totally get what you are saying. I find myself constantly evaluating the methods and attitudes with which I administer any type of “correction” with my children. It is too easy to be guilty of bullying even in parenting. Yet, I am all about teaching my children to obey. My husband and I struggle with this — walking that fine balance. Our children need to learn to obey, and we have to be firm at times. Yet, we want to always deal with their hearts and in a manner that is walking in the “fruits of the Spirit.” God convicts me constantly of this.

  6. I think the problem often is with the attitudes, motivations, and methods used. In other words, some Christians act like they are the Holy Spirit, instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit’s leading. People aren’t going to be ready to receive truth, unless it is offered in God’s time and in His Spirit. See the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”).

    Too often, we see either extremes. There are those who are proud, condemning, and judgmental. Then, there are those who are weak, compromising, and permissive. God doesn’t call us to either. We are always first and foremost responsible for ourselves. Most break-downs in relationships always start with us: either we are not living and loving and leading the way God intends due to deep-seated issues/bondage on our parts. Or, we aren’t walking in any truth or very little truth because of deeper issues at stake again. It’s never about just say this and do this. Our hearts are much more complex than that.

    When I see a child disobey me, I don’t just focus on enacting punishment. Yes, there must be some “correction” at times, but I also look deeper. What is the root cause of their disobedience? What can I do to help this person be restored into a right relationship with God? Is my goal to disciple my children or just to discipline?

    Is my goal to pound truth into someone and to just say “truth” so I can get that off my conscience? Or is my goal to see that person truly walk in truth? God is both a God of grace and a God of truth. (Please excuse the verbosity here.)

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