Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stand up to the Bully

Mark 9:42 "... if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck."

Did you ever encounter a bully during your childhood years? I think that most everyone probably has. The bully kid was usually intimidating because of his larger stature, big talk, or because he had a cadre of would-be usurpers behind him who were staring you down, ready to back him up. Does any of this bring back unpleasant childhood memories for you? I mistakenly thought I was all through with bullies once I had grown up, but I and many others ended up having to deal with a grown up version of one for many years.

The definition of a bully is, "a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people." To bully someone is to "intimidate with threats and by an overbearing, swaggering demeanor; to act the part of a bully toward." Sometimes a bully can also try to get the best of you emotionally. Emotional bullying is "when someone tries to gain control by making others feel angry or afraid. It is characterized by verbal abuse such as name-calling, sarcasm, incessant teasing, threatening, mocking, putting down, belittling, ignoring, and lying. Also known as adult and workplace bullying, emotional bullying also includes such abuse as exclusion from a group, tormenting, ganging up on others, or humiliation.”

This bullying trait can be quite problematic in a church setting, particularly if the role of the bully is played by the pastor, which we saw in our former church. The pastor constantly demanded the respect of the congregation. If he (and his family) did not receive the homage he believed he deserved, then threats, belittling criticism, teasing, and mocking would ensue. Sometimes this abuse was for no apparent reason. Just always at your expense. And woe be unto you if you attempted to retaliate. Staff members were treated in this manner for years, and were often ridiculed from the pulpit. These staff members, who looked to him as their role model, would, in turn, bully the volunteer helps people. This bullying spirit was taken on by certain staff and board members who, for years, have served as henchmen for the pastor. They have appeared at people's homes and businesses, made threats, or attempted to get information. Under the guise of being unhappy themselves, they have pulled criticisms out of people to use against them later. Just how many brownie points are worth hurting so many people? What exactly is it that they are gaining? One step out of line and their accumulated brownie points will immediately go into a negative zone.

Word of Faith ministers seem to have adapted an overinflated opinion of self-importance. This is a nationwide epidemic that people, including ourselves, have bought into for years. Many of these ministers are also bullies. Sometimes I watch televangelists for the sheer pleasure of now being able to see them and their false teaching in a different light. There is also a tremendous gross-out factor that draws me in as well. I watched one preach on Hosea 4:6, which reads, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge." We've heard that one a few times, huh? This televangelist bully proceeded to use this scripture to tell everyone in the TV and studio audience just how ignorant he thought they were. He called them stupid several times and said that their stupidity was what was destroying them. He then had people in the audience look at one another and proclaim how ignorant they were. The sad part about it was that everyone laughed uncomfortably and went along with it. So, this dude with his big hair came in and insulted people instead of helping them, and then lined his greedy pockets with their hard earned money. It is really frustrating to watch good people be so deceived. A common practice among Word of Faith ministers is to take a scripture, put their obnoxious and often inaccurate twist on it, and then say, "Don't blame me for saying it! God said it!" What I say to that is, "Don't you blame God for your stinking bad manners."

I found a great quote that says,"Bullies seldom execute the threats they deal in." This is so true. A good friend of mine told me that if you stand up to a bully, he will back down. I am so grateful to God that we now have that freedom. Don't let yourself be bullied by anyone, particularly in a church setting. I don't care who they are or what title they hold. Know who you are in Christ and let that be your confidence. Placing your confidence in a man instead of God will always lead you down the wrong road.

Jeremiah 22:13 "Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives, Who cheats his workers and won't pay them for their work, Who says, 'I'll build me an elaborate mansion with spacious rooms and fancy windows. I'll bring in rare and expensive woods and the latest in interior decor.' So, that makes you a king— living in a fancy palace? Your father got along just fine, didn't he? He did what was right and treated people fairly, And things went well with him. He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn't this what it means to know me?" God's Decree! "But you're blind and brainless. All you think about is yourself, Taking advantage of the weak, bulldozing your way, bullying victims."

Ezekiel 34:1 [ When the Sheep Get Scattered ] God's Message came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherd-leaders of Israel. Yes, prophesy! Tell those shepherds, 'God, the Master, says: Doom to you shepherds of Israel, feeding your own mouths! Aren't shepherds supposed to feed sheep? You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs, but you don't feed the sheep. You don't build up the weak ones, don't heal the sick, don't doctor the injured, don't go after the strays, don't look for the lost. You bully and badger them. And now they're scattered every which way because there was no shepherd—scattered and easy pickings for wolves and coyotes. Scattered—my sheep!—exposed and vulnerable across mountains and hills. My sheep scattered all over the world, and no one out looking for them!

- V