telling your story: an invitation to intimidation

"Invitation to Intimidation" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Invitation to Intimidation” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Get a delicious print of this cartoon HERE.

Someone suggested to me the other day that my spirit animal might be the Honey Badger. That would be a compliment. When are some people going to realize that the harder you try to get me to shut up the louder I’m going to get?

My experience and observation of many strong leaders is that fear, intimidation and bullying is one of their supremest spiritual gifts. From the dark side.

I still get communications from people trying to intimidate me into shutting up and getting others to shut up.

Whenever such people invite you to honestly share your opinion about them, be very careful. If you say anything negative about them, even framed as constructive criticism, they will attempt to destroy you and your testimony. I know. One leader even got physically aggressive with me when he invited me to tell him what my problem was with him. I said, “I find you overbearing sometimes!” He took this as an invitation to hit back, but lethally.

This not only happens in the church, but in the business world, the education world, the healthcare world… you name it. When authority asks for your opinion about them, you’re swimming into shark infested waters.

What kind of intimidations have been used against me lately? Here are just a few of them.

  1. I’m a stupid opportunist because I don’t know what I’m talking about and just want traffic.
  2. I’m going to get sued.
  3. I’m will have to restore lost revenue for some people.
  4. My blog is going to be hacked.
  5. I will lose friends.
  6. I won’t be able to get anyone to endorse my book.
  7. I am going to be exposed as a liar and a fraud.
  8. My reputation will be ruined.
  9. I will never get a speaking engagement.
  10. My secret sins will be exposed for all the world to see.

I’ve received threats like this before. Many times actually. And so have many of my friends. Even to this day.

All this because I tell my story. All this because I provide places for people to tell theirs.


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21 Responses

  1. Patrick O says:

    When I teach on the cross, I make sure not to jump right to the atonement issues or other such topics that emphasizes what the cross does for us. I emphasize the cross itself for a while, not the object, but the process and trial and meaning of that specific act. Why the cross in particular? I’m convinced it is because the death of Jesus involved confrontation with the systems and powers of his day, so that the cross, in particular, represents a rejection of those powers and structures. He did not defend himself before the religious leaders, confronting them by engaging the outcasts and rejected. He didn’t defend himself before the Romans. They didn’t care about his message or his life, they just wanted their form of peace to continue. Jesus didn’t acknowledge their power to judge him. The people wanted a zealot, someone who would be a public partisan against political issues, so they chose Barabbas.

    Jesus confronted these powers by not acknowledging their authority or power to judge. They represented paths of meaning and power and purpose that weren’t in line with God. Jesus refused to back down. He gave sight to the blind, hope to the hopeless, voice to the voiceless, inclusion to the excluded. He defied the powers. They responded. They crucified him.

    Because of the nature and breadth of Jesus’ confrontation, he drew a line in the sand. We are either with Jesus on the cross, feeling the brunt of the world’s reactions, and with others who are with Jesus, or we are among those who put Jesus on the cross. Pilate, the man with power and authority and public statements, wasn’t the scapegoat, Jesus was. The religious leaders weren’t the holy ones, Jesus was. How do we know?

    The cross was the ultimate threat of the powers of the time. It meant being cursed, it meant being rejected, it meant being dehumanized, it meant being dead. Jesus refused to stay dead, defying the threats and curses and rejection. Those who are with Jesus on the cross join with him in his future.

    It’s scary to be their in the middle of those sharks. But that’s precisely where Jesus is, where the cross was. Whose endorsement do we want?

  2. Patrick O says:

    *there* in case there are grammar sharks about…

  3. Reminds me of the time an anti-war group decided to place a float in a Fourth of July parade. The content of the float was to be a peace symbol. I was visited in my office by some powerful people who suggested that if I allowed this float to enter the parade, some one would be badly hurt and it would be my fault. Not wanting to be responsible for some one’s injury or death, the float was withdrawn.

    I wrote a letter to the editor explaining why and the backlash was so strong that the entire delegation to my office resigned. The next year the float was entered and there was no violence. Part of what I said in my letter was that I had a higher regard for the citizens of our town than to think that they would attack some one over a peace symbol. Turned out I was probably right in the first place.

  4. Actually, in my belief system, the cross (atonement) saved everyone, both those with Jesus and those who were against him. As in Adam ALL die, so in Christ are ALL made alive. Powerful idea. Powerful reality. Praise God.

  5. Syl says:

    This brings two quotes to mind:

    “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
    ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
    ― Maya Angelou

  6. While getting dressed, I got in touch with some memories. I had to deal with anger and rejection while opposing war and affirming civil rights for persons of all backgrounds and status, but the hottest anger came when I suggested that we should stop referring to God as he. One strong member said if I didn’t stop, she would leave. One year later she apologized. Another member, shaking with rage, couldn’t understand why I made such a big deal about something that was so unimportant. In one year, he was deceased, but he asked for me to do his memorial service, so I was slightly forgiven for the error of my ways.

    The saddest experience was not by sharks, but by a friend, who had to inform me that he and his wife had to switch churches, because, if their son died in Vietnam, his wife did not wish to have me present or presiding at the memorial service. He survived, but our relationship did not.

    All of this anger came not from sharks, but “friends”. Go Figure!

  7. Patrick O says:

    John, if we jump straight to the atonement issues we miss the drama of what Jesus did. There may be salvation for all (good arguments for both sides), but along the way Jesus took sides. The cross is a confrontation with the powers and authorities. Emphasizing, first, that all are saved diminishes the reality of oppression, sometimes leading to powerful people treating their friends and family horribly while justifying their behavior because they’re preaching salvation in Jesus. One simply cannot be a preacher for Jesus while opposing those who Jesus includes. One cannot preach Jesus on the cross while behaving in the manner of the people who put Jesus on the cross.

    Well, a person can do it, but they’re not on the side of the Apostles but on the side of Simon Magus. They’re preaching a different Jesus.

    I hope they’re saved even still, however, and that’s up to Jesus. Though, I suspect any salvation would include a sharp realization of how hard it is to kick against the goads. When Saul became Paul, after all, he was saved but also chastised.

  8. Helpful comments, but I didn’t jump immediately to my view on the atonement. I started in the 1980’s. (entered the ministry in 1957) and I suppose one experience that pushed me in that direction was a prominent minister proclaiming (and never recanting) “That God does not listen to the prayers of Jews.” Once I included Jews within the ‘grace of God’, it wasn’t hard to move on to others and then others. Why not go all the way? And then when I found scripture to support my view, there was no looking back. And when a friend included Fred, who never stepped foot in the church, I knew that I was onto something, exclusive scripture be darned.

    Then I went to a church, purchased 100 copies of Leslie Weatherhead’s “The Christian Agnostic”, distributing them and said, “Read this and you will understand my spiritual journal. Let’s have some dialogue”. No one came unglued. Finally one of the saints put his arm around me and said, “John, we all agree with you, why don’t you move on to another topic.” And I did. At least in that congregation.

    With that theology, I have served four congregations and only lost one family over this issue. He was a follower of James Dobson. Judgment was more important to him than grace.

  9. Bill Kinnon says:

    Good thing you caught that before I did, Patrick. 🙂

    Stop with the brilliance already. You’re killing me. (How perfect is this cartoon!!!)

  10. Tom Wilson says:


    I could not be more thankful for what you do and say! I consider you a friend even though we haven’t met outside of cyberspace. Being willing to speak, write and illustrate the truth and have people try to shut you up at any cost puts you IMO in the company of the greatest man who ever lived. I too have had some the same experiences especially when I used to blog some years back. You are a voice for the voiceless and empower the powerless. People who use hate, intimidation, and other forms of manipulation to control others are always afraid of those who cannot be manipulated and who expose them. These people are afraid of you, because they see you and the truth as a threat to their personal little kingdoms and therefore their income. They know that they have nothing of actual value or benefit and that the only way their little kingdoms will stay afloat is too keep those who listen to them afraid of thinking for themselves.

  11. Sabio Lantz says:

    It is a delicate balance between being open and private.
    Even those you trust, could years later turn against you.
    It is almost never safe to share.
    But the potential benefits and joys of sharing are also tempting.
    One way we are avoiding pain, the other with are craving intimacy.
    Something seems similar in all of that to me.

    But certainly we need to be cautious of those pretending to care who ask us to divulge. Great personal stories — thanx David.

  12. Patrick O says:

    John, you may not have jumped straight to the atonement but your comment that I was responding to did. I think your story is very helpful and worthwhile, but my concern, I guess, is that in rejecting the judgmentalism of the cross, you’re diminishing the confrontation of the cross. Of course, you’re rightfully pushing back against the distortion of how the cross has been used, which is also what I was getting at.

    The cross is an invitation to live in a different way, and let go the nature of identity that is formed by Pax Romana (peace for some on the backs of others), Religious judgmentalism, or other patterns. The cross is where the silenced are joined with Jesus, and Jesus expresses his solidarity with them. I’m, in part, bouncing off of Moltmann’s The Crucified God here, and he affirms universal salvation, so it’s not really an either/or. The cross includes the outcast, invites the oppressors to give up their oppressing. Inasmuch as they hold onto it, they participate with those who put Jesus on the cross. But as we see with Peter who was a coward in his denial of knowing Jesus, and with Paul who actively persecuted the early church, that doesn’t shut the door on grace. Jesus stands with the outcast, abused, silenced, and against those who are using power for their own gain. Grace extends to all, though the latter often don’t see the need for it, and often need to be shown their positions for what they are. Bursting the bubble of self or system righteousness is part of the confrontation of the cross. Not yet another self-righteousness against the powerful, but with an attitude of invitation to them to see where they stand and how they might better reflect the Christ they preach.

  13. kris799 says:

    None of these threats sound very Christian.

  14. Michaela says:


    I like Dee and Deb’s policy at The Wartburg Watch: If they are threatened they will ABSOLUTELY post the threat for all to read! Way to go Dee and Deb!

    About those emergent “Christian” leaders Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and their group….are they going to threaten to sue countless others too? These whiners ARE public figures under the First Amendment and they entire lives are open to debate. They don’t have a constitutional leg to stand on to sue.

    Unlike standard defamation, success in a defamation case against a public figure requires four elements (the fourth is unique to public figures):
    1.a false and defamatory statement about the public figure;
    2.communication of that statement to a third party;
    3.a tendency to harm the public figure’s reputation in the community; and
    4.the defendant acted with “actual malice.”

    The public figure has to prove all of these points…and that the defendant acted in reckless disregard for the truth.

    Will Emergent “Christian” pastor/author/blogger/speaker/writer Brian McLaren be threatening to sue Al Mohler who heads the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has written against McLaren? Ditto Pastor John MacArthur? And on and on. Countless people have spoken and written against this Emergent group, and against McLaren. And you know why? Because it’s a free country and they’re public figures under the First Amendment and THIS IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

    If they had any constitutional grounds for a lawsuit (they don’t and they know it) they would have already served defendants with a Summons and Complaint. They haven’t done that, because they’re going to get laughed out of court for even trying…and put up all over the media.

    If Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rachel Held Evans, and the rest don’t like it (Free Speech)…they’re free to leave and become citizens of countries that have ZERO Free Speech Rights.

  15. Sabio Lantz says:

    But killing people for not paying their tithe or damning people for eternity don’t sound very Christian either, oh wait, they ARE very Christian.

    Do they sound very Buddhist, very Muslim, very Confucian, very humanitarian?

    I get your sarcasm, of course, just saying that the whole moral connection with religion is a farce.

  16. Shazza tha dazzla says:

    Another inspired cartoon David. Thank you.
    I’m reliving my own moments of being cornered by the glorious important people and asked to explain myself. Awful! And then the ongoing agenda to ‘keep me under control’.
    I lived with my stomach in knots, trying not to put a foot wrong, trying to make it right – without understanding that I didn’t have a hope. Bullies have a one strike policy. Get it wrong once and you ARE wrong – period.
    My capitulation and silence merely reinforced the leaders’ belief in their effective’leadership style’.

    For this reason, and because David you have proved yourself so committed to giving the silenced a voice, I want to stand up with everyone here and cheer you on. Please don’t let them shut you up!

  17. Dipteran says:

    David, you’ll notice in their threats the familiar refrain of reputation and revenue – their threats belie what they themselves hold dear.

  18. Tamara Rice says:

    I’m having flashbacks to being called “a godless enemy of the gospel” for trying to expose a mission board’s corruption and collusion with a pedophile … ugh. I’m sorry so much hate and intimidation is being thrown your way. Keep your chin up. Frankly, speaking up in cases of injustice does have a cost. It might cost you. I know it has cost me the times I have spoken up loudly. It’s cost me my health, my sanity, friends, and I think it’s cost me a few freelance gigs, not to mention that the quality of some extended family relationships have suffered too. It’s serious work. But ultimately I’ve gained something too: compassion, wisdom, and the satisfaction of knowing when rubber met the road I didn’t get out of the car and walk away. Stay strong. You’ll be able to hold your head up and know you did what was right. Sometimes that has to be enough. And it ultimately is.

  19. Lydia says:

    I am familiar with the “threats” you listed, personally, although most of the time mine were shrouded in victimese speak. It never ceases to amaze me how celebrity christians who have spent a lot of time and energy basically communicating “look at me!” , want to suddenly cast themselves as victims…wait…actually they caste themselves as worse victims than the real victims of their silencing tactics.

    I AM that cartoon fishy. It communicates what I lived through for years in the seeker mega world and post..That cartoon comminicates the power politics perfectly.

  20. Yes this dynamic is at work in every sphere.

  21. Anon1 says:

    I love the threat, “No one will endorse your book.”

    Everyone who is a professional marketer in Christian publishing knows that a big-wig’s endorsement just ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. (We only wish it were. It never is.)