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7 REASONS WHY IT’S SO SCARY TO CHALLENGE CHRISTIAN LEADERS
My friend Jonathan Hollingsworth and his mother Amy Hollingsworth wrote a book together about his experiences with harmful Christian ministries and their destructive leaders. This is the review I gave of their book, Runaway Radical: A Young Man’s Reckless Journey to Save the World:
”I was gripped by this young man’s story; I recognized my story in his. Jonathan, along with his mother Amy, describes the stress put on our kids to be amazing superheroes before they are simply human beings. In Jonathan’s case, it was the pressure to be a radical follower of Jesus and sacrificial servant of the church, no matter what the cost.
As Jonathan says, ‘When spiritual growth is measured in intensity, the only direction you’re permitted to go is off the deep end. To question your belief system is to backslide, so you’re told that the only way to get better is to dive headfirst into those existing beliefs with more manic zeal than before.’
This book provides poignant and powerful insights into the pressures on our youth to sacrifice their lives for ideals that aren’t always ideal.”
He is young, and yet he chose to take on these leaders and expose their destructiveness through sharing his experiences. He is always in my thoughts because I know how much of a long-term struggle such a project can be. I’ve been there and done that, so I know exactly what it’s like. Just sharing your experiences and observations about bad leaders is risky and scary business.
Here’s why: (I’ve started them all with ‘sssssss’ because they are like snakes!)
- smear: Even though you might criticize something they said or did, they will criticize your personality and make you out to be a terrible person, crazy, ambitious, a liar, abusive, or anything else to make you seem sick and on a crazy mission.
- spent: They will do things that will require you to lose or spend money. Litigation, withholding pay, getting assistance, therapy, etc. They know the power of money over peoples’ lives and will suck you dry knowing that when the money runs out so will your voice.
- spin: They will turn it around to make you look like you are the bad guy and that they’re the victims. They will gather sympathizers who take pity on them for being a Christian leader persecuted for their beliefs and ministries.
- shame: They will claim that you are hurting the Bride of Christ, or causing trouble in the body, or that your intentions are harmful to the church, or that you are wrecking peoples’ lives. They will try to make you second guess yourself because they understand that any measure of self-doubt is a chink in your armor.
- sticky: Bad leaders are like a very nasty virus It takes a lot of effort, work, and time, for them to change or stop. They’re sticky and are resistant to normal treatment. They are intransigent. You often have to be in it for the long haul to see any change. This quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., has helped me: “The arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Let’s hope so!
- support: Those with power seem to have unlimited support, both relationally and financially, to maintain a strong campaign against your efforts to expose and publish their abuses. They have tons of connections with power. You might be able to raise some support, but they are mostly powerless. It not only takes a certain amount of courage, but perseverance, to keep up the good fight.
- silence: Every attempt will be made to silence you. All the above tactics will be employed to shut you up permanently. They want to continue unexposed, unhindered, and untouchable. If your voice in any way compromises or interferes with them, they will do whatever it takes to silence it.
I know there are more, but these are the seven that come to my mind right now. Perhaps you could add to the list.