In his most recent post, Gavin Rumney (Otagosh http://otagosh.blogspot.com/) takes on an article in Vision magazine dealing with bullying. The article ("Bullies, Allies and Victims") is a well written treatise on the serious and harmful effects that bullying inflicts on all of us. Mr. Rumney, however, underscores the irony of such an article appearing in the magazine of a group that has practiced bullying within its own ranks. Although I think that Mr. Rumney would agree that an article addressing this destructive phenomenon is a positive, I concur with his assessment that this is also akin to pointing out the speck in someone else's eye when you have a beam in your own.
Indeed, many individuals within the Church of God culture seem completely oblivious to the bullying that they have perpetrated and/or been subjected to within their own community! The Vision article even points out the "exquisite form of emotional pain" that is inflicted when someone is ostracized from a group. It goes on to underscore the critical role that the exploitation of an imbalance in power plays in bullying. Talk about irony and hypocrisy!
Most (not all) of the Church of God culture has emphasized the supreme spiritual authority of ministers, evangelists, prophets and apostles over their flocks. The imbalance of power between the ministerial hierarchy has not only been exploited - it has been celebrated! Any resistance to that authority is portrayed as resistance to (or rebellion against) God himself! The only acceptable view is the one of the bully at the top of the heap. Moreover, everyone is continually reminded just how dangerous it is to snipe at the leader of the pack.
For those who refuse to submit to the bully, the bully always has the option of ignoring or excluding you! This phenomenon is not exclusive to the Church of God culture either. When you look at all of the "Christian" groups extant in the world, it is truly amazing just how many of them practice some form of excommunication, disfellowshipping or shunning. Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, the Amish and Church of Christ folks all employ some form of the practice to keep their members in check. What's even worse - the bully at the top forces all of his underlings to participate in the practice! Friends and families are often forced to bully their loved ones to avoid facing the same censure. Moreover, since the group that is doing the excluding is "God's Church," that means that the excluded person is in danger of losing their salvation. Talk about psychological abuse!
Yes, I agree with Gavin: Get your own house in order before you go pointing the finger at others! Bullying is bad in any setting, but it seems even more horrendous when employed within the bounds of God's Church. What do you think?