What does bullying have to do with church? Do the same things that happen on the school yard happen in our sanctuaries?
Here's what Matt Rosine, congregational consultant and student of Jesus, has to say:
Over the last few years, many church leaders from various traditions have responded to the rise of bullying among young adults in the United States. I'm glad for that. In the face of such cruelty, the church provides refuge and a glimpse of God's love and acceptance for all.
I do, however, think there are other, more subtle form of bullying that often go overlooked by church leaders. It's the bullying that I see church members practicing toward one another.
It doesn't happen in every church (thanks be to God!) but I see it a lot: one person or small group attempting to exercise power over others by saying things like: "Well, if we do that, we’re taking our checkbooks and leaving."
By using threats, these people are attempting to wield power in the most unhealthy of ways. And, most of the time, they will be successful in their threats because church people fear conflict and division and pastors don't want to be viewed as the reason people leave church. And so, the threat succeeds and the disgruntled people get their way.
The church and its future are now held hostage by not only these folks, but also by anyone else who comes along using the same tactic. This can go on for decades, keeping the church in a fearful holding pattern where it sacrifices risk for the sake of keeping a false sense of peace.
What's more, in the heat of the moment, most people are afraid to speak up. We don't want anyone to get hurt or leave especially if the person is a "pillar of the church." Well-meaning church folks fall silent because they fear it would damage the church for such a division to take place.
And yet, when we step back and look at the situation, we can see it for what it is: childish schoolyard behavior. Immaturity. One person attempting to get his or her way by pushing others around. Bullying.
Tell us, have you seen this behavior in your church? What has been your response?
A big SALT thank you to Matt Rosine - minister, congregational consultant for Church Extension, and student of Jesus - for this important and provocative post. You can read more of Matt's writing over at Mosaic.
Also, a big thank you to The Bully Project for their important and hard work. This brave, must-see film is coming to DVD in 2013. Why not plan a viewing party at your church?!