Dr. Steven G. Minor
Church Politics Administrator
This next phase will probably not follow any particular chronology, but it normally expresses itself in full regalia. Those involved in the conflict will not only try to validate their position, but they will go overboard in establishing their spiritual superiority to entertain their entitled notion of favored status with God. They believe they are not only “good” people, but they have emboldened themselves to believe they are superior people in their relationship with God, called upon to perform special service.
This can become dangerous as those stepping into this role unknowingly embark upon a path toward delusion. Hopefully, surely, they will eventually wear themselves out projecting this image. There is certainly nothing nurturing in this behavior and the effort to convince others (especially when conflict reveals otherwise) of such a hard sell will exhaust the energies even quicker. Convincing themselves of their projection is an even stranger journey, circumnavigating the very boundaries of rational keepings.
This phenomenon occurred during the Civil War when clergy on both sides declared themselves justified before God. Both Union and Confederate clergy alike held a fanciful belief in their favor before God. They fully expected God to give his full stamp of approval to their cause. Just because they asserted such a belief, did that make either side right? Such suppositions only bear the seal of approval “if” their side wins. Otherwise, they are misguided fools.
The key objective of someone seeking to uphold and even publicize their right-ness will naturally lead to stacking the deck and altering the game (AKA, “cheating”). If they cannot establish a “better” character to impress everyone around, then the next best option is to lower the competition. Undercut those around you and you will naturally be seen as superior; a Pharisee’s best game plan. Demean the perceived competition and castigate their esteem in the community and ease the competition and pressure to excel. The rationalizations are endless.
Pride and ego are the issues. Everything becomes filtered through being right and them wrong. It’s pure compensation of their personal inner issues; a mere smoke screen to cover their devious intentions. Any action that may be perceived as weakness will quickly be countered by efforts of “saving face.” Their hostility may surprise onlookers, but for them it is spun with justified rationalization.
The Unbridled Quest for Power
Nothing is more important to any aggressive personality than gaining power and achieving a position of dominance over others. In real estate, there is the old adage that three things are important: location, location, and location. For any aggressive personality, only three things matter: position, position, and position! Now, we all want some sense of power in our lives. That’s not unhealthy. But how ambitiously we pursue it, how we go about preserving it, and how we use it when we have it says a lot about the kind of person we are. Covert-aggressives are ruthlessly ambitious people but they’re careful not to be perceived that way.
George K. Simon, In Sheep’s Clothing, p. 47
The Intoxication of Power
The Sociopath is so enraptured by the appeal of control and power that it turns into an intoxicating, even an addictive influence. You might even catch a glimmer of glaze and gleam on those eyes when they are in the thick of wreaking havoc and exerting their will over any given situation.
The notion may be preposterous since there is no physical “substance” entering the body to cause inebriation, but let’s not leave this idea too soon. The affects are so overt it deserves our attention. The dysfunctional correlations are so astounding that it warrants investigation.
When the Sociopath gets the opportunity to perform their fantasies of getting the world to finally appreciate them they will not stop with small, minimal gains. Tasting the first fruits of success and conquest will only demand more. Just like an unhinged alcoholic, they cannot stop! They must keep going. It’s like an addiction. One taste will not satisfy them they will have to have more; they MUST have more. It drives them like an unbridled compulsion.
This is precisely where churches and small businesses will make their most tragic mistake in searching for a quick fix to the conflict. By trying to appease the Sociopath they assume they will finally be satiated and settle down. But they make the mistake in assuming that everyone in the world thinks like they do. Such a concession would satisfy their indirect interests, surely it would satisfy most others. How many leaders have been sabotaged by such a well-intentioned plan we will never know, but the tragedy in such a shallow plan is sheer horror. Whatever leader may be under fire has just been inadvertently sold out.
The first taste of concession will enliven every joint, ligament and sinew of the pathetic Sociopath. Like an alcoholic newly fallen from the wagon they care for nothing else but the next drink of power and subjugating their targeted enemy. They want/crave and desperately demand nothing less than total control and assertion of their will. They do not want compromise or even their “fair” share; they want absolute control — Domination! They believe they must push the limits beyond the max and seize the whole pie, not just a part of it. The elusive full control is what they require and like a drunk wanting only another drink, they will rant, rave, pout and threaten all sorts of harm and retribution until they get what they want. A mere sip is nothing more than an enticement; a virtual dare for more. To stop now would only be defeat. While bystanders assume the battle should be settled, the Sociopath has just been awakened.
While the appointed, naïve leadership assumes they are only trying to satiate the thirst of a hungry soul – surely a “nice” and noble act – they are only creating the monster. Like Dr. Frankenstein, they are creating a pure, pitiful monster that is ready to gain their due in life. The warped, dark derision of a soul has just been released and is ready to settle scores of a lifetime that it assumes upon itself. While others are packing up and going home thinking the problem is resolved, how little they realize that the real horror has just emerged.
6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
7 But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.”
The quest for power stretches back to our earliest roots; all the way back to the garden. The sin which brought ruin and suffering into the world was not such a trivial matter as stealing an apple when God’s back was turned. That would account for the plight of adolescence, but not the fall of humanity. The central issue of Genesis is people confusing their own power for God’s power.
The serpent was able to raise the temptation to high stakes by putting this new autonomous creation onto a plane vying for God’s status. “Has God not said . . .” is a bold faced challenge of what God has ordered to be. It was Satan’s downfall to seek more than belonged to him. It continues to curse every pursuit of personal fulfillment. Adolescence is ripe with the God-like issues of omniscience, omnipotence and immortality. What teenager ever believes they will die soon or that their powers might possibly be less than their imaginations carry them? Adulthood is simply the painful entry into fallible humanness, accepting our limitations and allowing us to be at peace in the world without having to rule it at every turn.
However, not everyone is able to find a peaceful and harmonious passage to being a rightful piece of creation. They continue to demand the God-like illusion. They believe what they will to be is surely the same as what God wills to be. Their character becomes disordered and resentment seethes through all their frustrations when things go wrong and of course it is never their fault. Creation is in disarray and will not obey their beckoning, but surely someone is to blame for this failure. They cannot hold themselves responsible for gods do not make such mistakes; only their selfish subjects cause the mayhem.
Enter the well-intentioned, but naive church leader seeking to restore their church to its rightful place within God’s kingdom. Like watching two trains heading in opposite directions, the discerning spectator can only watch in horror and await the crash.
Inside the heart of every human soul the wrestling for immortal power resides. We are drawn to it like an addiction. We crave it and bask in the fantasies if only it were ours, to do as we please. Paul struggled with his conflict of spirit and flesh (Romans 7) and indeed to be human means that we struggle with mastery over life and the world around us. It bids into dire incivility that our will should be done, instead of God’s will. Even Jesus struggled with this drive for self will in another garden, in Gethsemane, until he could finally submit all his will into God’s scheme of desires.
Perhaps we should never be too surprised or condemning when we find such selfish power-mongering behavior in our churches and businesses. The wise and discerning know to expect it. It’s the damaged spiritual virus that infects all of us. For the brave of heart with enough courage for honest introspection will also find their own hidden desires to crave such control. It’s a clue to the mystery of how Jesus could require “self-denial” as step #1 to discipleship. Until one gains control of their desires there can be no progress made in the path of following the way of Jesus.
When you find such dark desire do not be shocked, it’s a plight that you will also find within your own heart. Any observant can give you many stories of even a child’s quest for personal power and control of their own small realm of life during the challenge of “potty training. The struggle starts just that early in life.
Do not take such wrangling as personal assaults. Such antagonists are not necessarily launching assaults of jihad carefully planned for your undoing. Picture them more as barroom tussles, where fighting is just part of the evening’s program. Sometimes we accidentally open the paths to harsher stages when we give more credence than what is deserved (see “Hanlon’s Razor” elsewhere in this Web Site). Our best course of action may be to simply “Lighten up” the atmosphere and restore perspective to our pitiful fates as fallible humans in a fallible world.
DeMille Power Seduction
“I stood and took a last look at Frank Bellarosa. It occurred to me that the Italians had always understood that at the core of life’s problems are men with too much power, too much charisma, and too much ambition. The Italians made demigods of such men, but at the same time they hated them for these very same qualities. Thus, the killing of a Caesar, a don, a duce, was a psychologically complex undertaking, embodying both sin and salvation in the same act.”
“The Gold Coast” (Warner 1990)
Nelson DeMille, p. 488
John Sutter’s assessment of all the power seduction and its devastating effects.
This expression reflects an ancient concept of preserving one’s dignity, especially to not humiliate them, and cause them to blush with embarrassment or unable to raise their head in social acknowledgment. It involves their status of respect. When they can protect and uphold this status they will sustain a sense of significance and security. They will behave with civility to validate the social perceptions. With any insight they will see the compromising chance to back off for what they perceive others will assume saves their esteem and pride.
However, when shame and reproach fill their heart incivility is the natural consequence for they will react with anger and desperation to reinstate their place. The more shame and loss of face they feel, the more irrational behavior will result. Their felt loss of power which will compel them to a corresponding flurry of hostile hurt. Desperation will begin to inject force into their power schemes, and desperation will easily open a selfish result of no one wins ultimatum (see Conflict Escalation stage 8, sub point “into the abyss we all go”).
Causing an adversary to lose face is the very last thing you want. This will become a root cause of their antagonism to draw you and others around them down so they may lower the standard of community respectability. If they are despised then all the worse they will make circumstances for others. When their estate is challenged and threatened, the escalation will run out of control.
This fear of losing face will not even require a direct assault; merely the assumption of attack. Since antagonists are usually marked by insecurity, no more than a mere awkward glance is all it will take. In fact, even an avoidance of a look, let alone an ignored greeting, would be enough. Your responses are seriously handicapped sucking you into a continual lose-lose situations. The expression is much too true for sociopathic antagonist, “they can dish it out, but they cannot take it.” In truth, they cannot endure criticism coming back on them, not for a moment. When their abuse turns back on them, they disappear quickly, like a flagstaff on a hill (see Isaiah 30:17).
Your best approach is to affirm and support your adversary’s esteem. The more you aid their efforts to “save face” the more likely you are to settle them down. If they believe your goals, providing they are sincere, they may even respond with grateful civility. It’s essentially your only chance to put things back on a track of reason toward resolution.
Jesus recognizes this internal struggle in people, especially as it affects their external environment, by not resisting their harmful behavior, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also” (Matthew 6:39). It’s not just about your own personal facial pain, but about protecting and preserving the local community. Absorbing the shock and forbidding it will displace further harm on others.
Paul affirms the same lesson in the string of upright directives in Romans 12. When someone persecutes you, “bless and do not curse” (verse 14). Take the steps of defusing the hatred and redirect them toward better behavior. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (verse 17), since you would still be stuck with the presence of evil and worse yet, you have become an agent of that very evil, so “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (verse 21). If the Christian is sincere in their desire for resolution, save their face and empower them toward rational healing. The weapon of goodness is your only means of overcoming their antagonistic pathology. Prepare for their likely melodramatic exit (get those Emmy award statues polished and ready).
Paul’s concluding quote from Proverbs 25:21-22 drives home the context of good Christian community,
“If your enemy is hungry, feed them;
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on their head.”
Sun Tzu, Art of War
“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free.
Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”
“Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”
“Show him there is a road to safety…” – (Tu Mu commenting on Sun Tzu)
Although Sun Tzu was thinking about heavily armed battle fields his advice tis very true for a church environment when conflict has been allowed to escalate. Bear in mind that although people may fantasize about it, others will tend to frown upon physically killing the antagonists. Granted, actions may warrant it, and although a judge may want to side with your, it’s still illegal. By the way, it also violates commandment #6, “Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).
Consequently, in planning responses and general strategy be sure to allow the antagonists a way to escape, leaving the battlefield with a chance to claim some small victory for saving face. Even allow a sappy, melodramatic ploy of “going somewhere else where people care about truth and ya-da-da.” Just as long as they actually go. Take a Tums, let them depart, just as long as they depart. You now have a greater job and far more fulfilling task of leading an untethered church into a brighter future without the lagging weight of belligerent whining. You and your church both deserve better … and so does God!
“I Don’t feel the Spirit Anymore”
When someone comes to believe in the super nature of their own righteousness they will even believe they can simply exert their moods and feelings over situations and this is the truth of the matter. Perhaps their best expression is to complain about not feeling the presence of the God’s Spirit any longer because things have become so sour and acidic. That they themselves are probably the leading problem of such an emptiness only makes the situation’s irony absolutely putrid.
All considerations are plunged into subjective evaluations and judgments not requiring counter considerations or validation. They believe it and they say it, so what more is required? Dare to show a smirk when that attitude is on parade and pay the price. Granted, their moods and harbored resentment influence their perceptions long before the Holy Spirit might ever interrupt their notions, they still believe it.
Surely such a statement will gather feelings of others, despite the heart of its hypocrisy. Others will finally agree with something the rebel rousers say, choosing the easier road of avoiding confrontation and avoiding the rightful place of such responsibility. The antagonist will feel power for they are finally understood and appreciated.
Such a feeling leads naturally into the next expression of “Surely everyone feels this way, too.” They feel the power of their cause. They suppose they are regaining control and the feeling is intoxicating. Despite the absurdity of the illusion it may be all they have going for their flat and pitiful life.
A Search for the Sources of Violence
Stressing the positive, creative aspects of power and innocence, Rollo May offers a way of thinking about the problems of contemporary society. Rollo May defines power as the ability to cause or prevent change; innocence, on the other hand, is the conscious divesting of one’s power to make it seem a virtuous form of powerlessness that Dr. May sees as particularly American in nature. From these basic concepts he suggests a new ethic that sees power as the basis for both human goodness and evil.
Dr. May discusses five levels of power’s potential in each of us:
- Infant’s power to be
- Self-affirmation, the ability to survive with self-esteem
- Self-assertion, which develops when self-affirmation is blocked
- Aggression, a reaction to thwarted assertion
- Violence, when reason and persuasion are ineffective
At issue: Aggression vs. Self-affirmation
How does one establish their sense of value?
May’s thesis: Violence is a function of the powerless
Thus, by creatively giving antagonists a perceived measure of control and recognition, their irrational motivations may be diffused, providing the conflict has not escalated too far. This will not solve every problem, but it will address the irrational elements of what is fueling the antagonists. Perhaps such a refinement will also yield elements of truth which they are pushing, but have not been able to establish in a cohesive fashion because of this misplaced anger and rage. Be prepared to find that some things they are proposing just might be correct, but our pride has shut off our listening ability. Again, bear in mind that heightened stages of conflict will negate any hopes of resolution. Eventually, only conquest of purging will matter.
However, beware the sociopaths! Validating the “push” of antagonists may clear up the toxins in discontent people, but for someone struggling with character disorder it is the addictive surge of their hostility. Sociopaths are never satiated. What everyone else accepts as compromise, sociopaths interpret as gaining more ground in their pursuit of control. It’s not an occasion for resolution, but an opportunity to get more. Their battle never concludes, not until their domination if final and complete. A pure, irrational fantasy, but the all too real drive of a distorted mind.
Egos on Parade
Self-righteousness prevails as priority number one, though for the sake of religious humility this is never stated. One is merely supposed to “appreciate” the sacrifice which they suppose is giving to the cause.
They must prove they are right and the display of piety demonstrates their good character. Thus, the behavior rises to a nauseating sense of hyper-righteousness. It’s pure hypocrisy, from the get going to the full show, but they honestly suppose they what they might gain will overwhelm the thoughts of hypocrisy. The power surge blinds them to reality.
The pride causes them to enter a narrow phenomenon of assuming their cause is clear to everyone. They believe that everyone will see the situation from their vantage point. The common phrase that ought to immediately raise the caution alerts is “. . . and many people feel this way.” Although in reality the cause is only held by a scant few, they will project their feelings into the masses. When an antagonist imagines they are surely in the majority, the conflict is well underway, whether or not the leaders realize it. This is a big clue of what is happening in the antagonist’s camp.
Their personal issue is that people bother coming to church primarily to support them. The over-emphasis upon themselves guides them into delusional reasoning. They are the center of their own reality, and everyone surely recognizes this. Narcissism befits their estate. It’s all about them and their demand for instant gratification. If a conversation happens somewhere then it must be about what is uppermost in their mind. They project their own self-delusion onto all those around them.
Where does Jesus fit into their patterns? Naturally, they suppose he agrees with them. In fact, they are virtually his mouthpiece in this decrepit situation, called to straighten things out. As expected, discerning the reality of what Jesus might say by means of careful Bible study or counsel is fruitless. The brief out of context messages which suit their cause is all that matters. Any Bible verse that supports their narrow agenda is seized upon with ferocious intent, regardless of the context’s meaning or the flow of what the passage brings. Even a partial verse is prized as upholding their righteous pursuit. It’s almost as if they were about to say, “And God agrees with me on this.” Reason no longer holds much consideration.
The frail leadership of a church may also fall victim to this cheap life-style, to inflict the vilest of all offenses. In God’s name, though mostly to just settle things down and find a solution, regardless of pathetic outcome, will demonize the weaker party of the conflict. Their fear of the conflict and the tension will finally pressure them to purge the elements which they feel they can control and overcome. It’s a cowardly act, but fearful church Boards will seize whatever quick fix they can produce.
Sadly, this weaker party is too often the minister. They are generally the new person in the church (considering the short stays of modern ministry) and worse yet, they are an outsider. Since they have not grown up here, they just cannot understand the broad picture. Suspicions of ulterior motives and hidden agendas are quickly assessed and grasped in a desperate urge to resolve their discomfort.
Naturally, a church Board cannot decide against someone who comes in God’s name nor could they destroy a decent human being. That’s why the minister is transformed into a bad person, eventually to endure accusations of evil. The presumed crimes and accusations must build into a solid case that this person has come unto us under false pretenses. Their behavior has been corrupt and how vile that they should set themselves up before them as an appointed spokesperson for God. Some will try to believe this despite any evidence to the contrary. That does not matter. The point is that they are not happy because they are not having their will done as they so demand and now they must crush any who they even suspect opposes them. And the one in the biggest position becomes enemy number one.
The malicious transformation must happen to achieve their goals of destroying them and appeasing the antagonists. The plan is futile, for antagonists are never appeased and satiated, and especially since it is a total lie. But if they can pull it off perhaps this tension will finally be resolved.
So the case will magnify beyond whatever truth might be present. The discerning minister will read the writing on the wall and know that it is time to flee. The situation will descend into the deepest harm. Any signs of good character or even evidence of humanness will be overlooked and squelched. The minister becomes a “thing,” not a human someone. Their name will be discarded from discussions, or at least their title. Who was once Pastor Ted or Dr. Jones is now “that preacher.” Pronouns will be the best expected references, although with a certain degrading tone in their use; “that’s what he says,” or “supposedly that’s what she did.” Every reference must degrade their character to prepare them for the final kill.
And so the case will build. Forget allowing the minister an opportunity to defend themself or clarify situations. They do not want truth, they only want to make it clear that this person deserves banishment and social death. If the minister tries to interject “facts” into this process it will be resisted and denied. They only want a case to enable their final solution of appeasement, to vilify the minister as soon as possible with as little guilt as possible. When a church board departs upon such a dark and devious road, the minister has lost their rights and will likely be denied a fair hearing in their defense. Justice was run over long ago. Relief is the central goal now.
The minister must intrude upon this foolish strategy. Do not allow impersonal references or deriding implications. Remind them that you have a name given to you and that you have value in God’s eyes, despite their vile efforts. Assert your dignity and remind them of your right to come forward and your side to be affirmed. They are playing an evil game and using the clandestine tools that the devil has supplied, blind trust is your most foolish ally. It makes their job all the easier, but at your worst expense. They want to sacrifice you as a scape-goat to reestablish their own selfish sense of coping.
This negative stereotyping is used in war to degrade the value of human life, known as “dehumanizing objectification.” During World War II, troops killed gerries and krauts, not husbands, fathers or even people. Vietnam yielded deaths of gooks, not soul-infused people. Iraq put an end to the towel–heads, not exploited people of greedy dictators. In church battles, the minister must also become depersonalized and turned into him or her or whatever choice of beleaguered title, but nothing intending a human reference. They have to be lowered enough to be euthanized as a common animal gone bad. The non-Sociopaths on the Board cannot handle the dastardly consequences of their actions, although it will rightly haunt them for the rest of their life.
A church Board has too much to lode in their weakened and skewered perspective. They fear upsetting anyone so they are sometimes even terrorized by the antagonists. They don’t want to be the next victim of their jihad. If they have granted the antagonists an audience then they have been hearing all about the trash and toxins; the slander will upset them and dominate their considerations. And besides, even if they side with the minister, will he/she stay around and deal with the aftermath of it all. Ministers come and go and the sooner this one leaves the sooner we can get back to easier days.
If the minister becomes a target of a supposed leadership body, the odds are squarely stacked against them. The natural pull will be to find whatever quick fix they can find and “scape-goating” a vulnerable minister will be an easy win.
“There are two kinds of injustice:
the first is found in those who do an injury,
the second in those who fail to protect another
from injury when they can.”
“And is it not obvious that, just as it is a crime to disturb the peace
when truth reigns, it is also a crime to remain at peace
when the truth is being destroyed?”
– Blaise Pascal
Proverbs 24:10-12, If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
Much unhappiness has come into the world
because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.
My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or
wrong that we have the power to stop,
and do nothing,
we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.
Anna Sewell (1820-1878)
Do you know why this world is as bad as it is? … It is because people think only about their own business, and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrongdoer to light. Anna Sewell
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority,
it is time to pause and reflect.”
— Mark Twain
3 I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
5 Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret,
I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.
Holding a firm resolve – to take a stand
This is the call to reverse Cicero’s sin and not allow bad behavior to persist around us, but to step forward.
To stand and cry out: “Not in my house!!”
We already know that the “bystander effect” can silence and stymie people who witness horrible violence, yet draw their shades or drive right on by.
People are, frighteningly, able to walk past a person having seizures on the street, if others seem inclined to walk past him, too.
We already know that video games and “reality” TV can hobble real reality and make it seem less compelling.
We already know that the Web, in general, and social media, in particular, can make people think they are connecting, when they are really disconnecting and becoming estranged from the community.
Consider this description for the content of an upcoming symposium at Suffolk University, in Massachusetts: “The invention of the Internet has opened an entirely new world of communication and, therefore, organization. With so much power now in the hands of the individual, one questions whether we need institutions anymore.”
“Why didn’t friends and neighbors turn in the Boston bombers?”
— Dr. Keith Ablow, May 03, 2013, FoxNews.com
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends,
than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
— JOHN STUART MILL, Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1, 1867
“Sin by Silence”
“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men. The human race has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised against injustice, ignorance, and lust, the inquisition yet would serve the law, and guillotines decide our least disputes. The few who dare, must speak and speak again to right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God, no vested power in this great day and land can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry loud disapproval of existing ills; may criticize oppression and condemn the lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws that let the children and child-bearers toil to purchase ease for idle millionaires. Therefore I do protest against the boast of independence in this mighty land. Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link. Call no land free that holds one fettered slave. Until the manacled slim wrists of babes are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee, until the mother bears no burden, save the precious one beneath her heart, until Gods soil is rescued from the clutch of greed and given back to labor, let no man call this the land of freedom.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox,
Protest, Poems of Problems, pp. 154f.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850–October 30, 1919) was an American author and poet. Her best-known work was “Poems of Passion.” Her most enduring work was “Solitude”, which contains the lines: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone.”
To Sin by Silence
To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.
Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.
— Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850–1919)
“Protest,” Poems of Problems, pp. 154–55 (1914)
Evil in the Righteousness
Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
John 16:2, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact,
the hour is coming when those who kill you
will think they are offering a service to God.”
2 Corinthians 11:14-15, “. . . for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
In fact, this is where his finest work lies – when people will focus upon their own goodness and justify their erroneous behavior.
When church people fight, naturally they will not acknowledge unworthy behavior. Each side will justify their resentments as addressing character issues in the other side. The focus is dark and negative, looking for any weakness they can find. They will never acknowledge error in themselves for this would encourage the other side to attack their lowering of defenses. Vulnerabilities must be guarded and never acknowledged, which is the great irony because such risk would be the key to lessening the rage and opening the possibility of reconciliation. When the pride is diffused and the protective masks are dropped peace would have a chance to take hold. However, pride will have no part in risking a display of weakness.
Pride will only escalate the differences more and more, intensifying the dispute. Paranoia infiltrates every level, permitting no shades of disagreement. Everything demands a black or white interpretation, pushing an ideological agenda of all good or all evil. They skewer Jesus words with their own motto, “Those who are not with us are against us.”
Note: In later stages of escalated conflict, resistance to sociopaths (those who stay engaged with and thrive in the aggression) will require the Leadership to cloak weaknesses and fears, reversing previous strategies which address negotiation and collaboration to a level of survival through strength in order to regain stability.
John Adams on Power
Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de très bon foi, believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.
Letter to Thomas Jefferson (February 2, 1816)
Most people will go to great lengths to avoid discussion and even thoughts of human evil. Those leaning Right may freely assign evil in many places to many people. Those leaning to the Left hold to an ideal hope of “surely it’s never that bad.” But what the church truly needs today is an updating to generalized notions of a misguided hope in humans behaving poorly.
“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”
— Mary Shelley
Mystery of Evil
“Evil is a phenomenon that exists and has always existed only in the human world. Animals know nothing of it. But there is no form of religion, of ethics, or of community life in which it is not important. What is more, we need to discriminate between evil and good in our daily fife with others, and as psychologists in our professional work. And yet it is difficult to give a precise definition of what we mean psychologically by these terms.”
— Liliane Frey-Rohn
“Even the best attempts at explanation are only more or less successful translations into another metaphorical language.”
— Carl Jung, “The Archetypes and Collective Unconscious”
“For there is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so.”
— William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
What does evil look like? The time is long past when childish fantasy portrayed satan and his minions in red suits, with horns, pitchforks, a dastardly moustache and devious laugh. Following a Biblical insight actually pictures them in a fine light, rather righteous like.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Modern evil is recognized by its fruit of destruction. Sociopaths typically cannot recognize the consequences of their behavior, but the harmful effects upon people is where the greatest danger lies. Undoing the work of God to redeem creation guides their ruinous path. Destroying the vital work of churches and God’s people is their demented delight.
“The essential elements of evil are frequently the destruction of human beings.”
— Samual Oliner, “The Nature of Good and Evil”
“Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others – or using one’s authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is ‘knowing better but doing worse.’”
“The Lucifer Effect”
“We have been taught that there is a fixed, impermeable line between good and evil, with the comforting belief that We and our Kin are on the good side and They, Those Others are on the bad side. This good-bad, dark-light dichotomy creates concepts of the other, the enemy, and supports not only prejudicial thinking, the in-group sense of superiority over the out-group, but worse of all it encourages dehumanizing others, thinking of them as undeserving creatures who are less than human. It is not hardwired into us; it is learned from adults, from the media, from politicians, from slogans and propaganda all around us.”
PHILIP ZIMBARDO, “The Lucifer Effect: An Interview with Dr. Philip Zimbardo”, Neuron Narrative, Oct. 20, 2008
“But, on a still subtler level, evil can be considered that tendency which — whether in oneself or others — would inhibit personal growth and expansion, destroy or limit innate potentialities, curtail freedom, fragment or disintegrate the personality, and diminish the quality of interpersonal relationships.
“By ‘human evil,’ I mean those attitudes and behaviors that promote excessive interpersonal aggression, cruelty, hostility, disregard for the integrity of others, self-destructiveness, psychopathology and human misery in general.”
— Stephen Diamond, “Anger, Madness and the Daimonic”
By C. S. Lewis
The hero, Professor Ransom, encounters a Satan-figure, Dr. Weston, on a flawless planet. As Dr. Weston dispassionately ripped helpless creatures apart because he had nothing else to do at the moment, their eyes met, and
“It [Dr. Weston] looked at Ransom in silence and at last began to smile. We have all often spoken — Ransom himself had often spoken — of a devilish smile. Now he realised that he had never taken the words seriously. The smile was not bitter, nor raging, nor, in an ordinary sense, sinister; it was not even mocking. It seemed to summon Ransom, with horrible naivete of welcome, into the world of its own pleasures, as if all men were at one in those pleasures, as if they were the most natural thing in the world and no dispute could ever have occurred about them. It did not defy goodness, it ignored it to the point of annihilation. This creature was wholehearted. The extremity of its evil had passed beyond all struggle into some state which bore a horrible similarity to innocence. It was beyond vice.”
Perelandra, pp 110f.
What are the Hopes and Objectives?
Dysfunctional conflict wreaks its full havoc under the cover of disguise and this pseudo-righteousness. As long as the anxiety prevails irrational behavior will rule. The hyper-righteousness is full blown compensation to the dastardly schemes within a dark heart. Opinions become rigid with little or no hope for compromise as long as this attitude persists because after they are “already right, why proceed with any other considerations?” The situation is clearly black and white, right and wrong and perhaps even the ultimate challenge of good and evil.
As long as this cloaked veil of nauseating pretense abides the worst harm results. The friction continues to wear down good sense. The emotional wounds fester under the surface and intensify subconscious schemes of vindication. One feels hurt and reacts as they dare, but conceals that which they deem unsuitable to express. Yet that submerged part is the deadliest toxin of all. If not vented it seeps into the psyche and grows in ways it was never intended to and prepares a reaction to “get even.” However, the other “Side” may well be experiencing the same sort of subconscious grinding and the two opposing parts boost the counter intensity. Until someone has permission to expose the destructive process the pain will continue to work inner harm to all parties involved as well, seething itself into an eventual explosion of pain and displaced anger. By that time the toxins have grown into a foul mess of pain.
Peter Steinke expresses this urgency in his classic work on Family Systems within a church setting, “How Your Church Family Works” (page 24),
“But ‘benign neglect’ only reinforces malignant processes. Moreover, ignoring is as reactive as placating or attacking. VICIOUS CIRCLES CAN ONLY BE DISABLED THROUGH EXPOSURE. They are enabled by secrecy and avoidance.”
“There can be no existence of evil as a force
to the healthy-minded individual.”
— William James
1842-1910. American philosopher and psychologist,
who developed the philosophy of pragmatism
“Of injustice there are two types: men may inflict injury; or else, when it is being inflicted upon others, they may fail to deflect it, even though they could. Anyone who makes an unjust attack on another, whether driven by anger or by some other agitation, seems to be laying hands, so to speak, upon a fellow. But also, the man who does not defend someone, or obstruct the injustice when he can, is at fault just as if he had abandoned his parents or his friends or his country.”
Cicero, De Officiis I (Justice)
I ch. vii, 20
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph
is for good people to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke (attributed)
Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents, 1770
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted;
the indifference of those who should have known better;
the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most;
that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
— Haile Selassie
“The world is a dangerous place to live,
not because of the people who are evil,
but because of the people
who don’t do anything about it.”
— Albert Einstein
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Evil does not exist in isolation.
It is a product of amorality by consensus.”
“Eichmann in My Hands”
Peter Z. Malkin, “Afterward”
I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
— C. S. Lewis, “Screwtape Letters,” preface
The Process of Victimization
George K. Simon, “In Sheep’s Clothing,” pp. 7-10
- The ploys of a focused antagonist are never easy to recognize. In time, they may become obvious to us once we have seen the harm and mean intentions, but to anyone else we are on our own with that insight. Deception is not simply an effective tool they use, it is their #1 choice of combat; perhaps their only weapon. With that much refined focus and practice, yes, they have become effective in wielding it.
- Antagonists are quick to turn the tables so they can persist in their scherade of being the victim, instead of being the victimizer. Such subtle attacks keep us on the defensive and often off balance. We lose effectiveness in our and begin to doubt what was once fairly obvious before the accolade of abuse arrived pressuring our stress levels. The antagonist can attack with full effort under this cloak of deception and we are left with doubt about whether the battle has truly even been engaged.
- Most antagonists know our weaknesses and insecurities. We are locked into clever psy op warfare and our enemy is so good because it often runs in their very DNA. They just might know us better than we know ourself. Our hurried culture precludes our hopes of self-introspection. Until you know your real inner self, not simply the projected image we are tricked into living, you are likely perceived as “easy-pickens.”
- Our intuition challenges everything we have been taught to believe about human nature. Good boys and girls do not accuse others of being mean or untrustworthy, “How rude.” Yet in our heart of hearts we still know that something is wrong. And didn’t Jesus teach about the sin of passing judgment, “Do not judge lest you be judged?”
So we are stuck with this internal battle of being “nice,” and yet knowing that some things are just not measuring up with good civil reasoning. While the antagonists reek destruction on our psyche we share in the emasculation and tear ourselves down further with guilt and self-doubt.
“Your skin just keeps getting thicker and thicker,
year after year, until you just stop noticing things”
The most common escape is just to tune out the daily brutality of life. The Israeli sociologist Janet Aviad calls it the process of “rhinocerosization.”
Your skin just keeps getting thicker and thicker, year after year, until you just stop noticing things,” said Ms. Aviad. “Twenty years ago the shooting of a Palestinian student or the firebombing of a settler would set everyone here on fire. Now most people just accept it. Events happen. They are written on your memory but you don’t let the feelings sink in. It is a terrible analogy, but I can’t help thinking of what they said about the people who lived near Auschwitz. They just didn’t smell the smoke anymore. We don’t either.”
It is not only that events have made people numb. There is also a willful numbing. No one dares put himself in the other’s shoes. Around the 20th anniversary of the Six-Day War, Jordan Television, the station most watched by Palestinians, aired a British-made documentary on the Arab-Israel conflict – except it edited out all references to the Jewish trauma of the Holocaust. For the same anniversary, Israel Television ran a documentary exposing some of the brutality of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank. The program set off a weeklong howl of protest from Israeli viewers, who complained that the depressing show spoiled their Friday evening and never should have run in prime time.
“My Neighbor, My Enemy”
By Thomas L. Friedman; chief of The Times’s bureau in Jerusalem.
Published: Sunday, July 5, 1987, The New York Times
Kim Jong Il
Denounce him and freeze him out,
as the Bush Administration did
… and wha-la, his maniacal drive for a nuclear bomb!
“Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”
John F. Kennedy
At the signing of a charter establishing the German Peace Corps, Bonn, West Germany (24 June 1963)
And then Martin Luther King, Jr. followed his crafty reformulation,
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
A total misquote by Kennedy
Presumably, Kennedy had no idea what this actually meant and asked one of his aides or speechwriters, who obviously didn’t either.
The real meaning is that those who remain not just neutral, but take an amoral and pragmatic stance are so bad that even Hell doesn’t want them.
‘Inferno’ Canto 3 lines 35-42 translates as
‘They are mixed with that repulsive choir of angels…
Undecided in neutrality.
Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out
But even Hell itself would not receive them
For fear the wicked there
Might glory over them.’
Canto III: Summary:
Dante and Virgil arrived at the gateway of Hell, whose famous inscription ends with the words: “Abandon hope, ye who enter here.” The damned shall suffer eternally and Hell will endure forever, in Dante’s vision. Past the gate, Dante heard voices of suffering and despair that made him weep. Virgil told him that he was hearing the laments of the morally neutral people, the “sorry souls of those who lived without disgrace and without praise,” as well as the angels who sided neither with God nor with Satan in Satan’s rebellion. These cowardly people were tormented by wasps, flies and worms. They are shut out of both Hell and Heaven, disdained by the forces of good and evil alike.
2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.
“To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good… Ideology – that is what gives devil doing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors.”
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
–Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago
The healthy man does not torture others –
generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.
— C. G. Jung
Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves.
But deep down below the surface of the average conscience
a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune.
— Carl Gustav Jung
. . . .
The banners fly with their message of “See How Right I Am!”
Indignant antagonists will converse how they must rise up to defend God’s will. They do not want to cause pain to the other “side,” but it must be done . . . for God’s sake.
(Yeah, it’s a tough thing to stomach)
_ _ _ _ _
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Misattributed — to Bonhoeffer on the Internet, and supposedly from “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (2010) by Eric Metaxas; however, there is no actual reference in that book.
. . .