Jibstay

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sleaze and Sacred Space


It really did dawn on me while I was washing the car. What is it about some Christians that trigger such a negative response? One thought is the "sleaze factor." That's the sense that you are being hustled, conned, moved, used, set up, and massaged. There is an inner awareness that there is a sub-text going on, another agenda for which you are really just a pawn not a player.
One way to measure the "sleaze factor" is by the type and number of genuine questions that are asked of you. The other component goes back to an earlier post about "sermon crickett", where two persons listen to a sermon and one player counts the number of times the word "I" is used and the other player counts the number of times "Jesus" is used. Usually the "I" player wins the game. Do most stories, sermons and conversations wind back to that leader's accomplishments and the people he or she knows?
What's wrong with this? Nothing in an of itself. It's the behavior of egotists and narcissists. Some people are just really full of themselves and want you to know all about their latest victories.
Where it connects to sacred space is in the whole realm of safety. Sacred space should always, always be safe space. When there is someone in that space in leadership who is hustling, people do not feel safe, but feel the need to protect and guard themselves. Years ago, in a church I first served there was a man who was particularly proud of his etnic background. He was also very sure of all theological questions and if you disagreed with him, you were not only wrong, but you were the enemy to be destroyed conclusively. One Sunday my wife Martha said something in error or asked the wrong question and he unloaded on her like a battleship, sending her from Sunday School in tears. Unfortunately I was too immature to confront him as both husband and pastor, but instead approached the leaders of the church. "Oh well" they said apologetically, "that's just _____, we've gotten used to him." And that was that. This church tolerated a toxic and sleazy leader and church health paid the price. No one dared be relaxed or safe in his presence. It wasn't till he died that new and safer winds of health blew through.
The dilemma I'd genuinely enjoy comment on is "How do you tell someone that they come off with a sleaze factor?" I mean, if I'd just show up and say that, that person would likely punch me in the nose. How do we confont those christian leaders who make sacred space un-safe?

2 Comments:

At 10:03 AM , Blogger Dan said...

It's been a while since I've dropped in so i'm catching up on some of your posts... and I come across this one! I take note that there are no comments! I'm not at all good at this particular problem. I hate having to deal with such a person/problem mostly because the very problem is that such a person usually does exactly the thing we don't want (unload on us like a battleship) and so far in the few experiences I've had confronting (and that is the right word here) such a person, the person doesn't hear the attempted "correction" for the very reason that he/she is the way he/she is. Does that make sense?

Nevertheless, on the occasions I have been involved in trying to address such a person it has has gone exactly where I suspected it would go.... straight to hell! (Sorry for the language, but that seems to be the best way to describe the situations.) People get hurt, I get hurt, the other person gets mad and in two such situations also got going- left the church- but not without much adue, phone calls and in one case a 'mass mailing.'

But, I find myself back at James 3 shaking my hanging head as I try to figure out if I got caught in the 'wisdom from below' hell-hole again!

(Un)naturally, my default response is much the same as the leaders at your former church- "Well, that's just the way ____________ is. We've gotten used to him/her."

Still looking for wisdom and courage here...

 
At 1:48 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Thanks Dan for your insightful and honest response.

 

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