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Church Bullies

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mans-face-in-shadows-1-by-xymonau-no-r Bullying.

Never a pleasant word. We’re used to hearing it talked about at schools, although not so much at church.

But as I process wounds we sustained from my parents’ former church leaders, and after finding this article at Christianity.ca, I realize we may have lived through a bullying experience.

We had no voice about my parents’ treatment by their congregation. When we asked questions about it, it was made clear–with silence from some, and with unsympathetic and angry words from others–that our questions were not welcome.

The Christianity.ca article explains:

In churches, bullying is often more subtle—church bullies use their power to intimidate people, to close off discussion and to force group decisions to their liking…

“All this has the effect of silencing and disempowering people,” …the problem is compounded because Christians believe they must “turn the other cheek” or give in to make peace in the congregation.

“We feel powerless to stop the bullying, or to confront the bully because we feel that we should respond to violence with kindness,” says Miller…”

This is exactly the inner conflict we’ve been feeling, and why it takes so much courage to speak out about what is clearly wrong. It’s even hard for me to write about these things here on my blog, where readers could assume I’m “unforgiving”, “bitter” or “condemning”.

Pastors, Sunday school teachers and Bible school profs don’t often teach how to handle church bullying, let alone that it exists. It’s no wonder we’re confused when it happens to us:

How do we respond? What if we anger people by speaking out? We don’t want to be accused of stirring up conflict. We don’t want to rock the boat, right? Shouldn’t we just “live and let live”…?

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