As if you didn’t know, the definition of terrorism is, “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an on organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or government, often for ideological or political reasons.” The definition of bullying is, “the physical or verbal abuse, repeated over time, and involving a power imbalance.” Not much difference! Terrorists are bullies and bullies are terrorists. The bomb-makers in
Boston, a basketball coach at Rutgers, or a rogue nation rattling a nuclear sword, all fit the definitions. Countless news stories, editorials, speeches, and sermons have been and will be devoted to these tragic and devastating behaviors.
In light of all of the above it might seem trivial to highlight similar behaviors in the Church. Nevertheless, this blog holds up hope for the future of the Episcopal Church by facilitating consideration and discussion of issues that must be addressed if we are to go forward. It is sad, but we need to be honest – the Church is also afflicted by bullies.
Congregants (parishioners) go beyond the realm of reasonableness when they threaten the rector (pastor) with stopping their pledge, which is common, to lying about the professional and personal life of the clergy. It is reported in several denominations, including our own, that more than one-third of all clergy moves are the result of being fired or forced out by “lay-popes;” which is just another name for a bully. More then a few senior wardens have placed a severance check and a resignation letter in front of a rector. “Sign this or we’ll fire you and see to it you will never be employed in a parish again.” One clergyperson report a huge symbol burned into his front lawn as a way to break his spirit. Clergy have been sued as a way to force a resignation. And even when clergy move it has been documented that “clergy-killers” have traveled across the country to poison-the-well in the new place.
On the other hand, clergy can also be abusive, especially toward staff, paid and unpaid. Many an Altar Guild has experienced ugly behavior by an ordained person in the Sacristy. Assistant clergy have been publicly ridiculed in order to “keep them in their place.” Some bishops are unscrupulous in their taking advantage of the ‘imbalance of power’ that permits ending continued employment for rectors that think independently.
In strategic terms “Anti-Terrorism” is the holistic, defensive, approach to terrorism which seeks to understand the causes and drivers of terrorism. Every major university has such a class by one name or another.
“Counter-Terrorism” is the offensive pursuit, prosecution and negation of terrorist activity. Not so many schools teach this.
Perhaps it is time as individuals, congregations, schools, communities, and nations to actively counter those who unlawfully use or threatened use of force or violence in our homes, our schools, our churches, and in the world at-large. How? Let the discussion begin.