When it comes to movie bullies, perhaps he is one of the most famous. In the classic film A Christmas Story (1983), the red-headed Scut—wearing a coonskin cap and flanked by his shorter partner in crime, Grover Dill—would often torment young Ralphie and his brother on the way home from school.
The reason this movie (and this scene in particular) resonated with audiences is because people can relate. Most everyone grew up knowing a bully in their school; someone who would intimidate, threaten, and domineer the other kids.
Indeed, bullies are part of the human experience. So prevalent, in fact, that one could easily make a list of famous movie bullies: Biff Tannen (Back to the Future), Johnny Lawrence (The Karate Kid), Ace Merrill (Stand by Me), and Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter).
Of course, bullies don’t just disappear when you graduate from high school. They are still around, though maybe in more subtle form.
And, perhaps most sadly, bullies are even in the church. Although we’ve always known this to be the case, the depth of this problem has become more and more evident over the last few years.
At the beginning of 2019, Sam Allberry called attention to the problem: “How Do Churches End Up with Domineering Bullies for Pastors?” There he lamented that “a sad trend has developed in recent years: Pastors having to leave for bullying.”
At the end of 2019, Collin Hansen echoed Allberry’s concerns:
This [problem of bully pastors] is the next pressing issue our churches must face. For far too long we’ve tolerated this kind of leadership that should plainly disqualify pastors by several standards in Titus 1:7–8. Why do we think it’s okay for pastors to abuse their members and fellow leaders so long as they don’t steal money or have sex outside marriage?
Hansen and Allberry were remarkably prescient, because just a short time later, Christianity Today wrote a story about how Acts 29 CEO Steve Timmis was removed because of “abusive leadership” and “bullying.” Ironically, these were some of the same concerns that led to the removal of the founder of Acts 29, Mark Driscoll.
Even more recently, we see the problem of abusive behavior in the downfall of Jerry Falwell, Jr. Prior to the revelations about sexual misconduct, Falwell’s reign as president of Liberty University was riddled with concerns about bullying, abusive behavior, and intimidation.
Sadly, high profile cases like these are just the ones we hear about in the news. Behind the scenes, there are many more cases of spiritual abuse that are happening that we will never hear about. Indeed, in a recent conversation with some of our counseling staff here at RTS Charlotte, I was shocked to hear about how many cases of spiritual abuse they have seen over the years.
And it’s not just an American problem. [Read more…]