"Bully: a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker." [The New Oxford American Dictionary]
I loathe bullies. Absolutely loathe them. I have run across them many times in my lifetime. Mostly in the church. And I know many of you have too.
In Christendom, we have pastor/elder bullies. I have heard many horror stories about those guys and have witnessed bullying in church meetings and at presbyteries. And in all the times I have watched this occur, I do not recall one instance where the bully was called down and held accountable for his obnoxious treatment of a brother or sister believer. In fact, these bullies continue to serve as a pastors and elders and continue to bask in the warm regard and respect of fellow elders. Now the church bullies I know have behaved this way for years. Bullying is their pattern of behavior. If the Biblical standard for eldership were upheld by their congregations, these guys would be tossed out of the sheep pen and forced to look for employment outside the church. Just to remind you, that standard is (among other things) "not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker…just, holy, temperate" (Titus 1:7, 8). Yet, these oppressors continue to preach, teach and, in some cases, publish, and speak at our conferences.
Then there are the husband bullies and plain old women-haters in the church. I hate to say it, but Reconstruction seems to have way too many of those. (One is too many.) Their wives are the sweetest and meekest of souls, godly women who are trying to be faithful to their calling to be wives and mothers. They are often raising broods of children, homeschooling them, while being almost continually pregnant. And they do this under the umbrella of a control-freak, angry, yelling Neanderthal to whom they have to show honor and respect "because the Bible says so." I know of one well-known pastor who would often scream at his wife in public for this and that - very small things in the scheme of life. Many people left his church because of the way they saw him publicly treat her, but to my knowledge, no one ever took him to task for his treatment of his wife. I have heard other similar horror stories.
I was talking to a friend yesterday about these Christian women-haters. And we wondered, if the roles were reversed so that they were the ones in submission to women, would they still love Jesus and serve Him? Unfortunately Reformed Christianity can be attractive to men who want to be in charge and in control. It seems to be the one area of our culture where they can flex some muscle. The teaching on male headship can be a lure to sadists and other sinners. Without godly teaching continually confronting men with the true Biblical teaching on headship and the responsibilities of men, husbands, and elders, there is little chance of them being sanctified out of this. And even with godly teaching, if these guys are never called down and held accountable for their wretched treatment of the weaker lambs, they will never change. And they are teaching their little sons to be brutes like Daddy, and I don't even have the heart to think about their little daughters.
The real problem with Christian bullies, however, is the Christian men who aren't bullies, but who allow this treatment to continue. In almost every case of bullying I know about, Christian men have been present or were aware of what was going on. And did nothing. That has got to change. As anyone who has confronted a bully knows, they are huge cowards and just showing a little fang will send them running under Mommy's skirts. I learned this early as a Christian. When some elder or Christian brother would threaten me or try to intimidate me (and no man would come to my rescue), I took a stand. At first, I was terrified to do so, but it was so easy that it actually became fun. I have often done it without saying one word (a good skill because as a woman, I seldom have a voice in the meetings I attend). So, through the years, I have wondered why Christian men don't take on the bullies, confront them, and tell them this is not acceptable behavior in the kingdom of God.
Rush told me this story more than once when we would discuss bullies we had known. In my heart, I can see the twinkle in his eye and hear him laughing as he told it. It was about life on the frontier. There was a man who beat his wife. Word spread throughout the community, and the next morning, a posse of men appeared at his front door. They stripped him naked, tied him behind a horse, and proceeded to drag him through the briars. After a while, they dropped him off at his porch with a warning: "If we ever hear of you hitting your wife, we will be back and you will get worse." Needless to say the wife did not have to fear her husband again. We need Christian men willing to be this bold for Christ's children who cower under the physical and emotional battering of bullying bravados.
- Susan Burns
Susan is the managing editor of the the Faith for All of Life magazine and the Chalcedon Report (bi-monthly newsletter). Susan has worked for Chalcedon since 1997. She lives in Virginia and is rather fond of animals, especially her many cats.