Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The "No-Talk" Rule

I have given away Ken Blue's book Healing from Spiritual Abuse probably several dozen times. One day I gave a copy to a lady who had just left a painful church situation. She emailed me in a few days and told me that she had ordered ten more and given them all out!

Blue's book is very practical. He shares helpful insights, such as the "no-talk" rule that often occurs in an oppressive religious situation . . .

"One of the most troubling abusive traits in the dysfunctional church or denominational family is the unwritten “no talk” rule. This rule implies that certain problems in the group must not be exposed because then the group might look bad and things would have to change.

Allowing such deception and suppression to exist within a fellowship not only fosters numerous abuses but is a flat denial of the meaning of Christian fellowship. If there are certain issues – such as leadership, decision-making, or how money is spent – which you cannot discuss with members of your church, you do not participate in Christian fellowship with them.

Another abusive result of the “don’t talk” rule is that when people from inside the group finally break the silence and begin to talk about the group’s problems, they are persecuted. They are told that everything was just fine until they started causing trouble. (Incestuous families react in the same way toward the first daughter to blow the whistle on her father and her family.)

If the whistle-blowers reveal the group’s problems to the outside world, the group will mobilize to discredit them. Often the troublemaker’s mental and emotional state is brought into question. Almost never are the actual issues raised every admitted, let alone dealt with. The real problems are not acknowledged; instead, the whistle-blowers themselves become the problem. Thus honest examination is averted and denial maintained.

Any call to unity must be examined critically. Is it true Christian unity or unchristian uniformity that is being called for? Real unity is mutual submission which is freely and voluntarily given moment by moment. It is never coerced. If the unity called for includes keeping quiet about deep-felt concerns, it is not true Christian unity and we need not submit to it.

Some church leaders defend their heavy-handed, autocratic style of leadership and their hierarchical church structure in the name of “church unity.” Only a strong, central authority, they imply, can maintain discipline and “unity among the brethren.” The problem, of course, is that real unity can never be achieved by coercion. Christian authoritarianism confuses spiritual unity with unanimity. Unity is achieved as people freely submit to one another. Unanimity, or uniformity, on the other hand, can be achieved with autocratic controls. It can be prescribed, measured, and monitored. It is essentially external, whereas true unity is first internal. Uniformity looks for correct behavior, whereas unity wants a right spirit. Unity delights in differences.

The honor we offer our leaders, however, can only be offered freely. "

Image used courtesy of Pexels

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