You could be surprised. Who wouldn't admire a church leader who plunged himself into opposing anti-Christian causes that many would rather ignore? A pastor who regularly speaks against the ills of our society with a militant vigilantism? A leader who fears nothing and no one? He is always on the news, internet and/or local paper as the man to go to for a Christian opinion, drawing headlines and attention? This man is attractive, manly and assertive. He draws people thru his strength, his ability to gain followers.
What is he like behind the scenes? Thinly veiled as Christ-like behavior, he is self-reliant, full of energy and hardheaded. Intimidation is his first tool of choice in relationships. The anti-social bad boy uses his powers of debate, exclusion and inclusion, and theological name-calling to express toughness. He loves a good fight (in Christian circles, this is called deep theological discussions). He is very good at thinking on his feet, flying by the seat of his pants.
This bad boy lives by the motto, "I don't get angry, I get even." In church settings this vindictiveness appears under a social mask. He may appear to be very suave, sincere and adult. However, his inner circle (the boards, committees and staff that he intimidates), his confidants, carry out his vendetta. These people don't want to cross him. He claims that most people are devious and punitive and this justifies his own mistrustful, hostile and vengeful attitudes by ascribing them to others. People are not to be trusted until they have proven thru repeated testing that they are loyal.
Manipulation and coercion become his tools of conquest. If acting gracious, cheerful and charming will maneuver and subjugate, he will do so. He may have the motto, "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission" and just does what he wants. If such behavior fails, frustration of his will to power easily turns into furious, vindictive attacks. The people & institutions around him become tools of power. Christianity and its pieties are subordinated to the iron necessities of his personal need to control.
He will kiss those above him and kick those below him. When he arrives at his temporary pinnacle (he always wants a more powerful pinnacle) the people beneath him are there to minister to him. He spends his time, energy and attention in feathering his nest and maintaining his position of power.
How can the church deal with the anti-social religious bad boy?
The anti-social Bad Boy assumes he is clever and you are stupid. A frank, direct, unequivocal "no" tells him that you will not be manipulated, maneuvered, or used. Jesus reminded us to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves in the face of such men. A refusal to be frightened by threats and resistance with gentleness and evenhanded good humor destabilizes him. He needs to learn what Paul Tillich says, "faith in God's love means that we can accept being accepted though we know we are unacceptable." He needs to learn the discipline of considerateness. Gentleness can be learned. Gentleness and self-control are two hallmarks of a person who has God's Holy Spirit indwelling.
He needs to learn a childhood lesson that he obviously missed. In anger we are to be as children. Children don't let the sun go down on their wrath. It's only from older people that that children learn how to carry a grudge, how to plan to get even, and how to be vindictive. In our interactions with the anti-social bad boy, gentleness is our greatest strength. It confuses and ministers to him because it is a different pattern of living. Living the adage, "He who is genuinely strong has no fear of being gentle" will eventually, with his willingness to let God work in him, bring about the needed change.
Many thanks to the deceased Dr. Oates from whom much of this information is taken. His seminal work Behind the Masks should be read by those in positions of leadership in the church.
BE A MAN.