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Antagonists in the Church

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  • orthodixie@aol.com
    There is a wonderful book which, I believe, all pastors should read entitled: Antagonists in the Church -- How to Identify and Deal with Destructive
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 2, 2001
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      There is a wonderful book which, I believe, all pastors should read entitled:
      "Antagonists in the Church -- How to Identify and Deal with Destructive
      Conflict," by Kenneth C. Haugk.

      Here are some excerpts:

      Antagonists are individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence, go
      out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or
      performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down
      rather than building up, and are frequently directed against those in a
      leadership capacity.

      Some key phrases in this definition deserve closer attention:

      * non substantive evidence: The arguments an antagonist presents are
      typically founded on little or grossly misrepresented evidence. As
      Shakespeare wrote in Henry V, "The empty vessel makes the greatest sound."
      Three common fallacies antagonists employ are: pettifogging (quibbling over
      straws, providing strong proof of irrelevant points); extension (exaggerating
      the opponent's position); and argumentation ad ignoratium (making an
      assertion that cannot be disproved and then claiming that the inability to
      disprove makes it true).

      * go out of their way: Antagonists initiate trouble; they do not wait for
      trouble to come along. This often goes hand-in-hand with hypersensitivity on
      their part. They often take every word and action as a personal attack and
      respond aggressively.

      * insatiable demands: Antagonists are never satisfied. The proverb, "Give
      him an inch and he'll take a mile" applies doubly to antagonists. No amount
      of accommodation on your part (or on the part of a group or a congregation as
      a whole) will ever suffice. Instead of calming antagonists down, attempts at
      appeasement encourage them to make more demands. Many antagonists fight on
      until there is nothing left but rubble. Sometimes even that does not stop
      them.

      * attacking: This harsh word is accurately applied to antagonists.
      Although they may present some valid points, antagonists generally do not
      offer constructive criticism. Their implicit goal is control, no matter what
      the cost may be to others.

      * selfish in nature: The attacks of antagonists are self-serving. Often
      they will seize on a slogan or pick some side of a valid issue and pretend
      that is what they are fighting for. It rarely is. An antagonist will
      quickly drop a particular slogan or issue once it no longer serves his or her
      ambitions.

      * tearing down rather than building up: This is the inevitable result of
      antagonists' actions. Instead of pulling God' people together, they divide
      them. Show me a divided and strife-torn congregation, and I will show you a
      congregation that has one or more antagonists in its midst.
      [pp. 25-27]

      "As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have
      nothing to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful;
      he is self-condemened" (Titus 3:10-11) p.50

      Antagonists frequently evidence at least several of five personality
      characteristics: negative self-concept, narcissism, aggression, rigidity,
      and authoritarianism. Although these same personality traits occur in
      "normal" individuals as well, two factors distinguish these characteristics
      as they appear in antagonists: first, antagonists usually display at least
      several of them; second, antagonists exhibit them in extreme forms.

      (...)

      * AGGRESSION. Antagonists also display patterns of aggressive behaviour
      that permeate their entire personalities. Angry at self, the world, and any
      convenient situation or person, antagonists seem to wander through life
      seeking, inviting, and collecting injustices against themselves. Every
      perceived or actual wrong they experience is stored away in their memories
      and periodically replayed to supply fuel for their anger.

      * RIGIDITY. When emotional and personal growth stops too soon, rigidity is
      one result. Rigidity is characterized by inflexibility of thought, usually
      coupled with excessive concern for precise and accurate procedure (as defined
      by the rigid individual). Someone with a rigid personality sees the world as
      totally static; his or her explanation of events is, by definition, the
      unquestionably correct interpretation. Rigid individuals ridicule or ignore
      differing opinions and skillfully overlook contrary evidence. Attempting to
      create a sense of security in an apparently unstable, frightening world,
      those who have rigid personality structures are devoted to keeping their
      narrow views intact.
      Antagonists with rigid personality structures are prone to antagonistic
      behaviours for two reasons: (1) Their feelings of peace, security, and
      harmony are heavily dependent on the integrity of their world vies. When it
      becomes impossible for them to ignore dissent, they strike out against those
      who threaten to topple their systems.
      (2) They are especially jealous of leaders, because people in authority have
      the power to inject disturbing input. Therefore, rigid antagonists
      frequently employ their simplistic rules and regulations as weapons against
      leaders.

      * AUTHORITARIANISM. Authoritarian individuals are characterized by two
      seemingly contradictory drives: (1) the need to admire and submit to those
      considered "powerful"; and (2) the need to be in authority and make others
      submit to them. Individuals with authoritarian tendencies divide the world
      into two camps: those who are "strong" and those who are "weak." Whatever
      is designated as strong elicits the authoritarian's veneration (usually
      involving a combination of fear and admiration) and a desire to submit to the
      stronger object. Whatever is characterized as weak arouses a desire to
      dominate, attack, and humiliate or annihilate the weaker object. This is why
      stronger individuals are more immune to antagonists than weaker individuals.
      [pp.60-64]

      FWIW,


      Fr Joseph Huneycutt
      St Nicholas Church (ROCOR)
      Fletcher, NC
      <A HREF="http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/missionconf_overview.htm">ROCOR
      Southern Missions Conference 2001 -- Overview</A>
    • anatoly5000
      What happens when this describes your priest?? ... Destructive ... evidence, go ... person or ... tearing down ... in a ... are ... sound. ... (quibbling over
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 22, 2002
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        What happens when this describes your priest??


        --- In orthodox-synod@y..., orthodixie@a... wrote:
        > There is a wonderful book which, I believe, all pastors should read
        entitled:
        > "Antagonists in the Church -- How to Identify and Deal with
        Destructive
        > Conflict," by Kenneth C. Haugk.
        >
        > Here are some excerpts:
        >
        > Antagonists are individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive
        evidence, go
        > out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the
        person or
        > performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature,
        tearing down
        > rather than building up, and are frequently directed against those
        in a
        > leadership capacity.
        >
        > Some key phrases in this definition deserve closer attention:
        >
        > * non substantive evidence: The arguments an antagonist presents
        are
        > typically founded on little or grossly misrepresented evidence. As
        > Shakespeare wrote in Henry V, "The empty vessel makes the greatest
        sound."
        > Three common fallacies antagonists employ are: pettifogging
        (quibbling over
        > straws, providing strong proof of irrelevant points); extension
        (exaggerating
        > the opponent's position); and argumentation ad ignoratium (making
        an
        > assertion that cannot be disproved and then claiming that the
        inability to
        > disprove makes it true).
        >
        > * go out of their way: Antagonists initiate trouble; they do not
        wait for
        > trouble to come along. This often goes hand-in-hand with
        hypersensitivity on
        > their part. They often take every word and action as a personal
        attack and
        > respond aggressively.
        >
        > * insatiable demands: Antagonists are never satisfied. The
        proverb, "Give
        > him an inch and he'll take a mile" applies doubly to antagonists.
        No amount
        > of accommodation on your part (or on the part of a group or a
        congregation as
        > a whole) will ever suffice. Instead of calming antagonists down,
        attempts at
        > appeasement encourage them to make more demands. Many antagonists
        fight on
        > until there is nothing left but rubble. Sometimes even that does
        not stop
        > them.
        >
        > * attacking: This harsh word is accurately applied to
        antagonists.
        > Although they may present some valid points, antagonists generally
        do not
        > offer constructive criticism. Their implicit goal is control, no
        matter what
        > the cost may be to others.
        >
        > * selfish in nature: The attacks of antagonists are self-
        serving. Often
        > they will seize on a slogan or pick some side of a valid issue and
        pretend
        > that is what they are fighting for. It rarely is. An antagonist
        will
        > quickly drop a particular slogan or issue once it no longer serves
        his or her
        > ambitions.
        >
        > * tearing down rather than building up: This is the inevitable
        result of
        > antagonists' actions. Instead of pulling God' people together,
        they divide
        > them. Show me a divided and strife-torn congregation, and I will
        show you a
        > congregation that has one or more antagonists in its midst.
        > [pp. 25-27]
        >
        > "As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice,
        have
        > nothing to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and
        sinful;
        > he is self-condemened" (Titus 3:10-11) p.50
        >
        > Antagonists frequently evidence at least several of five
        personality
        > characteristics: negative self-concept, narcissism, aggression,
        rigidity,
        > and authoritarianism. Although these same personality traits occur
        in
        > "normal" individuals as well, two factors distinguish these
        characteristics
        > as they appear in antagonists: first, antagonists usually display
        at least
        > several of them; second, antagonists exhibit them in extreme forms.
        >
        > (...)
        >
        > * AGGRESSION. Antagonists also display patterns of aggressive
        behaviour
        > that permeate their entire personalities. Angry at self, the
        world, and any
        > convenient situation or person, antagonists seem to wander through
        life
        > seeking, inviting, and collecting injustices against themselves.
        Every
        > perceived or actual wrong they experience is stored away in their
        memories
        > and periodically replayed to supply fuel for their anger.
        >
        > * RIGIDITY. When emotional and personal growth stops too soon,
        rigidity is
        > one result. Rigidity is characterized by inflexibility of thought,
        usually
        > coupled with excessive concern for precise and accurate procedure
        (as defined
        > by the rigid individual). Someone with a rigid personality sees
        the world as
        > totally static; his or her explanation of events is, by definition,
        the
        > unquestionably correct interpretation. Rigid individuals ridicule
        or ignore
        > differing opinions and skillfully overlook contrary evidence.
        Attempting to
        > create a sense of security in an apparently unstable, frightening
        world,
        > those who have rigid personality structures are devoted to keeping
        their
        > narrow views intact.
        > Antagonists with rigid personality structures are prone to
        antagonistic
        > behaviours for two reasons: (1) Their feelings of peace, security,
        and
        > harmony are heavily dependent on the integrity of their world
        vies. When it
        > becomes impossible for them to ignore dissent, they strike out
        against those
        > who threaten to topple their systems.
        > (2) They are especially jealous of leaders, because people in
        authority have
        > the power to inject disturbing input. Therefore, rigid antagonists
        > frequently employ their simplistic rules and regulations as weapons
        against
        > leaders.
        >
        > * AUTHORITARIANISM. Authoritarian individuals are characterized
        by two
        > seemingly contradictory drives: (1) the need to admire and submit
        to those
        > considered "powerful"; and (2) the need to be in authority and make
        others
        > submit to them. Individuals with authoritarian tendencies divide
        the world
        > into two camps: those who are "strong" and those who are "weak."
        Whatever
        > is designated as strong elicits the authoritarian's veneration
        (usually
        > involving a combination of fear and admiration) and a desire to
        submit to the
        > stronger object. Whatever is characterized as weak arouses a
        desire to
        > dominate, attack, and humiliate or annihilate the weaker object.
        This is why
        > stronger individuals are more immune to antagonists than weaker
        individuals.
        > [pp.60-64]
        >
        > FWIW,
        >
        >
        > Fr Joseph Huneycutt
        > St Nicholas Church (ROCOR)
        > Fletcher, NC
        > <A
        HREF="http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/missionconf_overview.htm">ROCOR
        > Southern Missions Conference 2001 -- Overview</A>
      • anatoly5000
        There is a wonderful book which, I believe, all pastors and parishioners should read entitled: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 22, 2002
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          There is a wonderful book which, I believe, all pastors and
          parishioners should read entitled:

          "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by David Johnson and Jeff
          VanVonderen. (Protestant tone)

          Here is an adaptation:

          Spiritually Abusive Systems

          by Clete Hux

          (Adapted from The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David
          Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen).

          The authors of the above book have done the body of Christ a
          great service. Through their discernment and collective
          experiences, they have distinguished seven characteristics which
          can be found in all spiritually abusive systems.

          One might expect to find such characteristics only in cults,
          however, as we shall see, these are unfortunately found in some
          Bible based groups, movements and churches. These are:

          Power Posturing

          This means that the leaders spend a lot of time focusing on their
          own authority and reminding others of it as well. This is a
          necessary trait in such a system because their spiritual
          authority isn't real or genuine so it has to be postured if there
          is to be any. The leader subtly replaces Christ or God over one's
          conscience.

          A church leader or pastor might say: "In this flock, I'm the
          chief shepherd!" Such an attitude really assumes the place
          reserved only for the King of Kings. Christ is the Chief Shepherd
          and the head of the church. Jesus says in Matthew 28:18, "All
          authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

          Ronald Enroth in his excellent new book Churches that Abuse,
          documents a perfect example of such abuse by Pastor Phil Aquilar
          of Set Free Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California.

          In addressing his flock, Aquilar has said, "You need to trust God
          through me; I know what's best for you." In discussing his
          responsibility as shepherd of Set Free, he tells his church,
          "People in this church, don't you say anything about each other.
          I can say anything I want. I can call you anything I want because
          I have the responsibility and the accountability according to
          God's Word for each and every one of you. I can say what I want.
          You don't have that responsibility and accountability. I do" (p.
          81).

          Unhealthy, authoritative leadership encourages people to put
          their leaders on a pedestal. This type of leader is eager to
          place people under them þ under their word, under their
          authority.

          Performance Preoccupation


          In an abusive spiritual system, those running such a system will
          be preoccupied with the performance of their members: worthiness
          = performance (often perfectionistism).

          There are many churches where the leadership of those who serve
          require the servants to document how they spend their time every
          day, including how much Bible reading is considered enough, how
          many hours were spent witnessing, and even going so far as being
          confronted for spending 15 minutes instead of 10 taking a bath.

          This system doesn't really foster holiness or obedience to God,
          it merely accommodates the leaders' interpretation of
          spirituality and their need for control. It distorts God's
          unconditional love.

          Obedience and submission is important. Such passages as Romans
          13:1; I Peter 5:5; and Hebrews 13:17 stress both. For the purpose
          of balance, we have to add what Peter says in Acts 5:29, "We must
          obey God rather than men."

          Johnson and VanVonderen correctly add, "Out of context, obedience
          to leaders looks like good theology. Add the larger context and
          you will see that it is only appropriate to obey and submit to
          leadership when their authority is from God and their stance is
          consistent with His" (The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, p.
          66). It is not to be lorded over them.

          Unspoken Rules

          These are rules which govern unhealthy churches or families but
          are not formally stated or written. Since they are not spoken
          verbally, you do not find out that the rule(s) exist until you
          have broken one.

          The unspoken rule may come across like this: Do not disagree with
          the church authorities þ especially the pastor or your loyalty
          will be suspect. Silence becomes the fortress wall of protection,
          shielding the pastor's power position from scrutiny or challenge.

          Of the unspoken rules, the can't talk rule is probably the most
          powerful. The thinking of this rule is: The real problem can not
          be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things
          would have to change, so it must be protected behind walls or
          silence (neglect or by assault þ legalistic attack). If you speak
          about the problem out loud, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. In some way you
          must be silenced or eliminated.

          A good example of this can't talk rule would be the phrase touch
          not the Lord's anointed. According to John Avanzini, Dr. Walter
          Martin (a cult apologetic expert) died because he spoke out
          against some of the Word-Faith teachers and their messages (John
          Avanzini with Paul Crouch, Spring 1990 Praise-a-thon, broadcast
          on Trinity Broadcast Network).

          Again, Enroth gives an example of the same thing which happened
          with Pat, a former youth worker at Phil Aquilar's Set Free
          Ministries. Six months after having left Set Free, Pat came back
          to visit her sister in law. Aquilar met him and began calling him
          names. A few minutes later, Aquilar's secretary shows up and
          joins in by telling Pat that he's treading on dangerous ground
          and that God would probably take Pat's life because he was
          "messing with a man who was anointed by God" (op. cit.).

          Speaking up or against spiritual abuse is not the problem. The
          real problem is if a Christian who feels violated stops talking,
          then the perpetrator will never be held accountable for his
          behavior.

          Lack of Balance

          Many times this characteristic shows up in one extreme or another
          in trying to live out the truth of Christian life. The first
          extreme is that of extreme objectivism, which elevates objective
          truth to the exclusion of valid subjective experience. This can
          be seen in those whose religious systems theologically
          acknowledges the Holy Spirit's work but on a practical level
          appears to ignore Him.

          All too often this type of extreme limits God to act only those
          ways we can explain or understand. In some respect this is like
          the Jehovah's Witness who doesn't accept the doctrine of the
          Trinity and other orthodox teachings because they reason if they
          can't understand it, it must not be of Jehovah.

          The second extreme is that of extreme subjectivism, which is
          deciding what is true based upon feelings and experiences rather
          than what the Bible teaches. In such a system, people are led to
          believe that they cannot understand Scriptural truths until the
          leaders receive them by spiritual revelation from the Lord and
          impart them to the people. Such is the case with the revelation
          knowledge that many Word-Faith teachers claim. Much more will be
          said about this in future articles.

          Words of Wisdom and Words of Knowledge can come from God through
          spiritually sensitive people today. However, these words do not
          supersede the authoritative weight of the Apostles. The only real
          way to be sure that a word from the Lord is for you, is if it's
          the Word of the Lord, that is, Scripture. And yes, even in this,
          Scripture is not to be used to manipulate people.

          Paranoia

          When the church or family is spiritually abusive, there will be a
          sense (spoken or unspoken) that "others will not understand what
          we're about so let's not let them know þ that way they won't be
          able to ridicule or persecute us."

          Jackson and VanVonderen make the point that in such a system
          persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything
          within the system. The reason is that the evil, dangerous or
          unspiritual people outside the system are trying to weaken or
          destroy "us." They go on to say, "This mentality builds a strong
          wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers
          from scrutiny and accountability, making it more difficult for
          people to leave þ because they will then be outside too."

          As one former Boston Church of Christ follower said, "To leave
          the Boston Church of Christ þ even to leave for another
          congregation of the Church of Christ þ was not a recognized
          option; to leave was a weak, sinful thing to do, tantamount to
          opting for perdition" (op. cit., p. 203).

          A self contained spiritual system can be a very harmful thing
          because it keeps people wounded.

          Misplaced Loyalty

          In a spiritually abusive system, a misplaced sense of loyalty is
          fostered and even demanded. Loyalty not to Christ but to an
          organization, church or leader. Because authority is assumed or
          legislated, and therefore not real, following must be legislated
          as well.

          We see this very clearly with the Jehovah's Witnesses with their
          blind loyalty to whatever the Watchtower says. This is true for
          all cults because of the tendency to divide loyalties.

          Included in this is the attitude that "we alone are right" þ
          something the leadership projects. So many groups have this in
          common. When Hobart Freeman began Faith Assembly (not associated
          with the Assemblies of God) loyalty to him and his teachings were
          to be accepted without question. To question Freeman, a
          self-acknowledged "prophet of God" was to risk the charge of
          blasphemy.

          In such a spiritually abusive system, manipulation certainly
          takes place, especially in the area of dating and marriage.
          Leaders of groups keep members in check by forbidding them to
          date. Some of this can be seen in Maranatha Christian Ministries,
          as well as other groups.

          Secretive

          There is no reason to hide what is appropriate, only what is
          inappropriate. When you see people in a religious system being
          secretive þ WATCH OUT!

          Perhaps one reason spiritually abusive families and churches are
          secretive is because they are so image conscious. People in these
          systems cannot even live up to their own performance standards so
          they have to hide what is real.

          When these characteristics exist in a church or Christian group,
          the result will be abuse. The answer is in the right use of God's
          Word.
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