Every Group…whether it’s a denomination, a non-denomination, a local church or a blog…requires rules. This has been hard for me to accept as a Libertarian and non-conformist leaning person. The pragmatist in me realizes, however, that I must deal with things as they are…not as they should be.
I’ve learned a ton at the popular PhoenixPreacher.com blog. One of the biggest lessons that has been cemented regarding “things as they are”…is that the leader and Core Group there are really no different than the leaders and churches and denominations etc. that they rail against and critique ad nauseam. I guess, to a degree, I am not much different either.
We all have our biases, our Sacred Cows, our “orthodox opinions”…and we all have our villains and our doctrinal/philosophical peccadilloes and our hierarchy of sins and our hierarchy of virtues…we all play favorites and we all have gurus and personalities we hold in high regard while vilifying others.
Conduct is important…when you have an opposing and dissenting opinion. Conduct is less important when it is an opinion expressed that you agree with. This is demonstrated in spades at PhxP. “Proper conduct!” is used as a cudgel to force conformity…yet the same standard of conduct is not required of those with an opinion that aligns with the Group and the leader…much like we see in Calvary Chapels and other churches the Phoenix Preacher criticizes and calls to task.
In my experience there, the Group Dynamic is very visible…very much quantifiable…the hierarchy of personalities is easy to define. Spend as little as a few weeks there and it will become apparent to anyone who has even a basic understanding of Group Dynamics and control techniques etc.
I accepted the fact that “rules” of conduct are necessary and important as defined by a particular Group’s consensus. It’s simply how we create order and make sense of the world as humans. It isn’t “wrong” for a Group…whether it be Calvary Chapel or the PhxP to have rules…even if a dissenter disagrees with those rules. The Group has the right to its rules…and the leader or pastor is responsible to the Group in a symbiotic relationship…despite the “leave the 99 to save the one” etc.
The problem is when those rules are not applied equally to all within that Group…and it takes on an especially negative spiritual implication when an “outsider” or what the bible calls a “foreigner” or “alien” is actually targeted and treated with more scrutiny and less grace than someone who is in the fold as part of the Group. It is even more sinister and wrong when leaders of the Group are treated with kit gloves and the rules are not applied to them…we’ve seen this double-standard in Calvary Chapel…and I’m sad to report I have experienced it at the PhoenixPreacher.com blog led by Michael Newnham.
One major bible narrative is how you treat the outsider, the foreigner etc…and the Pharisees were often chastised by Jesus for not applying their heavy burdens and laws and rules to themselves.
The issue goes further off the rails when the rules of conduct are followed…and then “opinions” become “offense” and actionable for punishment. This is ironically what the church fears with regards to its opinions that are contrary to the consensus of the United States culture with regards to homosexuality etc.
Often in “church” and certainly within the PhoenixPreacher.com blog…contrary opinions become an actionable “offense” akin to inappropriate or offensive conduct. This is what happened to me. I tested the boundaries of “proper conduct” and came in line and in agreement. The goal posts moved and the issue became my “opinions” as offense…even expressed in a civil and polite manner without hyperbole and without insult etc. This is the nature of all the things the PhoenixPreacher.com Group has railed against with regards to other churches and leaders (with regards to what they call “spiritual abuse”…I am not considering clear cut sexual or physical abuse or financial corruption as such…those issues are more cut and dry).
Once a difference of opinion, expressed responsibly and diplomatically, becomes an “offense” that is actionable…you are now off the rails and no different than any of the churches and leaders you have built a career and reputation critiquing.
That is the PhoenixPreacher.com and I can no longer endorse it or condone it or be a part of it. There is a bad dynamic there and the Group and leadership is blind to it…similar to the Groups and leaders I’ve watched them call out for years.
Doctrines, philosophical opinions, theology…it’s all extremely subjective…and to mark a particular person’s opinion as “not Christian” or worshipping a “false god” or calling them an “idol worshipper” etc. is as much spiritual abuse as any spiritual abuse that Group has judged in other churches….or as much acting like an “ODM” as they call it as any ODM they’ve called to task. Yet, that behavior is the same behavior of the blog there.
I have liberal theological opinions and most of the arguments I dissect that appeal to “the bible” have major consistency problems. I don’t believe this invalidates the bible as containing truth and I don’t believe it invalidates “God” or Jesus…but it certainly invalidates a particular man’s interpretation as absolute and concrete and “thus sayeth the Lord!” and chiseled in stone. If it was so absolute and non-subjective, you would not have 9,000 to 30,000 different denominations and main lines and all the many differences of opinion under the umbrellas of Christianity*…you’d have one church, one doctrine, one theology. It isn’t math, it isn’t physics. It’s all very subjective.
As such, I am going to lay down some rules at this blog to avoid the mistakes I see at blogs like the PhoenixPreacher:
1. We will tolerate differences of opinion expressed responsibly.
2. We will apply the rules of moderation and banning equally to all.
3. We will refrain from name-calling, even Calvary Chapel…I will have to change in this regard.
4. Conduct is important, I concede that point…but difference of opinion expressed responsibly and how those individuals are dealt with is something that both the church and the PhoenixPreacher blog needs to change. We will do our best to not repeat those mistakes and poor treatment.
5. I will moderate comments that I view as stirring up conflict within the Group, unless it is merely a difference of opinion expressed responsibly.
6. The focus of this blog is on Church Abuse and Church Corruption…but we will discuss other philosophical opinions as they are often closely related to church issues. Be kind, be tolerant, don’t be the thing you say you hate.
I am committed to being better than how I was raised in Calvary Chapel…and I’m committed to being better than the five or so years I wasted on the PhoenixPreacher blog. That starts today.
UPDATE: Michael emailed me and did bring up a pertinent fact that was not included until now, I did post a lot of comments which was one source of irritation to his Group and I agree the volume was excessive sometimes…however, many times it was simply due to the fact I was often ganged up on and was responding to many personalities there and their many challenges to my opinions…and then would often get accused of dodging their questions or challenges if I didn’t respond…then when I responded thoroughly I would often be accused of “dominating” the thread…so, often times I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. Oh well, I am now a “blessed subtraction” as they often criticize guys like Mark Driscoll of promoting.