Rev. Howard Bess: Many American Cristian Leaders Are Authoritarian Bullies!
Bullying is now a major reason that American teenagers give for skipping school, and eventually dropping out of high school. Students get bullied over race, sexual orientation, clothes, looks, handicaps, intelligence and economic class. Yet, where can we find a voice of sanity, that will publicly call for a halt in the practice of bullying? It is not the Christian churches. Indeed, many Christian pastors and fundamentalists practice the art of bullying themselves, demanding obedience to holy books and creeds. I cringe every time, I hear preachers and devout Christians declare: The Bible says. Rarely do they identify the author, or the circumstance of the passage to which they refer. The Bible says is the sledge hammer of Protestant Christianity. The message is all too plain: Get in line, or you are headed for punishment, rejection, or even Hell. It is the ultimate bullying tool, because it is difficult for a parishioner to out gun a holy god, who has spoken with finality and with out error. Dynamic and authoritarian preachers, are especially good at Bible rhetoric that is calculated intimidation. Preachers may be the most skilled persons in our society in the practice of bullying. And then there are the creeds, which were originally devised to force conformity to Christian belief. The creeds of Christianity have been, and are regularly used as the club for bullying. Again, the message is clear: Agree and be labeled a heretic, and be excommunicated. Bullying also is practiced at the highest level of American civil society, with bullying a front line tool of US foreign policy. One could say that America in its world leadership role has refined the art of bullying. We constantly send messages to the nations of the world: Behave, and we will send you money, misbehave, and we will place sanctions against you. Get out of line too much, and we have the power to crush you. Dare rattle your own sword, and we will station our battleships off your coast. None of these public practices teaches our children the ways of peace. Then we seem surprised, when we find bullying prevalent among our school children. Teenage gangs are simply another manifestation of a bully system, that pervades many of the most respected institutions of society. While details change, the dynamics of bullying never change. The story line repeats itself over and over. A bully finds ways to intimidate others, to establish control over them. The person who is the object of the bullying has three choices: Submit, run away, or fight back. None of these standard responses produce good results.