One of the most evident signs that there’s manipulation or toxicity is in a church, is the existence of accepted double standards. Take for example David Koresh and his followers:
In a 2013 interview for the Telegraph (twenty years after the Waco siege) journalist Cole Moreton asked one of David Koresh’s followers, Livingstone Fagan, “Isn’t it true, though, that many of the women lived as the wives of Koresh, while the other adults practised celibacy?” Fagan, who currently awaits the imminent return of David Koresh from the dead, answered, “These were not sexual partners. These were actually wives. God says he is against adultery and fornication. That was still in place. It was only as God directed him that David was to have these wives. The purpose of this was to bear children.”
Koresh taught the men in his church both single and married, that they should be celibate (abstain from sex) while at the same time he took “wives” for himself; some already married to men in the church. He did all of this while teaching that fornication and adultery were wrong.
When we read about something like what Koresh did, we ask ourselves, “Can’t people see the double standard?” But I don’t think that’s really the right question to ask, because I think most people are smart enough to see it. I think the real question should be, “How do people endorse the double standards that they see?”
Well in the story above, you get a glimpse into how. Did you notice in Fagan’s response to the question he said:
“It was only as God directed him that David was to have these wives.”
You see as long as people believe that an inconsistency in behaviour between cliques in a group can be “God ordained”, you have the perfect formula for developing two sets of moral standards in that group; usually one for the “flock” and one for the “leaders”. But how does God “ordain” a double standard? Well let me just say this first, He doesn’t! But I think a combination of the following two conditions is what’s used to give the impression that He does:
- The guys at the top – In one of my previous posts, I explained how the belief in levels of Christianity facilitates this kind of rationale. People begin to see the “guys at the top” as the ones who are getting Christianity right and start to think of these people as a sort of “blueprint” for what the Christian life should be like. Because these “leaders” are now placed on a pedestal of perfection, when they do something that is clearly wrong, it’s easier to justify their error than simply accept that they were wrong and should be as responsible for their actions as the “flock”.
- The Bible – OK, now before you begin to sharpen your pitchforks and light up your torches, let me just say that I believe the Bible is true. I also believe it should be read in the same way that we read every other book; considering its context and original purpose of the original authors. Too many times I’ve seen it misused to perpetuate lies and the control of some over others. For example take the following scriptures:
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” ~ Proverbs 11:13
“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” ~ 1Timothy 5:19
I’ve seen the preacher in the church I used to go to, use these verses to establish some things:
- Members shouldn’t talk about anything that other members are doing (wrong) because that’s gossip.
- The congregation should never say anything amongst themselves about leaders if they think a leader is doing something wrong. They should however bring the issue to either the preacher or his wife.
But wait a second, The Bible is saying that an accusation against an elder is to be bought by two or three witnesses; it didn’t say take it to the leader of the church or his wife. In fact how can it ever be possible to find two or three witnesses, if members shouldn’t repeat a matter about a leader to other members? Because remember, that’s gossiping…
But what’s more interesting is that after a particular member of the church left, the preacher shared publicly with members of the congregation, a very private issue that the ex-member had confessed to the preacher and I before he left the church. When I questioned the preacher about this betrayal of the person’s trust, he justified his actions saying that God had given him the people in the church to look after and he believed that the ex-member was intent on “taking them”. As such he had to prove the fruit of the ex-member’s ways by telling them what he did and he would do it again if he had to…
But hold up, I thought “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered”? …Well, that was the last day I ever went to that church.
Now, that was the preacher acting out the double standard, but like I said above, the real issue when we talk about double standards is its endorsement by the congregation. What struck me later on after leaving the church was that when I told some people who are still members of the congregation about this incident, most could not say they believed their pastor was wrong. And the ones that did say he might have been wrong, made sure to provide a number of justifications for his actions.
And that’s where the real power lies when establishing double standards in churches; with the people who allow it. Koresh’s followers physically fought against, killed a number of ATF agents and laid down their own lives; many allowed themselves to be burnt to death along with their children. Let’s face it; David Koresh didn’t get them to do that by force. He convinced them that he was the man of God and used the Bible to get them to go along with it. It’s the same with any manipulative leader in any group. They get their unquestioned power over the group… from the group.