Finger-pointing as a Spiritual Practice


Fundamentalism serves up a number of predictable ironies.

For example, one can expect to hear sermons on ‘priorities’ in which ridicule is heaped on the practice of majoring on the minors while minoring on the majors. What these are may not be spelled out in explicit detail, but it’s quite certain it doesn’t have reference to the key in which the opening song is sung.

More likely, majoring on minors and minoring on majors means that some people don’t share the pastor’s priorities. Since the pastor is more spiritual than you, it can be expected that his priorities will also be more spiritual than your priorities. Sometimes this doesn’t matter that much.

But not always.

Sometimes in church life, bad things are done to people. There is a sense of injustice, of violation. A ‘Christian’ businessman was more ‘business’ than ‘Christian.’ Someone took the fall for a ministry leader caught in a program disaster. A member’s integrity was impugned wrongfully. The list could expand, but you get the point. In life, stuff happens. Always.

The question becomes, how is ‘stuff’ redressed?

And here, people begin to encounter some unexpected ironies. The talk about integrity and doing the right thing gives way to expedience. It is very hurtful for you to allege that the pastor’s son groped your daughter. This is experienced as an attack on the pastor’s family and the ministry of the whole church. It is entirely possible that your daughter initiated this behavior. Of course, it’s also possible that you invented this story because you want attention. You’re focusing on the wrong priorities.

Pursue this course of inquiry and people may find themselves isolated, shunned, slandered, attacked or ‘disciplined’ in other ways. Whispering campaigns give way to open hostility. Spiritual care and oversight is reduced to admonitions to reflect on your behavior. In such situations, there is no redress for the ‘stuff’ that happens. And when ‘spirituality’ becomes the rationale for that, this is an instance of ‘spiritual abuse.’

That’s the rub.