It amazes me what can be accomplished by insinuation in the realm of public opinion. A few well-placed suggestions combined with groupthink, and suddenly suspicion is cast, doubt is created, and reputations are smeared.
I am fairly familiar with this tool of communication, having found myself on the wrong side of its damaging effect. Learning by experience the intricacies of how this method of persuasion works, I have also watched it used repeatedly, but effectively, on others at my CLB.
In our situation, the leadership at our former church had to explain why we suddenly left. Their options were:
1. The truth – that we disagreed with them to the degree that we would choose to leave our friends and church home.
2. Imply guilt about us.
I wish they had chosen option one, but then they would have had to deal with questions about the real disagreement. Instead they chose option two, and with downcast faces and hushed voices, they cloaked their vague accusations about us amidst claims of love and care for us. It was then
suggested required that this should no longer be talked about.
People were shocked. Some cried. (A few might have been happy.) And everyone wondered what happened to Grace and her husband, “I wonder what they did.”
With no actual evidence, we were now guilty in the court of public opinion. Overnight, it was obvious on peoples’ faces when we ran into them around town. The lack of detail from the leadership was supposedly to protect us from the shame of whatever scandalous behaviors people were left to imagine.
This effectively dealt with the leadership’s problem and furthered their message that everyone better get on board lest the same thing happen to them.
Now that many people have left the CLB, I get to(?) hear the things that they thought or were actually told concerning us. The common thread in all of their stories is that there was never a specific statement of accusation about us, just suspicion implied of our guilt.
For example, at one point my former friend was asked specifically, “What would Grace and her husband say was their reason for leaving?” I think this is a great question, looking for perspective from both sides.
The answer given was, “You wouldn’t even believe it if I told you.”
That’s it! That’s all that was said. What is the purpose and result of a statement like that? It implies guilt and scandal.
We weren’t the only ones. This has now been used repeatedly to more clearly distinguish who is in/out and to intimidate those still there into not venturing toward the slippery slope of disloyalty.
The fact is that in every situation, the cloud of suspicion is huge in the minds of the people who believe it, while the true accusations are vague and unsubstantiated, even fabricated.
That has been my biggest complaint about the Driscoll message. The accusations about his “friends” are vague and unsubstantiated, relying mostly on the words of other authors to make his case. I mean really, why would we dig around in footnotes in order to prove our friend is questionable?
Surely there is a better way to deal with legitimate disagreement than to feed hyped insinuations to those who wait with sweaty palms hoping the “emerging conversation is coming apart at the seams.”
I knew my post yesterday wouldn’t be hugely popular, but I felt that it was important. I have since paraphrased it. If you missed it, you might enjoy reading the paraphrased version. It is from a sermon by Dr Isaac Barrow called “The Folly of Slander.” Who is it important for?
It is important for me when I would rather take inventory of someone’s faults than their strengths.
It is important for the various watchdog-type sites and blogs that want to believe the worst about their brothers in Christ.
It is important in how we view the Driscoll message and others like it that would attempt to judge and critique others in the court of public opinion.
I am not saying that there isn’t a place for legitimate public critique and discussion. However, I believe we must ask – are we approaching it with the appropriate charity, justice, and truth required in our treatment of one another?