I have been called Pope Jason, in jest, but probably with a little bit of sarcasm. I had told a youth worker, who had decided he wanted to date one of the youth, (he was 19 she was a senior and 17) that he could no longer serve as the drummer in the youth led praise band. They both stopped coming to church and told everyone I had kicked them out of the church. There were some on the staff who had heard about it and started calling me Pope Jason The Excommunicator, as if I had that power. While reading Dennis Tourish’s book The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A critical perspective it brought back the memories of this time, and they were painful. The last thing I have ever wanted to do as a pastor is to push someone out of the church. While our reading this week centered on corporate leadership and how the authoritarian model of leadership has led to leaders who see themselves as “saints, commanders, architects (redesigning society, pedagogues (teaching appropriate behaviors) and physicians (healing stricken organizations). Such metaphors are widely employed by leaders themselves, determined to present themselves as indispensable for human prosperity.” , I cannot help but be drawn to the comparison to leadership within the church.
Historically speaking Christian leaders who grew to have too much power have been corrupted by this power. While it would be easy to bash on one denomination or another, suffice it to be said this has been spread out through all denominations. For the sake of argument, I will give one example from my own denomination, Southern Baptist (the name will be left off). The president of the seminary I graduated from came in my second year attending this school. He came in with fanfare of a man who could “set things right”. His first chapel he said this, if you do not leave this place with at least 1500 books in your library you have failed your self, (not an exact quote because it was over 12 years ago and I cannot not remember the exact words). The next week, he brought in a company that sold online sermon helps that if you bought it would also come with 1500 books online. All for only $700, because what poor seminary student can’t afford $700. I saw to many buy into this. The next decree from “dear leader” was that women who worked for the seminary had to wear dresses not pants, cause yeah its 1950. He had absolute power granted to him by the Southern Baptist Convention because he had lead the conservative turn around of the SBC in the late 70’s early 80’s. He had been the president of another SBC seminary and had made the same changes. Then two years ago his past caught up with him. While he was a pastor he had “counseled” a woman in his congregation whose husband was beating her to stay with him and not get a divorce even though he was beating her. He also, while at another seminary, placed blame on a student who was raped by one of her other classmates, and told her not to press charges, and then when she did kicked her out of the school. He had such power within the denomination that he got away with these and many more egregious acts because of his authority. Fortunately, the recent #metoo movement outed his and the board of trustees at the seminary finally got backbones and did the right thing, although only through public outcry.
This kind of abuse pushes away people from God, and it should not be tolerated. Just as the leaders at Enron who were allowed to get away with so much corrupt business practices for so long and bring a company to its knees. The charismatic leader can talk many into doing what their heart tells them is wrong. It is not just in business or the church that these abuses happen, the worst abuses come in the name of leadership of a whole country. In Leadership as Idolatry: The Case of Stalinism and Beyond Karl Inge Tangen writes about the deification of Stalin by his own people, “A young girl writes ‘They said there was no God, and I made my God of Stalin. It’s funny but let me tell you. If I was sick or something hurt me, then I thought it would go away because Stalin knew. He was just like a God.'”  It was not just those who were ruled but even those who were persecuted by Stalin that saw him as a god like figure, “Peter Kenez concluded that even those who had been victims of Stalin’s horrific dictatorship were weeping and that the country as a whole “was near mass hysteria” In saying this I was drawn to the chapter on the Jamestown and Heaven’s Gate tragedies. Both were led by charismatic leaders. Jones started off as a “Christian” who then devolved into considering himself god all the while espousing communism as the way. The other, Marshall Applewhite espoused New Age leanings. The fact was they took those who were either spiritually seeking or just plain hurt, promised them something greater for their adherents. The way these two manipulated what to make the community greater than the self, the promises of the society being better because of them, or they were chosen to ascend to a higher plain because society was wrecked was almost to easy for these men to do. It speaks to the needs of the church to reach out to the broken and the hurting and show them that there is a God, and he loves them dearly.
I truly do not know which is better in a leader. Authoritarian leaders get things done, egalitarian leaders care of their people creates better people. All I know is they both exist and both do good and bad things, to put all of them into one bag would be dangerous. By the way, from my story at the beginning, the relationship with both was mended, both are still dear to me and I have been part of their lives.
Have a great day!
 Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective. Hove: Routledge, 2013. 4.
 Tangen, Karl I. “Leadership as Idolatry. The Case of Stalinism and Beyond.” Scandinavian Journal of Leadership and Theology4 (2017). 2017. Accessed February 02, 2019.