DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Holy Hush

Written by: on March 16, 2018

What a gift to listen to James Davison Hunter speak via online podcast to The Trinity Forum (a nonprofit organization that works to cultivate networks of leaders whose integrity and vision will renew culture and promote human freedom and flourishing) in Washington DC.[1] It’s clear his values and passion to change the world align with mine (after all I am a number One [Reformer] on the Enneagram). Hunter states it’s imperative to understand culture, values, and community in the change process.[2] Rather than the Christian community trying to impose their Christian beliefs (newsflash it hasn’t worked to date – keyword impose) to the world, Hunter says the modern way of changing the world is removing yourself from the political fight and working to position yourself into a practical cause – your vocation, loving your neighbor, and faithful presence.[3] “Hunter sharply criticizes popular political voices from Chuck Colson to Jim Wallis, but evangelicals have hardly responded to his book by going “silent for a season” as advised.”

According to Hunter “Evangelicals still seem to prefer populist outrage to long-term strategic placement and cooperation. Evangelicals continue to invest enormous emotional and financial capital in the political process.”[4]  Hunter talks about the overzealous Christian trying to change law and policy through politics (forcing your opinion….essentially the “ugly side” of activism aka nostalgia or despair). “How should Christians act in the world? The dominant answer in America today seems to be: through politics. But the major model of Christian political action, visible most obviously but not exclusively in the Christian Right, has been a politics fueled by resentment and a sense of victimization, actuated by a strong will to power, and a propensity to demonize its opponents. This politics is a capitulation to the worst elements of the contemporary culture it claims to be redeeming.”  Case in point – abortion and homosexuality.  He at least offers a more relevant use of time and energy in what he believes is an effective tool to change the world.  According to Hunter, “The only leadership is sacrificial leadership” which is “not just for the benefit of believers but for the benefit of everyone.”  He (Hunter) also challenges Christians “to be public without being political” which will be a “new paradigm of being the church in the late modern world.”[5]

Here’s a practical example Hunter speaks about in his podcast.  He challenges activists in the pro-life movement to “try something different.”  “Go to a pro-choice state like Illinois” he says and “get the signatures of 10,000+ families in the state who are willing to adopt a child of any race, ethnic background, physical handicap, health issues, background, etc. ANY CHILD.”  He encourages activists to take the petition of names to the capital and announce “there are no unwanted children here.”  Hunter’s point is that this type of approach leads with compassion, not coercion.  He believes the primary problem of Christian efforts to change the world is “we have conflated the public and the political so that we cannot imagine a public space that is not subsumed by the political.”  Hunter also speaks truth when he contends that the political culture has been dominated by a discourse of injury, resentment, and revenge and a will to power that has essentially given up on persuasion.[6] In that context we need to understand the limits of political action – not to abandon politics, but to understand its limitations and in our political culture its unintended consequences.  Christians are known primarily by their politics.  Perhaps one of my favorite Hunter statements is this “there are opportunities for vision of human flourishing that serves the common good.”

On the same day I listened to Hunter’s podcast on my way to work, I was further inspired at an all-day training by Mark Wynn. (I may have felt there was Divine intervention in this considering it’s been a crazy week and I didn’t know when or how I would blog).  Mark Wynn was a twenty-one year member of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department – he served as Lieutenant to the Domestic Violence Division – and was a member of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team for fifteen years.  He is the recipient of 121 commendations and 51 awards and certificates including the 1995 National Improvement of Justice Award and the 1998 Nashvillian of the Year Award. He recently received the 2012 Family Justice Center Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award…and the list of accolades keeps going.  Can you see I’m setting the stage to validate his credentials?

The main topic of the training was violence against women – including domestic violence and sexual assault – and officer intervention.  His most poignant story of the day was when he spoke of a phenomenon called The Holy Hush. Time stood still for a moment while I digested this conversation, born out of Mark’s years on the force in Nashville.  To set the tone, it’s important to know that there are 400+ churches in Nashville.  In this Christian community, women confide in their pastors about their unhealthy marriages – including experiences of verbal, emotional and physical abuse, and sexual assault. Pastors are notorious for hosting “couples counseling” with the husband and wife and for shaming divorce because it is not biblical.  Questions such as “what did you do to provoke his attack?” and “how can you both compromise to make this marriage work?” and commands to “submit to your husband” have perpetuated oppression, abuse, and domestic violence through their approach.  Harsh?  Absolutely!  But also provides a “faithful presence” opportunity in this modern world which I believe Hunter would condone.[7] One organization is already on the task. FaithTrust Institute is a non-profit organization headquartered in Seattle, Washington.  Founded in 1977 by the Rev. Marie M. Fortune, FaithTrust Institute is an interreligious educational resource addressing issues of sexual and domestic violence. “Our goal is to engage religious leaders in the task of ending abuse, and to serve as a bridge between religious and secular communities.”[8]  This organization is inspiring and should become a resource in your ministry.

Here are just a few more points to consider – men have written the laws on how to handle domestic situations.  Mark Wynn refers to this “male privilege” as “racism with another coat of paint on it.”  That being said, have you knowingly/unknowingly perpetuated the holy hush? If so, will you commit to following James Hunter’s call to move into practical ministry?  I know I will.







[7] Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.


About the Author


Jean Ollis

13 responses to “Holy Hush”

  1. An example of political action by Christians that crashes and burns is Canada in 1988. The government of the time brought forward compromise legislation that permitted abortion but with significant restrictions protecting the fetus’ life in the last trimester. It was sponsored in Parliament by a shrewd evangelical Christian, Jake Epp, from Manitoba. Pro-choicers were appalled and rallied against it. Pro-lifers, unfortunately, saw things as black-and-white, and also refused to support it. It was defeated 147-76, even though the ruling party had a majority. The result was that since 1988, Canada has been the only industrialized country without ANY abortion laws. Since then, no government right or left, has had the courage to re-open the abortion debate.

    If Christians had been willing to compromise, we would have at least protected some of those babies in the intervening years. Imposing our way doesn’t work in a pluralist society. While the church is in exile in our postmodern world, we need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

  2. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean, whoohoo…we finally did it, we agreed on something. LOL. No really though, I appreciated the word you used early in this post referring to the methodology of modern Christian efforts; “impose”. I also appreciate that you sort of touched on the separation of church and state issue, which may are shocked when I tell them I completely endorse. The reality is that I have always believed that Christianity was supposed to be willingly and eagerly accepted. I cannot force someone to be baptized, force someone to be straight, or force someone to go to church; Christianity just doesn’t work that way. I love the story of the rich, young ruler who asks Jesus what it takes to inherit eternal life; in the end of that story, the young man walks away because he loves his money more than Jesus…but that’s not the powerful point! The powerful point is that Jesus let’s him go; there is no renegotiating, no changing terms, and no telling him to only sell half of what he has and give it to the poor. Jesus is an “all or nothing” kind of Messiah. He either wants our heart, or let’s us go. I may be a conservative preacher, and I may be really strict when it comes to the bible, but I am only that way with people that want to know what God has called us to be. If someone wants to love the world, live a sinful life, and reject all that God has shown us…so be it; they have that right. For a minister to try and bully them or force them into godly submission completely defeats the purpose of voluntarily giving our lives to Christ.

    My question is this however, at what point does the message become more “matter of fact” regarding what Scripture says? Do you believe that clergy have a right to push conviction upon those who have already accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Shawn! I love it – we are finding a common ground lol. In answer to your question about pushing conviction to believers – I believe the place of a pastor is to pose a challenge question to believers – help people critically think and discover the answer for themselves. In my mind, that is the true journey of faith. Self discovery through Christ.

  3. Greg says:

    I do wonder if all the political saber rattling is “our”-Christians in general-way to try to see immediate results. We always talk about true change takes time, but in reality we would rather feel like we are doing something to bring on that change. I feel a little like an outsider watching my home country’s seemingly craziness get crazier- seems like both sides would agree with that statement. (Sorry that was a tangent)

    Domestic violence is such a hidden problem in Asia;Also traditionally a male dominated area. Shame plays such a strong role in this society, especially not embarrassing the family or its reputation.
    How this gets lived out toward redemption of this problem is touchy and I need to think about it more.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Greg, you make a fascinating point and I would love to discuss more. Asia’s cultural norms surrounding domestic violence are very different than ours. It comes back to power and control I would guess? Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of the issue!

  4. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Jean, this is an awesome post.

    I’m not sure I totally grasp the Holy Hush idea. Is Wynn saying that clergy are keeping silent about something they SHOULD be vocal about? And if so, wouldn’t that be an unholy hush?

    But I do get the point, and agree that the church can be complicit. It’s painful, really. And the misuse of wonderful biblical principals (like submission) towards unholy ends is disturbing. It’s a tricky issue, though. In order for the Church to offer a faithful presence in a realm as intimate as a marriage, we need to have built strong trust and community. But when this foundation of trust is solid, I think the possible positive impact of faithful presence could be huge.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jenn! You make a good point, yes Wynn is using sarcasm to describe the irony of pastor’s “hushing up the problem of DV” so technically it would be an unholy hush for sure!

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:


    Way to put flesh on something that could be seen as intangible. The connection you make between Hunter’s work and the issue of domestic violence is clear and meaningful. Practicing faithful presence in this setting seems to me to be exactly what Hunter is suggesting.

  6. I think you just like to use the Enneagram as an excuse to say you are Number 1 🙂 Yes you little Reformer, this book was right up your alley. This statement said it well…”Rather than the Christian community trying to impose their Christian beliefs (newsflash it hasn’t worked to date – keyword impose) to the world, Hunter says the modern way of changing the world is removing yourself from the political fight and working to position yourself into a practical cause – your vocation, loving your neighbor, and faithful presence.” Being present with people is something we do in our work every week and I think is the very reason why people come to our offices. Great post as usual Jean!

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jake! Why maybe I did use the #1Enneogram for a Freudian, subconscious purpose lol. In all seriousness, faithful presence is definitely part of our vocation and daily work, however I was humbled and honored to observe your faithful presence (and Jenn’s) in your community, neighborhood, church, and with us. Well done, good and faithful servant!

  7. Chris Pritchett says:

    I love reading your posts- they are always very thoughtful, clear and engaging. Thank you. I think you and I tend to see things through a similar lens, so it’s easy for me to agree and appreciate your voice. I think the male privilege issue is very much akin to white privilege. I very much resonate with Hunter’s approach through the muck of a two-party system. His approach is non-dual, it seems. And your example of the pro-lifers would be a most compelling case.

  8. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hi Jean,
    Sounds like you have a great catalogue of things you are listening to/engaging with these days (even beyond what we are into for this DMin). I liked your exploration of the “holy hush” as a way of highlighting an area where there has not been enough “faithful presence”. Instead, yes, faith leaders have often led with more coercive strategies in these hard situations. I think the pastoral counseling room is one of those places where faithful presence is the most powerful– we’re not there to solve someone’s problem or to give them the “right” answer, but certainly to listen, to engage, to grieve, to just be with them in that place. What a hard calling that is, especially since you aren’t the only “Reformer” among us! To fix it or make it better, seems like the number one goal, and yet, there is a longer-term wisdom in just being there in a faithful way. Thank you!

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