DMINLGP

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

The Rabbit Hole of Anger and Power (and Beth Moore)

Written by: on October 24, 2019

Kets de Vries has put together a variety of cautionary essays in Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership. It was helpful to remember his admission that he has been greatly affected by dystopian literature.[1] He writes about the dark side of leadership and yet still maintains a sense of hope. Perhaps his goal is that if we consider long enough the destructive potential of leadership that we may actually end up choosing differently. It reminded me of Tourish’s The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership and his objective to “challenge its (transformational leadership) fundamental premises in a significant way and scrutinize its contradictions.”[2] I will follow Tourish and Kets de Vries down their path of scrutiny.

Some may be aware of what transpired recently in American evangelical circles between Pastor John MacArthur and Bible teacher Beth Moore. I will not go into details but suffice it to say, it has been ugly and painful, with MacArthur telling the audience at his conference that Beth Moore needs to “go home”, among other things. I have refrained from making any social media comments and have attempted restraint with time spent down this “rabbit hole”. I offer a few simple thoughts and questions here on two themes I have observed from this incident.

Anger

There is a good deal of anger on both sides of this controversy. It has made me wonder about the connection between extremities and anger. Do they always go together? When does anger become destructive? I wonder about what Paul admonished “in your anger, do not sin”[3] and what that looks like in this situation. We all experience anger. And when it touches on issues of dignity and discrimination, there is an appropriate righteous anger. And we still cannot ignore the call to “not sin” in this. How do we stay pure, all while experiencing anger at injustice? Surely this is a work of grace and really difficult.

What practices would Christian leaders need to create space for this work of grace without disengaging from injustices?

Power

Kets de Vries is helpful in his chapter “Are You Addicted to Power?”. He offers a list of questions to help an honest leader determine their relationship with power:

  • Do you like telling other people what to do?
  • Do you define yourself in terms of your title and net worth?
  • Do you always like to win?
  • Do you like the attention and special treatment that comes with your position?
  • Do you like to impress other people?[4]

He normalizes how intoxicating power can be and warns of its “corrosive effects”.[5] When you have witnessed the abuse of power, it is tempting to react in an extreme manner. That is, to either abdicate and reject power or to become obsessed with it. I am not sure that abdication of power is even possible, short of one living as a hermit. And it is possible that the obsessed pathway begins innocently enough, with the seedling idea that I could wield it more judiciously than the other. But I believe either extreme is missing something. And I hope there is a better way. What would the via media look like with power?

The leader would use their inevitable power to come under and lift up others. Was this not what Jesus was referring to when calling His disciples to not lord over those they lead but to go low and to serve?[6]

Again, what practices would a Christian leader need in order to use their power for the common good and not allow it to grow into a deformity?

Yes, these reflections on anger and power come mostly from a controversy this week that has erupted but there are applications to more than just our civil discourse in the public square. We can apply these questions of anger and power to our church leadership teams. We can use it to try to navigate a different way of leading that takes the best from extremes but is not captive to them. Specifically, I am interested in the intersection of the following: the passion and hard work of social justice with the increasing love born out of contemplative practices. This week has reminded me that there is much work to do around this in my own life and in evangelicalism.

I want Beth Moore to have the last word:

True intimacy with God always brings humility.[7]

 


[1] Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership: Leadership Pathology in Everyday Life, (Cham, Switzerland: Palmgrave Macmillan, 2019), 5-9.

[2] Dennis Tourish. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective. (Hove: Routledge, 2013), 199.

[3] Ephesians 4:26

[4] Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 62.

[5] Ibid.62.

[6] Mark 10:42

[7] Beth Moore on twitter @BethMooreLPM; I admit going down the “rabbit hole” when looking for this quote. #beinghonest

About the Author

Andrea Lathrop

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, mom and student. I live in West Palm Beach, Florida and I have been an executive pastor for the last 8+ years. I drink more coffee than I probably should every day.

6 responses to “The Rabbit Hole of Anger and Power (and Beth Moore)”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Thank you Andrea for marvelously spinning this weeks reading together with the unjust treatment of Beth Moore. You write with courage and poise. Thank you for challenging all of us.

  2. Digby Wilkinson says:

    I felt your pain, Andrea. I watched the interview at the conference and had trouble controlling my sense of anger and frustration at what happened. What MacArthur said was hardly new from him, but the way it was said and the reaction was a major shift. There was a high degree of animosity in the air that I found concerning. There’s a Christianity Today article that exposes the limitations of MacArthur’s thinking, and although its partly insightful, I was left with the impression that CT was covering its own collective butt by not investigating too far. It is evangelicalism at its worst. Too much money, too much status, too many book deals, too many publishing rights, too much to risk in genuinely critiquing him. Few others would get away with it. But he represents the terrorised white middle-class conservative Christian segment who fear to lose their sense of theological security and social voice in the halls of power. Unfortunately with mix of politics, wealth and status all mixed together, no conversation can be easily had, because churches all fear alienating parts of their congregations. I think JMc needs Kets de Vries ‘fool’ in his life because he’s moving rapidly from being a benign conservative voice to being a dangerous one. I hope he gets reeled in. Maybe its dementia?

    http://lists.christianitytoday.com/t/678353967/28042579/358096231/0/?c73c8e04=Y3R3ZWVrbHktaHRtbA%3d%3d&4f415564=MjgwNDI1Nzk%3d&e5e2987d=Njc4MzUzOTY3&x=3ff55ce4

  3. mm Mary Mims says:

    Andrea, thank you for the beautiful post, but please, it’s okay for you to be angry! Remember, Jesus overturned some tables at sin. It was unkind what JM did and we should be angry. Beth Moore is a shinning example of what Evangelicals said a women should be. She raised her children, she has been married to one man, she taught the Bible primarily to women. Now he has a problem because men are listening? No, he is the one who should go home. Go home and re-read his Bible! I guess he would criticize the women at the well who told the men in the town, come and see a man!

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Andrea,
    Thanks for linking contemporary challenges with our reading and your research! You are thoughtful and considerate in your thinking and your communication. I appreciate your wrestling with the concepts of anger and power. From my own limited life experience, I have not seen either one of these modeled well within the Church. That is, what is expressed with anger is rarely righteous and alleged, recognized power typically corrupts. I look forward to how your research will address their intersection. Also, I can only imagine the contemporary issue hits you and other female leaders much more deeply and painfully. I am sorry that an influential pastor has utilized his platform to wound you and others.

  5. mm Sean Dean says:

    Andrea, this is a great post. Thank you for taking controversy and redirecting it in a productive direction. I was exasperated and frustrated with JM’s comments, but didn’t know how to process it. Your post has helped me to look in a better direction. Thanks.

  6. Thank Andrea for helping us process through the unfortunate events of the week. It’s okay to be angry as long as you do not sin in anger. I wonder what it would look like to respond with love to JM.

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