leadership and torture

“The Chinese people had learned by experience that the Party trusted them more and liked them better if they didn’t think for themselves but just repeated what the Party told them” (Nien Chang, Life and Death In Shanghai, p. 18).

I read this book years ago, but its impact never leaves me. It is a powerful autobiographical account of a woman’s imprisonment, deprivation, suffering and torture she endured at the hands of her own countrymen under Mao Tse-Tung’s reign, and her heroic and faith-filled fight to survive and see justice prevail.

It is a vivid lesson on how power can certainly corrupt and turn leaders into cruel, inhumane abusers of other people. It’s very subtle at first: dissent is frowned upon. Differing opinions are discouraged. Finally, it becomes suicidal to disagree or even question. To placidly agree is rewarded with trust, friendship and promotion. Disagreement is met with suspicion, rejection and exclusion.

I just listened to a Philip Yancey lecture, “Rumors of Another World” that my friend sent to me. Thanks Nato! Yancey talks about different agnostics and atheists, such as Voltaire, Hume, and Russell, and states that you can find the seeds of their thoughts in scripture, such as the Psalms, Habakkuk, Lamentations. He said that God never twists our arms or coerces us into what he wants. We are completely free to reject him and even not believe in him. In fact, God is so liberating to the human being, that he gives us some words we can use to articulate our rejection and disbelief of him!

Are we liberators or imprisoners?

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  • Brian Metzger

    Best of all is the phrase those who sieze authority like to use:
    “It’s for your own good.”

    We would like to crank out a predictable product when really it’s more like planting a garden, no two plants grow the same, need exactly the same thing or respond exactly the same way to similar stimulus.

    It’s like at any church meeting, small group or otherwise, where we ask/tell people to sit down and get quiet so we can now have some fellowship. We kill the natural and then put plastic plants in their place.

    Thank God he has a soft spot for fools and little children!

  • The problem begins, doesn’t it, in the “seizing” of it. No, even earlier, in the simple desire for it.

  • Marilyn Singh

    As you point out David the shifts to seizing power are so subtle at first. My personal bias is that in most church cultures this shift of power in the hands of leaders has become acceptable church culture. What safeguards can we put in place that don’t violate the values and benefits of spiritual leadership?

  • Richard

    Do I read in this article and responses a comparison between the communist takeover of China (or Cambodia or Hungary )and the church when leadership is abused? If so, should we not be careful in our cricism? Speak to those from those countries to hear the difference.
    If safe guards are required, then guidelines or rules are required. Once they are in place,then what happens?