Ordinary people, even good ones, can be seduced, recruited, initiated into behaving in evil ways under the sway of powerful systemic and situational forces. (Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect)
As Philip Zimbardo wrote in his gripping book, The Lucifer Effect, individuals must be held responsible for their bad deeds, but that many times the systems the individuals operate within may receive the burden of responsibility.
Remember that it is not only individuals that stand on the last day, but nations.
Like many people, I have experienced some pretty disturbing things within the church at the hands of those within it. Sometimes the people themselves can be held completely accountable. At other times, the system itself fostered that kind of behavior. I can see how they were victims of the system just as much as I.
It’s a vicious circle. People form a group which requires leaders which turns into a system which takes over seduces the leaders and members into sometimes very dehumanizing behavior which perpetuates the power and authority of that system.It is naive to think that we can leave an institution and form a new group without institutionalizing or systematizing. We’ve all heard stories of even some of the most radical house church experiments experiencing the same effects as traditional churches. For me it is just a matter of style. We’re tweaking the fashion. That’s all. What matters is who’s wearing the clothes. And that never changes.
It is crucial to admit this and work from there to create wise communities that understand the subtleties of power and diligently endeavor to maintain a community free of its dehumanizing effects.