Do Leader-Driven Churches Create Passive-Aggressive Christians?

Do Leader-Driven Churches Create Passive-Aggressive Christians? September 30, 2016

livingliminalby Living Liminal cross posted from her blog Living Liminal

In my adventures online I have noticed how poorly many Christians cope when asked to dialogue with others. In my experience, many simply make their comment and seem to expect it to be accepted without response. If a reply is given, things often go one of two ways:

Either the original commenter retreats into the shadows, refusing to engage further, or to answer any questions regarding their stated position;

Or else they come out fighting at the mere hint of a differing view. Attacks are launched and accusations of not being a “real” christian abound.

Sometimes, you even get both. The attack followed by an untidy retreat to the beat of, “La la la, I can’t hear you.” (Maybe that’s really “aggressive-passive”, but I don’t think that’s a ‘thing’…)

But it does seem that some people just expect their words to be taken as gospel and treated as sacrosanct. Of course, this happens in ‘real-life’ interactions too.

I suspect a lot of it might be the sheer arrogance that we humans tend to develop when we are convinced we are right. But is there more to it than that? Is it possible that the authoritarian, leader-driven churches of today, where people are expected to submit to and obey the leaders at all costs, actually create followers who cannot progress beyond a fight or flight instinct? Are some Christians simply following the example that has been set for them by the leaders of their church?

The method espoused by many churches is that after a the band finishes singing, the ‘leader’ gets up, dispenses their truth from the pulpit, and then walks away. Here endeth the lesson!

There’s no engagement after that. Questioning or challenging the assertions made is totally inconceivable, as the people are taught to trust their leaders more than they trust themselves. So naturally the ‘sheep’ learn to submit and let the words of the expert lull them to sleep. To do otherwise is to invite trouble (with a capital T!).

In this way, people are trained and conditioned to passively accept the ‘truth’ they are being sold, and to aggressively defend that truth against any hint of challenge. How could my infallible leader be wrong!? Church-goers are not taught to ask good questions, not encouraged to explore issues for themselves, and so all they can do is simply regurgitate their leader’s ‘answer’ at the correct time, for the appropriate topic.

If it works for their leader, why shouldn’t it work for them?

Of course, it gets difficult when not everyone dances to that leader’s tune. And the poor unsuspecting follower, having faithfully deposited “the truth” for all to see, is blindsided by a challenge to that ‘truth’ because they have no resource to deal with any other opinion but their leader’s. With no inner conviction beyond, “My leader says so!” they have no capacity to engage meaningfully with any understanding but the one they’ve been ‘given’.

And so they can only attack and/or withdraw. Passivity and aggression. Fight or flight. No dialogue can be entered into for fear of pulling the whole deck of cards down around them.

Well, that’s my theory, anyway. Thoughts?

moreRead more by Living Liminal:

Falling Down


Living Liminal lives in Australia with her husband and three sons, and she is learning to thrive in the liminal space her life has become. She writes at Living Liminal. 

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