Small Men in Power
Yesterday, two fights broke out in Congress in the United States. One was when ex-Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, assaulted another congressman by elbowing him in the kidneys. The other incident happened in the U.S. Senate when Markwane Mullin challenged a Teamsters union representative, Sean O’Brien, to throw down in the Senate hearing. He said:
“If you want you want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.”
At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about because he used the words two consenting adults. It made me think that he was challenging him to do something else. But I soon realized he was challenging him to a physical fight in the Senate hearing because I am also from Oklahoma. Being from the same state, I could imagine myself saying the same thing—in Junior High!
Because I’m also short of stature (5’ 7”), I notice when shorter people overreact because of low self-esteem. It’s probably why Senator Markwane still tries to act like John Wayne to prove that he’s a real man or whatever he is trying to prove.
I see the same thing in Pastors – Small Men in Power.
This type of attitude and behavior isn’t just politicians but also mega-pastors. When I thought about this issue, the first three that came to mind were Bill Gothard (5’6”}, Robert Jeffries (5’5”), and John Piper (5’ 4”). All three of these men are huge proponents of the patriarchy, and they repeatedly foster fear and control and believe men are the best gender to do the controlling.
It is also evident in their political favorites.
As Kristin Du Mez points out in her book Jesus and John Wayne, “For a community that believed in the existence of sin, conservative evangelicals were curiously nonchalant about the dangers of unchecked power when that power was placed in the hands of a patriarch.”
That is what helped us understand the last 40 years and how someone like Donald Trump could be elected primarily because of the influence of the evangelical right. He is the bully that the smaller guy needs to validate his right to power and his right to tell others what to do. This toxic masculinity has finally come to a head, and we are faced with whether this country, the United States, may very well elect a fascist dictator because they feel small and don’t believe their religious doctrines of love and compassion.
They only feel safe when they are in control.
What about the bearded bros?
For simplicity’s sake, I often lump the alpha male movement, the bearded bros from Emerging Church, and progressive beer camp theologians together into one misguided lump of men imitating each other and trying to come up with a new magic theology or approach to make themselves famous and/or control the narrative.
It’s easy to dismiss a couple of the more famous bearded bros, Mark Driscoll and Greg Locke, because they are so ridiculous in their approach. They draw their fame and some of their power from people making fun of them. I know they are so narcissistic that they see it as love, and I know that everyone else sees it as toxic masculinity. I also realize that they will soon be replaced by someone else who is just as ridiculous.
Greg Locke can’t even get his beard to grow, but it doesn’t keep him from trying to control what kind of coffee his followers drink in the tent and whether they are allowed to watch the Barbie movie.
Even though groups like Hillsong and the Emerging Church are fading from our memory like yesterday’s near fistfight in the Capitol building, their DNA has already been implanted in the new wave of kinder, gentler progressive power seekers who won’t allow women to truly come to power or stand up for abuse survivors.
My confessions – Small Men in Power
I am also short of stature, which contributed to my low self-esteem. I did grow up in Oklahoma, where we often challenged those who disagreed with us to settle the matter just like little Markwane did in the US Senate. I am prone to argue with people I shouldn’t be arguing with because part of me believes that if I could prove my point, I would change the world. In my heart, I know it’s not true.
I have also, at times, longed for a politician or someone to be in power to help me fight the battles that I feel need to be won, whether they do or not. Over the years, when I learned more, I tried to do better; that is where I find myself.
When I finally heard enough from women that they needed men to listen to them, and I realized that abusers were being platformed ahead of talented and wise women, it sparked something in me. I realized that I would eventually be able to give up my space to amplify women’s voices.
How did that play out? I talked to a few women I know and asked them who they knew who could speak to religious trauma and the need for amplifying women’s voices. We decided to do an all-women conference to speak to the issues we face today with patriarchy and abuse survivors of religious trauma.
It’s called Leaning Forward, and I hope you will investigate it, especially if you hope to be an advocate or ally to women and abuse survivors.
I just looked over at my other screen and saw a picture of Greg Locke with one hand under his other bicep, so it looks bigger than it is. I understand people like this will always exist, and I can’t drive myself crazy trying to fight all of them, or I would just be doing something similar to what they are doing.
But, what I will say is that narcissists like this should never be on stage and shouldn’t be in leadership.
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward, Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community. He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!