Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
Othello Act 3, scene 3, 155–161
In the fantasy world of corrupt spiritual leaders, and by corrupt, I mean far more than the Creflo Dollar types, a “good name” is highly valued. After all, these leaders have built impressive organizations with a wide outreach and many expensive assets.
As the injured limp or crawl away from these ministries and word begins to circulate about what happened to innocent people, the common strategy from organizational leaders is to run smear campaigns for cover.
There is so much literature written on this behavior the web is choked with it. At stake is the “good name” of the leader and ministry. It must be preserved. The terrible “slander” of the “good name” must be stopped, even if it means lawsuits, behind the scenes threats and outrageous lies.
But a good name is far more than a public image solid enough to keep donations rolling in. A good name is far more than the holographic image projected by media, an image untarnished by any financial impropriety, DUI arrests or lurid sexploits.
A good name is supposed to represent an entire person, not just an image. In the minds of malignant narcissist leaders, including the self-deprecating variety found so often in fundamentalist Christian circles, anyone who dents that image, questions something or holds up a mirror to them about the harm they are doing behind the scenes is the one who must be destroyed, threatened, intimidated into silence. Their name must be mud-spattered.
The rationale for a leader’s legal threats, for example, is the protection of their “good name.” The fact that their own malicious and ungodly behavior has generated the cries of pain heard by the public is neatly covered over. The simpletons who listen to these leaders cluck and shake their heads. “Such a shame, so terrible.” In the distorted thinking of these useful tools of the narcissist, it is impossible that their beloved hologram could possibly engage in harm to innocent people or family members. It’s easier to believe the narrative cleverly spun by the Good Name. It requires no moral courage, no discernment, no critical thinking or godly analysis if fans just go with the legend instead.
In this way, enablers and sycophants help fuel the destruction machine for innocent people and their names. When evidence and testimony of witnesses is ignored in favor of the hologram’s teary-eyed stories, you have a cult mentality, not a Christian organization.
It is ironic, and sadly so, that as judgment descends on this country, the true state of the hearts in many evangelical and conservative ministries today is one of the reasons for it. The idea that Scriptural instructions are for everyone else but leaders is an entrenched one. It isn’t said or thought outright. It simply is the operating principle for many. Of course, this never ends well.
The good name of a manual laborer matters as much as that of someone in the public eye. And the name is only as “good” as the character behind it. When there is no transparency in donor-supported ministries (i.e.the names of those on boards of donor supported ministries should be public), no responsible and professional boards of directors who actually “direct” rather than serve as human rubber stamps, the good names of those departing these dysfunctional ministries get harmed. They are labeled as malcontents, slanderers, rebels, divas, nutcases, and so forth and so on.
I have news for anyone harmed by these outfits. The word ICHABOD is written over the door frames of the facilities. Any glory has departed. Whether it is ten months or ten years, any organization claiming to be Christian where there is no compassion, no heart for truth (that means listening to more than one party involved), and no concern for the souls on staff, has a bleak future.
What an avoidable tragedy it is. I believe that God honors repentance in individuals and by leaders of organizations. It is so rare, however, that I cannot name a single case of it.
There has never been more of a need for light in the darkness of our times. Sadly, neglect of first things, ambition, idolatry and opportunism in the name of ministry have weakened the underpinnings of Christian organizations all over. Like the bridge in Minneapolis a few years ago that came crashing down from bolts that quietly rusted away, ministries risk a similar demise.
At stake is more than the “good name” of temporal leaders. It’s the good Name of our Savior and his Gospel that hangs in the balance. Those who are harmed are not to blame for crying out and supposedly besmirching the Name of Above All Names. The squelching of the victims of spiritual abuse to avoid public scrutiny is not the solution. Addressing abuse and making amends (and restituion, if necessary) to those harmed is the answer. When this does not happen, the bolts on the bridge continue to deteriorate. Tick tock.
P.S. A pastor was once asked by a journalist to explain an unsavory situation he was involved with. “We are Christians, we don’t air our dirty laundry,” he said pompously. No, sir, instead we fail to wash the laundry until the stench is so bad the wider world takes note. Something to think about.