40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #31

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity  (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),  and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.  And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 1 Timothy 3:1-7

This post is the thirty-first in a series that addresses a list of “40 Harmful Effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #31: Abuse of power, authority and trust by religious leaders (for financial gain or sexual abuse of followers and even children).

This harmful effect should first be examined through two slight restatements:

Abuse of power, authority and trust by government leaders (for financial gain or sexual abuse of followers and even children).

Abuse of power, authority and trust by business leaders (for financial gain or sexual abuse of followers and even children).

Abuse of power, authority and trust by Hollywood power-brokers (for financial gain or sexual abuse of followers and even children).

When one considers that the abuse of power is a risk inherent in any corporate system, the accusation that it is a harmful effect of Christianity loses its sting. One needn’t be a historian or cultural geographer to recognize that the abuse of power exists and has existed in societies with little to no Christian influence.  Like some of the other “harmful effects” on this list, this is a social ill that exists both inside and outside of culturally Christian societies.

Nevertheless, one should consider how corruption and abuse are viewed from inside a biblical framework. In the Pastoral Epistles of Timothy and Titus, the Apostle Paul lays out the qualifications for the office of pastor (i.e. church leadership). These qualifications are specifically geared towards excluding corrupt men from positions of authority in the church. Throughout scripture, from Old Testament to New, leaders who take advantage of the weak or give preference to the rich are condemned.   Furthermore, Biblical church ecclesiology does not present a hierarchy of corruptible bureaucracy (as exemplified by the Pope and the Roman Catholic church) but rather independent, autonomous local churches who appoint their own pastors. Occasions, far too many, have arisen where clergy who abuse their power are left in positions of influence. This is done not in adherence to biblical principles, but in spite of them. By a biblical standard, unrepentant sex abusers are to be severed from the Christian community, not left in a position of leadership.  The biblical standard is one that recognizes the potential for the abuse of power and strongly condemns it.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #32: People accepting visual and auditory hallucinations unquestioningly as divine, sometimes with fatal results.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant