There is a French phrase, L’esprit de l’escalier, which is used to describe the phenomenon of having the perfect response come to you only after you have definitively ended a conversation. The concept, if not the phrase itself, was popularized (at least to me) in the Seinfeld episode The Comeback.
While not exactly the same circumstance, the situation popped into my head as I was continuing to read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I had just recently published a post on the subject of manipulation and then came across some great quotes from a respectable source that would have fit wonderfully into that post.
That being said, you can consider this post the “jerk store” follow-up to my previous post, Impulse to Manipulate.
“Here one soul operates directly upon another soul. The weak have been overcome by the strong, the resistance of the weak has broken down under the influence of another person. He has been overpowered, but not won over by the thing itself.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
This is Bonhoeffer describing community, not of the Spirit, but under the coercive powers of man. If you have been around blogs where pastors congregate often enough you will eventually start to hear certain charges leveled against the “laity”. They will be called variants of lazy, thinking that the pastor has been hired to do ministry for them, rather than jumping into the fray themselves.
Authority is leveraged, guilt and shame applied, to bring about the desired results. It is plain to see that this is not a community of the Spirit, but one where it is deemed necessary to exert pressure and overpower the fleshly will of the congregation to mould the community into the desired shape.
Bonhoeffer goes on to say;
“This becomes evident as soon as the demand is made that he throw himself into the cause itself, independently of the person to whom he is bound, or possibly in opposition to this person”
Bonhoeffer describes almost perfectly the current pastor-centric evangelical incarnation of the church. Not only do you have the mild engagement of the body in the ministry that it has been called to do, but it seems like you end up with example after example of abusive behavior within church leadership which is only opposed with great difficulty because there are so many people whose whole Christian walk has really taken place in another man’s shoes.
I am not necessarily saying that large portions of the visible church are not truly believers, but the tree that we have been asked to look at to discern that has been bound in such a way that it has been kept preternaturally immature and not allowed to bear fruit.The ends do not justify the means, quite the opposite, the means serve to obscure the ends.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” [Galatians 5:22-23]
I would personally prefer communities that let the Spirit bear fruit, rather than ones that are so worried about producing apples that it doesn’t mind substituting wax ones for the real thing.
Then again, I can’t pretend that they don’t sell my model at the jerk store.