improvisation

improvising
under these conditions
is not for those who faint
with impunity

waiting
for the age to come
imaginatively requires
suspending judgment

finding
how unfit we are
for these tasks
casts us onto pity

flourishing
in this do-not-be-anxious
is not what is in hand
but what to become

hoping
what is as if not
and what will be is not yet
until the present form has passed away

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What good reason do you think you have for rejecting God?

I suggest to you that there is no GOOD reason to reject God in Christ who is:
Almighty
Living
Loving
Eternal
Omnipotent
Omniscient
Creative
Holy
Perfect
Merciful
Faithful
Perfect
Glorious
Beautiful
Generous
Benevolent
Compassionate
Infinite and Personal
Unchanging
Helper
Deliverer
Life-giver
Judge
Kind
Immanent
Transcendent
Persistent
True
Truthful
Honest
Encourager
Hope-giver
Good Shepherd
Lord
King of kings
Provider
Purposeful
Promise-keeper
Redeemer
Covenant-maker
Covenant-keeper
Intercessor
High-priest
Prophet
Logos
Law-giver
Spirit-giver
Rewarder
Discipler
Discipliner
All-wise
Wisdom-giver
Just
Present
Incomprehensible
Everlasting
Free
Freedom-giver
Liberator
Uncaused
Immutable
Thinking
Acting
Intervening
Dynamic
Gracious
and all Good

Did I miss anything . . .?

“Bound by the Chain of Command: Messed up from Top to Bottom” by Neil Cole (a review)

Review thoughts on “Bound by the Chain of Command: Messed up from Top to Bottom,” in Neil Cole, Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), pp. 85-96).

Discussing Jesus’s response to the “sons of Thunder” (James and John) who wanted to sit on each side of Jesus in his kingdom, Cole notes that Jesus upended the world’s top-down paradigm of leadership:

Mtt 20:25-28 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Despite the fact that in military conflict contexts authority may need to be hierarchical, the top-down model was not the example of Jesus for his church and the people of God. Cole states that “In the kingdom of God there are no people who lord it over others” (p. 88). Indeed, that model was what set Israel on a path of hundreds of years of tyrannies and disastrous leaders beginning with King Saul who became “like the kings around about them,” just as Israel demanded. Well, if the top-down paradigm structure is not biblical for the church, what is, and who is in charge? Though at first glance it seems like an obvious truism, he reminds us that Christ Jesus is the only one who is our Head, our Ruler, our King, our Chief. To many people this sounds like a call to anarchy and a loss of leadership, but he reassures us that this is only fear born of over-familiarity with an unbiblical, authoritarian top-down chain-of-command type of relationship. And, such fears are unwarranted when Christ is truly seen as the Head of the church, as he is the Head of each believer. In such a scenario, believers follow and submit to the authority of Christ, not out of compulsion but love, and are submitted to his Word.

“When every part of the body is submissive to the impulse of the Head, the body is unified, functional, and coordinated.”[1]

Cole does not reject the roles in the church for evangelists, shepherds and teachers, elders and deacons, but he understands the roles of overseers as “looking over” (not looking down) (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9; Heb 13:17).

Similarly, to what Christ stated in Mtt 22, Peter says,


1 Peter 5:1-4 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.


Also, Paul stressed the role of those who labor in the church as those who “go before” (as in “going first” in example in the battle) the flock, as leaders, not as those who lord it over:


1 Thess 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.


Since many people, especially in autocratic, authoritarian, totalitarian, and dictatorial situations get used to the appearance of order (controlled chaos), people confuse control with order. For example, when the totalitarian (esp. Communist/Socialist) regimes of Eastern Europe crumbled in our generation some people began to cry out for a return to the apparent sense of security such control had provided. On a much smaller scale, in local churches leaders are often terrified of open questioning and discussion among the flock, since it might “open a can of worms” and bring dissensions. So, the flock, happy to keep a semblance of peace, sacrifice their freedom in Christ. They also forsake their responsibility in the priesthood of all believers to submit in the power of the Holy Spirit to Christ as the Head and King and Ruler of his church.  A boss I once had used to be fond of saying, “Sometimes one just has to be a dictator.” Thinking it was a jest, I sometimes laughed. Finding later that he really believed this foolish idea, I questioned him on the it and he responded, “since you do not see the big picture like me, just fall into the chain of command and do not go outside of that.” Rather, I believe that Jesus is our Head and Ruler, and we belong to him and submit to him alone as equals. To reject Jesus’ model for his followers in that way is extraordinarily hazardous and harmful to the whole body, since we cannot serve two masters (as he himself taught us). In all systems of domination, revolution and retaliation become the inevitable cycle of sin, and systems where all are treated as “insubordinate” who question the autocracy. Structures that enslave, leading to strong-arm pastors and “heavy-shepherds” and unaccountable rulers are the very thing Jesus came to destroy and replace with his kingdom-order. In contrast to Jesus’ order, Cole notes that “The chain of command that we have established is the chain that holds us in bondage.”[2] Further in conclusion, he states,


“The chain of command in the church is keeping us from becoming a living, thriving, functioning spiritual body that has arms to reach and embrace the lost and broken and feet that move at the impulse of the Head’s compassion.”[3]


The gospel of Jesus establishes clearly that all are made in the image of God, all need redemption equally, and therefore no-one has any right to usurp our creational and redemptional role of being an equal in the priesthood of believers, since every believer shares the dominion and care of creation along with king Adam and King Jesus the King of all Kings. I would be willing to bet my life on these Kingdom principles, because they are from Jesus our Lord, the only Head of the church and of all creation that awaits the day when he becomes all in all, since he is over all of his creation, and will restore it all, every grain and atom to its rightful place in his glorious presence:[4]


1 Co 15:23-28 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.


[1] Neil Cole, Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), p. 91.

[2] Neil Cole, Organic Leadership, p. 93.  

[3] Neil Cole, Organic Leadership, pp. 93-94.  

[4] See also Jonathan Leeman, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: the Case for Congregationalism (Nashville, Tennessee, 2016).

“A legitimate chain of command” by Chuck Larsen

See also the “Spheres of Authority & Responsibility in Academic Institutions: Shared Governance or Autocracy in Seminaries?” here.

Seminary


  1. As of now
    I am in a lake of blue light
    watching days come and go
    dressed in silver flames
    until the third watch of night
    reading canons of textures
    apocryphal tiers,
    the architecture of redactors
    of death’s contexts.
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Fire
descends
sometimes as the sun
falls in a
glorious rage
of creed
a canon
asymptote
a line not falling
together.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is untitled-1.png

2.  All poems must cease
as you enter these gates
and take your seats
all poems must cease
as you enter these gates
and take your seats
as you enter
and take your seats
to enter and cease.

Alchemy: turning dust into gold and credentials

The powder of deceit, or how to get something for nothing

  1. Subtle, the Alchemist,
    is a charm
    and charms the elements,
    conjuring and transmuting base metals.
    The Magnum Opus of the Philosopher’s Stone
    earth, fire, water, air
    alkahest to dissolve all
    and live immortally
    in the light of lamps
    that burn perpetually [forever]
    diamonds from crystals
    a primal fire
    of purloining larceny,
    the gold elixir of life embezzled
    from the gullible.
  2. The lure and temptation
    to pad one’s resume
    is positively irresistible
    in a time when we must advance ourselves
    above all other selves
    when one can so easily
    hoodwink employers
    who have no means
    for a proper forensic assessment
    of our veracity.

    So, hey, why not?
    Who will it hurt?
    And how much will it cost?
    These are the summa totalogica
    of philosophical and ethical questions
    that briefly flitter about in the frontal lobe,
    until the imagined returns in lucre
    cancel out one’s ability to project
    the possible negative future consequences
    resulting from present actions.
    A little tweak here,
    a dashing hyperbole there,
    a Masters degree you did not finish,
    that might spice it up,
    between the BS in etiquette, for good measure,
    and the PhD you bought online for a pittance, just in case.The wishful divinations of alchemy,
    to transmute circumstance and mud,
    a necromantic delusion of gold-lust for accolades and titles:
    riches of dust, and to dust they shall return.

  3. An [Elementary] Alphabetary of Alchemy

A is for
Abuse-of-power
Abuse-of-trust
Absconder
Accounts-Payable-Fraud
Account-take-over-fraud
Affinity-scams
Anti-trust-fraud
Assets-fraud

B is for
Bamboozle
Bankruptcy-fraud
Benefits-fraud
Bid-rigging
Bilker
Billing-fraud
Bribery

C is for
Card-skimming
Cash-theft
Charity-scams
Check-fraud
Chicanery
Cloning-fraud
Computer-hacking
Con-artist
Confidence-Man
Conflicts-of-interest
Cook-the-books
Credentials-fraud

D is for
Data-theft
Degree-Mill
Double-cross
Dilution-fraud
Disbursement-fraud

E is for
Economic-distortion fraud
Embezzlement
Extortion

F is for
Financial-statement-fraud
Fleecer
Flim-flammer
Forger

G is for
Gratuity-fraud
Graft
Guiled

H is for
Hard-scams
Hoax
Hoodwinked
Hoser
Hustled

I is for
Identity-theft
Imposter
Insider-trading
Insurance-fraud
Investment-scams
Invoice-fraud
Invoice-kickbacks

J is for
Jobbery
Jiggery-pokery
Jive
Junque

K is for
Kick-back fraud
Knavery

L is for
Larceny
Lopping-schemes
Lying for lucre

M is for
Mail-fraud
Malfeasance
Mendacity
Mis-labelling-fraud
Money-laundering
Mountebank

N is for
Nepotism
Nigerian-419
Non-delivery of goods

O is for
On-the-take
Overreaching

P is for
Payroll-fraud
Perfidy
Pettifogger
Purchases-fraud
Phishing-fraud
Pilferage
Plagiarism
Procurement-fraud
Pyramid-schemes

Q is for
Quack

R is for
Racket
Rascality
Recruitment-deceit
Ruse

S is for
Shark
Shenanigans
Shyster
Skimming-fraud
Skullduggery
Smoke and mirrors
Snake-oil
Soft-scams
Swindle

T is for
Tartuffery
Tax-fraud
Transcript-fraud
Treachery
Trickery

U is for
Unctuous
Underhanded
Unfaithful
Unscrupulous

V is for
Vandal
Venality
Vendor-fraud
Villain
Voter-fraud

W is for
Wiles
Whitewash
Wire-fraud
Wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing
Work-from-home scams
Write-off-schemes

X is for ending
Hoaxes

Y is for ending
Skullduggery

Z is for those trapped in the middle of
Embezzlement

The Spheres of Authority and Responsibility in Academic Institutions: Shared Governance or Autocracy in Colleges and Seminaries?

perspective building

Reflections on the Spheres of Authority & Responsibility in Academic Institutions: does shared governance guard against abuses of power?

The role of academic faculty committees varies in institutions depending on their needs, size, and demands. Importantly, Standard Operating Procedure in academia differs from the models of the military, the corporate world, and even from ecclesial models. Since in contrast to all three of these cases, a seminary is a self-governing institution (if not church-controlled) that must comply with the principles, policies, and standards of academic accrediting bodies and peer institutions. A seminary is not a military institution requiring strict chain-of-command authority structures for war-time battle contexts. Even there, the military has very extensive checks and balances against abuses of power, and an “army” of attorneys is always involved in every conflict to ensure against abuses of authority and to protect the rules of engagement and compliance with the Geneva Accords. A seminary is also not a corporate, business operation, designed for the profit of the shareholders, in which the structures are designed to serve those financial interests. Corporate structures also employ their own extensive checks and balances specific to the market world to protect against abuses of power and fraud. It is also most poignant for colleges and seminaries that it is clearly understood that such institutions are not churches, therefore they are not governed as such, especially like those that are catholic and episcopal in their hierarchy, since the SOP in the academic context is to serve and protect the interest of students, who are the key stakeholders. Though the analogy breaks down eventually, if there is an ecclesial model that approximates the checks and balances for accountability in academic institutions like colleges and seminaries, it would be a congregational, or presbyterial, model of shared governance, the mutual authority of equals with interest as equal stakeholders. Most importantly, nevertheless, is the paradigm that Jesus established for all believers as recorded by Matthew:

Mtt 20:25-28 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Among believers in the church, we are to exemplify a contrary model to the world in which no-one lords it over another, and in which all are in submission to Christ the Head. This is profoundly important for all our organizations named as “Christian” and can (and must) be applied in both ecclesiastical and academic contexts.

For example, in the academic institutional context, accrediting bodies require that Academic Committees and Academic Deans have the freedom to fulfill their responsibilities in authority alongside, not in chain-of-command type submission to Presidents or Vice Presidents. This is markedly different than hierarchical military, corporate, and ecclesial models. The democratic or a congregational concept of “shared governance” may be apropos here, since it assumes that all are equal under the Headship of Christ. Such freedom to function with their own internal, governing authorities (administrative and academic) is not only vital to the administrative and academic ethical integrity of academic institutions, it is also required by accreditation. It is widely understood that many of the problems that academic institutions encounter are related to confusion between these various models of structure. Thus, conflicts between the authorities of the administration, boards, and academic departments frequently arise due to failure to have these principles clearly stated in policy and put into practice. Of course, authority structures, and proper exercise of authority are required for all institutions, but it is fair to say that wherever power and authority are abused everyone suffers, and that such abuse is at the heart of most institutional problems. And, I might add, failure to be in submission to Christ as Head, is at the root of all such abuses of power.

In Christian institutions, Boards and presidents importantly do have an oversight role of the academic departments, but it is not a managerial one; it is rather, for example, vital that Boards and Presidents are free to exercise their responsibility to guard the gospel and when deemed necessary to address concerns of perceived, or known, departures from orthodoxy and their confessions of faith. This should be an unlikely scenario in conservative schools unless there has been a serious dereliction of duty on the part of the Academic Committee(s) in their recommendation of someone out of accord with the fundamentals of the faith (such as in modern departures from orthodoxy in Neo-orthodoxy, Full-Preterism, Gnosticism, Post-Modernism, and Ex-evangelicalism, etc.). Nevertheless, as an added safeguard against such cases, schools sometimes require Board interviews of candidates recommended as faculty by the Dean and the Committee, not to assess their academic credentials but to ensure their confessional commitments to orthodoxy. All the same, this should be a collective effort and the fruit of collectively being in submission to Christ as Head, and to one another as equal fellow priests in Christ’s Kingdom.

That is, in sum, the integrity, credibility, and accreditation of academic institutions depend upon the protection of these accountability structures necessary for their unique academic context. This is not an optional consideration, but one requisite to that particular context that must protect the interests of the students and the freedom of the Academic committees to fulfill their responsibilities on their behalf. It is also a practical necessity since each sphere has its own sets of skills and assigned responsibilities. Some of the specific responsibilities requiring protection and freedom, to guard the integrity of academic committees in their primary interest of the students, include such matters as:

  • academic policy and procedure standards
  • compliance with accreditation curricula standards, degree requirements, and assessment of all credential claims
  • compliance with accreditation credentials-standards in faculty hiring and assessment
  • appointments, promotions, tenure, and salary considerations of faculty
  • course scheduling and classroom standards
  • academic handbooks (Catalogue, Student, Faculty, Library)
  • library responsibilities, functions, and staffing
  • policies and methods of instruction
  • student advising, student life, and student appeals and grievances
  • graduation and commencement services planning and execution
  • academic assessment and audits (in conjunction with the Institutional Effectiveness Director) standards and full compliance with them (e.g., proper instruments of assessment and a fully transparent Self-Study), “closing the gap” procedures for assessment
  • consistent faculty representation on the Board of Directors
  • consistent student representation on the Faculty Committee
  • teacher training and development

These responsibilities are to be carried out under the authority of Christ, and thus with due regard for all biblical principles that guide and govern integrity, holiness, and thus human flourishing within the institution. It is quite easy to recognize that even in this list above (which might appear rather mundanely academic) that each element eventually has moral aspects that we must consider with the utmost seriousness, since as those who claim the name of Christ, who are in submission to his Word, we must guard tenaciously our freedom to take responsibility for what he has placed before us to do in our various spheres of accountability.  

A good historical example of understanding these vital principles of the distinct spheres of responsibility is found in the original Faith Theological Seminary “Certificate of Incorporation” which stated very clearly that it would “oppose ecclesiastical autocracy wherever it is found.” The framers understood the sphere-sovereignty principle that protects the various spheres of authority in the seminary context, that though they do have some overlap in responsibility, in the governance of the seminary, its internal administrative and academic spheres must be guarded against abuses of authority. Further, in their prior historical context (the split at Princeton Theological Seminary) they insisted on a policy of protection for the seminary administration against external abuses of authority from those authorial, ecclesial bodies, such as the General Assembly, presbyteries, or ecclesial boards.

In spite of that noble start-up effort, sadly, after several decades of leadership, the first president of FTS, Allan A. MacRae, complained at great length in a letter to the Board of Directors that C. McIntire had gone beyond the “Certificate of Incorporation” of the seminary in his autocratic style of leadership and was bringing great harm to the seminary (alienating many allies, and the many people who departed). In reference to the “Certificate of Incorporation” that stated “it is to oppose ecclesiastical autocracy wherever it is found,” MacRae wrote in his letter:

“Autocracy is fundamentally wrong. There is no individual who is always right. God has made us individuals. We differ on many points. Collective wisdom is better than individual wisdom. Else why have boards of directors? Any attempt to establish an autocracy is contrary to God’s will. Therefore, the charter [“Certificate of Incorporation”] did not merely say that we would oppose the liberal ecclesiastical autocracy; it said we would oppose ecclesiastical autocracy wherever it is found. Almost equally important is the fact that autocracy results eventually in its own destruction. It may do great harm along the way, but in the end it destroys itself and whatever is connected with it.” (p. 8 of “Report to the Board of Directors of Faith Theological Seminary, by Allan A. MacRae, May 25, 1971).

In fact, the eventual conflicts at FTS, the departure of most of the faculty, the split of FTS into several new institutions, and its eventual decline and demise, was related to their failure to protect the Seminary against autocracy. Indeed, subsequently, C.McIntire assumed also the presidency of the Seminary while unethically remaining Chairman of the Board. As his obituary reads, “Mr. McIntire – a large man who liked to be called doctor on the strengths of his honorary doctorates – was a master of spectacle.”[1] And, those spectacles led to the bankruptcy and closing of all the institutions with which he was involved. The Seminary eventually lost all its students and closed. It became a case study of failure to establish proper lines of responsibility and shared governance under the headship of Christ, and the dramatic consequences of extensive and destructive abuse of power that results.

“Bound by the Chain of Command: Messed up from Top to Bottom” by Neil Cole (a review)

Review thoughts on “Bound by the Chain of Command: Messed up from Top to Bottom,” in Neil Cole, Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), pp. 85-96).

Discussing Jesus’s response to the “sons of Thunder” (James and John) who wanted to sit on each side of Jesus in his kingdom, Cole notes that Jesus radically upended the world’s top-down paradigm of leadership:

Mtt 20:25-28 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Despite the fact that in military conflict contexts authority may need to be hierarchical, the top-down model was not the example of Jesus for his church and the people of God. Cole states that “In the kingdom of God there are no people who lord it over others.”[2] Indeed, that model was what set Israel on a path of hundreds of years of tyrannies and disastrous leaders beginning with King Saul who became “like the kings around about them,” just as Israel demanded. Well, if the top-down paradigm structure is not biblical for the church, what is, and who is in charge? Though at first glance it seems like an obvious truism, he reminds us that Christ Jesus is the only one who is our Head, our Ruler, our King, our Chief. To many people this sounds like a call to anarchy and a loss of leadership, but he reassures us that this is only fear born of over-familiarity with an unbiblical, authoritarian top-down chain-of-command type of relationship. And, such fears are unwarranted when Christ is truly seen as the Head of the church, as he is the Head of each believer. In such a scenario, believers follow and submit to the authority of Christ, not out of compulsion but love, and are submitted to his Word.

“When every part of the body is submissive to the impulse of the Head, the body is unified, functional, and coordinated.”[1]

Cole does not reject the roles in the church for evangelists, shepherds and teachers, elders and deacons, but he understands the roles of overseers as “looking over” (not looking down) (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9; Heb 13:17).

Similarly, to what Christ stated in Mtt 22, Peter says,


1 Peter 5:1-4 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.


Also, Paul stressed the role of those who labor in the church as those who “go before” (as in “going first” in example in the battle) the flock, as leaders, not as those who lord it over:


1 Thess 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.


Since many people, especially in autocratic, authoritarian, totalitarian, and dictatorial situations get used to the appearance of order (controlled chaos), people confuse control with order. For example, when the totalitarian (esp. Communist/Socialist) regimes of Eastern Europe crumbled in our generation some people began to cry out for a return to the apparent sense of security such control had provided. On a much smaller scale, in local churches leaders are often terrified of open questioning and discussion among the flock, since it might “open a can of worms” and bring dissensions. So, the flock, happy to keep a semblance of peace, sacrifice their freedom in Christ. They also forsake their responsibility in the priesthood of all believers to submit in the power of the Holy Spirit to Christ as the Head and King and Ruler of his church.  A boss I once had used to be fond of saying, “Sometimes one just has to be a dictator.” Thinking it was a jest, I sometimes laughed. Finding later that he really believed this foolish idea, I questioned him on the it and he responded, “since you do not see the big picture like me, just fall into the chain of command and do not go outside of that.” Rather, I believe that Jesus is our Head and Ruler, and we belong to him and submit to him alone as equals. To reject Jesus’ model for his followers in that way is extraordinarily hazardous and harmful to the whole body, since we cannot serve two masters (as he himself taught us). In all systems of domination, revolution and retaliation become the inevitable cycle of sin, and systems where all are treated as “insubordinate” who question the autocracy. Structures that enslave, leading to strong-arm pastors and “heavy-shepherds” and unaccountable rulers are the very thing Jesus came to destroy and replace with his kingdom-order. In contrast to Jesus’ order, Cole notes that “The chain of command that we have established is the chain that holds us in bondage.”[2] Further in conclusion, he states,


“The chain of command in the church is keeping us from becoming a living, thriving, functioning spiritual body that has arms to reach and embrace the lost and broken and feet that move at the impulse of the Head’s compassion.”[3]


[1] New York Times, March 22, 2002: “Carl McIntire, Carl McIntire, Evangelist And Hawkish Patriot,” 95.

[2] Neil Cole, Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), p. 88.

Some more quotes:

“Spiritually abusive groups routinely use guilt, fear, and intimidation as effective means for controlling their members. In my opinion, the leaders consciously foster an unhealthy form of dependency, spiritually and interpersonally, by focusing on themes of submission, loyalty, and obedience to those in authority. In all totalitarian environments dependency is necessary for subjugation.” Ronald M. Enroth, Churches that Abuse: Help for Those Hurt by Legalism, Authoritarian Leadership, Manipulation, Excessive Discipline, Spiritual Intimidation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House). 1992, p. 103.

“Authoritarian pastors frequently use militaristic imagery to illustrate their strict systems of authority and discipline”(ibid., p. 89).  

The Wolves are in the House and Some Are in Charge

One of those very sobering teaching-moments in Jesus’ ministry is found in Mtt 13:[1]

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

So often, when people teach on this passage, the “wide” gate is presented as representing sinful things people should not do (or otherwise go to destruction), and the narrow gate as representing things people should do (in order to be sure one is on the right path of life). Yet, this turns it on its head, since that is precisely the opposite of its meaning. Rather, Jesus in the context is discussing true religion versus false religion, and the latter being one of following false prophets, described as wolves in sheep’s clothing:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

(drawings from here)

In this context, Jesus seems to be connecting the danger of the false religion of imposters with the broad path that leads to destruction. Similarly to the Old Testament prophets, who so frequently condemned the false religion of the religious leaders, Jesus warns of the dangers of imposters that use religion (in this case the Christian gospel) to their own personal ends, and to the harm or destruction of others.

He wants his disciples to understand that there will be those who do the will of God, and others who do many impressive things but do not truly know him. Further, he is showing that salvation is to become as God would have us become, and yes to do as he would have us do: that is, coming to know and love God, to love what God loves, and to love as God loves. Yet, in reality, this is all impossible through our human “religious” efforts, since those things are the fruit of God’s Spirit (the good tree analogy, v. 18) and in themselves do not add up to works worthy of salvation. This is precisely how the religious leaders and prophets can actually be those that devour the sheep to their own ends, because as imposters they teach by their example the false notion that one’s religiosity is the path to life. They teach and preach all kinds of good theology, praying pompously in public places to be seen, while in truth they are leading others to the destruction of pharisaic works-religion without the Spirit of God.

Wolves are not just false sheep, but are the false shepherds who enter and feign as sheep to infiltrate and subvert the fold with a substitute to true religion (i.e., spiritual rebirth). This brings us, therefore, to Jesus’ logical and chilling conclusion:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven . . .” (see also Jer 5:13-14; Ezek 22:25, 27; Mtt 23). The wolves are like the Vandals in the house, as Dylan sang, “The pump don’t work cause the vandals took the handle.” They rob the house of its source of life by preventing the waters of life from flowing freely from their source.

[1] These reflections were in part based on the thoughts of David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen in the Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers), 1991, pp. 30-36.

Many Days

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I sat down
to sing along a song
that all shall be amen
and alleluia
and fell fast asleep,
for this is what the days have added to me.
The sound of a hundred boys,
singing,
“Well done
thou good and . . .”
like the sun striking against the heads
of balding men,
it shakes the air and dust.
We breathe more lightly,
with pause,
thinking our days have been full
and many,
though they do not add up,
we know
for each molecule
it will be
alleluia . . .

Poems for my sons [and daughters]

~ Julian Thomas Hague ~
Holy Spirit Hospital, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, February 18, 1997, 10:30 p.m.

I. Waiting
As almond flowers of Israel
and Jade blossoms from Kuala Lumpur
as thyme and marjoram
and comets bloom on Jupiter
as the earth’s hunger burns, flames out, consumes
and afflictions decreed in light-billows purify
as birth this empire of myrrh ascends
and pain its petals rescind.

Julian,
the name we chose
for its majestic beauty
for the son we so long awaited.

II. The hour of cats and crows
I say good-morning unexpectedly
to a young couple walking
a golden retriever.
They chuckle.
It is dark.
Moon and planet in conjunction.
The air is smooth to the touch.
I plan to speak to friends
in the Victorian house on the hill,
but they sleep the dream of sleep,
hoping.

I pass an overweight, tired, but alive,
old couple
out for a walk and breakfast,
silent.
Cats withdraw calmly from the battle,
thinking their time has come
to step down from their tarmac thrones.
A former prisoner of what little he has
of things
accumulated
prepares to move on.
Crows contend with morning-noise
that comes
with light.
And my son awakens
to lead me
hand-in-hand
to his rose-filled galaxies.


~ Marcus Andrew Hague ~
Holy Spirit Hospital, Camp Hill Pennsylvania, April 22, 2000, 12:30 p.m.

I. Anticipation
Words you know
etched so well
in your sense of sound
and joyous laughter
at your birth and boyhood.
They unscroll a vast sea
of mysterious screeds
that hyacinth and lavender
spelt in the sand
of castles we built
against the tides
for marooned crabs.
Eddies to fill your eye
with poems
unspoken, though written
in your magnificent colors
rainbows of prisms.

Marcus,
the son we so long awaited
whose name we chose
for its resplendency.

II. Arising early
to greet you,
clap and shout
rejoicing.
A song, a new song
is in my heart.
A boy
who loves so deeply,
who lives so.
Who is this
coming up
from the wilderness,
crossing the Negev
with poems in his hands?

Sometimes the lines
may not converge.
No matter.
Consider the
colors of ancient shards,
the promise.
Watch the mottled storm
pass over.
The tide will recede.


~ Lucas Edwin Hague ~
Franklin Square Hospital, Baltimore, March 26, 2004 at 8:22 am

I. This joy
I cannot lift up.
It is too high for me.
Gulls at sunrise face the light
towards the Bay.
Tired we entered
a forest iridescent with wonder
the floor to ceiling books
letters that spell
your days
the beautiful ways
you love.
A brother to brothers
like no other
loyal and true.

This world
you cannot endure,
but you will.

A boy’s eyes glisten alive
with abandon and love
at this universe of toads
and polliwogs, brothers, and flowers,
paint for fingers, laughter,
and exuberance
for adventures together,
California, Canada, Africa, Amsterdam, Israel,
Mexico, the Mississippi, and Harvey Cedars.
Such is the path into words
and this world
you embrace
as a gift.

Lucas, the son
we so long awaited,
whose name we chose
for a bringer of light.

II. Cutchogue, Long Island, 2011
The largest blackberries
geese in droves on the crest of waves
phosphorous jelly-fish light our night
sands, shells, winds, crabs, osprey
kayaking into white caps
storms come and go
tides rise and fall
kerosene lanterns and Tiki lights
fire-kites cross the dunes and die in embers
peaches and plums
yachts and schooners
portobello mushrooms and cheese
fireplaces and late-night conversation with friends
islands and carousels spin
the dune grasses sing into rain
the voices of the children
telling our insatiable stories
whelks, scallops, and wine
forests, fields, and marshes
music enfolds us together
pure joy.
Document (10) (4)


~ two babies not born ~

I. life begins
a living soul
soul and flesh
do not mesh
during the interim
at two weeks
the heart beats
though the doctor
will not say
it is life
a living soul
heart-beating
life-surging.
The laws deduce
accidental killing
is taking a life
though “removal”
of a fetus
is not.

This world you did not endure
though we miss you so when we spy-out the whales
and smell the scent of the pines you never saw at the apple-picking
and the hay-harvest fills the heavens with what we could not share
when the Pennsylvania strawberries and tomatoes are sated to delight us.

Jencina,
the name we chose
for its radiant grace
and Christina,
“follower of Christ,”
after Bach who also waited long
and lost three by that name.

II. The one-act word
Where in his next breath
when the doctor sighs a word
saying, “this is it,”
when the breath is in and then goes out
the word says when it is
and when it is not
where it goes and where it stays.
This stage is where it stops,
for when he sighs it sings
hearts scorched in unison
when it is the final word.

Winslow Homer, Apple Picking, 1878 and Alexander Mann, Daydreams, 1882