False narratives of Christian leaders caught in abuse

Religion News Service – Rhymes with Religion

Boz Tchividjian | Aug 28, 2015

When the abusive behavior of Christian leaders is uncovered, all too often the immediate response is not an unconditional admission or a genuine expression of authentic repentance. Instead, a common response is a new narrative. A false narrative. A narrative that attempts to paint a picture of the situation without any regard for truth. A narrative designed to protect reputations and preserve future incomes. A narrative designed to keep the leaders in the spotlight and the victims out of the way.

Since many of these leaders tend to be narcissistic, the primary purpose of the false narrative is to enable them to hold onto the spotlight as they crave affirmation and continued relevance in a world that is quick to turn the spotlight elsewhere. Seeking out friendly media interviews is one way that provides opportunities for offending leaders to elaborate and “sell” their new narrative. Social media is also a very effective means to communicate this narrative because it tends to attract those who crave the leader’s attention and who will be quick to “like”, “share”, “comment”, “reply” or “re-tweet” the leader’s narrative. These same followers will often be quick to vilify and attack anyone who questions or criticizes the leader or the narrative.

Though false narratives vary with each offending leader and each situation, three types seem to be common amongst offending leaders:

Redefine Narrative: Offending leaders are often quick to try and change the narrative from one of abuse to something less offensive and more acceptable to the watching public. One way this is accomplished is to re-defining the abuse with terms such as “mistake”, “misjudgment”, “failure” or “misunderstanding”. Such a redefining is usually coupled with the offending leader publicly expressing sorrow and asking for forgiveness. Do you see what’s happening? The false narrative subtly minimizes the actual abuse, as the offending leader appears to be repentant about a far less serious offense. The hope is that this approach will prompt many to express support for the offending leader as “humble” and “Godly”, while castigating anyone who expresses doubt or who attempts to point out the false narrative.

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