Damaris: We are beacons on the road to enlightenment.
Mitchell: No, you’re dark-side intergalactic encyclopedia salesmen. Unfortunately, the home office hasn’t been quite up front with you.
Jackson: Nice work on the metaphor.
Mitchell: Thank you.
– Stargate SG-1, “The Fourth Horseman, Part II”
Betrayal stings. Perhaps that’s why C.S. Lewis made it the greatest possible offense one could commit in Narnia. Christianity doesn’t like to admit that every now and then something goes horribly wrong. We have a dark side. It’s that realm where we just don’t talk about it. Where we pretend that whatever it was never actually happened. Where we all go to church and smile as we shake everyone’s hand.
“Don’t slander the church! Protect her reputation! Think of the scandal … that poor family that will be broken if the truth ever comes out!” We have no shortage of ways to not say it: “We give you permission to lie. Omit the whole truth. Our elders have investigated the matter thoroughly and have taken the appropriate steps (Actually, they’ve ignored it entirely because they refuse to entertain the notion that these allegations could be true.)”
The vast majority of us may not ever have any personal experience with it – we’ll never know why a member suddenly was ‘disfellowshipped’ or a whole family have ‘moved on’ to another church on the other side of town. We might not even know the hypocrisy we commit when we call out the Catholic church for it’s abuses because we do not know the full extent of the evils within our own beloved denominations.
That’s our darkside. Our tendency to minize the victims and protect the perpetrators. So that’s why we do so much damage control and public relations work – to keep our image squeaky clean as much as we possibly can. That’s why we tend to portray the victims as nameless and faceless entities. They are not the same sort of people as the rest of us.
The secret of our darkside is the structure that supports it – it cannot fail. It’s foundation is silence. It’s columns are called authority. It’s ceiling is power. It is the source of corruption and it employs fear to keep everything running smoothly. Too many people are too fearful to talk, and therefore our foundation endures intact. This is the playbook from ancient powers the world over – refined and elevated – carefully disguised as the temple of religion.
Jesus said: “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
Dark-side says: “The first are the best and the last are the worst.”
Jesus said: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Dark-side says: “the least are the worst and the best are the greatest.”
Jesus said: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”
Dark-side says: “We’re not them so we won’t be making their mistakes.”
The odd thing is that we have a different name for it – but the benefactor-beneficiary still exists.
The leaders of our church are our benefactors. They protect the Church, sponsor future benefactors into the next stage of leadership, and make decisions about the operations of the church and it’s response to challenges to it’s authority. The members of the church are it’s clients. They are expected to support their benefactors with services as needed. We give it names like ‘servant leadership’ and ‘joyfully obeying the authorities over us’. In one of my churches, the benefactor lorded his authority and leveraged it to introduce his favorite interpretation of a particular doctrine. But no, it was not ‘the same thing’ as he was an elder ‘tending the flock’s spiritual health’ and he was not a king of the Gentiles in love with his own authority – his ability to say “do this” and watch somebody get it done.
When a church ignores “the least of these” to protect it’s image and the reputation of one of it’s own – it’s breaking the commandments that Jesus set in stone. When it prefers white lies over the whole truth, it gives into it’s dark-side. When arrogance and pride overrule humility and compassion – that’s when it loses itself as King David did. King David abused his authority. Comitted adultery. Masterminded a murder. He most thoroughly lost his way – until he was confronted with the truth by Nathan.
We need more Nathans – men and women, inside and outside of the church, who have authority and who have no authority to confront the Church each and every single time it gives into it’s dark-side. We need their light to reveal the whole truth and guide the church in making things right and doing things better, like justice, for starters. Only then will our light truly, brightly shine.