Leaders have power over their subjects. It is a fact. In Iran, the people are afraid to dance. In Turkey, they don’t dare insult the government. At your job, you don’t let your boss see you arrive late. A child hides his bad grades from his parents.
Yes, leaders have power over their subjects, which is why God expects leaders to use the power they wield graciously and not abuse it.
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them…Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Col. 3:19-21)
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)
I abused my Authority
Years ago, one of my daughters had a roommate. One day, they got into a fight and this other girl, much older than my daughter, lashed out at her. I was their pastor at the time. I met with them to resolve it. My memory is vague, but I remember that the other young lady was not comfortable. Her lips quivered. She was scared. We had what I thought was a “breakthrough.” Only later did I realize how wrong it was for me to mediate. I should have asked one of the other pastors to do it, as I was biased, since it was my daughter involved.
My point is that, while I had no evil intention, just the act of having the meeting was somewhat abusive to my daughter’s roommate. Now imagine when a leader is seeking to use his position to manipulate or take advantage of someone?
Some Know This Power
I recently heard of an leader who lured an underage girl into lewd communications with him. It may have gone well past that. He used his power and position to get her to do things she would not normally do. How? Well, it must be okay, he is a godly leader. Why would he ask me if it is not acceptable?
When she realized it was wrong, the minister’s wife—I kid you not—begged her to not report it as that would, “break his heart.” Surely, she would not want to be responsible for not only breaking his heart, but also possibly sending him to jail!
She was the abused, but then the team of enablerswere unleashed on her. As we can see in the case of Jeffrey Epstein, “it takes a village.” Epstein had people looking out for young girls for him. In the case above, even one of his minister friends sought to keep the girl quiet. They used guilt, shame and deception. I have just one question: Where is the fear of God?But that is another blog.
Amazingly, this is the culture in some “Christian” circles. In 1980, Jim Bakker, who at the time was leading the PTL empire, had sexual relations with 21-year-old Jessica Hahn. Viewers at home loved watching the PTL Club: the interviews, the teaching and good wholesome entertainment, but something far more sinister was taking place behind the scenes.
When Hahn received a phone call from an evangelist, John Wesley Fletcher, to come meet the Bakkers…she was excited.
“Hahn was a fan of the Bakkers and their show, so she jumped at Fletcher’s invitation to come to Florida, where Jim Bakker was doing a telethon. The plan, Hahn has said over the years, was for her to meet Bakker and babysit his children.” —Charlotte Observer
She had no reason to not trust Fletcher or Bakker—they were men of God, after all. And for those who say it was ‘consensual’ between adults, you’re wrong. It was not a fair fight. Leaders have an unfair advantage.
“It’s like somebody walks into the room like Jim Bakker when you’re in your 20s and you’re watching him every day (on TV),” she said. “It’s like ‘Oh my God, this is like God walked into the room. I can’t say no.’” —ibid
Leaders must understand the power we have over people and use it for good. She was 21 and he seduced her. When Charles Shepard began to investigate, he was threatened…by Christians!Bakker surrounded himself with enablers and henchmen. Shepard recalls a harrowing incident.
“I remember very vividly being in his office, and he pulling a handgun out of his pocket and dropping it on the desk, kind of in front of me, as if to let me know who is in charge and I better be well-behaved.” —Pop Culture
One way to look at Hahn’s disclosure of what happened is to blame her for shutting down a ministry that employed 2,500 people and touched millions. However, the correct way to view it is to blame Bakker who squandered such influence away and destroyed a powerful (depending on who you ask) ministry, because he viewed himself as a king; entitled.
While Bakker is back on TV, after spending five years in jail, Hahn has been scarred by life. Despite writing a book entitled, “I Was Wrong,” he blamed Hahn and others for his sexual impropriety.
“I sorrowfully acknowledge that seven years ago in an isolated incident, I was wickedly manipulated by treacherous former friends and then-colleagues who victimized me with the aid of a female confederate. They conspired to betray me into a sexual encounter at a time of great stress in my marital life…I was set up as part of a scheme…” —The Charlotte Observer
In his book, he was a bit more contrite. Often with narcissists (and I am not saying that Bakker is one), they are always spinning the best narrative. Portraying yourself as a vulnerable victim and the 21-year-old girl as a seductress, probably won the hearts of many. Even as they abused the power of their power, they now abuse the power of “humility,” and the masses will buy it.
I am happy for Bakker; that he got out of jail, served in a homeless shelter and submitted to a restoration team. He confessed to living a extravagant lifestyle. He owned it and has moved on with his life. But I hurt for Hahn. Where would she be today without that encounter? To be sure, we can criticize the decisions she made after she outed Bakker. But unless you have been a victim of sexual abuse, it is best not to judge.
We tend to make these stories about the fallen heroes and not about their victims. They have to deal with years of guilt and shame. The compromised leader often views his sin based on how it messed up hislife. What about the lives of those who were abused?
If you are a leader, take note of how you treat those who follow you. You will give an account one day. We all will.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)
God, have mercy!