I admit that I willingly entered the world I’ll refer to as “OpenArms”, where everyone is welcome and no one is turned away, and all souls are equal. Except there must be order. There must be a plan. There must be funding. With these truths self-evident, there is a hierarchy. This hierarchy will have its automatic positions of royalty in the form of family and friends of hierarchical elites. There by making some more equal than others. Planning and funding are not the fortes of all who pass through the arch. There by meaning those with credentials manifested by initials after their name or deep pockets expressed through generous tithes are more equal than individuals with no trailing inits or meager shekels. These realities allow for unintended exemptions. Exemptions from the “Don’t Be A Jerk Rule”.
The view downward from the high hierarchy must contend with cloudy awareness and self imposed myopia. Informal royalty can scowl and growl at plebeians who entered the gates, commoners fully expecting to be welcomed by all and treated with appropriate decorum for a spiritual entity. Credentialed critics, however, troll the words and actions of true believers unchecked because their designations protect them from admonishment. Another group, broadly identified as the infirm, get away with inappropriate language, grifting, bullying, and even aggressive contact because of known conditions of mind, addiction, orientation, emotion, and vulnerability. Ok, so who is left?
No true believer is totally exempt from attack by the DBAJR categories listed above. However, most congregants in OpenArms respect the tenets of community and spiritual expression. Live and let live. Listen as well as talk. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Being human, we all have our hiccups. But when someone of status trolls the words and actions of another, seen as subordinate, in a clearly malicious way, in a sustained attack, action would seem to be in order. But who will bell the cat? Those in the hierarchy risk losing credentials or funds and therefore admonishment is not something to be undertaken in a knee-jerk manner. On the other hand, when the pastoral setting becomes aware of “dogs in the manger”, there is more to lose than status and shekels.
The first of the innocent to fall should signal symptoms of an illness within the organization. It can be ignored as an anomaly or characterized as a person’s prerogative to leave but it is the beginning. Spiritual communities don’t rot only from the top down but also from the inside out. Once the cancer begins, it will spread increasingly while ignored. What can the first harmed individuals do? Try to survive until awareness sparks in someone who cares. Until that distant time dawns, avoid the menace, continue the work, contain impulsive emotions that demand fight or flight. Not being a position to win at this point, one must hang on, hunker down, hope for a quick resolution to a slow deterioration. If there is fault on the harm-eds part – then resolve it. If there is over reaction to injury – then heal it. Watch the spectacle as a phenomenon rather than a personal attack because there will be others who will be hurt and perhaps far worse.
Another caution is the spread of terror as the aggressive person recruits others, inside and out, to carry out this onslaughts in the innocent. These minions of menace migrate towards this minor power source like tiny bugs to a putrid light. Pleasing the prince of evil by punishing the parish becomes an end in itself. Malleable, shallow, and mean, they swallow whole the discharge of their defacto leader and seek to destroy the very haven they covet. Not powerful but tenacious, their insidious actions turn away those who they do not know and have done no harm. The soldiers of sinister escape an isolation from humanity only to start down the path that got them isolation in the first place. The stronger but silent victims of this transgression may leave or distance in order to avoid contact even if it means losing contact with the vessel that gives them succor. How do a minority of insincere and weak minded infiltrators defeat a mass of commitment and dedication?