On “Buying Influence”

Posted: August 7, 2015 in When Church Hurts
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The so-called Republican “debate” – which was in no way a “debate” – was some of the best entertainment I have seen in a while.  I truly enjoyed the sparring and jabs – and we all know the thing that makes comedy comedic is the basis of truth that is inherent in what is being said.

I watched an interview with Donald Trump that took place after the “debate” and in the interview, Sean Hannity questioned Trump on his comments about donations to people in order to make them beholden to him.  Hannity then made this statement:  “People donate for the purpose of buying influence.”

I immediately recalled that about ten years in to my punishment – being ostracized and not allowed to attend, participate, or serve in my church – I had a conversation with my husband.

I had just been moved into a full-time teaching position which dramatically changed our financial situation from sometimes needing to decide whether to pay the utility bill or buy groceries, to being able to give more generously to the church.  In our conversation, I told my husband, “Just wait and see.  Once we start giving this amount of money (a 10% tithe), in anywhere from six to eighteen months, my situation will change.  I will be accepted and allowed to do whatever I want.”

About one year later, the senior pastor told me that I could do whatever I wanted.  He refused to tell me what I had done over a decade earlier to warrant the ostracism and judgment I had received, and my behavior had not changed over that decade.  I still sent emails asking for answers, confessing anything I could think of that I might have done to deserve punishment, and even told him repeatedly how my spiritual health was devastated due to the way that I was being treated.  None of that had changed.  Yet, one year of significantly increased giving and now I could do whatever I wanted.

In that moment, my husband and I knew without a doubt that in that church, money buys influence. I immediately got involved – attending classes, teaching classes, taking over a significant portion of the landscaping and paying for plants, benches, patio tables and chairs, trees and shrubs with my own money.  And, I was still asking for an explanation of what I had done that was so heinous that I was not allowed for over a decade to attend, serve, participate.  Ultimately, because he would not give me answers, the impact of spiritual abuse was taking an even greater toll on me – to the point that I was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD whenever I was at the church, in close proximity to the pastor or other high level staff and lay people. (You can read all about that in my story and other posts on this blog.)  I entered counseling and immediately my eyes began to open.

At the same time, my husband had two major accidents requiring emergency room visits and surgery.  My son was getting married.  Both of my sons were finishing college and money was pretty tight.  Knowing from my counseling that I was not respected by the pastor or the church leadership at large, we decided we would cut back on our tithes to the church.  We continued to tithe, but to other people and places who were in greater need than the multi-million dollar church with it’s multi-million dollar budget (though they would not reveal the specifics of how money was distributed or spent), whose weekly offering exceeded $60,000 – yes, weekly.

And I said to my husband, “Just wait and see.  They are going to notice that we aren’t giving as much and the ostracism and punishment is going to kick in again.”

Sure enough, it wasn’t more than a few months and we were told not to return to the church.  We were no longer donating.  We were no longer buying influence.  I’m pretty sure if we had continued to give our tithe and our time, the outcome would have been much different.

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Comments
  1. Wow! This happened to us as well. We felt the Lord giving us direction to move HIS resources elsewhere, and we were met with aggression and accusations.

    We were told we were in “rebellion against God’s authority.” And we had to repent of rebellion.

    I did not have any conviction of rebellion. I was obeying God. We were also told that we were “Robbing God (Malachi 3) and would be under a curse.” I thought: how are we robbing God if we are doing what HE wants with HIS resources?

    Anyways, great post! Totally enjoyed it.

  2. Be encouraged! Don’t get discouraged!

  3. Eliza says:

    With the churches we attended, money was never the issue, it was always the teaching. The pastors were unfaithful to God and His Word in one way or another, and when we (I) tried to encourage them to stand for the truth, well, that didn’t go over so well. Praise the Lord that He leads us in His truth and His way for His glory.

  4. saddened says:

    I recently found out that I have a different father and my biological father is actually a church minister I’ve known all of my life.
    He knows that I now know the truth but treats me like a family friend in front of people.
    Church members know and advice has been “leave it / learn to accept this is how it is / deal with it or leave it.
    In the world outside of church this kind of behaviour/approach would be seen as psychologically, emotionally and spiritually abusive and quite disgusting.
    How do you ‘move on’ from church hurt if it is constant. Why do churches wonder why people leave and refuse to return when they behave in such an unacceptable manner? Is this why some unbelievers see church folk as brain washed? Brain washed into watching people suffer abuse while they stand by and state “I’m praying for you”. Mmmmmm lovely!

    • Ellen says:

      Dear Saddened,
      While you don’t share all of the intimate details of your story, it is obviously a situation in which you have been hurt and continue to suffer. It is very sad that in many churches, hurts like this are swept under the rug and the victim is further victimized because no one wants to fully address and deal with the situation appropriately.

      Yes, the world looks on and is not impressed.

      I don’t know how old you are or what your situation is, but when it comes to healing, you probably won’t experience full healing until you are able to separate yourself from the people who ignore your feelings and your need to have the situation dealt with.

      Also, when you find a few people who are willing to acknowledge that abuse has occured and who will listen to your story and support and encourage you, this will help you move toward healing.

      Ellen

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