Should The Master’s University insist on loyalty to authority more than care for the oppressed?

Last fall “Jane Doe” told her story of rape and its coverup at John MacArthur’s school The Master’s University. I wrote a commentary that referenced it here.

At the beginning of this school year, John MacArthur made reference to this story in his opening remarks. You can listen to them here.

This past weekend Marci Preheim, who hosted “Jane’s” story on her blog, showed some of MacArthur’s statements, with her corrections. You can see them below, and posted on Twitter here.

It’s heartbreaking to watch those that one has respected do wrong, I know. But what are we to do? Will we only believe the powerful one, the ones in positions of authority? Or will we listen to the stories of the ones who say they were abused and oppressed?

Back when some friends and I started the BJUGrace blog in December of 2014, with some of the very same concerns, I wrote a post about “loyalty” to challenge those who were loyal to the institution.

I’m posting it here, for The Master’s University alumni and for those of any church or other institution that insists on loyalty to authority over listening to the cries of the oppressed.

*****

Alma mater.

“Nourishing mother.”

Feels like an irrevocable bond, doesn’t it? Maybe some guilt feelings about saying anything negative?

So . . . if people are publicly pointing out serious problems in their alma mater, you might feel like they could be accused of disloyalty.

You may not make your accusation directly, you may not say anything at all, but you may have a troubled sense in your spirit. Because after all, we did get our degrees there. And after all, there are certainly some very good and kind teachers there who love God and others. And after all, when we were students there it was certainly against the rules to publicly point out wrongs.

This is one of those times that we need to step back and analyze what we’re thinking and feeling in comparison with what God Himself has said.

The fact is that the concept of loyalty fits more with the feudal system than with Christianity.

It was first used of knights swearing allegiance to kings, to fight for that king and no other king. It carries with it an implication of an underling and an overlord, as well as a strong sense of “My king, right or wrong,” because that’s pretty much what the knight had to swear to.

The vassal bared his head as a symbol of his complete submission to the king.

This concept of loyalty isn’t in the Bible. It just isn’t.

But the concept that is in the Bible is that of faithfulness: always in love seeking the other’s good.

(People often use the word loyal to describe what husband and wife should be to each other, but faithful is a far better word.)

So it seems appropriate to use that word instead. Let’s ask that question.

Are you faithful to your alma mater?

But that seems strange to even ask. Why are we as Christians supposed to try to be faithful to a manmade institution? Aren’t we supposed to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to each other as individuals?

So let’s ask that one.

Are you faithful to Jesus Christ when it comes to your alma mater? Are you faithful to the individuals in that institution?

What will that faithfulness look like in your life? When you see the possibility of wrongdoing in some leaders, or even perhaps clear evidence of it, will you look the other way because you’ve committed yourself never to speak evil of them?

Will you refuse to speak about any of the wrongs you see lest you be gossiping?

Will you ignore the cognitive dissonance in your heart and try to distract yourself with busy-ness for Christ?

Do you fear expressing disloyalty by asking questions or expressing concerns or even showing a healthy skepticism?

Or will you remember that the kisses of an enemy are deceitful, but “faithful are the wounds of a friend,” as Proverbs 26:7 reminds us? Will you know that true faithfulness to another seeks their good, even when it’s hard?

For example, true faithfulness to a perpetrator of sexual abuse would help him go to the police and turn himself in rather than helping him get out of the state or even the country in order to escape the legal system.

Even though you, a lover of Jesus Christ, would never say, “My alma mater, right or wrong,” if you stand by the concept of institutional loyalty, this may be how your loyalty ultimately plays out in your life.

True faithfulness implies mutuality. We’re faithful to each other to seek each other’s good. As Hebrews 3:13 says, we “Exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” If one person is doing wrong as clearly delineated in the Bible (rather than as determined by extra-Biblical standards), another who loves God and loves others will come alongside and say, “You’re on the wrong path. Here’s the right path. Turn and go that way. Turn now.”

Many have been faithfully seeking to do this with leaders of their alma mater for years and years.

This may not be what some might call “loyalty.” But this is faithfulness. A faithfulness that embodies principles of mutuality, maturity, responsibility, and integrity.

This is the kind of faithfulness that the prophet Nathan showed to King David when he confronted him instead of “loyally” keeping his mouth shut about David’s sin.

You can break free from the bonds of a kind of unbiblical loyalty that says you can’t even read negative things about your alma mater lest you be disloyal or gossiping or entertaining lies or showing lack of grace or tarnishing the reputation of Christ before a watching world.

Be willing to read, to hear, and even perhaps to speak.

Move forward in integrity, in the truth of Biblical faithfulness that calls others who love Christ—and expects others who love Christ to call us—to repentance and humility to say, “I’ve been wrong. There are many people with whom I need to make restitution from the past. I need to change.”

We pray that many individuals from inside the walls of their alma mater and from schools and churches associated with it around the country and the world will choose faithfulness to Christ over loyalty to an institution.

We pray that many will be awakened to the dire nature of the very serious problems, will be willing to come to humility and repentance, and will choose to stand with truth and righteousness no matter what the cost.

And we truly do hope and pray for better things ahead.

 

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Jeff Crippen
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Jeff Crippen

We have seen this very same loyalty trap operative in the ARBCA coverup of pastor Tom Chantry’s sin (crime) of assaulting children. The entire atmosphere at ARBCA has, for many years, been one of fear of punishment if you criticize the pillars. That fear has been enforced by this loyalty business. If you aren’t loyal to ARBCA then you aren’t loyal to Christ – that’s the claim. When these Goliaths rise up amongst us, we have to be David’s and take out the divinely guided sling, not be bullied into obeying them.

Alison
Guest

Your commentaries are always insightful and on target. I’m grateful you take the time to expose the lies and deceitfulness of organized churches. Many men in church leadership are consumed with the power of their position. They may put on a face of concern, but when the truth comes out, it proves their hearts aren’t in the right place. Demanding loyalty to them is an evil thing.
I’ve stopped financially supporting these ministries because of the hypocrisy and denial I see. I want to help real people who are trapped in horrendous situations. I think that is where God really wants my contributions to go. I don’t care about tax write-offs. I care about all the people write-offs!

Rachel Nichols
Guest

Mindless loyalty led to the “just following orders” excuse used in the Nuremberg Trials.

TS00
Guest
TS00

It is the twisting of reasonable faithfulness into blind loyalty, as you write of, which creates ideologues and demagogues of all stripes, whether concerning schools, churches, political parties or entire worldviews. To tie in your last post, I believe that one of the primary goals of those who indeed conspire against God and man have long been doing research and studies on human behavior. Social psychology seeks to explain, study and, doubtless, apply the mechanisms that control how people function, what they believe and how they make decisions.

I suspect that much of what goes under the name of social innovation (fads), or progress, has been and is being carefully researched and tested. With the assistance of formative institutions, such as schools, churches, government and all forms of media, people are being programmed and shaped into the desired beliefs, worldviews and behaviors. The unseen powers behind all of this purport to desire a more perfect society, a better and safer world. In fact, most who participate in these programs truly desire just that.

Even their official statements express the goals of public education to shape minds and morals, of media to control and shape the disbursement of widely believed information and governments to create ideal societies. When we exchange healthy relationships, and faithfulness therein, with blind loyalty we become unwitting tools of those who desire to shape and control individuals, communities and cultures. For the most part these are unknown, powerful people in the most influential institutions and organizations, whose genuine motivations cannot be truly judged.

Faithfulness is the foundation for a strong, functional relationship, such as marriage or even community. Should one partner, however, be untrustworthy, self-seeking or abusive, unchecked loyalty will only serve to sustain unhealthy patterns of oppression. The exact same principle is true within all relationships. Blind loyalty to abusive authorities or systems will only perpetuate greater abuse, and those who turn a blind eye to evil become guilt-ridden and defensive. Cognitive dissonance compels individuals to deny and/or justify inappropriate behavior until, consciences seared, honesty is nearly impossible. To avoid the discomfort of confronting ugly reality, genuine thinking is replaced with pre-packaged ideology.

The principles for creating a cultural ideologue permeate, and were perhaps perfected, in the process of creating a loyal sports fan, who supports, hopes and believes in ‘the team’ however poor their performance or slight their prospects for achieving success. Enthusiasm can be artificially provoked and sustained by attractive cheerleaders, team mascots, and emotion-rousing chants and songs. The team itself may disappoint again and again, but the fans bond and created community, which they express by wearing the team colors, attending games, donating money and so on.

The same is true for the team players. Every time an individual is successfully schooled in the art of being a ‘team player’, whether at school, in the military or within a religious organization, one sacrifices the very gifts, logic and wisdom that God provides the individual to make good choices. The team player must learn to look to one authoritative leader (or group of leaders) and reflexively, unquestioningly submit to their every directive. This may enable the creation of a well-drilled team of athletes or killers, but it does not nurture or employ the God-given gifts of discernment, reason and judgment which leads to righteous living.

The power lies in the artificially manufactured community, rather than the genuine possibility of the team’s lasting success, which is always fleeting. Ultimately, when individuality and autonomous responsibility is suppressed for ‘the greater good’ so too, usually is goodness, justice and, sometimes, life itself.

brenda linn
Guest
brenda linn

My first loyalty is to God’s truth.

All other loyalties are subject to that first.

Jewels
Guest
Jewels

Wow! You have put into words what has been bothering me for years, but couldn’t quite nail it down. Thank you.