Manipulation in the name of Christ?

It has recently been brought to my attention that I lack discernment. It has been demonstrated that I lack the ability to carefully read someone’s post and see what they really are saying. I choose to believe what I choose to believe, and can easily be manipulated.

Or so I’ve been told.

This was all demonstrated by a blogger who was so concerned about the amount of manipulation taking place in the blogosphere that he, by his own admission, “played [his readers] like a fiddle”. In his (again, his own words) “planned manipulation”, he composed a blog post that he carefully crafted to lead his readers to a conclusion that was entirely false.

He spoke no untruths directly, but very systematically put words together in a way that would lead to an untruth. He knew that his readers would believe something that was completely false, yet he intentionally did everything he could to lead them to that conclusion.

And his reasoning? He wanted to demonstrate how easily it could be done. He believes that a whole lot of bloggers are doing it all the time. And he believes that it was necessary to shame his readers into seeing what a “shallow” (his word) group of people they are.

The scenario: Controversy has been raging in a certain denomination (I’m very carefully picking words that will not prompt Google searches. Forgive the vagueness here.) over a certain spiritual gift. (It’s named after the thing that is in your mouth…got it?) And this particular person is a member of a select group of people who oversee an extremely large agency of that denomination. That agency is the arm of that denomination that sends people to foreign countries to preach the Gospel.

So this was not some young, renegade blogger pulling a stunt. No, this was a man who is supposedly worthy of honor and respect, allegedly mature in the faith, and viewed as a leader by many. And more seriously, this is a man who claims to be doing all of this in the name of Christ.

So, after making lots of public statements regarding his view of this particular gift, he decided to pull a fast one on some of his readers.

He wrote an entire post that gave the impression he had changed his position on this issue. He claimed to have had experiences far in his past that he had forgotten about. And he said that remembering that he had those experiences allowed him to finally see things from another perspective.

When I read this post, I was encouraged and hopeful. If someone so high up in a denomination could humble himself to admit that he could relate to those against whom he had previously spoken, that seemed like something that could only come from the Spirit of God. And my heart rejoiced!

I posted a comment in response, hoping to encourage him. I was sure he would take flack from many people, and I wanted to be a voice of support for him. So I wrote my comment.

The next morning, when I awoke, I found an email from this blogger telling me that I probably needed to read his next post, and that he could understand if I was embarrassed or thought he was “treacherous”.

When I read his follow-up post, I was stunned. He admitted that he had crafted the whole thing to make a point. He admitted that he had designed the whole thing to show how undiscerning people really are. He called it “planned manipulation”.

Everything that he had written in his “manipulation” was technically true. He had not technically “lied”. However, he had reported the truths in such a way as to lead the reader to believe something entirely other than the truth.

I waited several hours before replying. I was hurt. I was angry. I was embarrassed. And yes, I saw what he did as “treacherous”.

In my comments, I told him that I couldn’t see any justification in what he had done. And I asked him if Jesus had ever been deceitful like that. I didn’t think so, but put it out there anyway.

Well, it turns out that I’m even denser than the previous post pointed out. Because now I have “learned” several things:

  • “Planned manipulation” apparently is not deceit. And I was falsely accusing this man of being deceptive.
  • “Planned manipulation” is apparently completely acceptable if you are trying to make a spiritual point.
  • “Planned manipulation” is apparently what Jesus was doing when he spoke in parables.
  • “Planned manipulation” has been used by God all throughout Scripture in order to humble people and make a point.
  • It is wrong for me to claim that “planned manipulation” is not God-honoring, and I am just showing that I am rejecting the need for discernment (his words).

Well, I don’t know what your thoughts are reading those bullet points, but guess what? I think all of that is complete and utter bunk. I fully reject the idea that God ever “manipulated” anyone by intentionally leading them to a false conclusion.

And I stand completely opposed to anyone doing such in the name of Christ.

I don’t care what your point is. I don’t care what you think other bloggers are doing that is sinful. Nothing, nothing, nothing gives you the right to deliberately manipulate others and then claim that you are following God’s example.

If these are the actions of a leader in a huge denomination, then Lord help us all.

Until next time,

steve

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25 Responses to Manipulation in the name of Christ?

  1. ded says:

    Sounds like very significant evidence that some in denominationalism must manipulate in order to maintain power.

    Beyond sad. When “truth” must use tricks in order to establish the rationales for its existence, can such be really accepted as truth.

    Truth will always stand on His own.

  2. ded says:

    ?

    Left that off my question. ooops. 8^)

  3. Lew A says:

    Steve,

    It sounds like this person has to deal with arrogance. I can say that because I have to deal with it too :).

    I am not exactly sure how he is using the word “manipulation” but I am pretty sure he is confused. Here are my two cents on the list you gave:

    * “Planned manipulation” apparently is not deceit. – It may not be all the time, but it can be. You can manipulate someone into doing something they would not normally do on their own without deception, but you can also manipulate people to do something by deception.

    * “Planned manipulation” is apparently completely acceptable if you are trying to make a spiritual point. – I might agree, but this is like the movie Saw. The guy put people in a situation where they had to do something extreme to free themselves (or they would die). Like climbing through 50 feet of razor wire, naked, to escape a bomb. The character is portrayed as the hero because he gets the “low-lifes” to realize they are wasting their lives, giving the survivors a renewed appreciation for their lives. However, this concept seems antithetical to our walk with Christ.

    * “Planned manipulation” is apparently what Jesus was doing when he spoke in parables. – I completely disagree with this. Manipulation is trying to get someone to believe something they would not believe on their own. Jesus spoke in parables because the people were not ready to hear the truth (at least that’s what Jesus said).

    * “Planned manipulation” has been used by God all throughout Scripture in order to humble people and make a point. – Did he provide any scripture to support this? The only thing I can think of is when God sent a deceiving spirit (1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18). But if he thinks manipulation is separate from deception, then he cannot use this text :).

    * It is wrong for me to claim that “planned manipulation” is not God-honoring, and I am just showing that I am rejecting the need for discernment (his words). – I doubt you are rejecting the need for discernment. I guess now you know that this person is not to be trusted.

    I wonder if this person has ever heard the parable of the little boy who cried wolf?

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  4. ded, beyond sad, indeed. :( I agree with you that truth that uses tricks is not really truth.

    There are many ways that I can communicate my concerns about issues in the body of Christ. Manipulating my readers into believing something that is not true, just for the sake of telling my readers that they are shallow, undiscerning pawns is not one of those ways.

  5. Lew, great thoughts in response. Space doesn’t permit to elaborate on all of the examples this person gave, but I’ll try to summarize.

    He defended himself against the charge of “deception” by prefacing each example with “Was God sinfully deceptive when…” and then gave some of the following examples:

    –God told Adam and Eve that everything was good, and then placed them in a garden where he knew they would succumb to Satan’s deception.

    –God allowed Satan to ruin Job’s life, and didn’t reveal His reasons until after Job’s friends had criticized him heavily.

    –Jesus spoke in parables

    –the virgin birth (God didn’t reveal critical information to Joseph until after Joseph had decided to divorce Mary)

    –the incarnation (God walked the earth “in disguise”)

    I may not have answers to all of these, but I do know that many, if not most, of these examples require a tremendous amount of twisting in order to compare them to what this blogger did.

  6. By the way, I know that it may seem like I’m not “fighting fair” by writing such vague details. There is the possibility that some would view this as me distorting “my side” of the story.

    I understand that completely. If anyone feels that they need to see the other side, email me privately, and I will send you a link to the blog posts in question.

  7. Josiah says:

    Are we suprised that people are found to gullible? Jesus said as much when he called us sheep. In fact when I started to read your blog, I started in the middle and was suprised to find statements supporting planned manipulation. But open minded and given to respect of you steve, I for a second thought he may have a point here. How gullible we are especially when reading a trusted leader. This demonstrates not only that we need to be careful who we allow teach us, but also that teachers are responsible for there message; and will be judged more severely. The man’s point was a good one but I’m not sure I would dare use his method.

  8. Josiah, you do realize that the “statements supporting planned manipulation” were statements that I reject, right? Maybe I need to edit that to make sure that’s quite clear.

    I am in no way supporting “planned manipulation”. :)

  9. Sarah Rooney says:

    Wow. This is shocking and disappointing. What really gets me is that this man compared his behavior to God’s behavior – trying to argue that he was manifesting the nature of God in his actions. Any action that breaks or damages relationships is DEFINATELY not godly. God is a God of relationship, and misleading people dishonors them and damages relationship.

    I have to conclude that this man is not following the same God that I am, but rather, he is following his own mental construction / his own understanding of who God is. I think this is a common problem in a system that ordains leaders through endless intellectual study rather than spiritual maturity and holiness. I actually feel a great deal of compassion for this man – because if that’s what his god is like – then his god isn’t very trustworthy and isn’t concerned with relationship (but is only concerned with being right). Not a very loving god. Not a very loving man.

    Thank you for not posting the denomination or the man’s name. I really respect that you avoid devisiveness, while at the same time desire to openly dialogue about issues that affect the greater body of Christ.

  10. This to me is one of the gravest problems with the blogosphere. But not necessarily the way you’re thinking.

    I love to jump in when someone “sees it like I do.” It seems to fill a deep need for fellowship. There’s somebody on the opposite side of the continent that agrees with me.

    I love to jump in when somebody’s my polar opposite and I see a flaw in his proof-texting. It seems to fill a deep need to proclaim and defend the truth. I just might influence somebody on the opposite side of the continent.

    But there’s a church right here where some people agree with me and some don’t. There are some people who need me to teach them, and some that I really need to listen to.

    If someone deceives me at my church just for the sake of showing me up and humiliating me, I have some spiritual recourse for correction.

    But on the internet, we have some facsimile of fellowship with no accountability beyond the words we post.

    I agree, this guy need to reread his Bible and meditate on God’s love for us and our proper response of love for our brothers. But we (I) also must be extremely careful about the things we (I) post. Especially things that provoke an immediate response in me, whether positive or negative. And I also need to be careful in reading the blogs of those with whom I am usually in disagreement. Why do I go to their blogs anyway? To feel superior? To prove I can post a better answer?

    Thanks for your post on this matter. We need to be careful out there.

  11. Mary says:

    Wow….um….wow.

    I’m not so sure that it’s discernment that blog readers are necessarily lacking. Isn’t it just believing the best of each other and, in this case, believing that this man had no other motive in mind when he posted about looking at the issue at hand from another perspective? Steve, you believed the best when you read the post and left an encouraging comment.

    As for the examples the man gave in his defense, I would have a hard time using them to justify my own “planned manipulation.”

    and…um…wow.

  12. Josiah says:

    Steve,

    Yes I knew that you did not support those statements; though when I first glanced at them I did not recognize that and while suprised at the word manipualation thought well he could have some point. People are I think gullible creatures, not simply bloggers. Though I am certainly grieved tha manipulation would ever be the gameplan of a so called leader. Planned maipulation is what I experience when working with teenage girls who have grown up surviving abuse and neglect without the Lord. How is it a teacher in the faith uses the same method to get his way? Sorry I miscommnicated my first post.

  13. Terry says:

    The term “authentic” comes to mind and not just because I have been reading “Blue Like Jazz”.

    In it’s definition we find it means:

    not false or copied; genuine; real, reliable; trustworthy.

    From what you have said (and I don’t need to read his post) this man doesn’t line up with any of this. Magic is an illusion—divine healing is not and therefore is not magical by any means.

    Here we are trying to get back to what is really real and this guy pulls this stunt out of his imagination.

    He sounds like the type that would write a supposedly true story for the New York times about a person which is then latter found out to be a compilation of various people and situations pieced together. We almost expect it from worldly people, not Christians.

    This type of behavior doesn’t win any blog awards that I am aware of.

  14. Mike Ross says:

    Nice. I will say this: He has a point; though it is so far from hitting the mark we all miss it.

    Are people gullible? Yes, but only as a product of the environment people grow up in; namely the I.C. Teach people to be dependant on leaders like babies never weaned from milk and of course the result is easily orchestrated deception. This guy is only showing the frailty of his denomination’s knowledge of what is true.

    Uh, what about the Bereans? It’s not just bloggers who need to examine whether something is true; it is all of Christianity. The kicker is when so much of our church history is laced with ‘planned manipulation’, how can we determine what is truth?

  15. Aussie John says:

    Steve,

    I thoroughly agree with you. I must be denser than you because I refuse to “learn” what you have “learned” (with tongue firmly in your cheek).

    There are times when I don’t want to own the word “Christian” when it associates myself and many other brethren with fellows such as you have reported.

    I must say I am not surprised because his philosophy of the end justifying the means is common in this country. It seems he, he has taken on board the thinking of one of our infamous politicians who said that it was correct procedure for a politician to deceive to achieve his desired aim.

    Much of the established church in general has taken upon itself a religious political attitude where leaders manipulate and lobby to fulfill their own agendas.This fellow is evidence of that.

    Next time he speaks or writes I suppose he will announce whether what comes from him is truthful or otherwise. Even then, his answer may not be truth because his vivid imagination requires him to prove a point which is obscure to everyone else!

    By the way: Believe me! I mean what I say!

  16. Danielle B. says:

    This was well said. I appreciate the effort you made to be vaguely specific to make your point. :)

  17. marty says:

    I once heard a great definition for “a lie”; a lie is when someone knows something to be true and yet represents it differently in order to deceive.” How is manipulation any different?

    Seems to me this guy knew something to be true, a fact, and yet said something else with the intent to deceive – he lied…

    In Christ,
    -marty

  18. So here is a man calling his readers “fools” and claiming that he did so using God’s wisdom…

    Um. No. I don’t think so. Definately not.

    Rather mind blowing in it’s arrogance, actually. And we wonder why the Church in America is in the state it’s in…

    The more this sinks in, the more astonished I become. I suddenly feel the need for ashes and itchy clothing…

  19. selahV says:

    why does this not surprise me? I’d say this is a greater lesson in trust. how one person can take others from trusting to proving what isn’t trustworthy and calling it Godly manipulation is beyond me.

    The difference between this person’s manipulative post and Jesus’ parables is Jesus had an honorable point to his parables.

    Obviously, this person spent very little time reading Proverbs. Sincerely yours, selahV

  20. George says:

    Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. … Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. John 7 NRSV

    But I don’t see this as a defense for what the blogger did to his readers.

  21. Iris says:

    It is my understanding that manipulation is what the enemy uses to control people. It was never used by the Lord, for it is composed of lies and free will evaporates under its oppression. This man doesn’t know much of the Spirit, and that is sad.

  22. Eric Holcombe says:

    Steve,

    Assuming, this post isn’t a planned manipulation, ;)

    I have to say that the “planned manipulations” by this certain denomination (endorsing Clinton/Gore, curriculum strangleholds, cowardice to consider resolutions offered by men whose name is the opposite of “tall”, actions taken regarding sponsored higher education institutions, etc.) have at times spoken loudly enough for themselves that a foolish blog post by leadership is almost redundant. As for me and my house, we just couldn’t continue to feed the monster with a clear conscience.

    The issue “vaguely” referenced in your post occured after our decision to leave. I just had to shake my head on that one. It seemed to me to be one of the issues where they were clearly on the wrong side of scripture – as opposed to other “controversial” issues like boycotting amusement parks. It truly saddens me to see the continued “planned manipulations” of the believers.

  23. All, I apologize for not keeping up with the comments here. The last couple of weeks have been very busy for me, and while I’ve found the time to enter a few conversations online, I have neglected my own commenters. Please forgive me!!

    These comments are all very good. I’m intrigued by George’s mention of John 7. I have to mull that over a bit, to be honest! :) Thanks for the thought-prod, George.

    To the rest of you, thank you so much for your thoughts here. And it looks like I managed to keep the Googlers away with my vagueness! ;) Whew!

  24. It’s ironic, that to prove that bloggers manipulate people, he did the same.

    And I agree, it’s complete and utter bunk – just because he’s a leader doesn’t mean he has the right to pull this stunt. Like it or not, people have lost trust in him.

    If journalists were to pull a stunt like that, they’d be fired.

    But I guess different standards are applied here.

  25. MC, nice to see you here. :) I asked this blogger privately if he would commit adultery in order to show people how easily adultery can be committed. He thought I was exaggerating the point. Ironically someone just asked him on his blog if he would do the same thing regarding murder. He doesn’t see the point being made. It’s sad, really.

    And yes, you are right about journalists. Of course, you would know since you are one, right?

    Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to add to the conversation anytime.

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