Tag Archives: leadership

Do You Need An Enemy? U2 Songs, Bono Lyrics, and Fear

Apparently Bono has been thinking about enemies lately, maybe both the idea of enemies and some potential enemies, or maybe even real enemies.

Let’s look at three songs from three consecutive albums.

From Fast Cars , a bonus track on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004):

My cell is ringing
I need to know who’s calling
My garden’s overgrown
I go out on my belly crawling
I got CCTV, pornography, CNBC
I got the nightly news
To get to know the enemy

I’ll argue that’s a series of negative images, and it might be troubling, at least in some cases, that the news media is defining and situating an enemy for us.

From Cedars of Lebanon on No Line On The Horizon (2009):

Choose your enemies carefully cos they will define you
Make them interesting cos in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend

I’d say that’s a sobering thought, one that’s been on my mind recently.

From Cedarwood Road on Songs Of Innocence (2014):

Sleepwalking down the road
Not waking from these dreams
‘Cause it’s never dead it’s still my head
It was a warzone in my teens
I’m still standing on that street
Still need an enemy
The worst ones I can’t see
You can… you can

What a stunning confession, and one that rings true, and might be universal. Maybe humans need enemies as much as they need friends.

Overall, that’s an interesting collection from three consecutive albums: Getting to know the enemy; choosing one’s enemy; needing an enemy. Is anyone else writing songs, from a similar angle, about enemies?

Cedarwood Road is interesting in that respect: It talks about fear as well as friendship—the song is dedicated to one of Bono’s childhood friends.

Earlier in Cedarwood Road:

I was running down the road
The fear was all I knew
I was looking for a soul that’s real
Then I ran into you
And that cherry blossom tree
Was a gateway to the sun
And friendship once it’s won
It’s won… it’s one

And later in Cedarwood Road:

If the door is open it isn’t theft
You can’t return to where you’ve never left
Blossoms falling from a tree they cover you and cover me
Symbols clashing, bibles smashing
Paint the world you need to see
Sometimes fear is the only place we can call home 

Maybe that last line could be the key to Bono’s thoughts and feelings about enemies: “Sometimes fear is the only place we can call home.”

That’s a sad yet accurate description of human affairs, and, of course, many leaders want our attention as they describe their solutions.

But the leaders who want to tell us why fear is a bad home should start by explaining their own actions based on their own fears—before they paint the solution they want us to see.

Undue Influence And Free Will

Following my recent post on undue influence as a possible legal recourse in certain situations, I want to give some additional and complementary perspective.

Here’s an excerpt from a book by Robert Kane, philosopher and acclaimed teacher at the University of Texas at Austin:

“Now it may occur to you that, to some extent, we do live in such a world, where we are free to make choices but may be manipulated into making many of them by advertising, television, spin doctors, salespersons, marketers, and sometime even friends, parents, relatives, rivals, or enemies.”

He easily could have added professors, bosses, ministers, preachers, gurus, and self-identified prophets.

Kane continues:

“One sign of how important free will is to us is that people feel revulsion at such manipulation and feel demeaned by it when they find out it has been done to them. They realize that they may have thought they were their own persons because they were choosing in accord with their own desires and purposes, but all along their desires and purposes had been manipulated by others who wanted them to choose exactly as they did. Such manipulation is demeaning because, when subjected to it, we realize we were not our own persons; and having free will is about being your own person.”

The book excerpt is from Kane’s A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will (Oxford University Press, 2005).

In my previous post on undue influence, I quoted Steve Hassan, counselor and cult-deprogramming expert (with several books on the subject), saying he believes people who join cults and high-control groups do not in fact choose freely.

Another key insight into undue influence is found on a website devoted to Jonestown & Peoples Temple and maintained by San Diego State University’s Department of Religious Studies.

On the site, in an article on undue influence, Patrick O’Reilly, PhD, writes, “The legal way to view undue influence is to see it as an act of deceit and manipulation in order to suppress an individual’s free will and replace that free will with the goal of the perpetrator.”

Consider this especially when contrasting a stated goal and a hidden agenda. Such a contrast is certainly possible in many kinds of churches. If a leader manipulates a group with a stated goal while trying to bring about a hidden agenda, he might be guilty of undue influence.

O’Reilly also describes the element of “siege mentality” present in cases of undue influence, and it is pretty creepy when considered as a means of converting others to one’s own goal:

“Anyone who is not part of the perpetrator’s plan is a potential or actual threat to the victim.”

In other words, the undue influencer says, I’m the one who is trying to help you, and those others are trying to lead you astray.

A false dilemma or false choice of us versus them has been established.

Said to an emotionally vulnerable person, that can be manipulation and deceit at their worst.

  1. People are manipulable.
  2. Some people in positions of influence and leadership have mastered the techniques of manipulation.
  3. When a person is manipulated in certain ways and in certain types of situations, he might have grounds for legal action.


Sunday morning sermon prep

Sermon prep for the congregation:

Pastor Matt Chandler demonstrates healthy leadership and genuine wisdom

Pastor Matt Chandler has done evangelical and Reformed leaders a huge service, if they’ll pay attention to what he recently said.

In a recent sermon, Chandler admitted that church discipline had not been handled properly, and he asked forgiveness. As you read the list of things for which he asked forgiveness, consider the implications of each one:

  • Will you forgive us where our counsel turned into control?
  • Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize the limits and scope of our authority?
  • Will you forgive us where we allowed our policies and process to blind us to your pain, confusion and fears?
  • Will you forgive us where we acted transactionally rather than tenderly?
  • Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize you as the victim and didn’t empathize with your situation?

I haven’t been this encouraged by the words of evangelical and/or Reformed teachers in a long, long time.

Chandler gets it. Even if he and his elders really messed up, Chandler is admitting it, apparently making it right, and showing the way forward.

That is leadership.

I’m sure some people could accuse me of consistently negative comments about Christian leaders.

But I don’t want people to pay for their sins. I want people to make real changes that will prevent many bad situations from happening.

I want good leaders instead of bad leaders. I want humane leaders instead of ideological leaders.

I want leaders who know how to leave bad ideas, policies, and practices behind.

If leaders are too frozen in their dogmatic perspectives or too in love with their reputations to remain humble and open to concerns and warnings, then the second best thing I can do is point out their contradictions, failings, and secrecy in hopes of keeping others away from their ministries.

All humans have failings, and all wolves have fangs.

Sure, I’m just a tiny bit of plankton in the Internet Ocean, but I have to yell when I see people being misled and manipulated.

Matt Chandler’s recent sermon encourages me. He shows us all that he’s willing to place his flock above his ego.

Isn’t that Christ-like? To lay down oneself for others?

Matt Chandler also startles me into realizing that real leadership and insight still exist in some evangelical/Reformed churches.

Sneakiness is a characteristic of authoritarian churches: Mark Driscoll’s unannounced ‘stealth sermons’

As Warren Throckmorton recently noted:

“Mark Driscoll’s last two appearances in church were stealth sermons. At Thrive, he spoke in a main session but wasn’t on the program. Gold Creek Community Church leaders would not disclose Driscoll’s identity as guest speaker in advance.”

Secrecy of that sort has no place in any healthy organization.

Call it what it is: deception.

That’s why I cannot and will not trust anything Thrive or Gold Creek Community Church leaders say or do, past, present, or future, until they clearly identify and apologize for their mistake of sneaking a wolf into the fold.

And you should not trust Thrive or Gold Creek Community Church leaders, either.

Be smarter. Do not trust people just because they hold Bibles and have big congregations.

A quick question for pastors and ministers

Reflecting on the past few years, I’m stunned at the lack of basic character in your profession.

If you scream from your pulpits about the sins of the world and unorthodox beliefs in other churches, when will you scream from your pulpits about the sins of Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Bill Gothard, Bob Jones University, Anglicans in the U.S. supporting the jailing of gays in Africa, the startlingly non-biblical beliefs (before their son’s troubles) of the Duggars, Doug Phillips, and the Roman Catholic pedophile priests?

I know, you can’t because you’ve been too busy picking on Rob Bell about universalism — you know, universalism, an idea, a belief, a way of thinking that does not bully or degrade or sexually assault anyone.

You’re too busy critiquing liberal theology in the mainline Protestant denominations — much easier, granted, than addressing the real problems in your own conservative houses.

Or it’s simpler than that. You’ve been friends with the conservatives. You’ve been enemies of the liberals. Defend your friends and kick your enemies. Like Jesus said, you’re just like everyone else. You’re like this guy.

You frauds.

Your Bible says, “Moreover, [the Christian leader] must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

That’s I Timothy 3:7.

You’ve failed that standard.

You are not well thought of by outsiders or insiders.

You are a disgrace.

Mars Hill Church staffers get six bully-free weeks; God has no comment

Today, Pastor Mark Driscoll announced he will be taking a six-week break from leadership at Mars Hill Church.

Thus, staffers, pastors, and elders have been provided, temporarily, with a bully-free environment.

But, as Driscoll has noted before, he is the brand, so who knows if the church, or God, can survive without him.

Heaven’s press officer, noting the Almighty’s long-standing bias toward Western Christianity, said The Lord will not be commenting on Driscoll today because this is his (relatively new) day of rest.

The press officer added that ever since America invented armed drones, God delegates the smiting of brown people during His nap times and vacations.