FAQs – How do an abuser’s authority, theology, and pathology interrelate?

The following is a comment I made on Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: Which came first, the thug or the theology?

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This evening, I spent some time skimming through the first 40-50 comments, and thinking about the original topic of the post. The one about theology/pathology before … well, I wouldn’t say the thread went “off-topic,” but more like went “on-exploration-and-application.” Anyway, it occurred to me that there are at least three possibilities for the theology/pathology chicken/egg question.

The first is more along the lines of Lord Acton’s maxim about power: “All power tends to corrupt; absolutely power corrupts absolutely.” You may start out with well reasoned and good-intentioned theology, but once in a position of power, the system goes to closure and the creative power goes to inertia, which brings corruption and corrosion to the system. Theological ascendency when in a position of authority leads to pathology.

The second is more along the lines of author Frank Herbert, who explored in his Byzantine *Dune* saga just about every major system of power dynamics from religious/mystical to technological to political to tribal to financial to ecological to physical. According to interviews with Herbert, “Power is a magnet that draws the corruptible.” Power draws pathological theologians and practitioners.

The third is one of my own device that I’m still experimenting with on how to present. It is a riff on the problems I’ve seen in people in leadership roles that I have no other way to interpret but as them demonstrating sociopathological behaviors – no apparent conscience touched by issues of right/wrong, no apparent compassion and empathy for others who are suffering or how their own abusive actions induce suffering. At this point, my quotable is: “Corrupt people desire power and find a path for their pathology, sometimes in a theology.”

So, FWIW, I’m wondering if really this is a triangulation of three items instead of a duel between two: position/role of authority, system of theology, and personal pathology. Seems it could start with any of the three elements, depending on the person and his/her situation, and go in any direction from there to pick up other elements in different permutations. Maybe there’s a chicken, an egg, and a road to cross?

Meanwhile, I’m still musing my way through whether there are “inherently abusive fault lines” in *every* theology that we need to be aware of and beware of overemphasizing them. For instance, I noted these on a Twitter conversation about this thread:

* Complementarianism overcranked automatically embodies misogyny.

* “Flat structure” to promote peer dialog can get hijacked by celebrities.

* Missional experts can travel so much for teaching that they lose the local grounding that gives them their authority.

Look for the points of irony, and that may be our indicators of fault lines in our theology …

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