The book came onto my radar from the Presbyterian Writers section of the Presbyterian Connection paper. R. Glenn Ball and Darrell Puls (2017, Cascade books) Let us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We can Do About it. 

The book came at the right time in the healing journey.  As I reflect on what has happened, and process through in a healthy way reading this study and stories (both qualitative and quantitative data) it affirmed I was not crazy (or at least not about those times in my life.

Everyone has aspects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), for it is the whisps that allow for a healthy outgoing self. What happens though is that there is a high percentage in the ministry that were found to be full blown NPD. Now, I am going to stop a mind tangent that will happen for some, these are different predators in the church than the pedophile cleric/elders. NPD’s are actually quite puritanical. As Ball and Puls would point out, there may be a sliver of cross over, but the atrocities coming to light in the Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist, Jehovah Witness and Mega-churches around pedophilia are a different mental illness than what the scope of this study is exploring.

This is a must read for anyone in leadership, or prayerfully discerning leadership. It shows what can go wrong, what are warning signs for the toxicity and closed tables/pews that those with NPD strive to achieve. For it is by keeping out the new and fresh through harassment, haranguing, and flat out lies that allows them to maintain control to the detriment of the community, oh and it is never their fault.

I state it as part of the therapeutic journey because it was not only ministers I have served under, or been apart of community with I noted that these stories resonated with. Also the “financial” controllers of certain religious groups, and leaders within the scope of Non-profits (which the charitable model grew out of the religious models). It is the ill health that creates the chaos to feed the ego of the individual(s) so they can create the solution. The solution also tends to be back as “it has always been”.

“In an important sense, therefore, organizations exist in the minds of their members, organizational identities are parts of their individual members’identities, and organizational needs and behaviours are the collective needs and behaviours of their members acting under the influence of their organizational self-image.

-(Ball and Puls, p.139)

That is simply to say. An organization is shaped by its members, in a healthy organization it will reflect a collaboration between leadership and members. In an unhealthy organization the disunity and chaos will fuel the image the narcissist needs to exists for their own fulfillment as their self-love is a deep rooted self-loathing rotting out themselves, and stretching out to others.

The destructive force is what was taught in the gospels by Brother Jesus when he spoke about a house against itself cannot stand. That is a house designed to only create worth in a few, will eventually collapse into a place of harm and destruction.

Unhealthy people, then, are attracted to unhealthy churches, while the emotionally healthy will tend to either leave an unhealthy church or hunker down and make the best of it.

-(Ball and Puls, p.139)

And that is the summation of why these leaders continue to thrive. Habit keeps healthy people in unhealthy situations. Much like the conditioning and gas lighting done to the victim of domestic violence not to flee. The only way to help a person with a personality disorder is first they must want to work with you for healing, the next is by rigged boundaries.

The healthy MUST make the decision to abandon ship.

And warn any they know that their be dragons there…it is unhealthy water do not go there.

Are we strong enough to demand courageously safe and healthy sanctuaries?

 

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Image result for heroes in crisis 8

Flash Fact: Puddlers scraped molten pig iron , taking out chunks of carbon. They removed the flaws, the weak points in the metal, turned it into malleable iron.  But the thing about Puddlers was: they did’t live. The process of doing that, of removing the vulnerabilities it was harsh and hot. Breathing that air, working that furnace, it made them sick, killed them young. Almost as if what was wrong with the iron went into them.

One part to go. I won’t be giving away any harsh reveals or spoilers for the readers as we journey into what actually happened in sanctuary. What happens into the soul of a person who has lost everything, and now has no lightning rod.

That is the hardest part of healing. Sure, we can always say it is for ourselves we need to heal. This is truth. Yet, it can become a harder struggle when there is nothing tangible keeping us in this world. I for one know I am this far along my healing journey due to the love I have for my wife and kids, and the love they have for me. If they were not in my life, or if during this process I was to lose them I do not know if I would bother carrying through. It would be easy to simply give in to the rolling darkness, and the pain that exists within.

This is the allegory of the Puddler. The idea of them succumbing to the process of purging out the pain, the impurities and vulnerabilities. That is the journey of healing, as we go along and release, who is there to aid us in carrying the burdens? Who are the social supports we have? For as Sanctuary has shown the heroes, it is not just about having a space to dump, but who is there when you leave the room? What is there for you when you leave the room?

Image result for heroes in crisis 8When you make the choice to seek healing, who is there for you on the journey? It may start as the professional/paid supports out numbering the social supports. But as true healing happens, the social supports need to outgrow the professionals. When I worked building life recovery groups, the outcome was not for the person to only have the 12 step group be the only support. Rather for it to always be there, but for the person to go find new networks to flourish in as well.

The Puddler that cannot escape the harsh heat and air, succumbs to it was they take on the darkness. This is the person in healing who is not ready to face the darkness within, who does not have supports to carry through to the light…It also speaks to the seeping in, the transference of trauma and pain to others who are unaware of the journey you have chosen to begin…or choosing a social support that appears safe, but is not. Like the data files dumped on to the internet from Sanctuary about the heroes’ darkness, so is vicarious trauma lurking to go through like a lightning storm.

The rolling story of healing-pain-seeking is well laid out through the familiar heroes we have grown up with. The question is, what lessons are we taking away for a better today and tomorrow?


In the course of reading/writing for progressive religious it is sometimes challenging realizing that there is few Canadian authors. Yes, I am aware of Gretta Vosper, but she has gone to the outliers of progressive into spiritual atheism, the question arises what if (or I still hold to be true in faith) a Holy Mystery? This is the background for a belated Christmas present from my daughter’s godfather to me (belated because I think he read it before, which is what happens with us and books).

Image result for j. steiner calgary authorJ.Gregory Steiner, SJ’s (2018, Archway) The Evolution of Belief: A Christian Perspective for the Future takes a look at the evolution of theology and doctrine within his home faith tradition (Catholicism, he was after all a Jesuit) and how science complements and expands upon this understanding. What it means moving forward. It is not an “AHA!” text for anyone who has read other progressives ala the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, or John Shelby Spong, but what it is, is another testimony (yes let’s reclaim that word) of a person sharing how their belief has been shaped by life. How they can see how things do not have to be at war or odds, but are interwoven in a tapestry, and how personal and corporate beliefs evolve and change over time.

I also have a partiality to the book as the writer is a fellow Calgarian, I encourage you to explore it. If you are a deeply read progressive, it is good to be encouraged through the stories of others, if you are just curious, it is an excellent way to begin to bring cohesion to your worlds. Breaking down barriers and allowing flow.

Buy the book here.

 


Many were calling for Bobbi’s head. Canada does not have a death penalty, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t raised many times in regards to gun crimes. It was hard to progress with charges when the victim was non-co-operative, he asked for the possibility with the Crown Prosecutor for a house arrest style situation at St. Jude’s that would allow Bobbi to complete school, and work off compensation as a janitor.

Jacobs pressed the button to raise his bed up so he could look out the window with his one good eye.  He watched the armoured figured fly across. Grinned slightly. The bullet had shattered his left eye and knocked him on his butt. Bobbi had attempted to save him, who knew there would be a supernatural intervention so love could overcome hate. His fingers traced the eye patch, he could add pirate to his job list.

Fidgeting in the uncomfortable office chair was retired constable, Sean James. “Many thought you were a goner.”

Jacobs laughed. “Can’t be that morose and dark all the time, sometimes a new beginning means literally that.”

“She’s settling in well.” James said, while picking at a band aid on the back of his hand.

“But can we afford her?” Jacobs already new what his head Elder thought, finances was his concern. Lee never worried about those, he always stood by the flow method, if he created space for the need it would flow in. “Melanie Moon will be an excellent Co-Minister of St. Jude’s.” She had stood the line, the people trusted her. It made sense, and was a good transition from her work after the election of chaos and hate.

James just shook his head and grinned. If he wanted to be an elder at a church that was easy on the ulcer he would’ve joined a United one that y’know actually panicked about things as nickles and dimes in offering plates as opposed to jumping in head first. “Ashram has been bulldozed.” James said. “Break ground on the retired agent residence, will also have a side door working with the agency for any Supras and their spouses.” Jacobs nodded, a residence with on sight psychologists 7 days a week in their on-site medical clinic.  Surprisingly the idea had come from Beth Venus, who was now living in a room in the newly rebuild Manse of St. Jude. Having seen what happened to the old guard, she wanted something better. Since Speedster had left her the property, James worked with her to create the design.

“How’s Bobbi?” Jacobs asked. The boy had not come to see him since he had been loaded into the ambulance. He was worried for him.

James moved from the chair and walked towards the door, the other 3 beds in the room were still empty. He opened the door and stepped out. Jacobs heard some talking before walking back in with Bobbi. The lad locked eyes on Jacobs good eye.

“Father Jacobs I am soo—”

Jacobs interrupted. “Don’t apologize. You tried to save lives. You are working off your debt. I hold no debt or reason for forgiveness over you.” Jacobs waited a few beats as this boy looked stunned. Even after the few years at St. Jude’s, he was not used to compassion in response to what would appear against the grain. Or missing the mark.

“Bobbi, friends?”

Jacobs extends his hand to Bobbi. A shaking teenage hand takes the one with i.v. lines in the back of it.

One Enigmatic Tale Ends

Others await to be told.


“Go now in Holy Love of the Creator, the blessing of Brother Jesus, and the Family of the Holy Spirit. Go. Embrace. Simply say, I love you.”

Bobbi was from small town middle of nowhere’s in Alberta. Barely 16 years old when he fled home as his Dad had literally tried to beat the gay out of him.  A preacher’s kid Bobbi always found it ironic that he found himself on the steps of St. Jude’s after being jumped a few blocks away and beaten for trying to flirt.

Father Jacobs had shown compassion. Not what he had learned to expect from the church.  The folks worked with Bobbi to get a place of his own and into school, and found a lawyer so he could become emancipated. Bobbi still has visceral shakes when he remembers his Dad and brothers storming the Sunday Service looking for their “daughter and baby sister”.  Elder James and Father Jacobs blocked the isle. They had always spoken non-violence, but when the four on two attempted to swing, Jacobs used what he described as Aikido, a passive form of martial arts that uses ones own energy against them.

Bobbi’s dad and brothers left that day bruised in ego and body. Saying they had no family in this city. Bobbi should’ve felt pain, instead he felt… FREEDOM. He had a new family.

Now the trench coat had flown off. A yellow vest running towards the altar area.

He had hit his truck and gotten the .22 his Dad had given taught all his children to shoot for hunting, and Bobbi still enjoyed hunting. The wild meat made for some amazing community meals.

Violence is never the answer, Love is. Yet the day when they came for Bobbi…Father Jacobs and Elder James stood their ground.

He fumbles a bullet in and bolt actions. Exhales and fires at the running form.

As a yellow vest falls into the crowd and vanishes.

The pop shattered the moment.

“No.” was it even audible as the rifle falls to the parking lot. Commands to hands behind head. Bobbi is moving through muscle memory of compliance.

As where once there was four, now there was only three…


The Lenten Season officially comes to a close with what is known as the “scourging of the altar” concludes Lent. The betrayal is nigh, and the Good Friday awaits…but let us not skip ahead, but fall back to the week that was…and will be again.

Saturday before the Triumphal entry upon a burrow known as a an ass

A morning of flashbacks uncontrollably cracking through

beating my body like a desert hot wind against skin

cracking skin

letting the pain out

need to put it back in

Wonderful conversations

In workshops around

TheGood Grief Journey in to the New

What it means to be church?

Hold the Holy Silence?

Grow circles of Support?

Live through change–as pieces of Grief, pastoral care.

Holy Spirit things

Make it through

Lost to the wilderness…

Unable to resist

the pain renders through an already ravage system

Palm Sunday

Some say a Triumphal Entry,

Brother Jesus coming with those cast away from society on one side of the city

with dying reminders of the oppression of religion and Empire along the streets.

While Empire celebrated and marched on the other side,

flexing their muscle to bully and intimidate

Usually waving palms and singing Hosannas,

Folding crosses

and celebrating the Prince of Peace

Rolling through my own entries

Memories physically, emotionally and spiritually crippling

scant moments of lucid awakeness

before once more returning to fitful sleeps of thoughts creating

Waking nightmares

That have to be lived once more

what truly is one’s own entry of triumph

to sing Hosanna?

Monday’s Temple Toss

Human functions of worship

not used to include

but to exclude and bear burden

not to a sacred sanctuary but a money pit

a den of thieves

Jesus causes a stampede and throws tables chasing away

those that desecrate Holy Love.

Me and Little man,

convalescing,

still trying to get Pandora’s demons back into her box

seeing what will remain to work through.

Nothing creates sacred sanctuary

like a boy and his dad

watching cartoons

Discourse Tuesday

Where Jesus whither’s figs, talks with religious types and the end of oppression…

Body won’t let the demons reveal

it tremors with weakness,

still unsure if fully up,

after the recycle of harsh symptoms sans seizure racked my body

Shrink shows tools

that are of use,

to unpack the thoughts

and bring them to better use

An election goes

the way of awry

and people are left with depression inside

eating fries and sipping coffee

even your friend admits you don’t look healthy.

Why won’t the demons either pop or go back in the box?

The constant teariness is most obnox.

Spy Wednesday

Some would call it Holy,

but it is tied to the ending of ideals

and goodness…

of the oppressors plotting the End Game

for a rambling labourer turned rabbi of peace and love

perhaps a bit on the nose,

but it is a time of sipping coffee and inverting the game

plotting to build belonging

by shattering oppressive stereotypes

the demons are beginning to crawl back in

the one’s the body lets me deal,

crumble to dust

with the tools given

to explode the thoughts….

Wilderness time closes…

as we prepare the table

Maundy Thursday

Short form of Latin Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos (A New Commandment I give you)

The demons I cannot handle,

are locked away once more

for a healthier time to pick those scabs

A Day of rest

refresh

await the Holy Table to be set

and the water of the first sacrament to be poured

the words, A New Commandment I give you…

is the one to love.

Jesus showed

by humility of washing feet

to know and show love

The unfamiliarity

in the hot sanctuary

not what was expecting

yet the words around Gethsemane

and prayer

being awake and present

bringing it real

not just gospel story real,

but in everyday life

will we be willing to truly sit with

be present and awake with,

one another…

with ourselves?

 

 


Beth nods to Moon, a trench coated figure moving in the far back with a ball cap pulled down. Retired Constable Sean James followed the gaze, he knew security was good and would get the individual. Due to the dress looked very androgenous, but they had rounded up many that had decided to cause a ruckus.

Jacobs was in Jacobs form. The Holy Spirit was moving through him, Beth thinks as she continues to scan the crowd. She chuckled at the thought. This old broken down writer turned preacher she knew very little about who looked her in the eye when she was in the Bionic Knight armour and said no to her offer of help. Now today he was holding a parking lot Mass of Hope he called it. The Open Table of Love. It sounded corny as it went through her mind, but the corn bread was real.

Another break out of campfire hymn singing. As it quiets down, Jacobs picks up the bread “On the night he was betrayed, betrayed out of fear and hate for change, for the old ways dying away. For those oppressive powers and control authorities realizing they needed to release and let go and let come the new Holy Love. Jesus took bread and broke it. This is the bread of hope.” As if on cue lunch bags, snacks, you name it started coming out, and a potluck smorg was shared with all. It was St. Jude’s way. Communion was not just a simple piece of bread it was eating, like the feeding of the masses miracle. Jacobs handed the bread to Moon and James who let it out to the crowd, as well as the baskets of sandwiches.

Moon smiled as she watched the bread and food move into the crowd. The other reason St. Jude’s was so relevant and real, as she had begun to understand as the area MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) wasn’t because of some Platonic, Metaphysical or Western-Constantinian Theology…it was simple love through ensuring folks could get to treatment, medical appointments, kids were cared for, and when months were tight in the socio-economically diverse area bills were covered and food was in pantries. She had once asked Jacobs to see a budget sheet, he burst out laughing and said, “Talk to Elder James, he gets heart palpitations at least 8 times a day with how that thing is bent, broken and abused.” When she pushed on how they still survived.

He gave this grin with a chuckle. It wasn’t cockiness. It was a depth of humility. It was the type of look when he locked eyes on you that you truly believed it was all going to be alright and the good would win. “Because we give.” It made no sense to her political mind, or her basic undergrad economics mind, yet here was the result. The more they gave the more…they had in tangible and intangible ways. Almost like there truly is enough for everyone in the world.

He nodded to Beth Venus. The next part. “Then he took the cup, knowing that his blood was about to be spilled. That he was to lose his life for simply sharing the story of Holy Love and belonging. This is the cup of promise. Drink and be at the table together as family.” Beth got volunteers to begin rolling out coolers with juice, pop and water to share.

Sean James admitted Jacobs has driven him batty the entire time he has known him, from his reporter days forward.  James also knew if he did something it was with conviction and belief of actually helping people. His eyes watched the crowd reacting. Lee held that through love you dissolved hate. James thought he was nuts, and said “I told you so.” After St. Jude’s bombing and as the crowd’s gathered today.

It had looked like it was going to snow, but it had held off.

And now what he was seeing.

She noted tears in people’s eyes at the simple acts. Those in hate garb, some let it drop off as they made eye contact for the food. Simple, kindness.

Moon, James, and Venus note the trench coat drop off, the yellow vest, the cap off…

The costume underneath.

She was already vibrating wanting to dodge at super speed towards Jacobs. Beth could hear her words through magic vibration. “this life took my Johnny.” She had known her friend was hurting. But had been improving, and had entered this place of what Venus believed was contentment. Looking at the situation now it was resignation of having a plan on a place to misdirect her anger and denial.

She had promised no powers.

But here was the Speedster flying towards Jacobs ready to tear him to pieces.

An audible…

“johnny”

“Go now in Holy Love of the Creator, the blessing of Brother Jesus, and the Family of the Holy Spirit. Go. Embrace. Simply say, I love you.”

As a yellow vest falls into the crowd and vanishes.

The pop shattered the moment.