Slip of the Tongue, or Just Slippery?: A short look at a hypothetical study based on Wade Burleson’s “Prayer/Pastoral Abuse” synergism (PART THREE of series)

“It might be the reason there’s a problem with excessive pastoral authority is a lack of interest in praying for one’s pastor. 🙂 Maybe?”

-Wade Burleson, eChurch Pastor,, 10/14/2013, 8:26 am

Before reading this third installment of the series–which concerns Wade Burleson’s extremely disturbing quote above, and which went wholly unchallenged by the purveyors of The Wartburg Watch, Dee and Deb, who laud and congratulate commenter, Eagle (former self-avowed atheist) on his upcoming baptism, while at the same time presumably sending the message that, in the interest of Dee’s brand of Christian love and solidarity, he may be forced to suck up some of the culpability for his pastor’s unholy tyranny should the situation arise.  And let it be known yet again, that neither Dee nor Deb to my knowledge offered one singe rebuttal to this quote; raised no hand of inquiry, nor even demanded a brief explanation.  And I am supposed to congratulate Eagle on his Baptism?  What am I to think, though?  Of course, that we should all acknowledge Christ and be free…but free from the exact same kind of tyranny which Wade declares in this quote and the exact same kind which Dee and Deb cannot fathom is actually tyrannical at all, for Wade after all is just such a kind fellow.  And of course we all know that the plumb line for TRUTH and LOVE, and the single greatest indication that a leader is a good leader is our subjective opinion of  how pleasant his demeanor is, and how many times he pats you on the shoulder and calls you “friend”.

Congratulations, Eagle.  Really.  I mean it.  Now, stop listening to Dee and Deb (and most definitely Wade) and continue on your journey to think for yourself.  Don’t let all the Wartburg love-bombing cloud your senses…because this is just what happens.  You feel all warm and fuzzy…and then WHAM! the next minute your spiritual “authority” is demanding that you stop forcing him to hurt you by disobeying his “divine calling” according to your pervasively depraved nature; and your blog queen friends are right next to him nodding with sympathetic looks and and murmuring, “He’s right, you know.”

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes…before your read this third installment, be sure you’ve read the previous two.

I have mentioned before what I think Wade’s intention was in submitting this quote for all the world to see and wonder just how in the hell anyone who actually likes people could believe such a peculiar thing, but it bears repeating again.  What I submit Wade is doing here is attempting to draw a direct connection between the laity’s interest in prayer (by which he really means:  you’re not praying!) for their pastor and his level of authoritarianism.  This notion he presents, with his patronizing smiley face and the snarky “Maybe?”, as theoretical.  This is because even Wade knows, I hope, that there is no actual, empirical, objective, or even reasonable way to measure such a correlation:  prayer as it inversely relates to a given pastor’s degree of psychopathic narcissism or sadism.

Nevertheless, let’s take a gander at how it might develop should we buck the odds and attempt to make such a correlation, in accordance with accepted university-level research standards.  I have a doctorate, so I am familiar with such things to some extent.  Hmm…let’s see what I can recall off the top of my head.

First, of course, you would need to outline the experiment in a formal proposal for the purposes of securing funds, which…good luck on getting that grant money.  You may want to hit up Liberty University or the SBC for this one, because a secular college (that’s code for a college that actually has empirical standards for the execution of studies and demands valid statistical data in the analysis) will do little more than call security on you depending on how hard it is for you to take “no” for an answer.  But let’s assume you find some complicit institution which is sympathetic to your totally irrational epistemology.

Then you need a control group.  You’d need to get a pastor willing to fake authoritarianism, and a congregation willing to fake prayers.  So you’d actually need two control groups, then.  And in both cases, considering this is church we are talking about, one could make the argument that the control groups are organized around wholly unethical behavior which will likely lead to the affliction of emotional/psychological abuse on the part of certain test subjects.  Which I’m pretty sure disqualifies the study right out of the gate if my memory of Internal Review Board codes of ethics serves; not to mention you’d really be making more work for yourself because now you’d need to do two more studies–because the suspense would kill you–on the degree of abuse perpetrated on church members by pastors who fake leadership in the church (i.e. preach a bunch of shit they don’t really believe)  or members who fake prayer or an interest in prayer for their pastors (i.e. say they’ll pray for him while crossing their fingers behind their back) just so they can make a few bucks participating in a study on the psychology of and social relationships within a hyper-authoritarian Christian cult…a study which is, itself, abusive.

See how Wade’s innocent little remark only very lightly masks a vast, vast ocean of metaphysical and epistemological chaos?  I submit that there is no way a man who would make such a suggestion can be operating from a rational world-view.  That there are people out there who really believe such things acting as God’s proxy for real, life human beings should scare people.

Next, you’d need to identify the Pastor’s (the one in question) natural disposition according to accepted professional clinical standards and definitions/labels, and which has been vetted and reviewed by psychiatric experts.  That is, you would need a reference personality by which you could gauge this Pastor’s standard deviation from this reference to the degree the laity withdraws their “interest” in praying–and you’d need to, if you wanted to precisely measure Wades’ glittering jewel of philosophical insanity, make some kind of quantifiable distinction between an “interest” in prayer and actual prayer.  And so the study’s sample size would need to be limited to those pastors who have been professionally and clinically deemed to posses such a natural disposition…for there wouldn’t be much of a deviation to record if the natural disposition of the pastor was already that of a psychopathic narcissist.  And given the rise in popularity of neo-Reformation teaching and preaching, and the ubiquity of neo-Calvinist despots literally and figuratively littering the landscape of the modern American church, good luck in finding some genuinely compassionate elders.  Before you rounded up enough test subjects to make the study statistically valid, you’d run out of land.  You’d have to sample from other countries and that’s a whole new set of criteria you’d have to meet, as there isn’t necessarily reciprocity between domestic and foreign Review Boards, I’m afraid.  But you might get lucky.

So, as I was saying, you’d have to exclude your psychopaths, narcissists, borderlines, sadists, dependents, depressives, PTSDs, anxiety cases, schizoids, molesters, violent porn addicts, drunks, pharmaceutical dependents, and your general, run-of-the-mill assholes…all of which of course would require an extensive amount of professional vetting.  I’m not sure if you are familiar with the kinds of specialists you’d need wrangle into your corner in order to accomplish such a thing, but as Rodney Dangerfield once said, “I assure you, it’s not the Boy Scouts”.  And these psychiatric egg-heads don’t come cheap; get ready to grease a few palms and fork it over for expensive steak dinners and a more than a few hundred-dollar bottles of wine.  If you are an attractive female, you may need to consider, er, other ideas in order to curry favor with expert adjuncts should you find yourself running short of grant money.

(That was a joke, okay.  Just a joke.)

Then you’d need to both qualify and quantify “excessive pastoral abuse”, and also “prayer”…yes, yes I’m afraid you will.  You must understand that for the kind of exacting study Wades impressive divine musings demand you cannot leave anything up to the notion that certain ideas are just perfunctorily understood.  And so, yes, an equation for prayer will need to be produced by you and your fine research mentors for the purposes of generating the charts and graphs to fill your impressive end notes, first and foremost to cause an impressed murmuring among our esteemed reviewers, and second so we may understand just what we mean by “prayer” with respect to the study.  Which is important, believe me.  Will the monosyllabic prayer of our little three-year-old Cheerios munchers fit the bill, or do we require the solemn chanting of our more seasoned citizens?  Will the prayers of women be permitted for inclusion, or are we assuming that there will be far too little time a woman can give to the kind of prayer a mighty man of God requires, given the weight of his stature and unsearchable wisdom; and after all shouldn’t she be spending a little more time minding her biblical role and a little less time worrying about what a man with supreme God-like authority over her AND her husband (because, see, it’s in the bible) is doing to “abuse” her.  Scoff!  As if she could be in a position to know!  For if God doesn’t give PASTOR the grace to perceive his sins at times, how much less does the Almighty heed the insufficient sniveling of the weaker sex?

Next…what do you consider the direct influence of prayer upon the pastor to be, exactly?  What is the direct influence of a lack of prayer?  How do we define/quantify the direct influence of a lack of interest in prayer?  And then in light of this, how do you define and then how do you statistically subtract other factors which might affect the pastor’s disposition from the influence of prayer…such as stress, fatigue, marital strife, work load, personal health, medication, diet, doctrinal assumptions (e.g. maybe excessive abuse is not actually excessive nor abusive at all according to another pastor…maybe what Wade would define  as pastoral authoritarianism is just biblical as far as they are concerned), interpretive assumptions, vagaries concerning the definition of “authoritarian”, and, if your Mark Driscoll, sexual frustration and the influence of your extra sensory perception (ESP).

Supposing you were able to do all of that, and rule all of that out to an acceptable degree according to the standards of empirical research, you would still have the very, very formidable…nay, impossible task of proving beyond a statistically reasonable and and logical doubt that the prayer–since its direct causal influence is almost certainly unobservable (hence the needing faith part of Christianity)–was the single greatest factor acting upon the disposition of the pastor in question.  It is impossible to qualify as empiric that which is a function of an extra-sensory Being (God) unless He happens to show up in a flash of smoke and lightning at just the right time and on cue during the dissertation defense and and declare “Ta da! That prayer did that thing!”.  Which, I suppose He could do, but…unless the Ph.D. committee actually had faith enough in God in the first place, they likely wouldn’t believe Him anyway.

So what are we left with?  We are left with this:

“It might be the reason there’s a problem with excessive pastoral authority is a lack of interest in praying for one’s pastor. 🙂 Maybe?”

A statement which has absolutely no rational defense, no plausible means of validation by any empirical or reasonable standard, and should be rejected as nothing more than a churlish playing at Christianity.  The point of my facetious exercise in this post is simply to point out that this egregious statement of Wade’s should not in any way be given serious consideration as a legitimate perspective worthy of any sane person’s time.  He should categorically retract it and apologize for its utter offensiveness to anyone who has ever been abused at the hands of a self-absorbed, unbalanced despot, be it a parent, a spouse, a governmental leader, or a pastor.

But he won’t because God likes him better than he likes you.  It’s really just that easy once you get away from all the high-brow platitudes and the appeals to “right biblical exegesis” and “sound doctrine”.  It’s nothing more than a Christian caste system where PASTOR declares TRUTH for all of us…and we agree, or suffer a divine “fuck off” which shall surely run the gamut of physical and psychological horrors.

Still…I’m not done with this little Calvinist peach of a statement.  Stay tuned for part four.

13 thoughts on “Slip of the Tongue, or Just Slippery?: A short look at a hypothetical study based on Wade Burleson’s “Prayer/Pastoral Abuse” synergism (PART THREE of series)

  1. John,

    LOL…yeah, I admit that was a pretty obscure reference. Mark Driscoll is famous for making references to gazing hungrily at his wife’s ass as she walks in front if him, while espousing the neo-Calvinist sex-on-demand theology (which I am sure many non-Calvinists and even non-Christians could, er, get behind); and he has a particularly infamous sermon where he creepily invokes his gift of “visions” regarding the experiences of certain members of the congregation. He is smarmy, that one.

  2. LOL… ok… I watched the vid…. that is interesting. I’m torn though… I’ve experienced what he described…. knowing things … seeing things that have no rational co efficient … but he sure does manage to make that sound smarmy.

    But like you said, what if what Mark Driscoll sees” over rides the pew sitters “interest” in prayer?

    What then is the court of appeal when some mystic despot decides to start applying “excessive pastoral authority” and this time he isn’t so “nice?”

  3. Yes…I don’t mean to disparage visions in general, because I understand that people sometimes get these kinds of “vibes”. It is more this: I consider Mark Driscoll nothing more nor less than your typical neo Cal tyrant who uses God to bludgeon people into right thinking and behavior and gets just about everything wrong with respect to Christ’s message. As such…all his sermons are fair game for my biting sarcasm ( as well as unabashed disdain).

    As to your question? Well, I used to think we could find the answer on “discernment blogs” but now I’m not so sure.

  4. Oh… Deaver is a thug…. I need no persuasion on that score. And he is certainly worthy of scorn for the tyranny he preaches.

    Of course my question was mostly rhetorical . . . capitalizing on the absurdity implicit to Merlin Burleson’s comment and the refusal to call that insanity to account.

    How anyone sustains credulity while positing that pastoral “excessive authoritarian-ism” is a failure of pew sitter “interest” defines even the most refined delusional mind. So for those claiming sanity –oops … “discernment” – it should scream off the page for the raging madness underlying the nice guy facade.

    Just for the record they are not discernment blogs. “Discernment” is really a Christian attempt to spiritualize critical evaluation. Anyone who abandons critical evaluation in the name of harmony, peace, love and cosmic fung shui has really abandon judgment qua judgment.

  5. Lydia,
    Thanks for the link. I look forward to reading it.

    Wade is a perfect Calvinist. Read Wartburgs latest post in sexual abuse in the church and then square that with the idea that the laity is responsible for their own suffering via their lack of interest in prayer.

    So gross.

  6. OK … I read Merlin Burleson’s post from 2008 “The Only True Authority that Comes from God Is a Result of Service, Not Gender,” and I confess I’m appalled and confused.

    First, Merlin Burleson makes the same error that James and John’s mother made i.e. greatness = governmental authority. The only difference is Merlin Burleson says that path to government authority is “service.” Mommy thought the path to governmental authority was political pull. (Dr. Patterson thinks governmental authority is bestowed by testosterone.) At least Mommy had a reason to commit this error, but Merlin Burleson and Dr. Patterson are with out excuse when committing such an exegetical travesty.

    Second (as the quote offered in the post reads) Dr. Patterson justified his doctrine of submission by anecdote. Well, I will run out of invective very quickly at the madness this represents. Doctrinal validation by anecdote? Are you flipping serious?

    Woman after a night of “prayer” — two black eyes: “Are you happy?”
    Patterson: “yes I am”
    Why? Because the husband was in the back of the church??????????
    How about being happy the thug was in JAIL!!!!

    Third, Lydia is right. Dr. Patterson’s root presumption is the same one that Merlin Burleson offered on the Wartburg Watch. The woman in question is tasked with changing her husband’s actions. That is no different that the congregation in general being charged with the task of having an “interest” in prayer so the pastor doesn’t blacken their eyes while they sleep.

  7. Lydia..I just read it too. Excellent catch! You are absolutely right. There is functionally no difference between Patterson’s advice to the abused wife to “kneel and pray” (I just want to fucking vomit at the thought of that) and Wade’s notion of a congregation’s lack of prayer implicating them in a pastoral abuse.

    The difference is purely superficial. Wade comes at it from the pervasive depravity angle, where there can be no actual victims in the equation because it is man’s root existence which damns him. This means that ultimately no matter what you suffer, you are both getting better than the hell you deserve and are directly responsible for provoking your own suffering by virtue of your damnable existence. There are no innocent victims according to Wade’s theology. Patterson approaches it from the authority caste hierarchy…which is really merely a different way of organizing the suffering of individuals according to their “biblical role”.

    In the end, you are right. It is the exact same evil.

  8. Basically, the neo cal caste system merely systematizes the kind of shit you will need to eat by virtue of your arbitrary lot in life. If you are a pastor, you have to put up with the mindless barbarians whom God has given you to beat into submission. If you are a husband, you must fork over a bunch of your time and property to your ecclesiastical authority and serve on the urinal cake cleaning committee twice a month. I you are a wife, you will be expected to put out on command and deal with a few light slams now and then. Etcetera, etcetera, and so on and so forth. Pretty much like all caste systems. A formal structure of human suffering.

  9. “Dr. Patterson’s root presumption is the same one that Merlin Burleson offered on the Wartburg Watch. The woman in question is tasked with changing her husband’s actions. That is no different that the congregation in general being charged with the task of having an “interest” in prayer so the pastor doesn’t blacken their eyes while they sleep.”

    This is why Wade’s statement that Argo has been discussing bothered me so much. I remembered that post from long ago and realized the root assumptions are the really the same. Patterson is NOT a Calvinist but he is authoritarian when it comes to gender roles. Wade is a Calvinist but claims he is against authoritarianism in gender roles. Yet they both agree on a root assumption that others are to blame for someone they perceive to be “special”…. bad behavior. Both claim the other person/people NOT doing the bad behavior were not praying enough. Neither one really held the person with the bad behavior accountable by telling the people around them to get away.

    So yes, it really is a caste system but in Wade’s case, well hidden, amongst many right sounding words.

    As a Calvinist who believes in a determinist god, why would he believe praying would change what his god foreordained anyway?

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