Religious Bullies

By Michael Temple

Photo by Dreamstime

bul-ly -  [boo l-ee] a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
I don’t like bullies. I’ve had a few run-ins with them as a child/teenager and I didn’t enjoy the experience. I was a skinny kid and not very good at sports, so once in a while I was a target. I even stood up to a bully as a teenager. It didn’t go very well as I recall. Whenever I looked forward to my grown-up years, I always fantasized that bullies would no longer be a part of my adult world. Imagine my surprise after giving my life over to Christ when I realized that bullies not only exist, but that churches have more than their fair share of them too.   

In case you may not recognize a religious bully, let me quickly list a few of their undesirable characteristics here.
You might be a religious bully if:
  • You get an adrenaline rush when loudly proclaiming to everyone how much you know about the scriptures. Being a bully is often a cover for feelings of inadequacies. Religious bullies can be loud, obnoxious, and belligerent…or they can be coy, self-aggrandizing, and quiet.  
  • You enjoy watching people squirm when you point out their faults or the faults of others that act like them. It gives you a wonderful feeling to compare yourself and be thankful that you’re not like others who are so messy. Everyone is messy, and we all are saved by grace. None of us have anything to brag about.
  • You manipulate others when they don’t see it the “right” way. I’ve watched more than my share of intolerance dished out by religious bullies who will do almost anything to make sure that everyone sees the “truth.” Manipulation can take many forms and can even wear the mask of pseudo “concern” for those that it disagrees with. 
  • You’re willing to tell people things that they “need” to know in ways that come across as unloving and uncaring…just so you can clear your conscience and feel assured that “their guilty blood” is no longer on “your hands.” Holding each other accountable is important, but only if we can be loving about it.
  • People walk a wide path around you as they enter an area where you are. People don’t enjoy encounters with bullies. If people are trying to get away from you, you’re either obnoxious, annoying, a religious bully, or all three. When we are truly converted and kind to people, most will want to be with us.
The most powerful argument in favor of this thing that we call Christianity is to be a loving and lovable person who puts God first, others second, and ourselves last. Religious bullies claim to follow the scriptures, but the ways they conduct themselves tell a very different story. 

“Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26, NKJV).

Life is difficult enough without people wondering whether or not they are going to run into religious bullies. As Christians, we have the responsibility to protect others from those who might spiritually harm them, and to make sure that we do no harm as well.