- May 13, 2013
- By Staff / Baptist Standard
Betrayed: The Clergy Killer’s DNA (DVD, USFilms)
Oh, what a guilty pleasure! Pastors who have experienced a horrible and “undeserved” attack will relish this movie’s forceful counter punch. Unfortunately, the movie fails to connect with a helpful contribution to the problem.
On the positive side, the movie describes real-life conflict that happens in some churches. The movie claims 50 percent of churches are “under attack” and 90 percent of pastors will be out of ministry before they reach retirement age. The conflict originates with an individual, usually with a small following, who attacks a pastor with the goal of getting rid of that pastor.
First-hand testimony comes from 16 clergy and a few others, including a pastor’s widow. Individuals interviewed use highly charged descriptors for the attacks they’ve endured or witnessed—toxic, evil, murderers, darkness, underhanded, demonic, possessed, sinister, bullies and cowards. In a nutshell, these descriptors summarize the content of Betrayed.
Need to explore causes
I do not deny there is truth in their stories, statements and descriptions. However, any value in the film’s limited focus doesn’t leave much room for exploring causes or solutions. The main redemptive aspect to the video might be that it could help in the cathartic experience of someone who has just left the church while under personal attack. They will not feel they are alone.
After catharsis, however, leaders also should do some introspection. Indeed, Betrayed does admit there is more to consider than just the attackers themselves. Unfortunately, consideration of a pastor’s own mistakes get only minimal consideration. Instead, the video briefly seeks to add people who can be blamed, along with the pastor—small groups who are uninformed and/or don’t understand the issues, church leaders who ignore the problems and denominational leaders who refuse to act in order to protect their own positions and incomes.
Surely anyone watching this movie would do so with the hope of finding solutions. Again, the video spends only the most limited amount of time on strategies, which are questionable at best. These solutions include expose the attacker (from the pulpit, in church newsletter); join a clergy union (available, apparently, for United Church of Christ in Canada pastors); hire a lawyer to take on the clergy-killer, church leaders and denominational leaders; remove the clergy-killer from the congregation; and develop a church team to address conflict. Unfortunately, there is no instruction on how to do any of these things.
There could be some intrinsic worth in viewing this video, especially as a preventative tool and not a prescriptive one. However, this would require that Betrayed be joined with a video of pastors who confess their own horrible mistakes and misdeeds. Maybe a middle ground could be reached. An even better approach would be to join both videos with a systems approach, like Arthur Paul Boers’ Never Call Them Jerks, that shows how both parties play a role in these situations developing, as does the silent majority of the church.
Karl Fickling, coordinator
Interim Church Services
Baptist General Convention of Texas