If you’ve been a leader for any amount of time, you’ve most likely received your fair share of criticism. One of the worst ways you can criticize others is to do it anonymously. I don’t like getting these anonymous criticisms about myself or others.
I don’t usually address anonymous emails at all, actually. I learned from a good friend to automatically throw away or delete any anonymous complaints that I get across my desk. However, I’ve received a string of them from one source which I feel the need to respond to.
My addressing of this issue will bring up three reasons why I hate critical anonymous emails in general.
I was involuntarily added to some mass email list at the beginning of 2015 by someone who calls themselves “God’s Love” (you can guess where this is going already). The best part about it, I can’t opt-out since it’s obviously somebody who wants me to get the emails.
These are the subject titles of the emails I’ve gotten since January:
- Womens Ordination Backers Resort to Glaring Inaccuraccies and Gross Misrepresentation [sic]
- Theology of Ordination
- A Study on End Time Events and How Probation Closes for Adventists
- Questions on Our Doctrines
- The Trojan Horse within the Church by GC VP Enoch Olivera
- 2015 and The Nature of Christ Apostasy
The most recent email, “Women’s Ordination Backers Resort to Glaring Inaccuracies and Gross Misrepresentation” is what prompted me to write this post.
Without going into too much detail, this anonymous person forwarded a concern that someone had with an article in Adventist World, obviously about Women in Minsitry. Out of respect to those involved, I won’t reference the names mentioned in the email. However, I do know that this email is being anonymously circulated to and among pastors, administrators, and church members which leads me to why I hate these kinds of emails.
1. Anonymous emails change no one’s mind.
Roger Hernandez recently quipped: “Raise your hand if you’ve changed your mind as a result of a chain email.”
Have you ever done so?
The concern that the original sender had about this article may or may not have been valid, but that’s not the point. Notice that the email title itself already assumes the motives that led to the writing of the article by implying that it was to intentionally deceive people (“Resort to Glaring Inaccuracies and Gross Misrepresentation”). No one can know true motives of the heart, except God alone. Also, it not only assumes that this is an isolated case, but instead, paint’s everyone with the same critical brush stroke: “Women’s Ordination Backers.”
Many times, anonymous emails like these are already working to confirm an existing bias, rather than a searching and reconciling spirit.
The same could be said if, after an attack by terrorist groups like ISIL or Al-Qaeda, someone were to forward an email that said, “Islam: The Satanic Religion of Hate.” This isn’t far-fetched; I know of people who have said these very words.
2) When you forward anonymous emails that are critical of the church to your friends and colleagues, you become part of the problem.
Anonymous mass mailing lists are usually sent to large groups of people in order to illicit a strong emotional response. With our church on edge because of the upcoming General Conference vote on women’s ordination, the worst that can be done is to hurl these kinds of accusations at each other’s inbox.
Anonymous criticisms like this are, in my opinion, cowardly acts. What is especially ironic about this situation is that, in trying to confirm the Biblical basis of (I assume) male-headship, they ignore what Matthew 18 says about how to address individual concerns among believers. In trying to establish Scripture’s authority, they undermine it by ignoring key principles.
Asking someone about a given issue is one thing. But if you are spreading these kinds of emails when it agrees with your bias while ignoring the way in which it is being done, you are not helping the church; you are becoming part of the problem.
3) Anonymous emails promote suspicion, distrust or fear; the opposite of what Christians should be concerned about promoting.
Unlike external attacks, these actions are what kill our church from within. You might remember that the name of this sender is “God’s Love.”
I’ve noticed that the name doesn’t match the message that’s being spread. I see a lot of accusation, suspicion, and criticism, and very little love. Actually, they would better call themselves “God’s Hate” because they are doing one of the very things which God explicitly states that he hates in Proverbs 6:16-19. I’ll use the King James Version since I’m going to guess and assume (maybe falsely on my end) that they believe the KJV is the only “correct” version of the Bible, too:
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
By not being transparent about their identity, “God’s Love” is being a false witness. By forwarding to the entire world what was most likely a private email from one individual to those directly involved, he is sowing discord among the brethren. This, quite frankly, is satanic.
It’s the same tactic that Lucifer used against Eve by disguising his identity and motives as the snake in Genesis 3 by creating discord between Adam, Eve, and God.
Do you think Martin Luther signed his 95 Thesis as “A Concerned Church Member”? Do we have any book of the prophetic books anonymously signed as “A Watchman on the Walls”?
People like this obviously consider themselves watchmen to the church (or Zion, another name for it). David Hamstra, a friend and fellow pastor, says this about these kinds of people:
Why do people decide to be anonymous critics? I don’t fully know, but, one thing I do know is that they are written from a basis of suspicion rather than trust. Ron Edmonson believes that there are 4 reasons why people become anonymous critics. None of them bring the church into closer unity:
Fearful – This is the anonymous critic who is simply afraid of conflict. It’s not that the person doesn’t like you or the organization or that he or she doesn’t have good suggestions for improvement. This anonymous critic simply can’t bring him or herself to reveal his or her identity, because of individual fear. (Controlling leadership often develops this type of anonymous criticism.)
Pleaser – This is the anonymous critic who wants everyone to get along, and so doesn’t want to create any problems or tension. He or she thinks you need to know something, but would rather not be the one to tell you. They aren’t afraid of conflict as much as afraid you won’t like them if they tell you what’s on their heart or mind.
Trouble-maker – This is the anonymous critic who is trying to stir up trouble and knows that throwing the anonymous criticism in the loop causes confusion and concern. These people are disrupters and critics I’d rather avoid reading if I could always discern this was the critic’s intent. (They are my least favorite kind.)
Passive – This is the anonymous critic who has low interest in the organization and would prefer not to be bothered any further. It could be the one who feels intimidated by you or the position. (Controlling leadership also develops this type of anonymous criticism.) This anonymous critic doesn’t want to be in the middle of the conflict, but thinks you need to know what he or she has to share.
My appeal to you is, if you receive similar anonymous emails, please consider both the source and your response. The worst that can be done is to empower these types of cowardly acts by passing their suspicion bombs around. I’m praying for a resolution to this issue and the last thing we need is online terrorists to make things worse.
“Don’t be so busy being suspicious of people that you don’t have time to believe in people.” -Henry Johnson