• John Woods

Failure Porn


A long chain of catastrophic ministerial failures has littered the Christian landscape in the first two decades of the 21st Century. One after another high-profile Christian leaders have been exposed as falling prey to one of more of that deadly trio of money, sex and power.


The Me Too movement has punctured the “hush it up” and “sweep it under the carpet” culture that has been a feature of some parts of the Christian world.


Victims of abuse, whether it be financial, physical, emotional or sexual are unwilling to go quietly.


One of the consequences of this is that some figures, previously thought “untouchable”, have been called to account. This in turn has led to official reports, news stories and interviews with the victims.


Hence the term “failure porn.” When does a healthy interest in being informed and learning from these failures turn into an unhealthy fascination with the “juicy details” that turns us into voyeurs?


It reminds me of the letter to The Times I saw in the early 1990s, which spoke with disgust of the newspaper’s reports of Diana, Princess of Wales, but admitted the writer’s own desire to read them.


How can this attitude be avoided?


1. We can remember the sinfulness of our own hearts. The story of the first two brothers in Genesis chapter 4 is a cautionary tale. Envy concerning a superior offering to God worked its way into Cain’s heart and led to him killing his brother. Can our admiration or envy of a high-profile Christian leader sometimes turn into a strange secret joy when they fall?


2. We can reflect on our attitude to Christian celebrities. Have we been so blinded by their personalities, gifts and success that we couldn’t see their glaringly obvious faults? Or have we been so enchanted by their aura that we have failed to pray for them as human beings, who are just like us?


3. We need to check our motivation for “researching” the failings of key leaders in the Christian church. It is not so complicated that we need numerous reports to tell us that we should not put our trust in flawed human beings.


4. Alongside the question: “How did they get away with it?” we need to place the equally searching question: “How did we allow them to get away with it for so long?” One hopes that the church getting its fingers burnt so often would strengthen the call for checks and balances to regulate the actions of Christian leaders. One of the ways this can happen is for Christian leaders to ensure that they are not surrounded by yes-men who rubber stamp their decisions but never question them.


5. Integrity, transparency and accountability are required of any Christian leader. Yet those who follow have a vital role to play. We need to be careful not to miss the tell-tale warning signs of a person who is less than solid in one of the areas of money, sex and power. I guess this also means you and I keeping an eye on our own motivation. Are we in it for the money, the buzz or the power?


Perhaps we need to be reminded more often that in Christianity there is only one number 1!


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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