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Prayer as a manipulation strategy

I mentioned in an earlier post a couple of cases I know about in which a manager or managers at Christian organizations, in the process of firing employees, convened a moment of prayer when things got emotionally tense. In both cases, the managers used prayer as a strategy to manipulate the employees into shutting up about their grievances. As I mentioned below, these were like, “Lord, we just want to ask you to be here with N., as she prepares for this next adventure You have for her in Your plan for her life.” Total smarm.

Why did they do it? I can’t know for sure, but from my information, it sounds like in both cases the managers were treating these employees unjustly, and didn’t want to be called on it. In one of the cases, the prayer weapon came out when the employee demanded to know how they could do this to her after so many years, and with no warning. A fair question, certainly — but the two managers present didn’t want to deal with it. So they asked for a word of prayer. That employee I knew as a rather pious woman. She was gobsmacked by her godly managers invoking God in that way.

Since I posted that, I’ve heard from a couple of readers (you can write me at rod.dreher — at — gmail.com) who report similar experiences. It made me wonder how common this is. One of the cases I have in mind was in a Catholic organization, the other in an Evangelical Protestant one. I have never seen this myself, but then, I’ve never worked for a Christian institution (and after the things I’ve seen and heard, I doubt I ever will). The sense I have in talking to friends over the years who have worked for Christian churches and institutions is that the people who run these things often have a particular sense of entitlement. Managers often do, but it seems that managers in religious institutions can at times think of themselves as doing the Lord’s work, and therefore are entitled to mistreat those below them. Bad management practices, and flat-out jerkiness, get slathered in treacly piety, which is supposed to make it go down easier.

Again, I’ve never had any experience of this — though I can hear myself now, in the future, saying to my big cheese TAC editor, “Please Dan, for the love of God, don’t fire me!” — but I’ve known too many people over the years who have to think it’s rare. Do you have any stories?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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