Digging a little deeper, analyzing the public words and behavior of Tony Miano. Does his behavior reflect a spiritual abuser and bully? Is this a man who should be in public ministry open air preaching and evangelizing?
A reader sent me a link to Tony Miano’s Facebook page cover photo (larger photo). Miano describes it:
This picture expresses well how I was feeling as I tried to reason with this young man. I pitied his self-imposed and inexcusable ignorance, and I realized I was dealing with yet another child in a man’s body. His “I believe in God-no I don’t” worldview locks him, and self-deluded people like him, into an absurd, alternate reality that he cannot support, defend and, in the end, ultimately doesn’t believe or live by. (Source)
Tony tells us that he tried to reason with this young man. When reasoning with someone, is this the physical posture that you would take? Would you position yourself physically over the person, talking down to them? What reasoning is he using and what kind of communication is conveyed with his outstretched arms? Is he looking in this young man’s eyes, connecting with him and his heart, or is he talking down to him with an angry tone and body language?
Take a look at the profile picture (smaller picture). Is this the posture of a kind, loving man who wants to share the life-saving message of the Gospel? How did Jesus respond to the unsaved? Was he angry? Did he get in their face?
Tony Miano: A Case Study in Spiritual Abuse and Bully Behavior
A couple of quotes from the recent broadcast by Tony Miano who interviewed my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, keep playing in my mind and when that kind of thing happens, I find myself coming to the keyboard to process my thoughts.
Tony’s behavior reminds me the of the same behavior O’Neal used when we were at his church, and brought back a flood of memories upon listening to O’Neal’s voice. Others who have been in high-controlling church situations may be able to connect with some of this and Miano gives us a great case study on spiritual abuse based on his words and behavior.
The following quotes from the broadcast spoke out to me and I would like to break it down. Now, it’s interesting that both of these quotes are Miano’s words, but the behavior is what triggered familiar O’Neal memories for me:
Pastor Chuck and I this week in fact tried to privately encourage a well-known Christian radio personality to end all association with one particular nasty discernment blogger and I don’t know if Pastor Chuck has received any feedback, but I’ve been completely blocked.
This was a person who I considered a friend, but apparently she lacks the discernment to know that the discernment blogger she’s going to for information and encouragement from time to time is not a good one.
It’s important to look at this a little more closely. Miano has been completely blocked? He’s been blocked from calling by phone? by e-mail? from Facebook? from Twitter? It’s unclear what “block” means exactly, but he considered this person a friend and this friend for some reason felt the need to block him. What kind of behavior would necessitate a person to take a bold action and “block” a friend or former friend? Perhaps badgering?
Another point – why is O’Neal contacting Miano’s friend? Is he also her friend? Why did both O’Neal and Miano contact this person the same week? Did they conspire to do this together? This is what triggered for me. When O’Neal had issues with someone and their perceived “wrong beliefs,” he would take his elders in tow in a show of force to convince them how wrong they were until they eventually relented. This is bully behavior.
Can you imagine being this friend and receiving encouragement like this – – having two men contact you out of the clear blue to “end all association” with someone? When was the last time you had two people tell you who you can associate with? This is very odd, folks. Also, keep in mind, Miano and O’Neal are not the pastor of this person, they are peers of equal status. Who do they think they are? Telling someone who they can or cannot associate with is not “encouraging,” but controlling. This is a show of force in an attempt to control.
Further in the interview, Miano says this:
“I have personally gone to people who seem to be enamored with her and try to explain to them what she’s doing and have been ignored by them, or rebuked, or, uh, basically told don’t ever talk to me again, uh, because I’ve asked them to be more discerning about following this particular discernment blogger. So…she’s one of the worst of the worst. And it is only right since I have first-hand knowledge of her activity, and don’t have to go by hearsay or innuendo, um, it’s only right that we should warn Christians to stay away from her. Uh, to not have anything to do with her, to not read her blog, to not friend her on twitter, don’t follow her on twitter. You are aiding and abetting the enemy.
In this quote he claims he has gone to “people” asking them to be more discerning. What has the response been from “people?” He has been:
- ignored by them
- rebuked by them
- told to never talk to Tony again
If you “ask” people to be more discerning and they respond by rebuking you, ignoring you, or telling you to never talk to them again, this should cause you to look at yourself and your behavior. He uses the word people which means more than one and if he’s getting the same response from more than one person, he is choosing to ignore their responses and instead shifts the blame to them, refusing to look at himself. Blame shifting is a common response by abusers who refuse to look at themselves because they deem everyone else to be the problem.
It’s important to note that in this public broadcast in which he promoted heavily in social media, he freely and unashamedly tells us how people responded to him. He seems to be unable to see that his own behavior is what illicits these strong reactions.
Again, at the end of the above quote, Miano is telling people what to do (don’t follow her, read her blog, etc). This is not suggesting, this is not counseling, this is commanding and controlling. Bullies command and control. This is unacceptable behavior.
The last sentence, “you are aiding and abetting the enemy” is classic spiritual abuse. It is essentially saying, ‘God would not want you aiding and abetting the enemy by reading “her” blog.’ Instead of saying, his opinion and offering counsel, he makes it a statement of fact,”you are aiding and abetting the enemy.” He speaks with an authority as if it came from God Himself. It’s not a suggestion or consideration, but an order to stop aiding and abetting.
He has also put himself in the position of mediator between God and man. If the hearer chooses differently from Miano, he claims they are the aiding the enemy. They can only be right in Miano’s eyes if they go along exactly with Miano’s thinking and opinion (as if Miano is God?!). This is so wrong on many levels. Miano’s words are not God’s words. Miano’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts. Miano’s words are his own interpretation. Again, this is a very common way spiritual abusers use their perceived power to control others into doing what they want.
We have a wide reading audience here. Some don’t like John MacArthur and others have great respect for him. Both Miano and O’Neal attended last year’s Shepherds’ Conference held at Grace Community Church (GCC). Tony Miano is a new member at Grace Community Church and very happy to be under their authority. He actually mentions Grace Community in this particular broadcast. However, I thought it would be helpful to quote MacArthur’s words because both Miano and O’Neal highly respect this man and this quote clearly shows that Miano has crossed the lines in his behavior and words.
Now this is interesting, too, because Miano is no pastor or elder. He is like you and me. He is not “over” anyone. He is a self-appointed street preacher who says repeatedly that he is under the authority of his local church. Keep in mind, he considered Grace Community to be “over him” when he did his recent broadcast. I wonder what the leaders of GCC think of that broadcast?
Ok, moving on to the MacArthur quote. A person named Brian asked a question about elder/pastor authority over the flock:
I’m a visitor here and I’m looking to get some biblical and spiritual training and in making a big decision where I might want to go to get this training I feel it’s important to seek good godly counsel, and an elder and a pastor is certainly an appropriate person to go to. My question then is how much liberty does a pastor or elder have in advising us when or where we should go to get this training?
John MacArthur responds:
I believe that as far as authority, Brian, the only authority any pastor or elder has is the Word of God. When you step beyond the Word of God you’ve overstepped the bounds of your authority. I have no authority if you’re in my congregation to say to you…Go here and get this training, go there, I command you…I have no authority to do that. That is overstepping my bounds. I am nothing more and nothing less than an instrument by which God makes known to you His revelation. That’s my role.
Now, I may say to you, given the circumstances I would recommend this because it appears from what I know about that and what I know about you that this would be a good choice, but that is not authority that is counsel. My authority stops when I close the page of this book. And then all I’m doing is giving you counsel and you can consider that counsel as to its inherent value and make your own decision, but I have no authority to command you beyond the pages of the Word of God. That very point is where pastors and elders, leadership becomes out of bounds and abusive and overbearing. God never intended that. The best we can do is give wise counsel. That’s why the Old Testament says in much counsel there is wisdom. The point is that if God wanted us to just listen to one guy He would say…If you want to know what to do go ask the elder…but He says get much counsel and you get wisdom. So I believe our authority stops where Scripture ends and then the best we can do is try to give wise counsel based upon our best understanding of the facts. Okay?” Bible Questions and Answers, Part 40