One of the tools authoritarian churches use to control people is the mislabelling of gossip. They instruct people not to speak critical things about the church or its leadership to each other. This is considered gossip.
If someone were to observe the pastor lying and were to tell someone other than the pastor it would be considered “gossip.” Does this really meet the criteria of “gossip” as mentioned in Proverbs and 1Corinthians.
Here are the passages.
Pro 20:19 He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.
2Cor 12:20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;
The Greek word used in the 2Co 12:20 is psithurismos which literally means “whisperer” but it implies slander. The hebrew word used in Proverbs is rakil and it also carries the meaning of slander.
Slander is oral communication that is malicious and untrue. (If it is written it is considered libel.)
A gossiper is someone who defames or slanders someone in secret. For something to be considered gossip it needs to be all of the following:
- Malicious: something communicated with the intention to harm another
- Secret: the communication must be intended to go to certain people and not others. Public communication like blog posts are not secret.
- Untrue: what is communicated is false or perhaps reckless speculation
If a church member observed a pastor lying and told someone else, it can’t be considered gossip.