There was an unnamable something about Jean Vanier that transformed an experience — or transformed you. For many people, Vanier’s captivating presence was evidence of his godly giftedness. But for victims of abuse, this saintly reputation had a dark side.
In this episode, host Jenna Barnett talks with Katelyn Beaty, author of Celebrities for Jesus, about the danger of charismatic leadership in Christian communities. You’ll also hear again from L’Arche USA leader Tina Bovermann, about the role of privilege in leveraging charisma, and author Carolyn Whitney-Brown, on why we should stop calling anyone a “living saint.”
Listen and subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere you get your podcasts.
You can read Tanya Marlow’s 2021 essay “But his books are still good, right? – 5 things Christians must stop saying about sexual abusers” at tanyamarlow.com.
You can watch Roy Bonisteel’s 1972 interview with Jean Vanier and Mother Teresa on the CBC website, cbc.ca.
Credits: Lead Us Not was produced, written, and edited by Jenna Barnett, with executive production, story editing, and additional reporting by Betsy Shirley. Sound design and mixing by JP Keenan; factchecking by Mitchell Atencio. Tiarra Lucas designed our podcast cover. Our theme music is by Borrtex and by Yehezkel Raz.
Special thanks to Amanda Zalken, Laura Hallman, Erin Greeno, and all the archivists at the United Church of Canada Archives for helping us find Peter Flemington’s documentary If You’re Not There, You’re Missed.
You can learn more about the podcast, sign up for email updates and bonus information about each episode, and get a transcript of each episode at sojo.net/podcast.
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Sojourners magazine is an independent, award-winning magazine of faith, culture, and politics. Our mission is to inspire hope and action by articulating the biblical call to racial and social justice, life and peace, and environmental stewardship.