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Posts Tagged ‘priests’

Clericalism

Clericalism

I guess there’s always been a bunch of folk who saw themselves as intermediaries of sort between God and man. How come? Well I believe that bizarrely the roots of religious belief can be found in mob violence – the founding murder, so to speak. I’d better explain.

Ancient man lived in small extended family groupings or prototype tribes. When something went wrong in their fight for survival and things began to get a little heated, a scapegoat was quickly found and dispatched in a fit of rage. This unexpected blood-letting released a quasi sense of cathartic peace in the remaining family members, who began to interpret it as the blessing of the Divine Spirit in the Sky! “Ah, so if we kill someone or something on a regular basis, we can obtain the favour of the One above. If we sacrifice to Transcendence, blessings will flow.” The birth of sacrificial religious thought which sadly continues to this day.

Over time, the tribe asked for volunteers to dot he dirty deed and so the priesthood was born. Those not afraid to get blood on their hands in exchange for a new prestige within the community. “We are a cut above the rest,” became their sacred slogan as they sharpened their clerical knives. And so it has continued through the ages. For some the blood is still part of the killing vocation, for others it’s now a symbolic role, dispensing the wine of the slain Lamb on a regular basis. Since time immemorial we have been into blood and so it remains. Further exploration of this obsession is for another day. What I really want to focus on is the sociological residue of such a belief system – the clerical class.

Now, let me say that I’m friends with a number of priests of varying shades. I’m not here to question their motives or their devotion to the Divine; rather I wish to question whether they are needed. Of course, when professional livelihoods are involved the cleric understandably fights back with 2000 years of Christian tradition or even more in the case of the older religions. I can understand that all too human reaction. When we need food on the table for our kids we’ll perform all sorts of pastoral back flips to justify our existence.

No, do we really need a professional class of priests, pastors and dare I say it, Apostles ( for my Pentecostal friends) in order to know God. Do we still require the experts to stand between Divine Source and man? Well, if we still insist on communities that centre around a round of religious gatherings in a purpose-built building, then the clergy still play a role, albeit an organisational one. For, let’s face it, if there wasn’t a paid official to do all the stuff, the whole system would collapse due to apathy. Folk have always wanted a Moses figure to go up the Mount and come back with a tabletised list of instructions from God, especially if they can also perform the role of CEO for the business named church.

I guess I’m saying that we don’t need a bunch of men or women to dispense the Divine for us, for Presence already dwells within. What we may need is one almighty shock to our ego system, that reveals this dramatic truth, one that rarely comes through the dedicated efforts of the clergy. A sudden death, a health scare, a divorce, redundancy etc all have the potential to jolt us into an Awakening experience. The place for answers is within, in the depths of our ego screams. There the Light dwells and we knew it not. Most folk within clerical systems of ministry are nice folk, though not all. Yet, there very existence may divert folk from meeting the Divine, heart to Heart. A little ministerial cul-de-sac that seems to help for a while until a new top-up of concern is needed. Life is messy and it’s there that Divine Love has chosen to dwell.

The trouble is that the priest/pastor/reverend etc can feel that it’s their job to keep the whole God show on the road. This is often done by teaching the particular dos and don’ts of their interpretive tradition. Having joined the clerical class to help mankind they can so easily end up propping up a moral empire based on the interpretive add-ons of their religious tradition. It’s so easy to switch into control mode in the name of the God of freedom. It’s the historical virus that invades the very heart of religious systems. The priest once more stands as judge and jury on the whole God-man thing, tempted to shed blood, albeit verbally on the chosen scapegoat.

Finally, let me tell you a wee story. A couple of years back here in Lincoln, I was out for a walk along the local High Street when I noticed a bunch of Christians doing their evangelistic thing. Always willing to have a chat will fellow God folk, I stopped and entered into a friendly chat with a guy, who turned out to be the pastor of the gang. At first our conversation was friendly but soon it was strongly inferred that I should be a church member and come along to sample his particular brand of gathering. At this point I suggested that the pastor try a wee experiment. Why not stop all church gatherings for a year, when folk could just mix with society at large. After 12 months have a meeting to see how many people had become Christians through contact with his flock. Unfortunately, I saw sheer disbelief in his eyes. “Dylan, I couldn’t do that.” “Why not?” I asked. “Well, frankly my members wouldn’t make it if it weren’t for our church programme.” Enough said. ” The Christ within would wither up and die if the pastor’s flock didn’t get their weekly worship session and sound Bible instruction.

The clerical system at its worst methinks.

http://amzn.to/1LRfKMC

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The Leadership Game ~ 'Feed My Sheep'

The Leadership Game ~ ‘Feed My Sheep’

 

OK, I’ll say it! Religious or spiritual leadership can be one, big, psycho-spiritual game.

Hiding behind my Mac’s screen, for personal safety reasons, I’d better attempt to explain my somewhat provocative statement before Pauline Bible verses are hurled in my direction. So, here we go:

Leadership within a religious sect can take one of two forms.

1) Official

2) Charismatic.

Sometimes these two forms can merge, conjuring up an extremely potent spell of leadership magnetism, one that is difficult to remain uninfluenced by.

If we belong to an institution with a religious bent, then it is argued that for it to run ‘properly’ it needs leaders; someone to take charge and get things done. Of course most folk who attend such an institution are only too happy for someone to tell them what to do, albeit in the name of God. Expectations may be relatively low, with folk just turning up being the desired goal of the leader in question. The way into institutional leadership varies from sect to sect . It may require a theological degree and rigorous training in the social skills required. This helps reinforce the religious expert/lay person divide  which keeps most institutional religion running along nicely until the lights are turned off.

Charismatic leadership is more to do with who the leader is rather than his official position within the faith group in question. The ‘leader’ is the one who appears to know God more than we do,  that fellow member with a little something extra that we can’t just put our finger on. Such a leader attracts followers, either officially or unofficially, like a magnet draws iron filings to itself. If operating within a loose fellowship of adherents it will be very clear to all concerned who this person is, as folk tend to hang onto  their every word. Indeed this charismatic individual may eventually be appointed as an official leader as the fellowship seeks to set up shop in the spiritual marketplace of institutionalised religion. The gifted one morphs into the official one and the stage is set for the problems of type 1 leadership. the hamster wheel game of keeping the Jesus show on the road and the pennies rolling in. The Charismatic movement that swept the socio-religious world of the 60s, 70s and 80s has generally gone through this transformation, with New Churches now being as institutionalised as the historic denominations that it once eyed with zealous pity.

So, what is going on behind the public persona of the religious leader? What hides itself behind the Archbishop’s colourful clobber, or the sweat drenched suit of the bulging-eyed fundamentalist preacher? What drives the idealism of the leader in training to jump into the religious pool and save those hell-bent on destroying themselves? Is the role of the Divine Lifeguard not a noble one, indeed a response to the call of Divine Love itself?

Interestingly, many of our religious leadership models have been taken from royal-priestly sects, mainly those within Judaism and other Midldle-Eastern takes on religious practice. The link between priesthood and royalty in the form of the High Priest-King only reinforces the belief that only one wise enough to convey the Divine Mind is qualified to rule. This twin-like model has flowed down into our religious mindsets, largely unaffected by the radical deconstruction of the Nazarene’s own teaching.

On entering a religious community as fledgling converts, we are bowled away by the certainty and authority of the communities leadership. We fall in love with their official position or their dynamic charisma which seems to press all our psycho-spiritual buttons. Finally, after years of Self doubt and experimentation we have found a belief system and indeed a father/mother figure who appears to provide security and a sense of familial belonging. Re-playing the inner, family tapes of our childhood we attempt to do it properly this time, seeking the favor of both leaders and their Divine sponsor, through numerous acts of compliance and commitment. We love being in a group with ‘strong leadership’ – one upon whom we can pin our Utopian desires for wholeness and health.

But what of the leaders, those who have responded to the ‘Divine call’ to step up to the leadership plate. What makes them tick? Well ,may I humbly suggest that they seek to heal their inner wounds, to please their ‘Father’ in heaven and receive the parental authentication and affirmation that they may have missed out on during childhood. This is not to condemn my leader friends, for we all seek to fill this psychological hole in many and varied ways, but to bring some light to commonly admired religious leadership aspirations. Such inner pain, overlaid with a draining sacrificial model of Self hatred and giving, can keep us running on the leadership treadmill for many years, like some sacred form of the Duracell bunny. Yet, eventually of course the power eventually runs out we lapse into institutional apathy or depart through illness or ‘loss of faith’. Yes, religious leadership usually takes a heavy toll – one that the Nazarene never intended for us. If our addiction to the position of scribe, scholar or Man/Woman of God doesn’t eventually destroy us it might just destroy those whom we love, our family, those who have stoically carried the heavy burden of our religious ‘calling’.

So, didn’t the Good Shepherd ask Peter to ‘Feed My Sheep’?

Well, if the Gospel accounts are to be believed it would appear so.

In my next Bog in this series I’ll attempt to explore this Divine call by considering mimetic desire and it’s role in drawing others into their own experience of Divine Love. The ‘non-leadership role’ of each and every one of us.

http://amzn.to/NCDf3k

 

 

 

 

 

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