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Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

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.

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Burn-Out & God

Burn-Out & God

I guess that God knows all about burn-out, having seen so many of us succumb to that particular psycho-spiritual pitfall. The trouble is, most of us recovering religious junkies found God at a young age when we hadn’t yet discovered who we really are, and perhaps more importantly, what God is really looking for in our mutual friendship. Is it any wonder that so many of us ditch the religion and God of our youth to be ‘normal’, and sleep in on Sunday mornings.

I reckon the whole concept of discipleship is partly to blame. To be a follower of the Nazarene is to self deny and take up our cross ad nauseam. Boy, what a life to sign up to. Thousands of church services over our three score years and ten, months spent in intercessory, battling prayer and of course, last but not least the endless voluntary work, known as ministry expected from all good disciples. It all sounds so holy and sacrificial, and if we know anything the Divine is really into sacrifice, especially that of His beloved Son. Some New Testament scholars believe Christianity to be an updated version of Greek Stoicism, and I can see why. Virtue as the highest form of happiness sounds all too familiar to my religious junkie mindset of old. Yes, God is a quality controller who expects from us the high standards of the Nazarene, especially on Sundays.

So where is the flaw in all of this. What exactly is discipleship and is its end result always burn-out. Well, may I humbly suggest that we have lost the Middle Eastern meaning of discipleship. All Jewish Rabbis, at least those of note and a good reputation had their disciples; generally a band of men, who modelled themselves on their master’s lifestyle and teaching. Of course like all discipleship models it had its drawbacks, with rivalry and power struggles always a possibility. Yet, at its essence it was all about following. Yeshua, bar Josef was no different. He asked his motley crew of men and women, to follow him, but was it a journey into dour sacrificialsm? I believe not.

The Nazarene claimed that his yoke was easy and his burden, light. These rabbinical buzz words had a special meaning. Yoke and Burden referred to the general life teaching of a spiritual master. In other words, Yeshua was saying that what he asked of his followers was quite simple and easy to fulfil, in comparison to many of the other yokes and burdens kicking around the Judaism of his day. Peter, James and John and gang were simply to love God and their neighbours in the same way the Galilean did. Just an imitation of sorts, yet not one to be squeezed out of stoical human effort, but one to be channeled from Divine Source, a reflex action of the Love that touches all. The taking up of the cross wasn’t a call to suffering but a call to liberation from the dictates of ego. Such a radical following of the Nazarene, would release the tortured will into the Divine destiny. A letting go to trump all lettings go.

‘I have come to bring life and life more abundantly’ now begins to make sense. A life of realignment and connection with Source, the Love that flows to all, if only we will ditch our old sacrificial thinking. To follow the Nazarene is not to crucify Self, but detach from ego and its incessant, fear fuelled demands. Self is made to flourish and create in the divine economy, not hang on a religious cross and pride itself on its suffering.

So where does that leave all of us religious burn-outs. Well, I reckon that somewhere along the line we have been presented with a form of Christianity whose yoke is far from easy and its burden, heavier than lead. We attempted to slave our way to holiness in the guise of sacrificial love and it back-fired. Our bodies, psyches and spirits had enough and declared so in quite dramatic fashion. ‘Stop’ they cried and so we did, often unwillingly, for the death loving virus within religion is a hard one to shift. Lying in a faithless heap we wondered if we’d ever again feel the Presence that started it all. And of course, in time the call comes, not to stoicism and religious hoop jumping, but to stillness and touch, the compassionate embrace of the Divine Samaritan. The Master has returned.

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