Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pastors and Propriety

So let's all make believe That we're still friends and we like each other Let's all make believe In the end we gonna need each other Strangle my hope and make me pray To a god I've never seen but who I betray To the people who live the afterlife And the place I'll never be 'til I'm crucified --Oasis, “Let’s All Make Believe” Once again I have “idea block.” I really, really want to write, but I have no idea what to write about. It kind of sucks, really. Okay, here we go. Part of the reason I like Bruce Droppings and found it necessary to link to his blog today is because it’s so weird to see a pastor (or, I guess, former pastor) in the light in which he presents himself. As I said earlier today, I saw pastors who were losing their minds and one day figured out that they were trying to control the thoughts of the people around them in order to avoid having to deal with their own issues. So seeing someone who was that invested, but then responded to all those questions with, “I don’t know,” and, eventually, “I just don’t believe any more,”* is actually quite inspiring. Especially when he writes a post that ends with lyrics from Rich Mullins. I can’t listen to Rich Mullins anymore. Which is kind of sad on some weird level. I used to love the music of Rich Mullins (save “Awesome God,” which just fucking sucked, but did bring up pleasant memories of junior high youth group**), Mitch McVicker, Andrew Peterson, and Eric Peters. I can’t listen to any of it now. Meanwhile, I’m far less prone to miss most of the rest of the Christian music universe. I liked very little of it to begin with, but I’m not exactly pining for Caedmon’s Call or Geoff Moore these days. And don’t even get me started on Casting Crowns. They started out well, then almost immediately sold out to the shitty end of the spectrum. Last I heard they were working with Ron Luce and the BattleCry movement, which is one of the few Christian movements that legitimately scares me. And so but anyway, it’s interesting to see where other people can take their journies. The entire idea of pastors is weird to me now. I suppose that’s strange, considering I was planning on becoming one. But looking back I know that the reasons I wanted to go in to ministry were all, basically, wrong. I genuinely wanted to help people. I like people, on the general principle of the whole thing. And I hate it when I see suffering and am powerless to do anything about it. I’m actually at the point where the mere mention of “health care” makes me want to put my fist through somebody’s face, since the sheer, unmitigated gall of the people who are arguing against it pisses me off to no end. Death panels? Really? And the shit about how we don’t want to have Canada’s health care system, because apparently you could walk in with a sucking chest wound and they’ll still tell you to queue up behind the guy with the toothache is disingenuous at best and propped up by cherry picked stories that intentionally obfuscate the difference between elective and emergency medical procedures. And, of course, it completely ignores the people who are dying in America right now because they’ve got no health insurance whatsoever. And you know what’s crazy about that? I have fantastic, employer provided health care. But I don’t judge my worth according to my paycheck, nor do I think I’m better than someone else because I can live comfortably on my earnings. That’s not how my world fucking works. And I’m getting pissed. Either way, pastors. They’re supposed to be these people who are better than the rest of the congregation because they have this magical degree and this thing called “ordination.” But I hung out with pastors, worked with pastors, was friends with pastors, and I never really saw it. Hell, I was planning on being one and I never saw it in myself. Truth is, I only wanted to go in to ministry because I thought it was the only way god would ever start liking me. In that way I guess god was like a disapproving father who wanted me to go in to the family business and nothing else I did, whether I cured cancer or unseated Tiger Woods as the best golfer in the world would be enough. I had to take over the store, as it were. I doubt I was the only one looking to go in to the ministry for reasons like that. At the very least, I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only one looking to go in to the ministry for reasons that were entirely pure, whatever that definition may be. I knew of people who wanted to do it for the status. Some obviously seem to want to do it for the money. Some actually did it because their fathers and grandfathers were in the ministry and it was literally the family business. Yet the congregation is supposed to look at these pastors and instead of seeing all their flawed humanity is supposed to see them as the untainted vessels of god’s word. Like, we’re supposed to be surprised when there are sex scandals, or when pastor cusses someone out. We’re supposed to see that as the work of the Devil trying to ruin god’s ministry on Earth. You can’t do that. There’s nothing special about a pastor. They’re people, too. Some of them are wonderful, warm human beings. Some of them are controlling sociopaths. Some of them are closeted homosexuals. Some of them are just weird. So, y’know, they’re all just like you and me. It’s weird. I dated a girl for a while who wanted nothing more than to be a pastor’s wife. I know that there are a lot of women out there for whom this is the goal. I sat down one day and thought through it and realized, “Wait. She wants to be a pastor’s wife. That basically means that she wants her entire world to revolve around her relationship to her husband. Since I want to be a pastor, that means that by default she would want her life to revolve around me. That’s stupid. I’m not worth that.” I’m not. I sure as hell wasn’t then, since I was mostly being driven by my demons and inadequacies. But, I suppose, many of the women who want nothing more than to be pastor’s wives really don’t want their lives to revolve around their husbands. They want status just like their prospective husbands, but they have to get it in a different way. I don’t know. It’s all fucked up, really. And this isn’t to say that all pastors and pastor’s wives are selfish psychos. It’s just a point that they’re far more human than we were ever supposed to admit. I’ve known some great pastors and pastor’s wives. I’ve known a few where one half of the equation was great and the other, well, not so much. And I’ve known a couple who were, well, jackasses. Case in point, the pastor of a church I attended out at WIU and, for those who want a reminder, James from last summer. Yeah. Dude’s a pastor. The comment he made where he chastised me as an immature child has been lost to the universe, which is kind of too bad. Also, while I was looking for those links I ran across this old post. Thought I'd link it, since it amused me. So, yeah. That’s kind of my random thought for the day. See, these days I’m a regular over at Pharyngula. I like PZ. I’m generally amused by him and think it’s great fun to watch the Pharyngulites discuss issues and gleefully rip trolls apart. On some level it’s cathartic, too. One thing that comes up surprisingly often in the comment threads over there are protestations of non-politeness. It’s generally about how the people there use coarse language, which somehow proves they’re uneducated. For that matter, I ran in to that with After the Flood a couple weeks ago when Cooper took umbrage at historians who dared use words like “unscrupulous,” “liar,” and “forger” to describe Geoffrey of Monmouth. I pretended not to get it at the time, but, in all honesty, I did. See, there are certain conventions that must be followed in church. There are things you are and are not allowed to do and say. So when the poor, sheltered church person wanders out in to the light of day and sees that the rest of us use foul language, drink, have sex, etc., then they can’t handle it. Since no one would dare say “fuck” aloud in church, they think that everyone observes those rules in the rest of the world and that people who don’t can be chastised. There’s a website for a group called the Dove Foundation that reviews movies based on Christian content. I used to go to it and laugh at the stupidity. I remember the review for Freedom Writers, a movie that was basically Dangerous Minds, but with Hilary Swank instead of Michelle Pfeiffer. The review, I shit you not, said that the otherwise realistic movie was ruined by coarse language. Because, y’know, inner city kids speak in perfect Queen’s English at all times. They’re the ones with the much-touted rule book. They’re the ones who think there are people who have an extra special ability to interpret said rule book. They’re the ones who think it matters. Me? Not so much. It’s nice. --------------------------------- *Not that I’m saying this is a direct quote from Bruce. It’s more of a paraphrase of the honest response to the insanity of fundamentalist Christianity. **”Awesome God” is kind of the whipping boy of Mullins’ music. Most people who dismiss his stuff do it almost entirely on the basis of that song. It’s this sort of jingoistic approach to Christianity that’s really beneath the rest of his library, but somehow became THE song of his everyone knew. Most people don’t like it for the overall message and the fact that it kind of sucks. Mullins himself claimed he didn’t think it was one of his best. So it goes, I guess. Either way, I actually remember the song for my old junior high youth group leader. One of the lines was, “When he rolls up his sleeves he ain’t just putting on the ritz,” the “he,” of course, referring to god. My junior high youth leader hated that line because he said it always made him think of crackers, and what do Ritz Crackers have to do with god (obviously I wasn’t raised Catholic…). I, oddly enough, always thought of Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Why I even knew of that song when I was 13 is beyond me, though.


Anonymous said...

I read the Dove foundation's review of "21st Century breakdown" before I got it. needless to say, I laughed for days. You should check it out. Talk about deliberately missing the fucking point.

PersonalFailure said...

I adore Bruce. I fell in love with him after his mention of how his wife is currently finding herself now that she isn't wearing the cultural burka of the pastor's wife. It's not entirely comfortable for poor Bruce, but he's delighted by it all the same.

And coarse language. I love that one. Curse words are stored in an entirely different part of the brain than language in general. which is why even the pearl clutchers can't help hissing "fuck!" when they burn themselves cooking, but they'll still call the rest of us ignorant savages when we do it.

Judge not . . . do something to your neighbor . . . ah, well, i forget.

Jay said...

I have heard my mother, who ordinarily doesn't say anything stronger than "damn" (and even then she'll often pull it out to "dang") pull out the stops and mutter variations on "fuck" when my dad does something dangerous. (And for a 76 year old man with bad knees and poor vision, a lot of things are dangerous these days...)

GailVortex said...

“Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Why I even knew of that song when I was 13 is beyond me, though.

If you hadn't specified Taco's version, I woulda guessed Young Frankenstein.

Which is what my imagination supplied during endless repetitions of that song, when I wasn't vigilant.

Geds said...


I wandered over there this morning and couldn't find a review. Sad face.


And I've already used the phrase "cultural burqa" this morning. That's awesome.


Ain't it funny how that works? Well, worked, I guess. Nowadays I pretty much let my mind wander where it wants and just tell it to be back in time for dinner.

Of course my mind often wandered to places other than songs by Taco or Ritz Crackers during worship. Some of the places were downright, well, un-church-like. That was always the hardest one to deal with.

I mean, in youth group, singing worship songs, but actually thinking of that cute girl two rows back? Yeah. Good times. By which I mean "bad times." Within that context, at least...

Wanderin' Weeta said...

Re motivations: I was a pastor's wife. After he proposed, I thought about it seriously before I accepted, so now I remember which "arguments" were persuasive.

1. I had wanted to be a missionary. It was the "family business", although I wouldn't have phrased it that way, back then. So "pastor's wife" felt to me like a step down. But it was still "God's work", so the option was open. It couldn't be thought of as "taking the plow and looking back."

2. Now that I think about it, there was a fair admixture of status-seeking in that; my in-group was composed of full-time Christian workers and their families.

3. Pastors were good people, and they could only get better, as God worked in their lives.

I was wrong on that last point. I soon found out that pastors, like missionaries, come in all types. There were a few good ones, quite a few mediocre ones just marking time, plenty of weird and nasty ones.

And a few really bad apples; con-men, crooks, sexual predators, violent, mini-popes, sociopaths. My husband turned out to be all of the above.

And now I have no status in my old in-group; I'm far below their radar. It feels good.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention.

I don't listen to very much Christian music these days. Had a BIG Ebay sell off awhile back.

I always liked Mullins because he was not perfect. (which is a rare commodity once you get to the big time in christian ministry)

I listened to secular music until I went to college. I came to the conclusion that all secular music was evil and that a lot Christian music was too. So I stopped listening to most music. My approved singer/group list was very small.

Somewhere around 1997 I bought my first contemporary Christian cd. Keith Green. Then Petra...........and then anyone and everyone. I was 40 when this all happened.

Since I left the ministry in 2004 I have been reintroduced to the whole world of secular music. It's almost like being a teenager at age 52.

My older three sons are all musicians and are quite eclectic in their music tastes. They will come over, hear what's blaring (I am half deaf) on the music player and they will say "I can't believe Dad is listening to THAT!" :) Then the Carpenters come on and they roll their eyes.

Life sure has changed for us. Good, bad and indifferent.



Anonymous said...


I found in Baptist Fundamentalism there was no checks and balances. So.....unless a man was honest, moral, and ethical to start with, the Church provided a fertile ground for bad men to do evil.

Every Sunday some Baptist rails on the Catholics and their predator priests, yet.........the bigger story may be what goes on in Baptist Churches.

Here's a good site that keeps track of some of the more predatory "men of God"

Anonymous said...

My mistake, it was The Dove Foundation reminded me of that, for obvious reasons.

Geds said...

Wanderin' Weeta:

Thanks for stopping by. I'm, uh, I'm guessing you have a few stories to tell that would cause more than a bit of grinding of teething.


You, sir, should spend some quality time at the websites of the bands on my side bar. I believe I read on your blog that you recently went or are planning to go to see Staind and some other similar bands.

If you can jump between that and the Carpenters, you can probably handle the range of rock I listen to.

I may no longer be an evangelical, but I'm more than willing to spread the good news of Roger Clyne. He is rocking. He is rocking indeed

And I believe Hell has just been spontaneously created just to give me somewhere to go...


That makes sense. Also, remind me to write up a post one of these days on how acknowledgment that world sometimes sucks is bad in Christianity.

Actually, I might have already done that. Repeatedly.