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.