As I meander along my blogreading route, I periodically come upon posts or comments that are so incredibly self-righteous, that make such rigid pronouncements, that set my teeth on such edge ... that, without knowing biographical data, I know I've found myself reading something from someone who has a degree in divinity, is pursuing a degree in divinity, or sure wishes they had a degree in divinity. Oh hell, skip the degree; what they really want is god-status.
Some of you may have picked up that I am a Jew by conversion. Prior to my conversion, to prepare for standing before a Beth Din (rabbinical court), I studied for two years with a Reform (which is the rather more liberal arm of Judaism) rabbi because this is the faith that has always made the most sense to my heart.
The halakha (Jewish law, custom and tradition) is appealing to me for its reason, its humility, its assertion of human responsibility, its insistence that there is One G-d (this spelling used out of respect for any Jewish readers).
But I lived my childhood in another faith, part of it the stepdaughter of a Christian minister. One of the most arrogant, hypocritical, cruel and self-centered individuals I have ever known in my life. I directly place the death of my parents' marriage at his feet, I know how unhappy my mother was in her marriage to this man and I am uncomfortably aware how many people were attracted to (read: fell for) his floridly emotional, slap 'em on the back, hail fellow-well met ministry.
I choose not to air any more family laundry in this venue ... this much linen serves merely as a bottom sheet for my real question:
How can a human presume to speak for G-d ? How can a human presume to know what is unequivocally right and place themselves in judgement of others? How can a human absolutely know the way and the truth in their intepretation and/or application of scripture? And why would anyone seek to appropriate that particular type of power over other susceptible humans?
Absolutely there are good ministers. I saw them doing outreach in the Chicago innercity. I met them in college-oriented church groups. I have worked with them as hospital chaplains. And corresponded with a military chaplain. And I have been grateful for, if always mistrustful of, their counsel.
Because I couldn't stop asking the question: why do you do this work? What is there about you that made you choose this? Are your motives clean?
Because I am afraid of the type of person who chooses this work.
Teacher I understand, and respect. A pastor is different from a teacher. Look at the word pastor: [from Wikipedia] "Pastor comes from the Greek word "poimen" meaning shepherd ... in a modern context, the term is often used to denote one who gives spiritual guidance and counsel ..." There is often an assumption of special status in taking on that role. A delineation of "there is me and then there is thee."
To those who choose this, who believe they have a vocation, a calling, who lust for the pulpit or bimah, مَذْبَحُ or altar, I can't stop asking: what makes you think you are special?
How dare you take on the god-like status of one who guides others' spirituality -- not through reference to, and well-intentioned discussion of, an established coda but through personality and inflicting your thoughts and will on others? What kind of ego fosters the idea that you are equipped to tell others what is right and wrong for them? Is your life so flawless?
Although I managed to make a choice for religion and am at ease with it, I still question any person or would-be person of the cloth, whether Protestant, Jewish, Catholic or Muslim: why do you want this power? What is your intention? What makes you worthy? Does your own behavior withstand scrutiny?
Why should what you think matter to me, or anyone else?
Today's fragrance: Isabey Gardenia. Notes: tangerine bark, ylang-ylang, orange flowers, gardenia extract, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, iris, musk, ambergris, sandalwood. It really IS all that.