Thursday, January 3, 2008

Pastor Friends

I was talking with a pastor friend of mine the other day, on the way to this blog. And he.

(Well I still do have pastor friends, I think. I hope I still do. I don’t have it in for all pastors, ministers, and priests. Not all. I do actually like some of them. As I say, some of them are friends. One or two or three or four or five so of them are friends.

And because these good friends of mine are forgiving people, they are tolerant of this blog. Maybe even getting a little kick out of it themselves because, as you probably know, not all pastors love all other pastors equally. I think that’s a rather nice way of putting it. Not all pastors, ministers, and priests love one another equally.

Why is that, I wonder. I mean they’re Christians, by definition. They’re supposed to love one another, as well as us. The people in the pews. The unwashed. The bleating sheep. And they’re paid to do it. So wouldn’t you think if you were paid to do something, you’d actually do it? But some things are hard to do. Even for pastors.

I’ve known quite a number of pastors, ministers, and priests so far. Some have taken a positive pleasure in telling jokes about one another. Mostly denominational jokes. Based on denominational stereotypes.

I’ve heard people complain about this sort of thing, but I’m quite happy with it myself. A little standup humor from the pulpit or the music stand never hurt anybody. If you can’t take a little denominational ribbing, you’re in need of an attitude correction. Welcome to the human race.

There’s friction here, where we live. Down here on the planet earth. We each have somewhat different agendas and so we rub one another the wrong way. I think it’s healthy myself. I think it promotes intellectual stimulation and discussion. It’s a great source of humor.

Back in the old days, it was more murder and mayhem denomination-to-denomination than it was standup comedy. And so the way I think about it is this: better a little possibly cruel humor from time to time than murder and mayhem.

In the old days, a good bit of it was state sponsored. Those were the days when the priests, ministers, and pastors were tangled up, some of them, with the powers that be. The powers and principalities, as one pastor friend likes to call them.

But a lot of the murder and mayhem was free lance as well. Not so much state sponsored as state permitted. But hey, they knew how to have fun in the old days. Delightful bloody old days. Pastors and parishioners beating one another’s heads in until the brains oozed out.

And still today, you see it. This tangled business between faith and politics, belief and worldly power. What right belief is. What right political power is. What correct or sanctified or legitimate or God-breathed politics and belief are supposed to look like.

But it’s the free-lance pastors, ministers, and priests who swing some of the big bats in this conversation. These days. This one-way conversation. Along with the church-sponsored ones.

People on the radio, people on the TV. People who try to set the faith and politics agenda for people like you and me. Who try to tell us who God is. What he’s like. What he wants from us. What we should do politically and every other way to be good little Christians.)

But as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, I was talking to a pastor friend of mine the other day. Over the break. Somewhere in that expanse between Christmas and New Year’s. And he said, “Bill, you’re lucky you’re still welcome in your church, after all you’ve said and done. (My shenanigans extend well beyond this blog and began shortly after I began attending a church some seven years or so ago.) Your pastor is a remarkable guy. Most of the pastors I know would have shown you the door by now.”

And he’s right. They would have, most of the pastors I’ve known. And that’s a significant issue, I think. For me and for all Christians. The idea of not being welcome in a church because a person does not buy a particular theological perspective that the pastor likes. A particular political perspective that the pastor likes.

By the way, my pastor is an amazing guy. Pastors, I should say. Three of them, altogether. Compassionate, understanding, smart, funny, courageous. Forgiving. (They even forgive me. Can you imagine?) As far as pastors and people go, I don’t know better pastors or people.

And they encourage and nurture diversity. Remarkable, wouldn’t you say? Doctrinal and dogmatic diversity. Theological and political diversity. Ethnic and racial. Even gender diversity. Have you ever heard of such a thing? And in an Evangelical church. I do believe that wonders will never cease.

I indeed am blessed.

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