Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crazy Life Out of Balance Day

On this day when the east coast has been damaged and some religious folks are claiming it is the fault of gay people, and not climate change or even simple random "that's kind of what the weather just does on its own once in a while";

or others have blamed it on secular humanism or feminists or even Obama, because they think God is really evil and all-powerful but not powerful enough to hit individual people with smiting and so has to shotgun half the country with an 800 mile wide storm of wind and rain to punish a few, that, for some reason, He had to start down off the coast of South America;

and a day on which Michael "Heckuva Job, Brownie" Brown is criticizing Obama for responding *too quickly* to Sandy;

and Gov. Christie is praising Obama's response as much as he can and yelling at people for bringing politics into it;

and a day on which the Presbyterian Permanent Judicial Commission has ruled that gay Presbyterian clergy can marry in states where it is legal but they cannot do so in a Presbyterian church;

And a day on which Disney is buying Lucasfilm;

I'm listening to Koyaanisqatsi. It is the only thing that makes sense.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Clericism and the American Way.

A post from my friend Rev. David Bocock about the "pastor as CEO" mentality has had me thinking this morning, and I had a thought about our tradition (mainline Christian that has pastors that are free to accept calls wherever and congregations free to call whoever - that is, not being moved around by the greater Church, for instance). In our tradition, there really are no "promotions" except to "move up" to a larger church. We're American, after all, and even in the church we've bought the "bigger is better" mentality, and so going from smaller to larger is always a move up, never a downgrade, and going larger to smaller is always a downgrade, never a move up, unless a pastor is ready for retirement (or is retired) and wants to "slow down". And we definitely offer more honor and prestige to pastors who have large flocks. What do pastors generally ask each first when they meet? "How big is your church". No different, really, than the Wall Street Execs asking about house size, or the monster truck folks, or on and on and on...

Which led me to wonder - if going to a larger church is the upgrade, why not make the one you're at into that church? We have for so long cultivated the idea that we get a "starter church" (not a church start), then move to a medium one, and so on, and then, at the height of our career if we're really, really good, we'll get the Big Church. But we have not cultivated a culture that says "grow where you are" - not in the UCC or many of the mainlines, anyway. That's one thing the entrepreneurial churchers have on us: they make their church into the church they want to be at. They have an addiction to growth and bigness as well (far more than we do, I would say, because business is their model), but it seems we're missing something by seemingly not even entertaining the idea that our ancestors had of growing where one is.

If one wants the giant church, why not build one?

I realize there is far more complexity to this, and all sorts of variables and legitimate reasons, but my question is rhetorical anyway so I'm not looking for an answer, only discussion. But it's something that I think we (as clergy, and as a denomination and as the greater church) need to think about.