Thursday, October 30, 2008

Head Flush

I've a string of random thoughts running through my mind this morning. Half of them are remnants from the conversation I had with myself this morning at 4 am when I sat in the dark, nursing my baby and feeling grateful for my grandmother's fuzzy white house-shoes and her black-and-white chair both of which I still use when I'm nursing my baby at 4-am. 

I read Eugene Peterson's "The Contemplative Pastor" yesterday. (There is a lot of time to read when one nurses a baby in the midst of a growth-spurt.) This is the primary question I have for Mr. Peterson: When did our pastors start to hate us? To read his words is to be impressed that his congregation sits in the pews Sunday by Sunday spitting sunflower seeds in the floor and farting smellily while he tries his best to exegete some truth into their thick and unrefined headspaces. He also completely misquotes not only Herman Melville, but Ralph Waldo Emerson as well compounding his error by referring to him only as "Waldo." And so, I leave doubly offended, both as a church-member and as a student of American literature. Please, if you ever write a book, don't quote something you haven't read. Because rest assured, someone has and they will beg you return so they may taunt you a second time. And perhaps even catapult a cow in your general direction.

My second random thought revolves around the sweetest (non-religious of course) words I think I've ever heard at church: "We need some more men in leadership." These words are made sweeter by the able men who stood up to volunteer. When men and women work together good things happen. 

And now, this session of head-emptying must come to an end as the baby is hungry. Again. Amen.


Charlene said...

Su, have you read Barbara Brown Taylor's "Leaving Church"? I'm of two minds about it myself, but I think she articulates the heartbreak, exhaustion, and frustrations of pastoring really well. And if you can find a copy of "Diary of a Country Priest" (I saw the movie -- it's a slog: black-and-white and in French, but still good; it's also a novel), it might also offer some good insights. It's really sad to me when pastors are condescending to their congregations, but on the other hand, I know so many Christians who treat church -- and their pastors -- like commodities.

p.s. Guess what? I found a church here in Canada, and it's... (drumroll) Anglican. (cymbals crash)

susan said...

Yeah, but it's heartbreaking, exhausting, and frustrating to be a bond trader or a housewife or a teacher or a telephone man. And no one should be treated like a commodity, but in the long run, does a pastor deserve any more respect than a bond trader or a housewife or a telephone man? I don't believe so.

And don't get me wrong because I respect my priest in much the same way I respect my father or my husband or my mother. But, I've known priests who were priests because they didn't know what to do with their undergraduate degrees and so they went to seminary. And I can't wrap my head around Peterson referring to himself as a "physician of souls." That's Christ's job. A "pharmacist of souls?" A "physical therapist of souls?" Maybe.

I hope you enjoy your church. I have had my head in the Anglican tradition for many moons.

Charlene said...

Hmm, gosh Su. You really make me think. I just finished Peterson's "Eat This Book" a couple weeks ago and found it tough to read, but I guess I'd better go find this book you're talking about to get a better idea of what you mean. I'm working as a bookseller right now, and I've got to admit, there's nothing particularly heartbreaking, exhausting, or frustrating about my job. I talk to people about cookbooks all day long, and when it's slow, I pull out a book of my own to read. Now my life, well, that's a different story -- it's been a very painful move to Canada -- but I do think it's fair to say that some professions, like ministry, social work, or therapy, carry specific human burdens.

I like that you framed your thoughts in terms of respect. Is that what's so annoying? That by virtue of their profession, pastors are immediately attributed respect or even reverence where it's not always due; or worse, pastors attribute those things to themselves? I wonder if maybe pastors get too large a portion of respect but skimpier servings of sympathy.

And yes, I AM digging the Anglican tradition.

susan said...

Well, I think our priests/pastors deserve a great measure of our respect. If we can't respect them, we should probably re-think being in their congregation.
Peterson's book was by a pastor FOR a pastor so it gave some insight into what he thinks of his congregation. There was one instance in the book when he really calls out to ridicule someone he calls "an executive." (That's my reading, open to debate.)
That really offended me because I see no moral distinction between the work of "being an executive" and being a pastor. We've got different callings and one isn't better or more worthy than the next.

So, I think his congregation deserves more respect. Not because they "pay his salary" but because they have their own callings that are not inferior to his.

And really, God gives us the privilege of contributing to church, but he will make a way to pay a priest where there is no way. We can't take credit for that. It's an honor to help, really.

Honestly, I didn't know you moved to Canada, but I am so sorry it was hard. I'd like to hear about it.

Charlene said...

Yeah, that must have been tough to read... I imagine it was sort of like to wandering into the teacher's lounge in elementary school and then (surprise!) hearing them making fun of their students.

I think I have your email address somewhere. I would like for us to stay in touch.