In my last/first ever article on The Daily Cake, I talked about why we should all be awesome lay ministers in the church…in a nutshell. Something I mention is how we put our clergy on a pedestal and just leave them up there. Like a shiny marble statue. Where does this perception come from?
From the earliest records, civilizations have treated their holy leaders differently. They have held their knowledge and wisdom in high esteem. The religious have claimed to see visions, hear voices, and heal the sick. When they did these things, healed people, predicted the future (and it came true!), they were instantly elevated to a higher status. How many leaders in history have had spiritual advisors? I’d guess that when folks see a political leader with a spiritual advisor, they would put that advisor higher on the spiritual totem pole than themselves. Right?
So we put our holy folks up high and they can do no wrong. They always speak words of wisdom, healing prayers, and absolve us of our wrongdoings. But what happens when they misspeak? Or the prayer they said for us isn’t the answer we were looking for? (Which is a total different bag of worms.) We start to chip away at the marble statue we’ve made. We whittle it down until it’s unrecognizable. And then a “big thing” happens. You know, that “big thing” that your priest does/says/doesn’t say that causes us to hit that marble with a sledgehammer. We don’t go to church anymore. We choose to stop believing or we become spiritual but not religious. We say that if the priest did it then God would have done it too. We get hurt.
We are human. We do human things, make human mistakes. One human mistake? We forget that our clergy are human, too. We forget that when we chip away at that statue, we chip away at a human. Someone who loves us as children of God, as parishioners, and as neighbors. But we must love them, too. We must love them because they are also a child of God, our priest, and our neighbor. So when we smash that statue, they’re hurt, too. When we knock them off that pedestal, it hurts them just as much as it hurts us.
What’s the solution? How do we keep our clergy in high esteem, but also keep them as flesh, as human? I don’t know every answer, but I know what works for me. We pray together. We learn together. We fellowship together. We practice forgiveness together. We owe it to them and to ourselves to remember that we are all God’s children, we are all one church, we are all human.