Sun | Jul 25, 2021

Orville Taylor | Too much abuse of trust by men of cloth

Published:Sunday | June 13, 2021 | 12:10 AM

More reports of children being sexually abused by men of the cloth; Pastor and Jesus and not the same; blind trust is dangerous, and too many sheep put the Pastor above the Bible. However, the abuse is not only sexual. Many so-called pastors manipulate the trust and naiveté of their followers in many other ways, including financially.

Some of my ‘praise and worship only’ church-attending friends expect me to go to Hell for saying this, and if so, I will continue the conversations there with them. Truth is, there is a great discomfort I have felt for the longest of time with Christian leadership even as I absorbed the teachings of Roman Catholic priests as a teenager, juxtaposed against the ‘back to the Bible’ lessons from my father, who always seemed to have a telegram address for Jesus.

Something always felt wrong with the idea of a man who has a vow of celibacy being called ‘Father’. That often spurred my mischievous reference to the excluded books, the Apocrypha as a spoonerism, or anagram, while exaggerating my speech impediment. However, I had and still have a more fundamental problem despite Jesus’ reference to his followers as his flock.

Sorry, I have never liked the idea of being a sheep. True, Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God,’ the innocent to slaughter; but a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and there must have been some reason why God gave me a brain. Christianity teaches being ‘Christlike’, but I strongly doubt that it means continuing to be an innocent victim. Certainly, given that there is scripture and gospel, there must be primary texts to guide rather than have a new set of Pharisees and Sadducees who interpret for me and become some sort of cleric royalty.

GOOD SHEPHERD

Jesus described himself as the ‘Good Shepherd’, importantly because “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Thus, being a ‘Pastor’, the loose translation of shepherd means risks and sacrifice rather than the desire to self-elevate. Too many religious leaders have ‘Bible carriers’, entourages walking them to the pulpit, nepotism in family leadership, spouses becoming ‘first ladies’ as if it is a secular presidency, and most important, more riches than they can spend. A rich pastor can never minister to me. Sorry!

Indeed, if the Jesus of John 2:13-16 were to walk into many church buildings and services now, he would kick out the pastors just as he did the money changers and might not even recognise them as Christians.

For me, the problem with being a shepherd is that unless the farmer is strictly using the sheep for wool, they are going to have exactly the same fate as if they were being set upon by the wolves. Therefore, what is the benefit of a shepherd if I am going to end up in the belly of the beast either way? Indeed, this might seem like a lot of bull, but the imagery of the Hindu cattle herder is superior to the Christian shepherd. Given that the cowherd never sees the cattle as a source of food, he would never ever be leading the innocent to slaughter or see them as prey.

Somehow, the Jesus template of a pastor’s life being one of sacrifice has morphed into an overabundance of trust, suppression of one’s intellect and reasoning and allowing too many men of the cloth to have space and opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerable. Trust me! Even if the reverend is an Ethiopian eunuch, he is not going to be alone with my chil – girl or boy – and he gets no special access to my spouse. Often, the congregants have a gut feeling, because the Holy Spirit does give them hints that Pastor is just too smooth. However, they put man before God, and hell then breaks loose.

BRAINWASHED DOCTRINES

What occurs in too many churches is skilful self-aggrandisement and brainwashed doctrines with no biblical foundation. Thus, I dare pastors who blackmail their parishioners with hellfire into paying tithes to the temple under the Old Covenant to show me anywhere in Jesus’ or even Paul’s teachings that this gluttonous church tax (GCT) is prescribed. There is a hell of a difference between giving to one’s fellowman and to an organised institution.

Even so, can a wealthy pastor, who has no income except from the church, reconcile for me Matthew 19:24? I am much smaller than a camel and still, going through a biblical needle-eye is an almost impossible squeeze as Jesus taught. Indeed, there are many examples of him speaking, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He ends, “You cannot serve both God and money.”

Finally, a wake-up. Polls in the US indicate that 51 per cent of Americans 55 and older trust pastors. Among 18 to 34-year-olds, it is 24 per cent. Do they know something we don’t?

Pray but open your eyes, one on the Bible and the other on the pastor.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.