Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Pastor God

Check this out.  The blog seems to be no longer updated, but has a perfect description of the ministry in the Church of God.

When the church is at its healthiest, many people contribute to the life of the body with gifts they’ve been given.  One of those gifts is “pastoring”, or care-taking.  Mixed with all the other gifts in the body, the whole community is healthy, alive, free, and an expression of God’s love in the world that is obvious and undeniable.

But this is very rare among church gatherings.

Much more often, the group is dominated and defined by the personality of one person: the Pastor-god.
The Pastor-god is not merely a contributor within the body; he is the voice, the face, and the authority in the church.  He is the boss, the CEO, the example, the teacher, the father-figure.

In the Cult of the Pastor-god, they are called “God’s anointed”.  They are the one who communicates God’s word to the followers.  They are the mouth, while the church is the ears.  Their part is to provide care and discipline to the people; the people’s part is to listen, honor, and follow.

And in many churches, this model works flawlessly.  People really want someone to lead and protect them—without it they feel vulnerable and lost.  And of course there are no shortage of people willing to assume this role of the Pastor-god.

The Pastor-god claims to not want adulation and adoration from the people, but inwardly they crave it.  The people claim they don’t believe their pastor is a god, but they treat him like he is.  When the pastor makes them proud, they heap accolades.  When the pastor does not live up to his god-like standard, they look for ways to take him down.

When the Pastor-god is there, the people feel safe.  When the Pastor-god goes away, the people are devastated. 

Of course this is nothing new—people are afraid to be leaderless, as was the nation of Israel when they demanded a leader:
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (I Samuel 8:19-20)
God reluctantly gave them their leader, an outstanding young man named Saul.  Their craving for a leader was satisfied, but it was wrong; what resulted was anxiety, strife, war, madness, and death.

One of the reasons churches suck today is because they are much less like the body of Christ and much more like the Cult of the Pastor-god—or "the cult of personality."  More and more within the church are recognizing this disturbing reality:
“...evangelicalism is not so much a religion as a series of fast-moving personality cults.” ― Frank Schaeffer 
Thinking about this, I could not get the image of an old Star Trek episode out of my mind.  It’s called Who Mourns for Adonais and it’s about the Enterprise crew coming face to face with Apollo, one of the gods from earth’s ancient culture. 

Remember this one?

As the episode goes, back when the gods (turns out they were actually aliens) came to earth, the primitive people saw their power and naturally fell down to worship them.  Under their authority, people felt cared for--and the gods were happy to have the attention.  It was a comfortable, but immature and ultimately dysfunctional relationship.  The gods’ part was to provide care and discipline to the people; the people’s part was to listen, honor, and follow…

…just like in the Cult of the Pastor-god.

In those days, to defy the gods was a fearful thing—as Captain Kirk discovered when he dared to defy Apollo’s authority:
Kirk: “Apollo, we’re willing to talk, but you’ll find we don’t bow to every creature who happens to have a bag of tricks.”
Apollo: “Agamemnon was one such as you, and Hercules--pride and arrogance.  They defied me, until they felt my wrath.”
Have you ever been called “proud” or “arrogant” by a pastor-god when you questioned their authority? If you have, you have come face-to-face with the Cult of the Pastor-god.

Apollo expected these people to fall down and honor him just like people did in the ancient days.  But Kirk, recognizing the dysfunction of such an authoritarian relationship, continued to defy—and the conflict escalates:
Apollo: “I could sweep you out of existence with a wave of my hand, and bring you back again. I can give life or death. What else does mankind demand of its gods?”

Kirk: “Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.”
Apollo: “We shall not debate, mortal.  I offer you eternal rest and happiness according to the ancient ways. I ask little in return. But what I ask for I insist upon.”
The one thing he cannot handle outright defiance; he can only insist on its authority, and promise judgment upon the one who dares defy them.  If you do decide you need to escape the cult, understand one thing:

There is no gentle way to get out of the cult of the Pastor-god. 

If you are struggling to get free from a pastor-god cult, please re-read that last sentence a couple more times. This will be a battle of wills.

Eventually, Kirk and his crew had use force to disable Apollo’s source of power.  Apollo was reduced to his true, powerless nature.  

 In the end, Apollo lost everything and is reduced to tears:
Apollo: “I would have cherished you, cared for you. I would have loved you like a father loves his children. Did I ask so much?”

Kirk: “We’ve outgrown you. You asked for something we can no longer give.” 
And there’s the thing.  Even people who have been raised life-long in a pastor-god cult are realizing they can no longer give outright honor and obedience to a religious authority figure.  And they shouldn’t.  Our leader is Christ, not the one up front with the loud voice and the big platform.
More and more people in the body of Christ are finding true “body life” outside of the Cult of the Pastor-god--but it hasn’t come without a price.  The emotional turmoil that comes from separating from an old authority figure can be intense, even devastating. 

I’ll repeat: There is no gentle way to get out of the cult of the Pastor-god. 


Anonymous said...

Captain Kirk’s comment about “outgrowing” is especially apt in the COG world. All those poor souls, still out there, who CAN’T outgrow the idea that HWA was someone really special – oh, it’s so sickening!

“Who Mourns for Adonis” was one of the weakest, most unpleasant, excruciating episodes of The Original Series, due largely to the dull, wooden performances of the guest actors playing Apollo and the crewwoman he takes a shine to. The aliens-visiting-Earth-long-ago premise is a viable one – 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was about to come out at that time – but the Star Trek writing, by then, was missing the bullseye as often as it hit (and it got much worse). At the end of “Adonis,” Kirk and company inexplicably lament having to destroy Apollo, a further flaw in a stupid script. At least they did actually destroy the bad thing.

Wish phasers worked on Armstrongism.

Connie Schmidt said...

In one of the Star Trek movies Kirk asks the supposed "God"...

"Why does God need a Starship?"

One can also ask, why does God need an AUDITORIUM, a JET PLANE, or STEUBEN CRYSTAL?

Why does God need a Pack, Flurry, Weinland, or Thiel?

Black Ops Mikey said...

Immature and dysfunctional.


Byker Bob said...

Here is what I see as being the problem with this type of authority: The "perp" wants to have the status of God without having the omniscience and character to exercise that status properly, or even fairly. Generally, it ends up going to the perp's head, with him expecting the membership to be servile surrogates, and their devotion and resources his personal entitlements. It subtly warps the members' concept of God (How many WCG members envisioned God as HWA on steroids?) So it interferes with and works against the stated goal of Christianity or religion, which is to initiate and develop a relationship with God.

Is it any wonder that in the aftermath of failed prophecy, financial ripoff, or victimization by terrible misexercise of authority, members get all "athed" out, literally sick of God or of even hearing His name because of the Pavlovian garbage that was thrown at them by a narcissistic tyrant who claimed God's authority? No wonder people use compartmentalization techniques to deal with this and build such formidable, unassailable walls!

Shame on the ACOGs and any other groups who use this "pastor-god" model! Bad, bad, bad splinter! Observant Jews and Messianics alike prove that one does not need pastor-gods to observe and to find joy in the Old Covenant traditions. Conspiracy theories, false prophecy, and this type of authority are the elements which provided cause for the toxic, cultic effects of Armstrongism!


Anonymous said...

Set phasers to NAILED IT.

That's exactly how it feels. I outgrew the need for a pastor demi-god, the pastor-general god, and the overlord Jesus supergod, all at the same time. He's also got more good articles on his blog than just this one.

I don't need someone to bribe me to be "good" and punish me if I'm "bad." If I do well, there are good consequences, and if not, then not-so-good consequences follow, in the right here and now. It's called "feedback." The idea of some parental figure in the sky who's dealing out candy or spankings (besides being bullshit) but offers no feedback, well, at least not until it's too late to make any course corrections, just leads to no end of speculation about what's "good enough" or what you can "get away with." Because, let's face it, in Christianity, you can get away with murder, rape, stealing, etc. just so long as you're "sorry," right? It's better to have self control than to sack a city, but let's not kid ourselves, whoever wrote this thought that sacking a city (murder, rape, stealing, etc.) was pretty darned awesome. Sure, it involves a little "unpleasantness" along the way, but think of the glory! Just think of Joshua and David, men after Jesus' own heart. If you're struck on one cheek, turn the other one. But if you're asked to bring the testicles of 100 Philistines, bring 200. No ambiguity there. Nothing a little "feedback" couldn't help bring into focus. Let's face it, Jesus has a lot of "hearts" which you could be a man (or a wuss-bag) after.

So, along comes a guy who claims to speak on behalf of this Jesus. He can prettymuch say whatever he wants, because the bible gives him some pretty wide latitude. You can either take this as bullshit, or that clarification you've been after. You can either take him to be a con-artist or a pastor-god. Basically, you just adjust Jesus upward a little, and install this man in the spot where you used to put Jesus. He's your new Jesus. If you didn't have a trinity before, now you do. And this Jesus can then deploy an army of local pastor-gods and he becomes pastor-god-general. Did I mention how you get away with anything in Christianity? You can also rape your own daughter and still be a pastor-general-god. Just make sure that you pick the right heart of Jesus to be a "man" after. And make sure your worshipers pick one that works for you as well. Then, simply fire your own bogus "feedback" torpedoes at them. I guess people will worship those who reduce the ambiguity they have to deal with.

James said...

Nice post Gary. I have the video of this on the Painful Truth's front page.

Ed said...

I am an agnostic. I can not see myself attending any church ever again. But even if I was a religious person why would I want to be a part of any organized religion?

If God exists wouldn't he want us to use the wonderful mind he gave us?

Churches are group-think organizations. If you think differently then the group you are not really accepted into the group or considered second rate members.

So much about being a part of a church robs the individual of his individuality.

Byker Bob said...

These guys are actually pasture gods. When they saw P.C. in the clouds, it really meant "plow corn". But, they saw Armstrongism as their ticket to wealth, authority, and self-aggrandizement, and the neurons just started a' misfirin'! Head for the hills Loueezie! It ain't just the cow chips a'comin our way in the wind!


Anonymous said...

speaking of group think, this site comes to mind