Monday, February 26, 2007

The tricky side of charisma

Over at GetReligion, a blog devoted to the collision of religion and journalism, Terry Mattingly links to a story of a Pentecostal preacher in trouble.

The details do not concern me. What caught my eye was this part of the linked posting:

Again, in my opinion, this false teaching arose because church leaders saw a need to conceal the widespread sexual immorality in their own ranks. “Touch not mine anointed” is often repeated alongside the Apostle Paul’s statement that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” The latter verse, from Romans, is used to rationalize how a minister can lead a completely dissipated life and still display genuine gifts of God such as the ability to preach or prophesy. The misuse of these verses has done tremendous damage within the Pentecostal-charismatic tradition.

Something that we polytheists should understand -- something that I learned in my first coven -- is that magickal ability or even the favor of the gods is not the same thing as moral character.

When Mattingly calls Rev. Allen "charismatic — in every sense of the word," that is what he is saying, with his Christian terminology. The man has "the juice." But having the juice does not mean that you trust in him other areas.

I suspect that Socrates, for instance, knew that perfectly well. Consequently, he does not discuss it. Every ancient Athenian probably knew that you could be filled with divine power -- enthused -- now and then, but being so enthused did not make you a philosopher.

Monotheists, however, want it all in one package: the Professional Good Man, to borrow a phrase from Elmer Gantry. Consequently, they are always dealing with clergy-corruption issues.

I had not realized that Pentecostal Christians, in particular, used Bible verses to explain away the issue. They ought to just understand that even if someone "displays the genuine gifts of [their] God," he or she may still not be someone to listen to in other areas. Their sheep/sheepherder model of organization gets them in trouble again and again.

Labels: ,


Blogger Al Billings said...

I differentiate between those who have "the juice" and priests though.

I expect priests to have and display the ethics or teachings of their tradition. They should embody these as living examples.

Sure, we're all people and we're all horribly flawed at times or make bad decisions but a priest should display virtue, not simply the juice. Many a hustler or a gifted grifter has had the latter...

10:49 AM  
Blogger Edward said...

You make some excellent points here, especially in regard to Socrates--see, for instance, the Euthyphro.

Another aspect of the desire to "have it all in one package" is that philosophers have a difficult time accepting that Plato can show Socrates being critical of Euthyphro's attempt to ground his ethics entirely in a literalist interpretation of myth while also being sincere in his own accounts of the Gods (in, e.g., the Phaedrus.

Edward Butler

10:56 AM  
Blogger prairie mary said...

Oh, all right, a word from the ornery dissenter. First, one of the most daunting realizations of my short ministry career (and one of the shortening forces) was that most of the men were fooling around, using their position to fool around, and really rather proud of it. Some of these people were men I had made heroes of -- effective, intelligent, the works.

But here's the dissent: the women were just as bad or worse, trading sex for money (loan to buy a car) or for prestige, like the woman who was so proud of seducing the head of the whole denomination and told everyone, swearing us all to secrecy.

The breaking point came when one of the most "saintly" ministers, a man, sent his lover away finally, whereupon she came into my congregation and raised hell. I might have been more forgiving if he hadn't occasionally traveled a thousand miles to visit "on denominational business" which always caused her to throw out her local lover so he could stay over for a reunion. After that, she always assumed that sleeping with this guy made her my boss.

It's not just the sex or whatever, it's the rotten dynamics that are connected to it -- in a context (religion) where the dynamics are already hard to contain.

And all that "if we were just more willing to be equals" stuff blaming Euro heuristics is blown away if you know anything about Native American religion. Some of the most powerful are much more like sorcerers than innocent sufferers.

Also, I once listened to a long disquisition by a Buddhist woman who revealed all the hanky-panky in between the meditations.

As long as religion is human, it will be vulnerable to corruption.

Prairie Mary

1:07 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Al Billings writes, "I differentiate between those who have "the juice" and priests though."

That depends. A priest is a servant of a deity, by my definition. (Or a servant of a deity's shrine.)

Some deities are only about the juice, while others have more complex agendas. Some -- a few, not all -- might want their servants to be sheepherders.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Prairie Mary writes, "And all that "if we were just more willing to be equals" stuff blaming Euro heuristics is blown away if you know anything about Native American religion. Some of the most powerful are much more like sorcerers than innocent sufferers."

I have no idea what you mean about the "willing to be equals" part.

However, I do very well know what you mean about power individuals being "more like sorcerers." There you have restated my point!

7:22 PM  
Blogger prairie mary said...

The post-everything dogma is that if everyone would just recognize that we could collaborate and cooperate without having leaders, then we would have gotten rid of the oppressors. This was a belief pushed hard by certain feminists. For instance, one dominated a women's spirituality conference for a half-hour because I had delivered a "keynote" address and this woman said that this implied I was the only person who really knew what was going on when others (i.e. her) were just as important. In fact, her harangue took quite a bit longer than the keynote speech.

Prairie Mary

9:49 PM  
Anonymous shal el said...

Those who like to use the shepard/sheep model have nothing to complain about when they get sheered.

7:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home