Who's Minding the Store?
Church Times - Never lonelier, never more blessed
Why is sexuality such a big issue?
First of all, I think it shouldn’t be such a big issue. For all kinds of complicated reasons, it has been raised to a level higher than it deserves. We should be talking about the gospel, feeding the poor, caring for the HIV-infected, solving the ecological crisis.
The Church most certainly should not be talking about feeding the poor, caring for the HIV-infected, solving the ecological crisis--or about sexuality. It should be talking about the doctrine of the Trinity, the Real Presence doctrine and post-mortem survival, about liturgy and sacred music, about how to drum up business for the church, maintain buildings and keep services going. Politicians and NGO-administrators should be talking about feeding the poor; doctors, nurses and epidemologists should be talking about caring for the HIV-infected; scientists should be talking about the ecological crisis.
The whole business of the Church is doing church. Once the clergy were virtually co-extensive with the educated professional class. Now they are not. There are secular experts who have taken over all the secular tasks that once fell to clergy by default, including professional ethicists who do ethics. But still these priests have the arrogance to imagine that they are qualified to talk about everyone else's business and the vanity to imagine that people will take them seriously. The Church is no more qualified to contribute to a solution to the ecological crisis than it is to do dentistry or plumbing.
Meanwhile, as these priests spend their time in bull sessions discussing all the world's problems, church buildings are being sold off, becoming derelict and being demolished, and in the US, the last bastion of religiousity in the First World, secularism is proceeding apace: the fastest growing "religious group" in the US is the unchurched. No one's minding the store. And the problem, as the old poster had it, is obvious: the priests who run the Church don't believe in God, or think that religion is either important or interesting. Or maybe more aptly, they think they're too important to do religion.
I went on a field trip to a Hindu temple in Los Angeles a few years ago for a course I was taking in Asian Spirituality. The president of the temple was a layman, predictably an engineer with a dozen or two pens in his shirt pocket. He showed us around and introduced us to the priests, whose job I gathered was strictly liturgical and janitorial: they maintained the facility, washed and dressed the idols, and did pujas. There was a menu of pujas on the wall, with prices: you paid your money and got your puja. As far as I could see these priests didn't think they had anything to say about solving the ecological crisis or imagine that anyone cared about their views on much of anything. Their job was menial: they were servants.
Christian clergy claim to regard themselves as servants too: they make a fuss about washing people's feet on Maundy Thursday. Of course, they don't believe it. They regard themselves as professionals, entitled to "professional-level" salaries, qualified to exercise leadership, to teach and to set us straight about everything from global warming to sexuality. So the outcome should hardly be a surprise: the Church flourishes, for the time being, in circumstances comparable to the Dark Ages, where the clergy are a relatively educated semi-elite amongst clueless peasants--in the Third World and in the American working class. Educated people drop out, not because Christianity is intellectually bankrupt but because they do not see any reason why they should look to the Church for wisdom or guidance.
I don't mind it so much that they're arrogant jackasses: who has ever listened to them? What I mind is that they're not minding the store, that they are not committed to maintaining the buildings and doing the pujas to suit us.