Monday, June 28, 2010

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Early last week, I was on my way out of a local bookstore and coffee shop, when the proprietress thrust something into my hands. "Here, read this," she told me.

I took a look at the cover. It was a local publication called, "Lavender." The cover story was about a well-known (some would say infamous) pastor in our community. He has been well-known for his angry and vehement positions against Gay and Lesbian people in the church.

I didn't read the story right away. I was actually surprised by the headline, which proclaimed that this pastor "had something to hide."

Turns out, that Rev. Brock struggles with same-sex attractions himself. The article in question was by a "journalist" who infiltrated a confidential support group to get a story. Since then, the questionable ethics of "Lavender" have been as much a part of the story as the story itself.

I don't know Pastor Brock, but I've been familiar with his rants for a long time. He used to write mass letters to congregations in our region about abortion as well. He's also angry that we entertain any other position on Christ's atonement than the "correct" one, which is the theology of substitionary atonement.

Many have called Pastor Brock a hypocrite for deriding same-sex relationships publicly while secretly struggling with these same feelings. There's a particular part of the (supposedly confidential) meeting where he confesses that on a trip to Slovokia he "fell into temptation." Some have supposed that this meant that he "gave in" on that trip. But, not necessarily. Temptation to sin is not the same as succombing to sin. (Please be aware that I am not saying that I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I am just conceding that Pastor Brock does.)

However, it did start me thinking about temptation and sin, particularly as regards pastors. I remember once at a Bible study breakfast, saying something like, "Well, you know, I struggle with sin all the time." And though I didn't mention any specific sin, one of the men acted like it was still a little too much information.

One of the temptations that pastors face is the temptation to believe "the hype" -- that we are holy people, and because we are committed to the gospel and prayer and the life of the church, we are somehow immune to the struggles of other people. And it seems to me that when we are tempted to believe "the hype" ourselves -- that's when we are most in danger of abusing the power, the authority given to us. When we have to keep our struggles to ourselves, and pretend that we don't have any -- that's when we are most dangerous to ourselves -- and to others.


KMebust said...

Reminds me of the ancient Christian heresy of Donatism, in which some people claimed that sacraments performed by a priest that apostasized under persecution were invalid. It's not just pastors who need to remember not to believe the hype, it's all of us-- we seem to want heroes instead of companions and rescue instead of encouragement from our leaders. While Brock is acting out the consequences of his own terrible self-deception, I'll bet he's been shaped by the self-deception of his congregations and their members too.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Quite some years ago, when a TV preacher "fell" and then carried on and on with yelling and tears, a scene shown on TV news, I did some reading about such things. One person stated that when a pastor starts getting too famous, and perhaps starts to believe that he is the show, then a part of him knows better and wishes for his own fall.

I don't think that this exactly applies here, but I think of it whenever a pastor who has been ranting about a certain topic gets caught in some action that shows hypocrisy (perhaps).

Well, we all sin and we'd just as soon deny it or call certain things not sin. But perhaps there is a lesson in this: if we feel we need to rant about a certain thing in other people, do we first need to look in the mirror?

I'm talking generally here, of course. Looking back in history, there are actions that were considered shameful by some in society that we think nothing of these days.

Just what is it that really really bothers us in other people? And why?

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Diane, one of the ways that you embody God's grace for me is your consistent ability to see through another person's eyes. In a culture that suffers from too much polarization and demonizing, yours is a much-needed spiritual gift.