Chris M, posted an account of a popular, charismatic pastor having an affair with the pianist (?). And then he spoke of the personal connections he had with this episode, which made for interesting reading (to say the least). He made the point that this was fucking crazy.
I think so too, and it has touched off a lot of pent up feelings I’ve been sitting on. In fact as I wrote the following, if felt like a long dormant volcano finally spewing out lava and ash.
I’ve been watching this stuff firsthand all my life, as the child of a minister, and as one myself. The minister running off with the organist is almost a cliché. George Barna did research several years ago that showed that the percentage of ministers having affairs was about the same as that of the general public.
Ministers are supposed to be good examples, and most of them genuinely feel called to do this work and they want to do it well. So why do so many self destruct? And bear in mind many of them also self destruct by allowing their health to ruin—in fact in our denomination, the healthcare of ministers is a major crisis—that’s another issue, but I’ll say this—I think it’s a slow form of suicide.
There is nothing more isolating than the ministry. We have no friends we can really talk to. The spouse and kids are also under the same gag order, and most preachers’ families resent the hell out of it. Most kids leave the church as soon as they can. And I’m pretty sure most pastors’ marriages are in shambles.
Some people idolize the minister. Some hate the minister. And some target the minister, usually over some incredibly stupid power struggle. My life is filled with people who want to complain that I was insensitive, or didn’t do something well, or didn’t pay enough attention to them.
Most ministers feel like colossal failures because in spite of how hard they work, most churches are imploding. Those few churches that are “exploding” really are on the verge of exploding because of internal issues.
So what happens if you’re a sincere, hardworking, discouraged minister who is always on display but has no one to even talk to? Or what happens if you’re a narcissistic charismatic minister who revels in the attention and can never get enough? The first one is going to fall in love with the first person who gives them any kind of nurturing. The second will have multiple affairs to feed his ego.
And we’ll all say, what a shame! That minister has hurt so many people.
I’m sorry that ministers have cause pain. I’ll not excuse them or myself. But I want say. In fact I want to scream that I have been lied to, deserted, judged, hated, isolated, and lied about. I am a sturdy son of a bitch, but I carry as many or more wounds sustained by God’s chosen as any other. And so has my family.
And when the sheep bleat and cry and talk about how they’ve been hurt by the pastor’s example, I want to tell them to grow the fuck up. Which is probably too harsh. But for Christ’s sake, don’t go flocking back to the same goddamn thing that caused you pain in the first place.