Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Gospel and Ted Williams

Paul, a dear friend of my wife’s wrote me yesterday to comment on my most recent  semi-blasphemous blog. “Blasphemous blog” would have had more alliterative value, but upon rereading it, I think that “semi” covers the subject more fairly. Paul has the advantage over me in writing about religious matters as he actually knows something about the subject. I, on the other hand, not being an ordained minister as he is, have an advantage over him in that I don’t much care about the accuracy of anything I write, and so tend to be a little less careful in the content department. I have published Paul’s reply to me without his permission (see below). I have deleted his last name so that no one in his congregation ever finds out that he has any association with some of the prose that comes spewing forth from this particular keyboard. That would be grounds for defrocking in many churches.


A former pastor of mine ( let’s call her Rev. Jones, or perhaps District Superintendent Jones, in order to protect her identity from the Methodist Bishop she works for here in Austin) came to me after a meeting or a service of some kind once with a bit of a flush of anger about her. She asked me what I, as a lawyer would do if any particular client of mine ignored my advice and told me what he thought the law really was on a subject of  which he knew little about, and then contrary  my advice, went out and did  the wrong thing.”You’d fire him wouldn’t you ?” she exclaimed (these ministers do a lot of exclaiming). The answer depended, I told her. The other variable in the decision is how big the retainer was and how much of it had been exhausted.


Rev. Jones point was an interesting one. In most professions, you expect that the years of training and experience you have in your work, fits you to give advice that has value to the lay person. The divinity business is different. No matter how many degrees you have, from how many seminaries, and no matter how long you have preached and pastored and, generally speaking have labored to pull back many in  your flock from the jaws of Hell, no one will ever concede that you know more about God than they do. This applies mostly to Protestant Churches. I understand  that many Priests still have a good deal of authority amongst Roman Catholics..


Of course, the whole idea of the Reformation, other than allowing Luther to marry a nun, was to attempt to get rid of what stood between the individual and God. That might be a communion rail, a saint, a Latin prayer book, a pope, or your Priest. The Reformation was one big jail break in a lot of ways. That may be a little harsh. It was more like the freedom you enjoyed when you were a fifth grader and your teacher told the class, “Be on your best behavior, I have to go down the hall for about ten minutes.” Chaos ensued  and chaos has continued to this day forward. Can I have an amen ?


What the Reformation did to religion is exactly what the internet did to the news business. You no longer had to be a Priest to be able to comment on anything having to do with God. Just as today, you don’t need to be hired by a newspaper or T.V. station in order  to publish your views to the world at large. As we soon had more denominations and beliefs than we could count, blogging has provided us with more opinion givers than there are opinion receivers. In this, technology has out done the Reformation. At least most ministers have congregants to preach to. Most bloggers I know have about a one to one relationship with their reading public. The question is, will this fractionalization of authority finally lead us to believe that there is no authority. In the future will all lawyers be usurped by online forms and all doctors by computerized diagnostician web sites ? Who is to say ? We are certainly rushing toward that goal. That day when everyone can claim to be  an expert on every subject. On that day I fear that we will end up with the realization that Glendower must have come to after he bragged to Hotspur that he could call upon spirits from the vasty deep. “So can I” said Hotspur, “so can any man. But will they come when you do call for them  ?” Any of us can claim to be Ted Williams, but can we hit a slider ?


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