~ I was sitting at coffee talking religion with a friend of mine, when a young woman sitting at the table next to us interjected,
“Ya wanna heare a story about religion, I’ve got a story for you…I had an affair with my married pastor” she said.
Apparently, the young woman had grown up in a home with two alcoholic parents, and as a teenager she started walking down to a local evangelical church for services, as a way of getting away from the chaos of her family.
“The pastor and his wife were really welcoming to me. I was scared. I didn’t know anything about church or Christianity, but they kinda took me in as though I was their own kid” she said
She continued her affiliation with church throughout her high school years, and then while still in college she would come back home and work as a camp counselor for a summer program the church put on each year.
“It was one weekend at the summer camp, after the kids in my dorm were sleeping, that the pastor and I were sitting in the cafe and he made a move on me. I won’t lie to you guys, if I’m honest with myself I saw it coming a long way off, and when he finally put his hand on my shoulder that night, I didn’t say anything” she said.
It was a few weeks later that the young woman and the pastor began what would be a two year affair, “I got out of college and was offered a job back home, and I leaped to take it cause I had pretty much fallen in love with the guy. I justified the affair in my mind by telling myself his wife treated him bad”.
Sadly, that was not the first story I had heard about a pastor failing to live up with both his marital and spiritual commitments, and it definitely won’t be the last. The idea that people in leadership are somehow ‘different’ than the rest of humanity is simply not true; everyone is human, and everyone is prone to screwing up (just as Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, or Jim Bakker if you don’t believe me).
The great scandal is not that there are pastors (many of them) of have screwed up by having an affair, or becoming a drug addict, alcoholic, having anger problems (aka Mark Driscoll) or any number of ills…..no, the real scandal is that for too long pastors have been propped up in ivory towers and looked up to by their congregation as though they are far greater than the the average person.
When you consider Jesus, a dude hanging out with the poorest of the poor, literally spending the vast majority of his time with the people on the bottom rung of society that everyone else spit on, a picture forms of a servant leader. For too long, the images that Christianity and the church have portrayed of its leadership are ivory tower, larger than life, priests and preachers who sit up on stage to be looked upon.
It’s no wonder that most of America has abandoned a belief in God, exchanging religion for entertainment. When the church leaders spend the majority of their time preaching from pulpits, speaking at conferences, and hanging out with the suburban elite, you end up with church leadership that is entirely disconnected from what life is like for the average person.
We see this same problem in politics. Politicians like George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or fill-in-the-blank, are all so removed from what life is like for the average American working in a middle class suburb or living in a rough ghetto, that all the policies our country has passed for the past twenty years has pretty much alienated massive segments of both the Republican and Democrat constituencies.
There has always been a problem with leadership, whether spiritual or political, being motivated by self-interest. To find a leader who literally puts other people before themselves is a rare commodity.
One of the reasons so many Americans have gravitated toward two candidates for president this year, both of whom are entirely unconventional (a socialist and a loud mouthed businessman) is because people are fed up with career hypocrites. People are fed up with both religious and political leaders who are more concerned with being seen, than with doing good for people behind closed doors.
Unfortunately, helping people off camera and out of the spotlight doesn’t get you an interview on Larry King. That’s why anytime I see a pastor on CNN or a politician talking about the great things they are going to do for people, I remain rather skeptical.
True servant leadership is something that occurs much more quietly. Each time Jesus helped a poor soul, he told the person to keep quiet about it. Of course we know how it turns out for the truly innocent spiritual leader; the people end up murdering him on false charges. Maybe that is why pastors and politicians don’t want to live sacrificial lives; they are afraid of being hung on a cross?
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,