Sunday, July 10, 2016

I Hate My Pastor

It began simply enough, with a general chat about what we did, as we milled about at an event.  She shared her work, chatting away about how busy she was and how much she had to do, in that badge-of-pride-in-our-overwork way we Washingtonians have.

Then she asked me what I did, and I said, oh, I'm a pastor.  I'm never quite sure if this will prove the death knell to a conversation, but it's honest.  May as well be honest.

Oh, she said.  What church?  I took that as a good sign, and so I told her.

Wow, she said.  I'm Presbyterian too!  I asked her where she attended, and she told me.

Ah, I said.  I know that congregation.  That's X's church.  Do you know X?

And she rolled her eyes.  Lord help me.

She went on for a bit about the pastor  How they'd destroyed the church.  How she'd hated the pastor from the very first day they arrived at the church.  "We made it clear what we wanted from a pastor, and that first Sunday, I thought, how could they have selected X?  It's been a disaster since day one."

Day one was a while ago.  Years and years and years.  Decades, in point of fact.

The litany of woe continued.  How X didn't come and visit her mother when she was in rehab locally, even though it had been a month.  It felt like a story worn smooth with the retelling.

"Did you ask X to come visit?" I queried, attempting to manage a genial tone.

She looked confused for a moment, and then continued, leaving the question unanswered.

And I listened, and I nodded, as the complaints piled up.

Eventually, I found that I had something else to do, and I took my leave.

I found myself wondering, as I often do, about the why of hating one's pastor.  It seems so...odd.  Faith is woven up with volition, defining it and giving it shape.   The leadership of a community makes a difference in how that is perceived and shaped, or so I would hope.

But if you really genuinely can't stand the flawed, imperfect soul who finds themselves in leadership in your community, why would you stick around?  Not just for a year, but for years?

Part of that might be territorial, that desire to hold on to a space or a place.  We humans like that.  Part of it might be our love of tension, our love of a fight, even one that goes for years.

Part of it might be that they're a terrible, terrible pastor.  They could be controlling or angry or manipulative or predatory or self-serving, although those folks tend to self-destruct after four or five years.

Or they could just not be very good at some of the agonizingly obscene list of expectations we have for our Holy Folk, and we...not listening to Jesus...choose to focus on their failings rather than giving them grace.

Sigh.  Humans are strange.