"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Pastor as "cool"

So I noted this, and then moved on:

The New York Times reported last weekend on a surprising development out of Los Angeles: There is a pastor in that fair city who dresses not like Ward Cleaver, but like a Supreme model. His name is Chad Veach, and he is the founder and head pastor of the fast-growing Zoe Church—pronounced “zo-AY, like, be-yon-SAY,” as Veach likes to say. (Note: That is not, as far as I know, how you pronounce Beyoncé.)

Ruth Graham goes on to note this is a "trend" that dates back to at least 1896, though she skips lightly over the trend until it gets to 2007, where she provides quite a catalog of such announcements.  This leads her to conclude:

Is it news, then, when a pastor wears something other than pleated khakis in 2018? No. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to report on each successive wave of hipster pastors, particularly the successful ones. In between posting Instagram stories, Veach and his peers are attracting many thousands of young people each week to their churches. That’s not just a trend, it’s a movement.

But then I circled back because, well, I guess so:

Hybels led a congregation of 25,000 and the Willow Creek Association, based on his leadership, counts 11,000 churches worldwide as under its influence. He abruptly retired last year.

Hybels emerged as a “cool” youth pastor riding a Harley-Davidson and quickly grew his flock. Unlike many other non-denominational megachurches, Willow Creek elevated women to senior positions—but that allowed the former pastor to prey on ambitious young women, according to Nancy Beach, who came out of Willow Creek and is now a prominent evangelical thought leader.

“I feel so conflicted about the whole situation because I’m so protective of the reputation of the church, not just here but globally,” she told the Tribune. “But I have confidence that the truth matters. Even though he’s 66 years old, there are still young women in his path. I certainly wouldn’t want one of my daughters or anyone else to be in this kind of situation.. He changed my life. I wouldn’t have the opportunities I’ve had… But then there’s this other side.”

Willow Creek is pretty much a denomination unto itself, and Hybels is only a few years older than me, which means he was "cool" in about the '70's (I'm too lazy to do the accurate historical research). And now it turns out his "cool," like that of Jimmy Swaggart and many an "evangelist" gone by, was also a cover for, shall we say, sexual improprieties?

As I recall, the guy who started Mars Hill church was cool, too, until his sexual appetites became public fodder.  I also recall Mars Hill pretty much lost its luster after that.  Am I damning Christianity, or non-denominational pastors, or pastors who can't keep their pants zipped outside the marital home?  No, not broadly.  I'm just wondering when a trend truly becomes a movement, and what value that movement has in the long run.  The institutional church, represented by denominations, takes its licks, but it can't be said to be supplanted by "movements" which depend so much on individuals to keep them moving; especially when it becomes clear those individuals have been moving in the wrong direction for much of their pastoral careers.  What movement will members of Willow Creek associated churches follow now?  Because, I dunno:  it's either all lies, or it's gonna get mighty ugly:

“This has been a calculated and continual attack on our elders and on me for four long years,” [Hybels] told the Tribune. “I have a wife and kids and grandkids. My family has had enough and they want the record clear. And they feel strongly supportive of me saying what I have to say to protect my family and clear my family’s name as well.”
The fuller story is here.  I'm less interested in the details and the allegations, than in the nature of "cool" pastors who eventually return to earth to be human beings. That, and the nature of church "movements," which seem to depend so much on individuals, and yet seem to be endlessly appealing to modern Americans.

Something about being "cool," I guess.  It might even have something to do with evangelicals supporting Donald Trump, or even the poisonous cult of personality in general that allows us to see "our guy" as "one of the good ones," no matter what (the women who accused Hybels never felt the process that exonerated him was fair or just; since it was run by people selected by Hybels, how could it be?).

Something about being "cool," I guess; or ultimately, about being "yourself."  Funny thing is, people can tell you that you're doing it wrong.  It happens all the time.  Often, they're right.


Blogger rick allen said...

Sounds like Scot Sloan, "the fighting young priest who can talk to the young"!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Now Am Found! said...

yeah. that's a lotta tithes. cool like joel osteen probably. #$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ for zombie jeebus

6:08 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

"When the radical priest come to get me released/we were all on the cover of Newsweek!"

8:22 PM  

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