My Struggle

We return, now, to Called to Lead – God’s Call, Your Vocation, by the Rev. Paul Baglyos, the busywork millstone I’ve been tasked with. I can’t even focus on the next block of questions, which are headed “Your Experience With Candidates And Candidacy In The ELCA”, because last night I finished Luther’s The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, which is an attack on the Church we now call Roman Catholic, specifically calling out all the impediments the Holy See constructed to prevent the laity from freely experiencing the true Word of God, thereby setting itself up as the highest power and making a shitpile of filthy lucre. It’s more entertaining than ya might think – Luther is a good writer who survives translation and he never hesitates to insult the pope – who he calls “Antichrist” – and his supporters – “rapacious Nimrods”.

Luther goes on at length about the priesthood of all believers, which I was really digging because it seemed like he was saying what I wanna hear – to wit, that I should be able to cut in line and go straight to seminary without having to jump through a buncha ELCA hoops. For example:

“Begone, all of you that would live in safety; flee young men and do not enter upon this holy estate, unless you are determined to preach the gospel, and can believe that you are made not one whit better than the laity through this “sacrament” of ordination!”

“Let everyone, therefore, who knows himself to be a Christian, be assured of this, that we are all equally priests, that is to say, we have the same power in respect to the Word and the sacraments.”

Yeeeeeeah, boyeeee. Priesthood of all believers, gimme my dog collar – I’m ready to go. But then, he says,

“However, no one may make use of this power except by the consent of the community or by the call of a superior.”

Fuck all. Because any jackass can get a black shirt with a little piece of white plastic for the front of the collar – I have one – and call themselves a pastor. Ain’t nobody disputing that – but what I’m actually after is a job. Being ordained and rostered in the ELCA is a professional position and they have the right to require applicants to meet their specs. There’s the rub.

I’ve been through similar processes. Getting an Associates in Applied Sciences – Human Services, a degree which qualifies me to mop the psych ward floor in affluent counties and to be a counselor at a rehab in poor ones – required jumping through a buncha hoops and writing papers about behaviorism and all that bebop. Some of it was valuable – I learned that putting shock collars on small children is correlated with negative outcomes, so you shouldn’t do it, even though you might want to – but a lot of it was just tedious bullshit designed to weed out the halfwits and psychos. I spent those three years constantly pissed off that I couldn’t just skip ahead because I’m arrogant as hell and I think I shouldn’t have to do the work everybody else has to do.

A few years after that, I started working at a collectively owned restaurant – where there’s a way for all workers to become “members”, which is what we call part-owners. There’re a buncha hoops involved in that process and, again, I was forced to jump through them, even though it was blatantly obvious, to me at least, that I was more than qualified and that I should start getting quarterly profit checks right away. That process was even more vexatious than getting my degree because the relevant documents were written by people who are very good at dicing onions and following recipes, but not so good at writing relevant documents. In other words, people like me. The whole time I was fighting through that bullshit, I was yelling that when I got through it and was a part-owner, I would use my power to simplify the process, to make it easier for other people to fulfill requirements and become owners, which I never followed through on because why the fuck would I? I’m getting my quarterlies. I made it. Why shouldn’t other people have to go through the bullshit I went through? Fuck ’em.

Also, things look different from this side. Some of the requirements really were bullshit and I have done a little to clarify things – and I occasionally tip people off about what corners can be cut without consequences because there are things in the relevant documents that we all kinda ignore, especially when we see that somebody would do a good job and we wanna let them into our little circle. It follows, of course, that I don’t tip other people off because I don’t like them and/or think they’re idiots who I don’t want to have to share power and/or quarterly profits with.

All of which means, I understand why the process exists. The Lutheran Church has avoided the controversies that have plagued some other denominations, which shall remain nameless, rapacious Nimrods, possibly in part, because there are so many hoops. And it is pretty arrogant that I think I should be able to fast track the whole thing. Acts 14:22 says “…It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God” which isn’t exactly applicable – I’m not being persecuted and a job in the ELCA isn’t the kingdom of God – but the point remains. (Acts 14:23 has Paul and Barnabas appointing leaders for new churches “with prayer and fasting” – a much quicker and simpler process – the good ol’ days.)

Reading The Babylonian Captivity…, I started imagining meself as a twenty-first century Martin Luther – revolutionizing the Church, slashing the fat, turning over the tables of the pigeon merchants and making it possible for those who have been called by the Holy Spirit to become rostered Pastors with a simple, two-year program. I’d prob’ly think of some other reforms along the way, but that’d do for a start. Ideally, I’d succeed where Luther failed – i.e. I’d be able to reform the Church from within and not break it into pieces. Of course, one has to get within before one can change things from there, so that little fantasy doesn’t really help me much. But I do think we – any of us who claim membership in the Church – should see ourselves as potential Luthers – reformers willing to stand up and yell when we see anything that could hinder the proclaiming of God’s grace, ready to ruffle all the feathers, make all the waves and kick all the bricks when our Church is anything less than perfect, even if we might be wrong. And I’m purty fuggin’ sure Martin Luther would agree with that.

I have long said “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t know any better”, which is another way of saying when you don’t believe people who tell you you can’t do it. I’ve done shit that no reasonable person woulda thought possible and did it because I don’t let the smallness of reasonable people hold me back. This is not entirely unlike the meaning behind Matthew 9:29, “…According to your faith, let it be done to you” and if Jesus can restore sight to blind guys, I don’t see any reason He can’t make it possible for me to get rostered in His ELCA. So I started praying for that – which is kinda odd for me because I’ve understood for a coupla sober decades that I should only pray for God’s will – and another day of not getting fuct up on vodka and benzos. Praying for a specific thing to occur seems weird, but that’s what I been doing.

And I resisted the temptation to translate the title of this post into German, so that’s less obnoxious than I mighta once been.


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