PeaceBang And Ministerial Jesters
Check it out, y'all!
As it turns out, Gender Ambiguous Liturgy Dude is Rev. Jack of the Midwest Discordian Ministry, and was ordained (he says "registered" on his own website) through the Universal Life Church. The argument in the comments section runs along the expected lines of "What nonsense, he's not a real minister if he's ordained over the internet," to "But if you knew Rev. Jack you would realize he's the real deal," etc.
What do I think about all of this?
I am a congregationalist in body, mind, heart and soul. To me, a divinity degree does not make a minister, although I heartily believe that seminary training is essential to clerical formation.
I acknowledge, however, that theological education can be had elsewhere.
I believe that God calls us to the ministry, our own nature and temperament outfit us for it with varying degrees of effectiveness, and that our congregations ordain us to it. If communities accept Rev. Jack as a minister, if they ask him to preach to and to counsel to them, to marry them when they love and to bury them when they're dead, he's legitimate to them, and my opinion matters very little.
My opinion, for what it's worth, is that I will probably never consider someone ordained through the Universal Life Church a colleague in the true and full sense, while I may sincerely support their ministry. In that way I am an institutionalist. I also fully support the importance of collegial vetting through the MFC, for the Unitarian Universalists reading this.
There is something else, though, and it has to do with the sort of Holy Fool element in all of this.
I am not a fan of the Holy Fool approach to ministry, which embraces the wacky ways of the Holy Spirit over-against the orderliness of tradition, however unintentionally silly and nonsensical tradition may be.
Ministers who create a kind of holy fool persona for themselves mostly strike me as a jejeune lot -- dramatically and publicly ambivalent about the grave responsibilities of the office of minister. As a committed irreverent reverend myself, I can see the allure of the jester role. However, it's too easy to stay on the sidelines as a self-appointed mocker of tradition and etiquette; to make big clown eyes when you feel like it and say, "Gosh, I'm just a joker here. Don't take ME too seriously."
Yuck. My eyebrow cocks in suspicion just writing about it.
( Clarification: This is NOT to presume or insinuate that Rev. Jack sees himself as a Trickster/Joker figure in any other ministerial matter than that of his ordination. Although he's obviously a non-conformist, he doesn't seem to be presenting himself as a Holy Fool. But reading his website reminded me that I wanted to write about this phenomenon some time ago. I just wanted to make that clear)
Perhaps this is a gender issue. Women in religious leadership can hardly afford to wear the motley cap when we've struggled for thousands of years against sexism to earn our authority in the first place. That may be why I hold my jesting male colleagues in something close to contempt, although my heart wants to be far more generous. I want to say, "How dare you monkey around with this cutesy persona when human lives and souls are at stake?"
"But Jesus was the Lord of the Dance!" people say. "He was the ultimate Fool!"
Sure. But let's remember the full lyrics of "The Lord Of The Dance,"
I danced on the Sunday when I cured the lame,
The Holy people thought it was a shame,
They whipped and stripped and hung me high
And left me there on the cross to die.
Dance, then wherever you may be,
I am the lord of the Dance said he,
And I'll lead you all,
wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the dance said he.
I danced on the Friday, when the sky turned black,
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They buried my body, and they thought I'd gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.
They cut me down and I leaped up high
I am the light that will never, never die,
I'll live in you, if you live in me,
I am the lord of the dance said he.
Being the Lord of the Dance -- wild, eternal, unkillable, insistently joyous and unquenchably charismatic -- is far different from the role assumed by too many self-appointed Holy Fools of today, some of whom I have personally experienced as pathologically passive aggressive ("Hey, ya can't take a joke, can you?"), egregiously irresponsible ("I'm the Joker, I'm the Holy Fool, you do the work. You answer to the people's expectations.") and basically just full of baloney.
I believe we have some authentic Holy Fools and Sacred Rebels among us, and that the twinkly and reportedly beloved Rev. Jack Ditch might be one of them.
I don't know. He lives in me as Gender Ambiguous Liturgy Dude. And wherever he may be today, I'm grateful to him for giving me the chance to spout off about Jesters I Have Known And Not Loved.
Dance on, everyone. I'm dancing off to Quebec tomorrow early afternoon and will not have access to a computer for nearly a week.
Comment away, but don't be disappointed if I can't keep up.