Class Warfare Blog

July 27, 2013

Christian Coercions

Filed under: Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:05 am
Tags: , , , ,

I was watching a movie last night and a “bad guy” was talking to a Catholic priest and referred to him as “Father.” That lead me to think of all of the other Christian terminology designed to put ordinary folks in a subordinate position: terms like Holy Father, Pope (which means “papa”), references to people as “my child” and “my children,” referring to congregations as “flocks” over which the ministers are “shepherds.” Either we are irresponsible children or dumb animals that need the guidance of a parent or a herdsman. Prayers start out “Our Father, who art in Heaven . . .” as if it weren’t enough to have the authority of an all-seeing, all-powerful god, but also having the authority of a parent.

The development of the Christian religion went through an entire phase (roughly 150 BCE-350 BCE) in which the majority of the documents produced focused on establishing the authority of churches and church leaders rather than on real church business.

Where in politics we have “public servants,” in the Christian religion we have parents and lords overseeing us. And don’t you forget that.

And, for some reason, the religious leaders are eschewing one of their greatest tools: Hell. Fear of reprisal by the religious in the afterlife has been a powerful force over the centuries. It was so powerful that even eminent philosophers paid heed. Consider Pascal’s Wager as an example. Pascal basically argued it was better to believe than not, because if you did not and Hell really existed, it was far worse for you that if you did believe and it did not. Can’t get much more cynical than that. As religion slowly loses it’s grip, I expect to see it back. A powerful tool, close at hand, is sure to be wielded.


  1. There’ll always be some kind of nonsense, but let future nonsense be more of the spiritual (energy) kind. No one looses an eye with such poetic wanderings, and it can be quite consoling. A neighbour of ours died yesterday morning. Right across the street. Its moments like those that are the most challenging for any individual.


    Comment by john zande — July 27, 2013 @ 11:39 am | Reply

    • An eight-year old boy, after attending his grandmother’s funeral and afterparty, commented on all of the “what Grandma is doing now” comments with “I just thought ‘that’s it for Grandma.'” We can and do overcomplicate things instead of addressing them head on, honestly.


      Comment by stephenpruis — July 27, 2013 @ 12:05 pm | Reply

  2. Interesting comments about your perspective on Christian leadership. I’m sure that your experiences have reinforced this perspective. However, while you mentioned church councils in the early Christian centuries, perhaps it would be fairer to go back earlier to the Christian scriptures for definition of Christian leadership. In Mark chapter 9, verse 35, when his disciples argued about which of them was the greatest, “sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.'” He also talked about what it means to be a shepherd, saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (John 10:11-13). And the Apostle Peter wrote to church leaders, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3). It sounds like your problem is with “hired hands” and toxic leaders. Some people have terrible fathers, which distorts for them the concept of fatherhood in the Bible. Viable groups and families need self-sacrificing leaders who watch out for the needs of the group. That, I think, is closer to what Jesus had in mind. Keep reading the Bible and searching for people who want to serve, not domineer.


    Comment by Michael Summers — July 27, 2013 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

  3. “Either we are irresponsible children or dumb animals that need the guidance of a parent or a herdsman”

    I think most people do feel a need to know that someone other than themselves are in control. During the formative years of childhood we develop a strong sense of relying on authority figures. Most never resolve themselves of this for at least most of their lives. The Church has successfully exploited this to sustain their authority.


    Comment by lbwoodgate — July 27, 2013 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

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