Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why we stick with scandalous pastors...and politicians

CNN has an interesting article analyzing why people stick by embattled priests and pastors like so-called "Bishop" Eddie Long, who was accused by several men of pressuring them into sexual relationships. For some people it is because admitting that the pastor was fraudulent might make our own spiritual experiences with that person seem fraudulent as well. For others, it's about watching the spectacle. Long before reality TV, these preachers, especially in the historically black and evangelical communities, were often putting on quite a show every Sunday.

A mainline protestant or Catholic mass is pretty subdued by contrast. Not that there isn't plenty of the same stuff going on in some Catholic dioceses, particularly due to the unrealistic celibacy policy for priests. The problem is really a more universal one of personally investing too much faith in an individual, so that one's own faith becomes challenged when this individual inevitably falls short.

It is not exclusive to religious leaders, though at least some political leaders don't claim to be paragons of virtue. To the extent that some politicians on the right-wing of the political spectrum have tried to take this holier than thou attitude, it might have produced some short term gains, but long term, I think it has proven risky to their careers. People are not quite as enamored with the Palins and other self-styled evangelical politicians as they were even a few years ago, except for some die-hard tea bagger types. That's got to be some kind of progress.

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