Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Five Laws of Priestcraft

I've been reading "Spartacus", and am interested in his articles on religion (especially the Five Laws of Priestcraft). As he is a brother, I want him to understand that I respect his opinion, and I realize many ministers forget the origin of their job title (Latin for Servant).

Priestcraft is an interesting word. I've found two references to this word (just usin' google):

# a derogatory reference to priests who use their influence to control secular or political affairs
# the skills involved in the work of a priest
(wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

Now, I can see from Spartacus' writings he has little use for Clergy, but as an aspiring clergyman, I'd like to address some of the challenges raised by these definitions.

The First Law of Priestcraft: Promise blessings in a future hereafter to receive monies in the present.

By this law, advertisers are priests. "Product A will make you happy, pay us for it." So are Psychiatrists. Not arguing, mind you, but many professions follow this path.

However, let's look at the positive side of this. Whether the priest is worthy of the monies or not, what does the giver gain by the exchange? Peace of mind? The knowledge of a deed well done? Perhaps the blessings of which the priest speaks? A sense of satisfaction for supporting something in which they believe? There are two sides to every exchange, and since (in this country) the priests cannot use money taken by force, there must be some persuasion going on. The giver must be freely giving, after all.

The Second Law of Priestcraft: Show the people how god accomplishes his omnipotent works, all the while doing god's job for him.

I'm a little confused by this one. How can a non-omnipotent being do the work of the omnipotent one? The N-O being would have to simply be a servant, assisting as directed.

Nevertheless, If a priest is pointing out to the people the goodness of G-d, and his blessings upon the people, both individual and as a group, while caring for the congregation and the members therein, I don't see how this is a bad thing.

The Third Law of Priestcraft: Instruct the people to believe that all ethical and moral decisions are based on a system of absolutes.

That's true. The absolutes come from the holy book, a standard against which to measure your behavior. However, most of the standards make sense. It's when undue emphasis is placed on the ones that don't, that you have a problem.

If you take an arbitrary standard and call it 'absolute' and use it in your life, how is that different than taking an arbitrary standard all the time?

The Fourth Law of Priestcraft: When questioned about your craft, do all in your power to take the "nice guy" approach, so that the opposing arguments appear weaker.

If we are talking about logical arguments, they cannot appear 'weaker' if they are logical. Logic should have a good premise and follow from that premise.

Emotional arguments will appear weaker against a 'nice guy'. That's just human relations, though. Many religous arguments revolve around emotional issues, and use this style of argument.

The Fifth Law of Priestcraft: Benumb your followers with your interpretation of your holy books. Never allow them to understand them as they are written.

Well, that's one way to look at it. If you try to understand the Holy Bible (as an example) as written, you should really have it in Hebrew, along with a course in Ancient History.

However, I subscribe to the perspective that all cultures take the writings of previous cultures and use them as they will. Not just holy scriptures, but the U.S. Constitution, the writings of Nietzche, the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein and Philip K. Dick. I don't necessarily think that's wrong. If there is a need in the current culture which can be filled by a reinterpretation of the writings, then reinterpret.

Most ministers and priests I've met and experienced are trying to help people reach an understanding of the texts. Some have an adgenda, and some people just accept the interpretation they're given, rather than thinking critically about it.

I'd like to reframe these 'laws' in a positive sense:

First Law: Use the energies of the congregation to the betterment of all, whether that energy is talent or money.
Second Law: Expound the Glories of G-d and make his presence felt to all the congregation, by living an exemplary life.
Third Law: Guide the people through their moral and ethical decisions, using scripture as a framework for decisionmaking.
Fourth Law: Work for the good of humanity, even in the face of detractors.
Fifth Law: Work to expand your understanding of the scriptures, and the understanding of the congregation.

1 comment:

Patriotic_Mason said...

Hi Scott,

I'd like to discuss this further, so I'll take my replies back to my blog, rather than exhaust the comment area.

Jason