Saturday, February 12, 2011

What happened to "being imitators of Christ"?

St. Paul instructs all faithful to "be imitators of Christ". However, by their own declaration, priests and church leaders especially are supposed to remind people of Jesus, a man the gospels indicate:
  • Healed and fed people
  • Cared for the poor
  • Owned almost nothing
  • Humbly served others
  • Humbled the self-important, the self-aggrandized and especially religious leaders
  • Rendered dignity to the outcast and power to the powerless
  • Advocated for acceptance, peace and unity
  • Radically included and welcomed even the most despised and rejected in society
  • Ostracized no one
  • Sent men and women to do his work
  • Exhorted people to:
    • "Stop judging” so they wouldn’t be judged
    • “Stop condemning” so they wouldn’t be condemned.
    • “Forgive” so they could be forgiven
  • Willingly emptied himself of all power to the point of being killed
Though abortion and homosexuality existed in his time, the gospels do not indicate Jesus ever mentioned them.  He gave advice about many things and did not mince words when issuing directives.  Yet, not only did he not fixate on these topics, he didn’t mention them or apostolic gender requirements at all.

Jesus also didn’t label people as “dissenters” and then drive them away.  In fact, he defended rather than ostracized "dissenters" when his disciples broke fast laws (MK 2:18-19) and harvested on the Sabbath (MK 2:23-27, LK 6:1-5).  In MT 12:1-7 Jesus not only defended dissenters, he declared them as being outright innocent, “If you knew what this meant, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned these innocent men.”

Jesus also rebukes the apostles for trying to prevent people they consider “dissenters” from casting out demons in his name (LK 9:49-50).  He seemed very much against the apostles declaring franchise rights upon his name and deciding who could or couldn’t use it. 

It is no wonder that Jesus defends "dissenters" because he himself was a dissenter who violated religious law curing on the Sabbath (MT 12:10-13, LK 6:6-10).  Because he dissented, religious leaders actually accused him, the Son of God, as being an agent of the devil (MT 12).

Contrast Jesus’ behavior with what I see in many church leaders:
  • Locking churches to keep out the homeless and protect church possessions
  • Living in bishop mansions  
  • Fearing and either avoiding or carefully controlling interactions with the poor
  • Maniacally focusing on abortion and homosexuality
  • Judging and condemning via ignoring, censuring and excommunicating people
  • Publicly or secretly labeling, dismissing and demonizing people as “dissenters”
  • Justifying lies, half-truths or manipulation in the name of avoiding scandal or doing God’s work
  • Avoiding accountability for moving and hiding their brothers who abused children
  • Declaring inclusion of sending women apostles (like Jesus did) as a criminal behavior
  • Criminally aiding and abetting felons and obstructing justice to preserve image and financial assets
  • Fixating on "Catholic Identity" as some kind of franchise to protect
  • Honoring unity with their lips while dividing people
  • Preserving their power and prestige
If, most especially, I should see priests and church leaders as imitators of Christ, why do I see so few who behave like Jesus did?  Why does so much of their behavior remind me more of the Pharisees than Jesus?


  1. I encourage you to strongly consider where the differentiation may lie between: 1. posing questions which may encourage self-reflection and analysis of one's own actions; and 2. slipping to the point of passing judgment yourself against the very group you are urging not to judge or condemn others. Your message is one which the church needs to hear, but is it coming from a spirit of love or one of hurt and disdain?


  2. This blog's stated intent is to ask questions of church leaders. A by-product of that is self-reflection. As of yet, I've not professed my own infallibility. I simply question those who do.

  3. Oh, and I don't call them "dissenters" or ask that they be thrown out of the church...rather I ask that they realize that they fall as short of the glory of God as those whom they try to evict from the church. That upon which Jesus explicitly instructs receives neglect while there is maniacal focus on that which he never mentioned.

  4. Another thought provoking blog. Thank you! It's too bad, too, that your first person who left the first comment posted as anonymous and only left initials, rather than identifying his/herself. ~Kathleen Robinson, Grand Rapids, MI

  5. Fear not, Kathy. I know AW very well and understand the positive tone and spirit of her sentiments. She is one of my many guiding forces to make sure this blog and my questions remain positive rather than become a rant.

  6. I'm glad you surround yourself with people who can look and speak with honest critique into our lives -- would that all of us have such a person. I was protective, thinking you were being unfairly sniped. With the spirit you described I re-read AW's posts and can appreciate her comments and it makes your responses even yet richer!