Of course my background is in Unitarian Universalism, but I’ve evolved into being something like a worthy opponent (someone who opposes in a way that drives growth). It might help you understand why (esp. if you never knew anything about UUism in the first place) if you watch the vid below. If you lose the url, go to You Tube and put in “Voices of a Liberal Faith.”
“Voices of a Liberal Faith” is advertising -- I assume they say “liberal” because they think it’s a broader category than Unitarian or Universalism or Unitarian Universalism, which sounds like a Japanese syncretistic cult. People have trouble sorting it out from Unity. The vid is a fair cross-section of the people who belong to the congregations in one way -- I mean, most of them really ARE that successful, lovable and attractive, if a little atypical, but in any group anywhere there is always a darker, more hidden aspect. Sometimes it’s the minister.
There is a close relationship between sex and liturgy -- not just temple whores, not just Zeus/Jupiter who didn’t even bother to WEAR pants so that his only restraint was Hera/Juno, who had her own pursuits to distract her. But both sex and liturgy are sensory, even sensual. There’s a fellow who pursues the UU ministers -- he calls himself the Emerson Avenger, a man more relentless than Hera/Juno, who eventually became such a pest that some members of his congregation -- which he claimed to have been thrown out of -- started a rival blog called roughly “The Emerson Avenger Sucks.” I don’t know what the final outcome was but he spent some energy chasing me -- not for my own misdeeds but for the misdeeds I know about among ministers -- behind the Oz curtain, as it were. He demanded that I tell him all about it. Men who broke marriage vows to their wives, men who were gay and unfaithful (how can you be “unfaithful” if you aren’t allowed to marry anyway?), men who were serial seducers and divorcers, and I’m happy to report that he never found out about the minister who joined the Venusian Church of the Orgy.
He didn’t seem to know there WERE female UU ministers. I’ve heard no stories about UU ministers molesting little boys and only one who was a seducer of adolescent boys. He had been thrown out of ministerial fellowship, which is roughly like being de-frocked, and the other ministers in the district at that time held him “close,” in the sense of “hold your friends close and your enemies even closer.” That is, they kept track of him and stood ready to intervene. I don’t think ministers do that much anymore. The secular law was not consulted.
The erotic dimension of spirituality can be very powerful but not at all appropriate. Partly a leftover from childhood when we could depend on parents to be loving and strong (if you were very, very lucky!) and partly a response to a culture that sexualizes everything and partly a response to warmth and personhood embodied on Sunday morning, when everyone sits and gazes at a person talking to them.
It leads most of us into occasional temptation in the Jimmy Carter sense of a secret warmth in the heart. One Presbyterian minister was so good at kindling this that he had quite a number of ladies in his congregation aspiring to fan the flames and even believing they were engaged, until somehow they connected with each other. They organized, dressed in red, and one Sunday sat in the front pew together. It was effective. Also, the seductive appeal of being the minister’s favorite was considerably dampened.
I was pleased to run across the following “story” vid because it is such a vivid illustration of the dynamic, even when the priest is in a box behind a grille. (The sexual desire works both ways as too many small Irish boys have testified.)
Fantasy pays no attention to facts, so this woman is simultaneously wanting to fuck her priest and wanting to be a nun. Boundaries mean nothing to her, including the boundaries that would be a kindness to the priest. She has to know what the teasing is doing to him. (There’s a name for it.) And she is not honest to herself about the difference between wanting sex versus wanting power, approval, to be special, to have someone engulf her in a warm wave of safety, a sort of uterine approach to religion and love commingled.
This is the url to the guy who wrote this little scenario. Playing priest/lover/creator as movie directors do.
I will be interested in whether future episodes show what this yearning young woman does with a priest once she catches him. (Something like a dog that chases cars.) What if the Pope lets the priest marry? Will she learn to get the proper sort of starch in his reversed collar? Will she realize that if he’s doing his job he will be home only to eat and sleep, if that? Does she understand that a religious leader belongs to everyone and she is expected to enter into that? And yet it’s hard to blame her very much. A priest, in theory, is someone safe to practice on. If he’s smart, he’ll get a lot of work out of her and divert all that emotion into something more like what nuns do. Of course, if the Pope lets the priest marry -- but then he’s not a priest anymore -- the deal’s off.
This self-centered young woman does not grasp the idea that confession is about several steps: understanding the mistake, repenting the damage done, receiving forgiveness from a witness to her testimony, and absolution so as to start with a clean slate again. She is obsessing -- she doesn’t want a clean slate at all. And she is seducing -- she is not thinking of the potential damage, but only of her impact on the priest. And she is enjoying, even cherishing her guilt, hoping for punishment as an intimacy. Not Hail Marys, but marching straight down the hallway to the torture room, which won’t absolve her guilt -- just drive it in deeper with the help of shame. But at least she’ll be feeling something, and it will be all about her, which is what feeds grandiose narcissists. Poor priest will now have to confess that he wanted to spank, if not strangle, her. She fancies only the embrace part.
So there’s a “dark side” for you, a common one (they say even among Buddhists), and riskier for a male minister than a female one, though if there is a wimpy male looking for a big strong woman, the dynamic springs to life.