Posted by: Jess Riley | September 8, 2008

Theme Week Religion: The Good Priest

Sean, as usual, presents some great points on the subject of theme week. However, I do have to disagree with his point that priests (or religious figures of other kinds) should be actively worrying about the sinfulness of their colleagues and comrades; I believe he used the word ‘crucial’, which is mainly where my opinions deviate.

First of all, let me go on a brief tangent. I have a close friend, whose father is a High Church Anglican minister. I’ve only met him a few times, but I really think he is a great guy on a personal level. I was told a story about him once that I think relates back to this well and summarizes my point very aptly.

There was a meeting of High Church Anglican ministers from a variety of churches to discuss the matter of homosexual parishioners and whether they should be permitted to take communion.

It wasn’t long until my friend’s father just walked out, as he felt they were arguing about something completely nonsensical. When asked about it, his exact response was apparently a somewhat more colloquial form of, “Of course they should.” with the justification that either a minister would think they were sinners and thus want to accept them and include into the church in the effort to get them closer to ther other parishioners and to Jesus, and thus they should be allowed to take communion and not excluded from any part of the proceedings — or that it wasn’t a sin, and therefore they’re just like any other parishioner and should be allowed to take communion.

Now, I don’t actually know whether he thinks homosexuality is sinful (judging from his phraseology, I’d say he thinks it’s not), but his point did shed some light on his view of sin in general – that the so-called sinful should not be preached to about their ways, nor worried about behind their backs, nor excluded from any part of the proceedings, but accepted into the fold with open arms and without judgement in the hope that this acceptance of them as a person and not as a sinner would in turn help them to accept God.

In World of Warcraft terms, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this: a priest of the Light, for instance, in this mold would not fret quietly about whether someone in their party is behaving in a sinful manner, but would accept them for who they are in the hope that they would eventually come to see the Light themselves.

Admittedly, this is a viewpoint that can come across as quite condescending in some ways – if you’re accepting them for who they are, then why are you also hoping that they would come to see the Light/your religion of choice? Well, this again ties back into Sean’s post – because they sincerely believe that their religion is the right one. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t follow it. A priest of the kind I’ve suggested here seems more likely (to me, anyway) to be a bit more flexible about their religion – I know that the actual minister I’m basing this on doesn’t care what path you take, but he does believe that Jesus is the ideal end to that path. The Abortion-Clinic Bomber and even the Father Mulcahy types that Sean talked about would be more inclined to say that their way is the one, even over other similar paths – this type wouldn’t.

Odds are, I’ll probably talk more about this type in play during a Do It Different at some point – for now, my point is that there are many different ways to play a religious person (be that a priest or a fellow parishioner), that don’t involve the limited characteristics we assign to the religious, be that in good faith or bad.

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