31 July 2008

lowering the bar?

One of the lesser-noted results of the multiple, and seemingly endless, wars the Bush administration has embarked upon is lowered standards in the military. That applies not only to recruits, but more seriously, to noncommissioned officers (NCOs). The haste with which those with E-4 rank have been promoted to E-5 (sergeant) has been documented. The results are what one might expect.

There are a number of reasons for lowering the bar. As the Salon article states, “After years of war, many of the Army’s most experienced sergeants have retired, left the service, transferred to noncombat posts, or are recovering from battlefield injuries.”

As I was thinking about the lowered standards among those who are literally fighting, killing, and dying, it occurred to me that there is (perhaps) a parallel effect at work in attitudes toward the church and the ordained ministry.

I can appreciate much of the anticlericalism in our country today. Those in the church and among the clergy with a spirit of entitlement could benefit from being brought down a peg or two. I also realize that there’s more than just some necessary corrective at work. There are shifting paradigms in the way we view reality.

A concern I have is that, in a society deeply ignorant of the Bible and church history, a lowering of the standards for clergy won’t help matters. Perhaps it’s inevitable; I hope not. I won’t delude myself into thinking that my grasp of the faith rivals that of my Presbyterian (and other) ancestors.

Perhaps we are in a time of relative “quiet” regarding the power of the church. Perhaps what we need—and I what believe is indeed building—is a democratization of the Spirit that will make all of our talk of standards and bar-setting look like empty prattle.

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