The Curmudgeon


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Employment Theology

One of the most prominent and, no doubt, one of the most endearing characteristics of the Christian churches is their eternal holy war for having their cake and eating it. Virgin births and resurrections must be taken as literal events; instructions to pull out one's eyes are merely harmless hyperbole. An Iron Age Jewish fundamentalist's order to take his message to all nations is and must be genuine; quite unlike that unfortunate if purely apocryphal incident when the Son of God inflicted capital punishment on a fig tree for failing to feed him at a time when figs were not in season. The Saviour preached simplicity, humility and poverty; which was clearly entirely consistent with the Church's later enthusiastic leap into bed with the Roman Empire.

This radical intellectual honesty continues into the present day, notably in the Anglican church's attitude to Mammon and the Catholic church's attitude to sexual abuse. A Scottish priest, who says he has been trying for seventeen years to get action taken against a fellow priest who assaulted him and others, is now claiming unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal. The Church authorities have responded that priests are not employees, although it seems they can be reprimanded and fired like any other striver turned scrounger. In 2005 the House of Lords upheld the case of a Church of Scotland minister against her superiors, who argued that she was employed by God; and a ruling was made this year that an employment tribunal could hear the case of a minister in the Church of England, whose contract is presumably shared between God and the Queen. Apparently there is some doubt as to whether the Bible's injunctions about the obedience of servants are entirely metaphorical.


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