Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Problem with Patrons

There has been a lot of scuttlebutt in our bit of the blog-o-sphere about paid occultism, paid pagan clergy, etc. etc. etc.

Being that I am super tired from my day job at the moment, I think this is the perfect time for me to post on the subject.

I, for my day job, am in a client based business. I provide a service, and people come back and enjoy my services for money. I do for them something that they cannot do for themselves. The realm of spirituality should also have its own professionals. Giving away good things for free is Charity. Giving Charity to everyone will leave you bankrupt. There is no shame in making profit off of something that you do well.

Generally Occultists in the Western Traditions have been more of the model of a tradesman, rather than clergy. You provide services that people can't do for themselves, and possibly you train a few people how to do what you do.

Clergy, very generally do similar spiritual services, but if they are not monastics, then the bulk of their work is pastoral. Taking care of the flock. It is a symbiotic relationship. The main role of the Priest is being involved in his or her community, and tending to their needs. Clergy council the afflicted, visit the sick, anoint the dead and lay them to rest, marry, initiate, and lead community celebration, as well as interfaith networking, dealing with scandal and crisis in the faith, etc.

Being full time Clergy, may leave more time for spiritual work, but that also must be balanced with a small pay check, and everyone pounding at your door at all hours. You are always on call. If you are the kind of clergy that can marry, then you are also in the pickle of using your meager funds not only for the upkeep of the church/temple/grove/whatever, but to feed, clothe, and educate your family, as well as provide them with health care, life insurance, transportation, and all the other little things so they don't suffer because you are a man of the cloth.

Honestly, it is why I totally understand celibate clergy. If your child is having an emergency, but you are needed by your congregation for a crisis, what do you do? Who do you pick? Which calling gets first priority? It's a very damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

And since your congregation is paying for your livelihood, you better stay on their good side. At least in America, the economy is bad enough that churches are closing, and if you alienate your parishioners enough, you could be out on your ass. Especially if you are living in a parsonage. I've been told by my friends from those southern parts of the States that it's not unsual for a congregation to splinter off to form super sub sects of one other sub sect of Christianity or another over some doctrinal or social quibble. That's one the the reasons why there are so many Churches down there!

Being full time clergy with a congregation is like being a magician, mayor, and psychologist all at the same time.

And that is why they call it "going on retreat", kids.. ba dum pish! Symbiotic can become parasitic to either side.

There is also another problem, many times in the pagan community, everyone is a priest of one sort or another. The role of priest as intercessor and maker of sacrifice is gone, because all the congregation can do it their damn selves!

Pagans and Occultists are way too fringe and scattered to have any sort of real paid clergy. Should we support our Pagan elders? Of course we should. If folk we care about, and who have helped us are in need we should always help them as much as we are able.

But more than that, we should develop ourselves and our religious culture to be one of self sufficiency. If I, one day, make it to esteemed elder status, and wear a shiny hat, I don't want to need anyone to take care of me. Bad shit happens, but we need to prepare for it as best we can! The need for Charity will always be there, but let us better build our lives, our world, and our selves to be one where the need is diminished as much as possible.

The model of the Priest, I believe, will work less well for the modern Sorcerer. We are going to be more like the Strega down the block from where my dad used to live in Passaic, more than half a century ago. We are more tradespeople who can come together to worship.

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