(RNS) — I not too long ago learn Katelyn Beaty’s wonderful new guide, “Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church,” by which Beaty takes a detailed have a look at American evangelical pastors and the way they get positioned — or place themselves — on pedestals.
The guide is filled with tales concerning the predictable prices of fame and concerning the dangerous conduct that retains on occurring. Sexual scandals are invariably adopted by “assault the sufferer” methods as church buildings attempt to shield their wayward leaders. (We’re taking a look at you, Ravi Zacharias. And Bill Hybels. And Carl Lentz.) There are discussions of plagiarism and the embezzlement of church funds.
However Beaty additionally muses in vital methods about non secular energy — why human beings are so anxious to place their souls within the palms of different flawed people, and why these flawed people feed on the adoration.
Some elements of Beaty’s critique of evangelical movie star tradition are extremely related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and others, fortunately, aren’t.
Let’s begin with the excellent news. The truth is, let’s begin with intercourse. There are particular advantages to the truth that the LDS church is an unapologetic gerontocracy. It’s not inconceivable that the members of our First Presidency could but succumb to a intercourse scandal, however at ages 98, 90 and 89, it’s unlikely. (That’s to not say that native leaders are immune from this.)
One other profit is that longevity, not private charisma, determines who will maintain sure positions of energy. That is very completely different from the megachurches which have fallen like dominoes over one scandal after one other. These church buildings are prone to be based by a charismatic pastor who decided the mission and employed the workers.
When a church is constructed round a pastor and its complete ministry is tied up in that one individual, there aren’t any actual programs of accountability. The pastor surrounds himself with yes-persons who’re there to guard the church — which is outlined because the pastor. (And sure, it’s virtually all the time a “him” after we’re speaking about megachurch pastors; Kate Bowler’s work has some fascinating windows into that world.)
That’s not the way in which the LDS church runs, or a minimum of not since its earliest days. For Mormon leaders, he who lasts longest within the paperwork wins. Most males who serve within the Seventy by no means turn into apostles, and most apostles by no means turn into the prophet. Our present prophet didn’t assume that position till he was already in his 90s.
It’s protected to say that if somebody is simply in church management for the hope of eventual energy, that’s a ridiculous period of time to attend for it. The last word lengthy con.
On the native stage, too, there are numerous checks on the cult of charisma. You’ll be able to’t get your patriarchal blessing from a patriarch outdoors of your stake boundaries simply because that patriarch is rumored to offer extra non secular or individualized blessings. (Until the patriarch is a member of the family, like your grandfather.)
Mormons additionally don’t get to ward-shop, trying to find the best bishop or probably the most sturdy Major. As soon as you compromise inside a ward’s geographical boundaries, that’s the place you’re going to attend even when it’s lower than very best.
Bishops have a number of authority, however normally for 5 years; for stake presidents it’s extra like 10. Then they return to different callings, ones individuals is likely to be tempted to see as “lesser.” One among my favourite former bishops adopted his time main our ward with a number of years main the Major children in track. And he was nice at that too.
So, in some ways, the construction of the church gives a bulwark towards movie star tradition. We’re already doing among the issues that Beaty suggests to detox from movie star tradition, reminiscent of emphasizing “the small, the quiet, the uncool, and the atypical.”
There are additionally two points of Latter-day Saint tradition which are uncomfortably just like the unhealthy energy dynamics and movie star worship Beaty describes. The primary of those, fairly merely, is the concept that the prophet is the very mouthpiece of God.
We’ve got but as a tradition to discover a theological solution to nuance this. There’s an previous joke that claims it properly: Catholics imagine the pope is infallible, however many Catholics don’t act like that is true; Mormons imagine the prophet is not infallible, however many don’t act like that is true.
I believe there’s a place for seeing the president of our church because the individual God has referred to as to be a particular witness for Christ in our specific time. That doesn’t imply, nevertheless, that “the prophet can by no means lead the church astray,” because the adage goes. Particular witnesses for Christ make errors too; Displays A by way of L of this precept could be Jesus’ chosen disciples within the New Testomony.
Right this moment we’ve gone overboard with our reverence for the church’s prophet and apostles. I just like the journal LDS Dwelling and discover a lot of its articles insightful, however I’m bored with the frequent “7 images of Elder So-and-So That Will Make You Love Him Even Extra”-type articles.
Loving the apostles extra shouldn’t be our aim; loving God is the aim.
I’m additionally bored with the hovering self-referencing that occurs now in Normal Convention. In accordance with two researchers working independently (Christian Anderson and Quentin Spencer), mentions of Russell M. Nelson occur twice as often as for any previous president of the church. When audio system point out the present chief’s identify as typically because the Savior’s, it’s now not clear simply who it’s we’re presupposed to be worshipping.
One dialog we have to be having as Latter-day Saints is how we’re to take heed to the prophet as a non secular chief, somebody we love, whereas additionally all the time remembering that he’s a human being.
The second means Latter-day Saints will acknowledge our church within the “hazard zone” of movie star tradition is the shortage of transparency about cash and what the church does with its funds. There’s zero accountability for a way a lot cash and property are given to the church, how a lot of it’s spent and the place it’s going, and what the long-term targets for it is likely to be.
I ponder what it’s we’re so afraid of. It took the web site MormonLeaks exposing an apostle’s 2000 pay stub for us to know what members of the Quorum of the Twelve might make as a base salary. And guess what? It was a wonderfully cheap high-five-figure quantity at the moment, on par with what a senior pastor, full professor or authorities supervisor may earn. In 2014, apparently, the brethren bought a increase, nevertheless it was nonetheless within the vary of $114,000 to $120,000 — far decrease than many of those former businessmen, legal professionals and medical doctors earned of their pre-church careers.
Figuring out how properly apostles are compensated didn’t erode my confidence within the church; it elevated my religion within the establishment. Boring. Then again, the 2019 bombshell that the church was hoarding more than $100 billion in an investment fund that had to that point only made distributions to help for-profit ventures was frankly devastating. It’s not a monetary scandal, nevertheless it’s definitely a profound disappointment, as a result of I count on my church to be doing good on the planet with the sources it has been given.
Movie star tradition says I don’t even have the appropriate to ask the place that cash goes, as a result of individuals extra vital than me have all of it in hand. Movie star tradition additionally says the prophet is the prophet and it’s my job merely to obey, a easy foot soldier within the Lord’s military.