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GayatfootofCross

“pastoral gaze”

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GayatfootofCross

It was only a few months ago I'm in a christian home and we are studying "How to get the Holy Spirit". ( ..like Jesus is still far far away :( )

And a dear friend talking of her experience says " I have  given everything to God except one small area of my life" .

When she said the first 6 words it was for all as she looked around the room... but the last 7 words she said sheepishly as she looked at the Minister.

 Oh, There it is!

.......


"Imagine for a second that you’re on an elevator, and halfway to your floor the elevator stops and a stern-looking man wearing a clerical collar gets on. After a few more floors the elevator stops and gets stuck. It’s just you and him. What’s going through your mind? What are you feeling?

Chances are you’re going to relate to this man far differently than you would to almost anyone else. Your emotions are going to be a tad more complex as you both consciously and unconsciously self-censor and subject your inner self to a kind of surveillance that is completely different from self-reflection and self-awareness. A priest or minister may not be judgmental per se, but their very presence incites a sort of self-judgment. It’s like a revered grandparent, phlegmatic schoolmarm, and police officer all in one, and you don’t know whether any given offense is going to offend them or offend yourself more in that moment.

This is the “pastoral gaze”: it contains a moral authority, a therapeutic soothingness, and an overarching totality that overtakes one’s whole sense of self in moral insecurity. All of a sudden, you’re no longer acting in the moment, but you’re self-conscious. You’ve moved from “is” to “should,” and your chief motivation in that moment is to be a “better” person.

Churches themselves are spaces defined by perpetual surveillance by the pastoral gaze. This is not to say that they are necessarily authoritarian or totalitarian, but that values and morals operate as the primary priority of thought. The challenge for any church is to channel the “pastoral gaze” into the “contemplative gaze,” one marked not by judgment of inadequacy but a peaceful resting in a spiritual centeredness.

No matter how progressive your church, such a pastoral gaze is exhausting. Some of us simply don’t want to subject ourselves to an environment with the subtle but constant pressure to be something or someone different. Churches are, quite simply, not particularly great spaces for persons to integrate their whole selves, and that self-surveillance can be toxic. We need, instead, spaces of love defined, not by some moralism, but on the contemplative grasping of the goodness of God and neighbor."

.....

 

 

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