A critical failure in Western Christianity is the impossible moral climate.
I want you to notice this huge, tall mountain of social expectation. Because you claim Christ as your Lord in a Western context, you are saddled with a massive pile of “supposed to” and “ought to,” and this in turn is rooted in a bad moral mythology. I’ve long said that Western assumptions about what is morally good and bad does not match what’s in the Bible. In that sense, Western assumptions about what is good and bad are also saddled with a false view of what’s possible.
In a broad sense of things, we can say that one of the biggest problems in human existence is false expectations. That’s the fundamental flaw that Satan exploited in human nature in the Garden — we can be led to believe that things ought to go this way or that, when God has said pointedly it’s not so. When we rely on reason to help shape our expectations, there is always an element of wishful thinking, conscious or not. And because revelation demands a lot of self-sacrifice, we tend to discount its demands in favor of our wishes. We keep looking for loopholes.
So we live in a society that holds forth this massive lie about what ought to be, and these false social expectations give rise to behavioral patterns that cannot work. Indeed, this is the whole point behind the red-pill movement, in that we face a vast ocean of propaganda about what women are like and what they really want, so that women are deceived about their own nature. Thus, we have feminism that posits things that cannot be, and a host of demands based on delusion. It’s the same thing with Western Christian religion, not so much in terms of specifics, but in the nature of false expectations.
Religion writers have noticed what appears as a recent spike in clergy suicides. Granted, they do give mention of how suicides are up in the general population, but the linked article puts an emphasis on clergy. The reason they do this arises precisely from the same underlying false image of what clergy are supposed to be and do. We have a problem with clergy suicides because we have a problem with the notion of what “clergy” should mean.
I won’t suggest that clergy aren’t supposed to be models; Scripture demands they are. However, the flaw is what they are supposed to model and how they are supposed to do it. The sense of isolation noted in the article is fundamental to Western assumptions about religion. I can tell you up front that the solution hinted at in the article is a matter of scooping up some habits that currently exist in the liberal wing of Western Christian religion, instead of seeking to understand the deeper failures that characterize everything Western. Bouncing around between conservative and liberal serves simply to keep the whole thing within a closed loop. This week they’ll drag in a few liberal notions about Western clergy; next week they’ll reaffirm conservative expectations of the clergy. Meanwhile, both ends of that spectrum are alien to what’s in the Bible.
In the real world that God made, the solution is a two-edged sword. First, there’s the problem of heart-led living completely absent from Western Civilization. It’s a fundamental assumption in Scripture, so there is no answer outside raising that issue. Without the heart of conviction ruling over everything, there can be no solution.
But that’s a tall order, and it requires some help orienting recovering Western minds seeking to follow the heart-led way. So the second edge of that sword is Biblical Law. Biblical Law is both boundary and fence. It’s not just laying out what’s real, but it suggests rules we make for ourselves to strengthen our resolve as a community of faith. You cannot really live Biblical Law without the heart in the first place, but because we are all in transition between the old life and the new, we put up fences to make it a little harder to forget the moral boundaries. Biblical rules bear only some superficial resemblance to Western Christian rules.
I note in passing that it is quite rare to find any Western Christian church keeping the New Testament practice of dividing leadership between pastors and elders (Two Witnesses). Your typical Western church folds the two into a single role, and that’s just plain wrong. It’s a sin, to put it bluntly. Pastors should be like Old Testament priests and Levites, while elders are like clan chiefs who actually rule/manage the church family. Go back and review how those roles work and stop reading Western culture back into the Bible.
Next, I suggest we ditch the idea of churches as democratic business institutions. Biblical churches do not have plans and objectives that marketers can turn into slogans; they are not democratic but feudal. Churches are meant to be extended families under covenant and the sole purpose is fellowship in a growing faith commitment to Biblical Law. It’s not about changing people, but persuading them to change themselves under divine leadership. It’s all about enabling the process built into redemption and serving Christ.
Stop mimicking the ambient social expectations and structures. Rediscover the ancient boundaries and build fences for yourselves. This will engender a wholly different context in which we can address problems like clergy suicide.