The clergy are the worst of all

In an interview about his new novel, Will Willimon talks about the way most of his characters (especially the clergy) are not all that praise worthy of lovable  He says he hopes this will draw people to the church:

I think if someone reads this and says, “Look, I’m not the best person in the world, but boy, some of these people are just horrible — and they’re clergy? They’re Christians? Wow. Well then, there really is hope for me,” that would be fine.

This is a very Willimon-esque sentiment. But I’m struck how at odds it is with all the discourse we hear about the way people outside the church, especially young people, look at Christians and see them as petty, judgmental, and hypocritical people and decide they don’t want to be a part of that. We are constantly told that who we are is what drives people away from the church.

Willimon’s response, I take it, would be, “Hey, we are just like you. Come be with us.”

The key for Willimon, I think, is that he thinks the desire to follow Jesus will be so strong that people will put up with sinners they have to sit next to on Sunday to follow him.

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6 thoughts on “The clergy are the worst of all

  1. I don’t like it. And I’m a fan of his.

    Haven’t we lowered the bar far enough? People were drawn to Jesus and marveled at his authority. Why are we running the opposite direction as though we want to match the lowest denominator?

    • Willimon has this side to him that I don’t know how to take. I think it comes from being a Barthian (although I could be wrong about that). He sees the gulf between God and us as so wide that he never really expects us to be more than we are.

      I might be wrong, though.

      • I think that’s definitely it, theologically, the Barthian-Lutheran strain. It really seems like the world Willimon is imagining is precisely the Constantinian world you’d think the co-author of Resident Aliens would know no longer exists: a world in which everyday people want to be Christians but feel they’re unworthy of it. That is, a world in which “Christian” is assumed and we all strive to be “good” or “real” Christians, and are ashamed when they fall short. Not our world, in which people ask “Why on earth would I want to be a Christian?”

  2. On the other hand, crappy clergy might indicate that the church doesn’t really care about the quality of its front-line, most public and visible face. To my mind, this would empty pews, not fill them.

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