There are many types of clergypeople. I’ve learned in life that most broad human groupings divide roughly into three parts.
A third are failures, or purely evil. In some fields–where they ruin many square miles, steal millions, terrorize thousands–I’d be okay with humanity taking them out to a ditch and coming back without them. In others, less in a position to do serious harm, it would be better to pay them not to work (thus keeping them out of mischief) than to pay them to show up and ruin the workplace. An alarming number of the purely evil tend to rise to great power. As one moves among a trusting, ignorant populace, a complete lack of ethics will permit this.
A third are all right. They’ll never shoot the lights out with greatness, but they will do the job. They will meet expectations, and they will not willingly do evil. They will have shining moments, but their worst moment is never as awful as the daily lives of the failures and disasters.
A third are the best people you’ll ever know. Bright, hard-working, often both; considerate of the world around them; having recognized their talents and weak spots, and having acted to handle both correctly. Some are mothers who raise multiple kids on their own and amaze everyone how great the little ones are. Some are the police you see kindly giving the confused elderly man a ride home. Again. Many quietly do great things daily and you and I never learn about it.
Thus with most of humanity, and thus it is with the clergy.
A third are some of the best people we’ve got. They come nearer sainthood than most people one will ever meet. They have given up much of what other people seek in order to help people, achieve a higher state, make a difference. They often do all three.
A third pretty much do what clergy are supposed to do. They hold the proper services, hear the proper things, play back the religious party line. They’re clergy, and they mostly go out and clerge.
A third are the pastards.
The pastards subgroup into two categories: those who try to tell the world “you can’t do this because it’s against my religion” (in other words, those who are pastards because they insist that non-flock members be required to obey the rules of their flock) and the megapastards. The megapastards have enormous places of worship, Denalian wads of cash. The megapastards long ago lost any connection to real life, except as it relates to milking money out of those living real life. Megapastardy is not always entirely monetary. Billy Graham said to my future wife, in person, when she asked what to do about her abusive then-husband: “You made your bed; you have to lie in it. Go home to your husband.” I hope Billy Graham had a very embarrassing, painful, soul-crushing long goodbye. He was a megapastard. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later rebranded as “Osho” in order to help people stop dwelling so much on the fact that his followers launched a biological terror attack against Americans, was a megapastard. Pastards harm few, however virulently and invasively; megapastards harm many.
Of course, there is often great overlap between the different types of pastard. The Ayatollah Khomeini was both. However, a lot of bad clergy have short political reach. If they were better at marketing, and more outgoing/brassy/photogenic/connected, they might aspire to be megapastards, but they’re stuck at the First Christlike Pure Fivesquare Gospel Church of Jesus Almighty Bible Power in Hoedown, Indiana, pop. 78. It takes a lot of business savvy to make the jump to megapastard. Likewise, the neo-pagan high priestess for whom it has become about power and control and adoration has no chance to be a megapastard. Not that she wouldn’t jump at the chance.
A megapastard is someone that induces people to give him or her money so s/he can supposedly do religious work, and who then hogs most of the money for him or herself. It’s usually a him. And the surest sign of a megapastard?
When everyone around him or her is impoverished or stricken with some terrible disaster, and the megapastard has the material means to help improve many of their lives, you will know the megapastard because s/he will never volunteer to do so. S/he may be shamed about it, and realize that giving in to the pressure is the cost of staying in the megapastardy business, but the megapastard does it only grudgingly.
What the megapastard will do most ostentatiously is to lean on his or her flock to join hands and contribute way too much of what little most of them have, telling them that it is their spiritual duty. Better they be further impoverished than that the megapastard worry about one of the yacht payments. And you know that the megapastard will take full credit for their generosity, as publicly and loudly as possible, making sure of course to collect a percentage as a small handling fee. You don’t understand! This costs money!
Pastards are why we should end the religious tax exemption. The greatest share of lost tax dollars kept by religions do not benefit the public. The greatest share benefit megapastards.
The only thing I can think of to do to pastards is stop listening to them. It follows, therefore, that megapastards should mega-not be listened to, given to, or shown respect.
Every time some Pollyanna tells you “everyone deserves respect,” point to a megapastard, and ask if Polly really means that. Bet she doesn’t.