Clericalism and Anti-Clericalism
One of the more vexing aspects of the church's contemporary life is the
festering and twinned evils of clericalism and anti-clericalism. Simply defined,
"clericalism" is a kind of elitist classism in which the church equals its
clergy, and "anti-clericalism" is any reaction to that wrong-headed assumption.
These observations may be helpful in understanding these two phenomena:
- Both terms are inextricably connected to institutionalism and
anti-institutionalism; each is part of the same fabric.
- Both concepts — and their practices and structures — are bound up in the
false dichotomy or dualism of sacred/secular.
- Clericalism yields anti-clericalism, not the other way around. Thus, the
amelioration of clericalism diminishes anti-clericalism.
- Clericalism is NOT rooted in notions of power. Instead, notions of power
are founded on notions of significance, meaning, usefulness.
- The worldview of clericalism is in direct distinction to the worldview
of contemporary culture.
- A primary cause for the continuing abuses of power and mission sometimes
associated with clergy is the complicity of "clericalized laity" or
loyalists. Thus clergy can be seen as much victims of clericalism as
purveyors of its supposed benefits.
- The cyclical nature of clericalist and anti-clericalist movements in
history suggests a generational basis to the sociology of these matters.
- Clericalism is an institutionalized set of behaviors within the church,
thus more easily understood sociologically than biblically.
- As individualized behavior, clericalism may be more correctly understood
as a psychological state devoid of scriptural foundation but claiming it
- Only with great hermeneutical stress can the case be made for a
scriptural foundation for clericalism.
- The solution to clericalism should be multi-faceted and multi-pronged,
working both at the individual and institutional levels.
- Neither false egalitarianism not the presumptions of the marketplace
(e.g., "supply and demand will take care of the problem") will diminish the
existence or effects of clericalism.
- The concept of ordination and its attendant rites may continue to
reinvigorate latent clericalism in individuals and in the institution.
- Both lay and clergy would benefit from continued education about the
worlds in which God operates, the languages which God uses, the good that
God does, and God's revealed truth.