My Psalm 52
Judge and Jury
Last week I spoke about the etymology of the word “minister” and mentioned that I was amazed that word meant servant. Sadly, the church in the 21st century appears to have precious few ministers who truly are servants of their congregations. Prior to the research needed for the posting, I would have thought it was related to the word shepherd. Indeed, in my experience, most ministers feel they are the leaders of a sadly ignorant and very ornery herd.
The entire thought process regarding this was based upon a question from a friend. Summarizing, the question was basically “Why are ministers so judgmental?” If a minister is not a servant, then how did he/she get to be a judge?
The etymology or history of the word judge comes from the French “juger”. To judge someone means to give an opinion but it is not just anyone’s opinion. The opinion is to be based on intelligent, rational thinking, and – here’s the clincher – unbiased. He or She who would judge must make a good decision objectively. Could a minister even do that since one of the basic principles of religion is that we “all have sinned and oft gone astray”?
There are two other similar words that one might be forgiven for thinking come from the same root word as judge or judgment. They are jugular and jugar. Jugular, an important artery in the neck comes from the Latin “iugum” which meant yoke and later, throat. Jugar is a Spanish word which is derived from the Latin “iocare” meaning to joke or jest.
All three, however, would seem to be related when considering my friend’s question. After all, when judged by one’s minister, a person assumed to be benevolent, compassion, and forgiving, one would certainly feel as if they were being held by the throat, their spiritual jugular attacked. Expecting an unbiased response, such condemnation might appear at first to be a joke, the Spanish jugar.
The fact of the matter is that many adorn a clerical collar, either literally or figuratively, and then decide to be judge and jury. Even those whose faiths disdain the formal ministerial path, preferring citizen leaders, have fallen prey to this antithetical purpose of the clergy and their teachings. It would seem that whether it is a Christian minister, Islamic Imam, spiritual leader, etc., their purpose is to not spread a gospel of love and connectedness but rather to condemn.
The word condemn comes from the Latin and French “damnum”. Rather than a death sentence, it was a consequence such as a fine or penalty, a way of making right damages owed or paying the cost of one’s actions. The concept of damnation came from the Latin “damnatio”. This concept is something most cultures have in common. Ancient Egypt required citizens to recite the forty-two negative confessions of Maat to prove one’s innocence, weighing a heart heavy with guilt against the feather of truth. Zoroastrianism speaks of Frashokereti, a concept in which the righteous walk through a river of milke while the wicked burn in molten metal.
So how did ministers become judges? It might just be as simple as the etymology or origin of the word. As previously discussed, minister comes from the Old English “minister”, meaning a servant. However, the word minster is another matter completely. Minster comes from the Latin “monasterium” and Greek “μοναστήριον”, both of which mean monastery. Minsters were churches given the title and then assigned additional clergy with subsequent budgets to support such. The term today is given as an honorary title denoting a large or important church.
Rather than be a minister – with the “I” in the middle of the word – perhaps the answer is that many feel themselves to be minsters – honorable and important enough to forego the unbiased, compassion, serving aspect of their profession. Minsters and their role in the spread of Christianity, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon form, is both a matter of record and dissension. Often, they were areas of influence and political in their conversion of the Middle Ages citizenry to Christianity. Whether or not there actually was a deliberate plan in the establishment of such minsters, they did exist and were successful for a time. Churches that, in the twelfth century were solely dependent upon the minster system, had become independent parishes by the end of the fifteenth century. As people’s faith grew, so did their support of their churches and their ministers. Perhaps it is time for those ministers to work for the people.
Minister, Imam, Rabbi, Shaman, etc. and their congregations and/or tribes must work together. This is not just a problem of Christian churches, however. Radical imams are responsible for the world’s disjointed view of Islam. Rabbis calling for the deaths of Arabs are not practicing the love commanded by G-D in their Torah. It is time for all of us to return to the ministerial commandments of all our faiths. The only way we are going to have our souls sing the praises of our Lord and do respect of our Father Abraham is to develop the harmony necessary for a well-lived life of faith in service to others. Whether it is resolving the discords of various cultures and beliefs, learning to compromise on the spectrum in which we live, or learning the libretto of our respective beliefs, we must work together.
My Psalm 52
We say we care for the beauty of this place
Yet we slaughter nature’s finest to pave paradise.
We speak of inner peace
Yet we call for the killing of innocents.
We remember our own persecution
Yet we persecute others.
We preach love thy neighbor
Yet we condemn those who are different.
Have mercy on us, Father.