Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Demons of Entitlement

A few years ago, when I was an Episcopal rector (which ended up being my last parish ever not only as an Episcopalian but as an Episcopalian Priest), I was sitting alone in the empty church.   When I got up, I walked into the sanctuary and moved ONE chair.
Blessed be the name of Jesus!

The stares and the whisperings at coffee and donuts following the first service that sunday were certainly noteworthy.
Finally a few people let me know that my decision was a poor one and that I had no business deciding to move a chair.  Did I mention that it was never used?

still from film: Jesus of Nazereth
What right did I have?

I was reminded of this during another one of our family adventures that happened just yesterday...

Seeing that bicycle riding was not proving to be as enjoyable as expected (see previous blog entry) due to the previous day's assault, my family decided to take a walk down on the beach of Lake Erie.
We've walked the same beach for years.
I camped out on a concrete erosion pier while my wife and brother sat in the sand casually looking for beach glass.  My son and his aunty were running and jumping into the water.

Suddenly there was a stir in the woods behind us.  Startled and alarmed I turned, my heart started pounding, and then....
out from the woods came a man.
This was no ordinary man...
This was a man dressed in hemmed tanned shorts, little socks with sperry docksider shoes, and a cute pink izod polo shirt (I think the collar was turned up)

He approached;  " I'm sorry I have to ask you to leave this is private property."

Technically it isn' are allowed in that geographic space between the high and low water mark on the beach...which we clearly were.

He continued to babble and babble and claim his territory.
I was too tired.
It was his water, his beach, his entitlement.
He had money--I didn't.
He would pursue it legally--we couldn't.
People like this make me sick.

Entitlement comes in so many forms...24 hours earlier a man was entitled to pull me off a bike.  Now, this guy is entitled to kick us off one of the Great Lakes.

I should have shared that we had deeded access and were his neighbors...just about two miles down the beach.  Maybe we should have pulled that my wife is a phenomenal physician in town and that we at one time belonged to the country club (where they wear shirts like that).   Maybe we just didn't look the part.

Entitlement has roots in the demonic.  It makes the beholder believe that they are deserving of whatever right they want to exercise.  Pride fuels it.  Self puffed up lies are it's kindling. Use anybody to get what you deserve and get rid of anybody who is in your way or on your beach. 
 Entitlement seeks to demean and entrap.

The church continues to wrestle with the demons of entitlement. There are Bishops and Priests who abused their administrative, pastoral, and spiritual authority and now, with the flash point of media we know all too well way too much.  But it isn't just the clergy.  There exists another deadly form of entitlement in parish life and that involves parishioners with money or gossip who entrap pastors and fellow parishioners.  It is difficult to break out of that mode of existence.

No wonder St. Michael took issue.