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Mother Teresa--From Saint Back to Human and It's OK

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Message Dennis Diehl

Shortly after beginning work in Calcutta's slums, the spirit left Mother Teresa.

"Where is my faith?" she wrote. "Even deep down… there is nothing but emptiness and darkness... If there be God — please forgive me."

"Such deep longing for God… Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal," she said.

"What do I labor for?" she asked in one letter. "If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true."

According to her letters, Mother Teresa died with her doubts. She had even stopped praying, she once said.

As her fame increased, her faith refused to return. Her smile, she said, was a mask. The good news is...every human being on the planet wears a mask. Most wear many masks. Some call it the dark side, but in fact it is just another side. Humans are more complicated and needful in their spirit than some would allow them to be and Churches go to great lengths to control this other side. As a result, people wear masks, including all members of all churches, their prophets, priests and pastors.

Mother Teresa, I suspect, will be remembered as "one who struggled" with the issues of faith and yet lived an authentic life because that's what humans given to the search for meaning do.

“Should” and “Must” are words that drive a lot of people over the edge as the impractical expectations of religion takes its toll.

Most churches don't have a way for the minister and family to address real human issues and stay as pastor and wife. To speak up or ask for help is to demote yourself and forever be viewed as flawed and “weak.” Its the higher up flawed and weak leaders that place these labels on you. Ministers don't seek help often because they become blemished lambs just for asking, so they don't ask .

 When masks come off, people are so surprised. They knew them as “so nice,” or “so quiet and kind.” That was the mask. They never got to know them as a genuine human being. I wish her well in this most difficult journey now that has affected so many people. I hope that someone will look to see what fundamentalist religion can do the the spirit that has to wear masks to cope with the differences between how we wish to think and do and what is expected.

Ministers and Priests, Nuns and Pastors, are the sacrificial human who is to be what others simple don't wish to be, but are glad to see it's possible, at least if the mask stays on properly. I would think that the admonition in the Gospels to “become ye therefore perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is Perfect,” might be a bit unrealistic for real humans, but the minister or priest is paid to go for it and show us how it's done. Of course, it's not done, but the appropriate mask is in place in the appropriate circumstance, always.

They are always “such a nice and quiet young man,” or “happy family,” before they blow. Masks tend to come off at the most inappropriate time and manner. I was riding to work one Saturday morning when I heard the news of a man who went ballistic in a church in Milwaukee, killing eight, including the Pastor and his son and then himself. I knew. It was a Saturday meeting. It was a hotel meeting room. I knew it was one of the splinter groups of my past affiliations. An hour later, it was confirmed and what I felt was going to happen someday in that group, because it so forces people to wear masks, did happen. I thought it would happen somewhere else, but this was no surprise to me. I had “prophecied” it to myself years ago. Very sad, and of course the young man who did the killing was labeled as “demon possessed,” and the whole thing sank into history. Simply put, the Church, this one and all churches, had forced a mask to be worn and rather than be able to talk about it, it stays firmly affixed...until it doesn't.

In my years of pastoring, I saw how “me thinks thou dost protest too much,” works in the world of masks. Ministers who were known for raging against sexual sins, gays and “lustful practices,” were wrestling with it themselves and projecting their own confusion and guilt onto the audience. I am confident that they themselves had no clue that was what they were doing.

Few get trained in how to spot a mask. It is therapeutic, and yet when the pastors mask comes off in some misadventure, he is roasted, eaten and the bones thrown in the trash. He certainly was not pefect as his Heavenly Father is perfect. Of course, the membership wore all the same masks but that doens't count. He was to be in fact what they would only be in masked compliance when convenient.

Seems if you want to make a problem rampant, just make it illegal. I pastored in “dry counties” where the alcoholism rate was out the roof. Churches are good at demanding, upon pain of some eternal fate, that one never do lots of things. This causes people to wear masks as much of what the church demands one never do, is some kind of sin, rather than a mere choice that sometimes we overdo. Life is not all or nothing in reality, but it is so often in fundamentalist religious perspectives. Thus we all wear masks to stay safely tucked in at least two worlds.

Anytime you join a group, you are going to have to get used to wearing masks on various topics and at various times to stay in the good graces of the group. That is just how it works. Individualism is frowned upon. Churches want dogs that can at least be trained, both as ministers and members. They certainly don't want cats that are impossible to herd, as they say. Even a pit bull can be trained to do, momentarily what one wishes it to do, with training, but inside, it might still want to rip your leg off. A cat is a cat. No masks on any cat I ever met. “Here Kitty Kitty,” I call out as it walks away and doesn't even look back. “Sit,” as it stands there and scorns me, and don't even think the crazy thing will roll over or beg! It's a cat. It knows nothing of masks. Long live Cats!

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Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years,  who outgrew the Literalism of Fundamentalism.  He writes about Pastoral and Church abuse and is available to speak on such topics or be helpful to any church suffering under abusive (more...)

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