Saturday, September 18, 2010

Alter Ego Versus an Ego on the Altar

In this post, I am responding to a reading assignment and discussion from some of my classmates.

After Moses' spoke with God, he wore a veil to hide the fading brightness of his face. Moses wore this veil, this mask to create a distance between himself and the homeless, wandering Hebrews. The fading brightness of his face shows how people can change, how their ideals, their zeal, and their passion can fade overtime. Moses opted to be more constant and wore a veil.

In this event, we can see Moses an example of one who creates an alter ego (I am using Moses more as an illustration than I am actually saying what happened in the story). There was the Moses behind the veil and the Moses before the veil, who is the Moses people saw and with whom they interacted. The Moses behind the veil is the person Moses showed to God. But Moses spent more time with the people than with God. His alter ego became the ego. Eventually, Moses removed the veil, because of this change. The brightness left and the real Moses changed. The Moses behind the veil became the fake Moses, which is the person offered to God.

(Note, I am only giving one interpretation of this event and have no intention of calling Moses a bad person, a bad leader, or give him any other negative connotations than to say Moses was a human being like the rest of us. The following does not represent supersessionism or anti-judaism in my mind. Sorry if I unintentionally imply it.)

In Mark and other gospels, a veil in the temple is reportedly rent in two at Jesus' death. The rending of this veil can symbolize a similar rending of separate identities. As in the classic episode of the Twilight Zone, the longer we wear a mask, the more chances we have of becoming the person before the mask, the person people see in the mask.

The splitting of the veil can signify how our attempts at inauthenticity create an unintended authenticity. If I distance myself from my congregation, I am a different person with them, creating an alter ego. I give them a person who is not me. In time, however, I identify myself as a minister and I become the minister, the alter ego. Then person I give to my friends, family and God is less real. I will lead a split life. To me, this veiling and perceived distance can create more hurt and hinder more ministry than it will actually help.

But if I tear the veil recommended by some ministers, I create an intended authenticity. I become real with my congregations. Only when giving myself to my congregation can "I" actually be their minister. Instead of creating an alter ego, I create an ego on the altar, giving myself fully to God by giving myself fully to them.

I understand this stance can have downsides. Even our best decisions have "negative" side effects. After all, Jesus was mocked, excessively hurt, ostracized, and crucified. In not wearing a veil, Jesus even rent the veil that many perceived standing between humanity and God, a space many in power rented for themselves. Similarly, if we do not rend the space between the minister and those to whom we minister by becoming real, by becoming one of them, by deconstructing our role as different, then we rent out a space that is not ours, standing in between people and God.

Perhaps, as James Kay said, we might not always be "able to fulfill that role [of minister] for them, the very role which brought us together in the first place." Perhaps our inability to fulfill that role could be a blessing in itself, bringing the parishioner and the pastor face-to-face with God, instead of face-to-face with us.

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