I’m still working through the issue of mimetic rivalry between clergy and laity. Part of what’s going on is certainly factionalism. But then I tried to figure out, okay, so who exactly are in the clericalist and anti-clericalist factions? There are clergy and laypeople on both sides.
(Updated to clarify: Just realized anti-clericalism might mean either anti-(clericalism) = ideology that is opposed to clericalism, or (anti-clerical)ism = ideology that is anti-clergy. In this post, I am referring to the latter meaning.)
And after a bit of brainstorming, this is what I wrote down:
The clericalism faction consists of:
- clergy whose identity is constructed over against the laity, and
- laity who identify as a member of the hierarchical church, whose desire is to conform themselves to Christ by obeying the clergy, as Christ obeyed the Father.
While the anti-clericalism faction consists of
- laity whose identity is constructed over against the clergy, and
- clergy who identify as a member of the baptized faithful, whose desire is to conform themselves Christ by ministering to the laity, as Christ ministered to others.
Does this sound plausible to you?
The latter group is operating, consciously or not, with a baptismal ecclesiology: the baptized faithful constitute the church, and the clergy have their proper role in it, and an associated proper manner in which they are to imitate Christ.
The former group is operating, consciously or not, with what by analogy I would have to call an ordinational ecclesiology: the ordained clergy constitute the church, and the laity have their proper role in it, and an associated proper manner in which they are to imitate Christ.
(I’m using “proper” here to mean primarily “particular”, but it certainly also has the connotation of “well-ordered.”)
What blows my mind about this is that, in both cases, there are people whose desire is sincerely ordered towards Christ… and in both cases, those people are not the ones whose position the faction privileges. The fact that I’ve written down descriptions that are mirror images of each other first blew my mind, then built my confidence: that’s exactly what mimetic theory would predict.
It’s also interesting that after starting out to analyze these differences in terms of mimetic desire, I ended up finding a difference in ecclesiology, via the understanding of church in which their identity is grounded. That’s a validating thing for a mimetic ecclesiology to do.
So, what do you think? Is this plausible? Do these descriptions sound like the clericalist and anti-clericalist people you know? (At least, when they are not caught up in the dynamics of bashing the other faction — that powerful dynamic would still overlay every actual or imaginative interaction with the other side.) I would seriously love feedback here.