I just saw on TV that sheep MUST be sheared because their wool keeps growing. How then did the sheep survive in the past when no humans sheared them?
This is a question from the internet, and here are the two top answers to it:
There is still today the original form of our domestic sheep – wild sheep are, for example, mouflons or Urials. However, the wool of these sheep is not as long as that of domestic sheep but remains relatively short. The mouflon is considered the ancestor of the domestic sheep. The breeding selection of man has preferred long-haired sheep because long-haired wool is more productive and easier to process. The disadvantage is that it felts faster. To keep the wool usable and less felted, shearing is necessary. In wild sheep, this is not necessary, because the hair does not become so long and after the winter also hair falls out.
Man likes to breed animals so that they bring him great benefit. The fact that the animals alone would not be able to survive at all or suffer, does not matter.
So sheep are not viable alone because we have bred them accordingly.
What does this have to do with a blog about theology, Bible, and the church?
In churches, members are often called sheep. This comes from the fact that one of the offices of the fivefold ministry is the pastor, that is, the shepherd. He is also the only one who was truly recognized across the board in the first centuries of most of the church movements after the reformation.
And a shepherd has sheep.
In addition, Jesus spoke of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to seek the one that was lost.
So it makes sense that we use that expression. Metaphorically. But I am convinced that we have gone too far and so have done to our members exactly what we have done to domesticated sheep.
We have bred them up. Bred them to sit in the chairs and pews and listen to the shepherd preach.
We are convinced that our flocks are not viable on their own. They hardly read the Bible, forget what they heard in the sermon, and do not implement the Christian lifestyle. They need us shepherds.
The Bible itself tells us that we no longer need teachers because each of us has the Spirit, though.
But we pastors prefer to believe Plato, the aristocrat who wanted to re-establish the rule of the aristocracy in Athens. He was convinced that there was a class of people who understood the perfect. The perfect for him was the state, the class was the aristocracy. And he believed that the aristocrats had to show the rest of the citizens when to get up, when to go to bed, and what had to happen in between.
After the church became part of the state, priests adapted Plato. To the accusation of simplicity, they replied: your own Plato predicted it, only he could not yet recognize the truly perfect, the Church.
And since then, the church has been hierarchical, a two-class system, and the members were sheep.
It is now about 1700 years of breeding that have brought us here.
I heard a little story from a three-year-old in daycare. He said this to his caregiver:
What are you thinking? You already told me that 2+2=4. Why do you keep repeating that? Do you really think I am a stupid idiot?
I remember having a similar internal dialogue when I was 4 and playing chess against my father, who thought he had to tell me the moves of the pieces over and over again. I just didn’t dare to say it out loud. I beat him in the third game for that.
I also remember all the occasions when I heard sermons and inwardly said exactly the same thing.
When I shared this with my pastor colleague, he said that I was just a pastor too, but that the sheep wouldn’t think that way. They had to be sheared regularly and led to pasture.
Now that I am a pastor in exile, I hear again and again from members and former members how humiliating the level of the sermons and the image of man presented to them in the church was and is for them.
More and more people are having this inner dialogue. And we don’t hear about it because we have bred them to sit quietly in the rows and listen to the sermon.
It’s not that people like to talk about everyday things after the sermon, just want to make small talk. Our way of responding, our view of humanity, our caste thinking, and our unintentional condescension in a system of teacher and student, shepherd and sheep, make them fall silent.
Often the only option is to leave, and so our worldview becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who conform to our image remain.
And we point to them and say:
See, I was right.
And in a world of good and evil, right and wrong, that’s all that matters. As a pastor, I know that, you sheep!