the danger of being choice sheep

good shepherd cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

“The Good Shepherd” (by nakedpastor, David Hayward)

Welcome to SHEEP WEEK!

The problem with any analogy is that those is power will stretch it to its unintended extremes to secure and increase their authority. This is the problem with the shepherd/sheep analogy. What was originally intended to illustrate care mutated into illustrating abuse. The famous Ezekiel 34 describes this sad mutation:

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd.

This pastoral analogy certainly wasn’t to authorize the shepherds’ neglect, bullying or consuming of the sheep. But this is the saddest part of the application of the analogy: those who identify themselves too much with the sheep may willingly suffer this neglect, bullying and consumption from their leaders because that’s what shepherds do and that’s how sheep behave. Throw into the mix Jesus’ advice that we should be dumb like sheep to the slaughter, and you have a green light for not only the infliction but the reception of abuse.

The Gospel of Thomas tells the story of the lost sheep in a different way than the canonical gospels do. The writer claims that Jesus left the 99 to search for the one that was lost because it was the fattest and choicest of all the sheep. When Jesus found the sheep, he said to the sheep, “I love you more than the 99!” If sheep had any brains, which they don’t, the found sheep would know that the shepherd loved him the most because he promised to be good eating.

For those who were choice members of churches and were consumed by it, you know first-hand the dark side of the shepherd/sheep analogy.

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Kathy

    The lord is my shepherd…..thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Too bad the rod was used to break the legs of sheep who dared stray, and the staff was used to reel them back in by the neck. But hey that’s just an analogy, showing we should ‘humble ourselves’ and be grateful for ‘correction’ meted out by some human who has been ‘anointed and appointed’ by God to behave in this way. If the bible and religion hasn’t turned you off to God completely, that’s the true miracle.

  • http://www.salvationcast.com Jay Prewitt

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Sheep must be led, not chewed on. Great analogy, great blog.

    Thank you,
    Jay Prewitt

  • Georgina

    With T. Pratchett, I tend to wonder how the world would have turned out with a Goatherd, rather than a Shepherd, leading us.

    And when, at the end of days, ‘He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left’*, I shall not tarry, nay, I shall U-turn and walk away – proud to be human and free!

    *Matthew 25:32

  • http://thelefthandofbelief.wordpress.com/ Wade

    David, I like the reference to The Gospel Of Thomas. I firmly believe that nowhere near enough Christians/church-goers even know it exists, let along have read it!

    Georgiana, that’s a great reference to Sir Terry. Just one extra point to fill out the reference: sheep have to be led but goats have to be driven.

  • http://www.whatisspiritual.com Richard Harty

    I don’t believe in being a sheep. I’m more of a cat.


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