Let’s start with a most basic and simple idea, that is, that there is something about a stereotype that is expressing a truism that it encapsulates. So for example, the stereotype of a Scientist is that he or she is slightly eccentric, is never still, has an abundance of enthusiasm and always seems to wear a white coat – oh, and their hair is mussed. How true that is in real life is a matter of debate, but I am sure you can bring to mind such a figure for many a film makes use of the image. It is a picture that conjures up someone who is exceptionally brainy and a bit irresponsible both in personal care and also in the outward use of any creation or invention they might have made.
When I was at school the epitome of the Teacher was someone who was rather harassed, stooped, wore an academic gown and, if he was a Latin Teacher, wore a mortar board as well. These days the image has changed but there is still the harassed, almost juvenile air about him or her, with slightly left of centre politics and attitudes.
The image of the Farmer is that of someone in touch with the soil, has a ruddy complexion, is a bit stout and speaks with a strong regional accent. The Accountant has figures coming out of his ears, needs more exercise and generally needs to get out more.
Stereotypes speak volumes yet everyone of them is only true up to a point for then the image breaks down as no two individuals are identical.
And what of the Priest?
What comes to mind here? Intensity? Impractical? Wordy? Other worldly?
At this point I tend to see the stereotype being that of a Christian religious leader, in particular a priest of the Church of England. And this is where sadness enters any debate for a religious leader is not necessarily a spiritual leader. The two should be synonymous but the truth of the matter is that more often they are not. I write at length about this in chapters 16, 17 and 18 in my book ‘The Death of the Church etc.’, and I am in despair of such a discrepancy. Spirituality is not conferred upon a person just because they are ordained. In fact quite often a person who has nothing to do with an institutional religion is more spiritual than the professional Christian!! Shameful though that is.
I would open this idea up even further for if we include any religion and not just confine it to Christianity, then any leader of any religion should have a spirituality about them that is obvious. It should be so evident that you end up by saying that there is something of God about them. Or being sensitive to gender both of leadership and aspects of Godhead, perhaps it should be ‘Something of the Divine about them’.
For a moment, if you are a regular worshipper of any kind, then consider your worshipping community’s leader and what comes to mind? Be honest. Charismatic? Politically astute? Socially aware? Community leader? Academic? Spiritually mature? But above all – are you inspired towards the Divine? Hummm!
Although it is very much within a Christian context, perhaps you might like to listen to a podcast (a modern posh way of saying sermon) that holds this concept at its heart. “Who or what is a Christian?”.