Vultures, bankers and pastors

Jun 25th, 2011 | By | Category: Ministry

The second bailout of Greece is tonight reported as food for the vultures, the vultures being those who circled picking off government bonds at cheap prices; bonds that will now be underwritten by the generosity of the European taxpayers.

Wikpedia defines a vulture fund as follows:

“A vulture fund is a private equity or hedge fund that invests in debt issued by an entity that is considered to be very weak or dying, or whose debt is in imminent default. The name is a metaphor comparing these investors to vultures patiently circling, waiting to pick over the remains of a rapidly weakening company or, in the case of sovereign debt, debtor country”.

Long before the advent of vulture funds, there were clergy who displayed all the characteristics of a vultures; circling, awaiting an opportunity to gain a foothold in a household, awaiting a chance to add another family to their list of adherents.

In parts of Northern Ireland it was common that pastors from tiny fundamentalist groups would use the attendance of a single member of a family at their services as grounds to gain access to that family’s house if there was illness or bereavement in order to preach their particular brand of graceless religion. Sometimes they would terrify people into submission, more often families with no church connection who were confronted with death in their home would tell the undertaker that they wanted a “proper” funeral and the undertaker would phone the hapless minister of one of the main churches to come to attend to the burial arrangements. The vultures would be beaten off temporarily, but would land again as soon as the obsequies were past.

What the vultures meant to the people with whom they came into contact is hard to gauge, their particular brand of exclusive and apocalyptic theology allowed salvation only for themselves, anyone who dared to demur brought judgment down upon themselves. The impact of the small sects was questionable; they would sometimes arrive in a dramatic way only to disappear as quickly. They were often riven by doctrinal disputes and would splinter and splinter again, each successive group claiming it was truer and more faithful than its predecessor.  The pickings after funerals were rarely rich; the people whose allegiance to things religious was at best tenuous would quickly tire of the demands of their new co-religionists and would drift back to their former agnosticism.  Being a vulture pastor seemed a profitless pastime.

Reading of the millions to be made by the international financial speculators, there is for a moment a wish that their efforts be as fruitless as those of the wee men who would stand at the back of the crowd at the graveside, waiting for their chance to swoop.


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