Andrew Greeley was the first to introduce me to the "clerical culture" concept, though I'd grown up in it. He was describing priests in the Catholic Church--which is all most Catholics seem to think exists in the whole profession! Of course, I saw far beyond that--and looked at the similarities and differences between Catholic and other faith groups.
Yet, until I came across Greeley's phrase "clerical culture," I never thought of it as being a separate culture. At times, it is one of privilege. At other times, one of much duty. Often being a part of it (even as the wife or child of a clergyman) is to live in isolation in order to be protected from the idealism of outsiders who cannot accept the humanity of those inside this mysterious world that really looks quite ordinary inside whenever one has the luxury of being in a situation where protection from the fishbowl can be experienced for a little while.
The truth is that the outsiders say they want us to be "human," but just try being human for a few minutes in the wrong setting! Just try letting your hair down and see how much "human" people really like. Believe me, every word is judged in some circles. Every smile or frown, too.
Being the rebel that I am, I learned quite early in life to pretend when I needed to do so. Yet I've also learned, as I've grown older, not to care much about what the masses think of me. I actually learned to enjoy presenting folks with ideas that shock most people in the pew, who have never thought beyond their tiny little world of home, church, and a career that opens a few more doors, often requiring that one stay in another box that doesn't challenge the status quo and sees simplistic solutions to complex problems.
To most people in the pews, clergy and their families are like little gods, if not the God. It's idolatry; and it doesn't all come from the clergy handing down this idea either. It comes just as much from the people who want to equate God with their spiritual leaders. So that they do not have to look further, to see the limitations of all humans.
So the people blame the clergy, and the clergy often blames the people. I really believe it's both. Somehow, together, we have to learn to create new images of what God's Kingdom really is. Because it's dangerous for everyone concerned, the way things are now.
All because we often prefer to believe lies and fantasy rather than reality. As if any of us fully know what reality really is!