Archive for August, 2010

There’s Nothing About Being A Liberal . . .

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

. . . that requires me to tolerate invective based on deception, such as was confirmed today by Glenn Beck’s returning from his rally over the weekend to replay his views on the sincerity of Barack Obama’s religion. This, after he apologized for last year calling Obama a “racist” who “hates” white people.

So, because in some things — not all things, but some things — I call myself “liberal,” I’m supposed to just chalk it all up to a mere, ultimately insignificant, difference of opinion? Being a liberal requires that I blandly accept all public statements as equally moral? Equally legitimate? Equally worthy of respect?

Really?

Who believes that? Other, that is, than Ashwin, who writes, in response to yesterday’s column about the Beck and Palin rally on the National Mall:

“Why don’t you record that and play it back to yourself? Do you have any idea what you sound like? Why do you call yourself “liberal” if ideas other than those you hold are so repugnant to you?”

Oh, Ashwin. Not all ideas are equally valid; not all are true, not all are based on an understanding of policy, and not all are helpful in the larger debate. And that includes some ideas from the Left, many of whom are more interested in things like putting solar panels on newly built schools for Pakistani children left devastated in recent flooding than in actually understanding why a lovely idea for their suburban home is unworkable, even silly, in other places. (Hint: It’s because many functioning Pakistani schools didn’t have roofs before the flooding, and a people clinging to life aren’t interested in why roofs are good and solar panels awesome)

I could say, for example, something outrageous, such as “We should help the Pakistani people by repatriating them all to North Dakota” — but should I then expect to earn the respect of others in the marketplace of ideas? Or I could ignore what’s true — verifiably true, if verifiable; if not verifiable, then judged with a concern for what the “holder” of an unprovable belief insists is his — and vomit up something not supported by facts. You know, like taking Barack Obama at least as much at his word regarding the unprovability of his religious faith as we did Ronald Reagan’s 35 years ago, or not suggesting that Obama is foreign-born when his Hawaii birth certificate has been produced — verification for all but the hardcore Right that he is at least a citizen, not a shadowy foreigner intent on usurping the Throne of Wealthy White Men.

If I did that, should I be exempt from rebuke because it would be “illiberal” to point out that it’s wrong to lie, and wrong to judge with malice? Finally, if I find policy too difficult to understand and context an undue burden, I could cut to the chase and call Beck a Poopyhead With Dog Breath, I suppose. But doesn’t that reveal not only an unwillingness to engage in meaningful debate, as well as a juvenile surliness that no “liberal” ought to have to tolerate?

I called Beck and Palin, et al, out on what I see as an egregious abuse of Dr. King’s name, vision, and pulpit, and I did so because I find that the message they have promoted for the last two-and-a-half years to be largely malicious, largely false, largely geared toward those unfamiliar with policy, and largely incendiary in nature, and incendiary to a point that could well get this President killed and will have fouled the waters of political debate long, long beforehand.

Would a true liberal — or conservative, or anyone else — cede the platform to buffoons and loonies because not doing so would threaten their own status as liberals? I hope not, and I suspect Ashwin hopes not, too.

"Restoring Honor" On The National Mall?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The fact that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have co-opted the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., perverting his message and horning in on his stage and currying the favor of racists, bigots, nationalists, fear-mongers and hate-spewers — and on the 47th anniversary of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech — illustrates that Beck and Palin, and all of their followers, haven’t the faintest idea what “honor” truly is. Further, they demonstrate at every turn contempt for what King stood for, contempt for civility, contempt for truthfulness, and contempt for everything that true patriotism represents. They and others like them ejaculate invective both foul and false and stand guilty of sowing seeds of hatred and stupidity that shame America throughout the world — and ought to cause them shame, were they only capable of feeling any.

May God have mercy on those who sow hatred, falsehood, and dishonor in the name of the One who is himself only true, only just, and only pure.

Thanking God For A Seven-Pound Bundle Of Un-Cool Canine Love

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

No, my babies weighed quite a bit more . . . and I’m much, much more grateful to my God for Anthony and Jonah than I am for my longhaired Chihuahua-Poodle mix, Perry. I mean, I entered motherhood enraptured by my children, and as the nest empties, I’m still enraptured by them as they grow into fine adult men. I’m not surprised that they’re wonderful; I’m just overwhelmed by how much I cherish them — and by how much they eat. But when I got Perry, I just figured I’d have a little dog around the house, a pleasant addition to my life, but not an overly vital one. It’s true, however, that the thought of having become a 50-year-old lady with a yappy little dog, an RV, and a cane I use on particularly bad-back days is more than a little disconcerting.

You see, I used to be so cool. I went through a brief skinny-tie, mini-skirted punk period in college — I even had a safety pin welded into a spiral and thus blunted enough to slip into my cheek when my friends and I went out to concerts by The Confused, The Questioners, The Telephones, and The Unimaginative-When-It-Comes-To-Band-Names. I put in my time as an athlete, vegetarian, socialist, comedian, and slam-dancer before coming to Christ at 20, and even in the ensuing years of career-marriage-motherhood-ministry, I was always the sharp, witty, open-minded, athletic one counted on to liven up baby and wedding showers, church potlucks, and family gatherings. I steered one son toward punk and alternative rock and kept up easily with the other when he fell in love with Reggae. My wallets were hemp, my Birkenstocks well-worn, and my Prius plastered with bumperstickers promoting medicinal marijuana, feeding the poor, and reaching out to immigrants.

Even in a vastly different milieu from my college years, I was, all things considered, pretty cool, if not at times more than a little too concerned about keeping up with the evangelical Joneses and finding common cause with their unbelieving cousins. But one thing never changed — I never saw myself like my parents’ older friends, with their bad backs, dislike of loud music, and dismay over the fashions of the youth around them. And I assumed I was waaaaaaay too cool to turn 50 with a furry little yapper-dog of dubious lineage and enthusiastically vocal character.

But two years ago, when I had a sense that I needed something to shake up my life, perhaps something to shower some “emptying-nester” attention on, I found a kind of homely, ragged-looking lone survivor of a litter of Poo-Chis. Which, I soon learned, cannot be confused with Chi-Poos. Poo-Chis — and yes, I’m embarrassed, thanks — are half toy Poodle and half Chihuahua; Chi-Poos are three-quarters Chihuahua and one-quarter Poodle, thank you very much. I fell in love with this shaggy, white little guy with big black spots, bulging eyes, and a dancing gait that charmed me from the moment I saw him.

I brought my 10-week-old little pal home on August 24, 2008, and named him “Perry” at Jeff’s request; he remembered fondly another Perry that we had who, after eating through Jeff’s briefcase and destroying a year’s worth of profit-and-loss records, was exiled to a ranch outside of Startup, Washington, where he lived a life free of accounting statements and Samsonite accessories. I would have named my new little puppy “However” or “Carburetor” or “Enid” if that’s what Jeff wanted; “Perry” was an easy compromise.

We enjoyed the late summer with this tiny little booger, who quickly established his Alpha-dog status over Georgia, our laconic, terminally-mellow Lab/Pointer mix. By early Fall he was housetrained, and by Christmas he traveled with us as much as possible, having caught Jeff’s heart and proved himself to be a hearty, intrepid explorer of coffee shops, city streets, and highway rest stops. I was in love from the first day; by year’s end, I couldn’t imagine my life without this seven-pound little thing that looked like an ink-splattered cotton ball with four legs and some seriously prominent eyes.

In February, as many of you know, my dear father died unexpectedly of what we euphemistically called “complications of surgery” but what, in truth, was the result of gross negligence and arrogance on the part of the hospital staff. My father’s death left me numb, filled with a leaden sense of loss and rage and confusion that only my faith in Dad’s Savior could soften. My husband was wonderful, my kids were great, my friends were faithful, and my dog . . . well, he was just THERE, on my lap, in my bed, bundled up in my arms and curled next to me on the couch. He obviously had no words of wisdom or comfort, but he stayed with me, silent but present. He met my eyes, touched my heart, asked nothing of me, and somehow knew to stay close.

In all seriousness, and with utter disregard for how comically uncool this is to some of you, I cannot imagine getting through the last 18 months since my dad died without my dear little Poo-Chi. God knew what I would need when he prompted my heart to open itself for Perry’s inclusion in our family, just seven months before my world was rocked like never before. I’ve heard all of the arguments against Intelligent Design, all of the nay-saying over theistic evolution, and I’ve argued with those who insist that mere randomness and selection resulted in Mother Theresa, Mick Jagger, and Grandma Ada, my next-door-neighbor from childhood. But really, the fact that God created in dogs a little something extra, something uniquely different that enables them to “read” our hearts and enter into our worlds like no other species, is the single greatest argument I see for the simple, inviolable, incomprehensible truth that God spoke and the universe unfolded in life . . . centuries later, with yappy little dogs and the past-middle-aged women who love them.

I toss Perry a rawhide chew to thank him, and I cuddle him after his bath. But I publicly praise my Creator for having made dogs, and for having steered this little guy toward me, long before I would know that he rescued me every bit as much as I rescued him.

Well, They’re Both Fields

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

I think at this point it’s pretty safe to say that my correspondent and brother in Christ Ashwin thinks of the battle for gender equality in the Church one way, and I clearly think another. Perhaps two quick illustrations will help. The former, I believe, describes Ashwin’s view of my pettiness in pursuing the issue — and not his commitment to the furthering of Christ’s Kingdom. The latter reframes my commitment both to Christ and to the pursuit of full equality for all in the Church.

Ashwin seems to think that I and my sisters are sulking at the sidelines of a football game to which I’ve been invited, and even asked to play in — but we want to be the quarterbacks and only the quarterbacks, and the on-field quarterback and the team coach insist that we never can. Dejected, we whine and distract the players, bitch and moan with the other teammates, making them disgruntled and unmotivated, and then we discourage them further by stomping off the field with a promise to take our ball with us, dang it, and just go home.

That would be inexcusable; I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything at all with anyone like that. I’m afraid Ashwin sees me that way, and it’s a pity.

To me, however, it’s as if we were all on a battlefield, trying to rescue the weakest, round up and serve the refugees, and at the same time do battle with an approaching, tenacious enemy. But while our campaign has a great many skilled, wise, compassionate strategists and soldiers, half of them are kept off the field — or used in lesser capacities that attempt to fan into flame gifts they don’t have and squelch (restrain, bind up) those they do. The enemy encroaches, the casualty count rises, and time is running out, but half of the campaign’s very best commanders are told that because of an interpretation of rules specifically codified for a specific war fought centuries before, rules that contradict the general principles of war, peace, and crisis codified for all time and more relevant than ever now, they cannot assume the positions of lieutenant, corporal, major and commander assigned to them. Worse, their loyalty to the fight at hand is questioned, resulting in the splintering and factioning of the troops.

In this scenario, real lives are at stake. It’s not a game, nor a mere focus of debate between brethren. I believe the Church suffers real harm, and the world around it even more damage, by gender inequality. That, to me, is a cause well worth a continued, strenuous, prayer-enlivened fight, and I’ll continue to soldier on — hoping that my brothers understand that my ultimate loyalty is to my Commander in Chief and Lord. They can walk alongside, or run away, or even try to restrain me. They’ll have to answer for what they do. I look forward to answering for what I do.

Methinks Bayly Looks Askance, And Sees Wrongly

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I’ll end this installment on women in ecclesiastical leadership — which assumes leadership and equality in the home and in society — by responding to Wilson ally and uber-patriarch Tim Bayly’s assertion that men who “let” women lead in church are actually showing them contempt.

This concerns Bayly, it seems. He believes that the Bible prohibits women in the pastorate or eldership, and he clearly believes that the Bible also prohibits showing contempt for women. Finally, something in the recurring gender wars in the Church that we agree on — that is, contempt for women is a bad thing. I guess I should feel . . . well, happier. More secure. Gratified, maybe, that Bayly is looking out for me. It’s a nasty world out there for women; having him in our corner would seem to be a good thing.

But the contempt he showed evangelicals such as myself at last year’s Kirk-organized Sexual Orthodoxy conference, wherein he obscenely assigned bloodguilt for abortion to egalitarians, makes me wonder about the depth of his understanding of our position, given that every Biblical egalitarian I know hates the killing of unborn children as much as I do. In fact, so offensive was his verdict that I had to conclude that his grasp of the debate is poisoned by the macho pomposity born of privilege, not a careful reasoning nurtured by humility. And that, coupled with his odd understanding of what truly constitutes contempt for women, doesn’t make me feel safe, or valued, or protected, or advocated for.

Not by a long shot.

It makes me feel as though my brother hasn’t a clue what his sisters — and women throughout the world — actually endure, and furthermore expresses concern for us only when it bolsters his theological arguments. And while I’m confident that Bayly also finds rape, mutilation, murder, discrimination, and intimidation to be sinful — maybe even more so than the spectacle of women preaching — his comparative silence on real threats to women speaks volumes. But Bayly, like most white, male pastors, leads a relatively comfortable, secure life. Compared to my sisters around the world, so do I. Still, I think I have some things to remind him of, things that might help him refine his definition of “contempt” and expressions of it directed at women. All of these things are experienced every day by women, including his Christian sisters; a few of them have even been experienced by me. Consider:

– Every day, women are raped by strangers who see them as easy targets for their rage. And every day, even more are raped by men they know, very often family members, who believe they own their sexuality, their bodies, and their very lives. Patriarchy certainly doesn’t argue against that, especially when Christian daughters are brought up to believe that they are “owned” by their fathers.

– Every day, faithful, monogamous women die of AIDS contracted after being forced to have sex with their philandering, reckless husbands. And every day, mothers bury their AIDS-stricken children, infected as well by fathers who believe their manhood is threatened by monogamy — or condoms.

– Every day, and as often in “Christian” homes as in non-Christian homes, a woman is battered by her husband. The unbelieving attackers have gotten the message from a patriarchal society that “their” women are appropriate targets of physical and emotional violence; the believing ones, sadly, have learned from the Church that patriarchy, rather than being a horrible result of the Fall, is how God intended male-female relationships to be. The pathology of patriarchy only ends with domestic violence. It doesn’t start there.

– Every day, in Africa and Middle Eastern countries, girls as young as nine are held down by family members while their clitorises are carved out, under the guise, in patriarchal cultures, of ensuring sexual obedience and subjugation and in reality consigning victims to lifetimes of barren sexuality, disease, and dysfunction.

– Every day, women walking down a busy city street, or hiking along rural paths, or strolling to their cars in a dimly-lit parking lot must make a quick assessment of any man who approaches her. She knows that while not all men are rapists, those that are prove to be only after the act. They don’t announce their intention, but the uncertainty requires that a woman consider the possibility that any male coming near her has violence on his mind.

– Every day, a woman brave enough to face an attacker in court has her sexual history laid bare for all the world to judge; she is considered complicit in her attack if she’s ever misbehaved, while the rapist can count on a men’s club of favoritism from a judicial system primed to view women as seductresses and men their helpless victims. Because of this, only about 10 percent of rapes are ever reported.

– Every day, a woman who works hard, plays by the rules, and gives her all to her job and her family finds that she will earn about two-thirds of what men with similar experience and skills earn, and she will generally be asked to understand that “family wage” jobs ought to be reserved for men, who, as “heads of the household,” have children to support. The children suffering because of wage inequality and its effects on their mothers evidently aren’t entitled to support. Or concern.

– Every day, young women from homes teeming with sexual abuse will make their way to the streets, where they will sell their bodies to men, enduring not only the degradation of prostitution, but usually the violence of the male pimps who steal her wages as well. Sadly, she will come to believe that a Church screeching for “Biblical sexual morality” and fighting to strengthen the grip of patriarchy has nothing to offer her. Worse, she’ll believe that it doesn’t particularly care to convince her otherwise.

– Every day, a woman will conclude with a heavy heart that killing her unborn child will solve the problem of a crisis or unplanned pregnancy, usually because the man who got her pregnant will have convinced her that “it” is the problem. No woman I know who has had an abortion had hers while the father-to-be promised his love, support, and care for her and their baby, and no woman I know has ever made the decision to abort with anything less than fear, worry, and despair unlike anything I’ve ever known.

– Every day, women languish in jail, ostensibly because of drug charges or property crimes that, in a majority of cases, stemmed from having become involved with the wrong kind of man who forced her to do the wrong thing for all of the wrong reasons. It’s not a stretch to suggest that bad men, rather than bad acts, are the greatest contributing factor to a woman’s imprisonment.

This is the reality of those true threats to women’s health and well-being. If Mr. Bayly is truly concerned about the welfare of his sisters, perhaps he ought to consider that stripping them of their God-given, Spirit-breathed position in the Church of the Lord Jesus is simply a tidier, less hideous-looking, but no less harmful act against them — and after repenting of his co-opting of women’s suffering to support his dubious theology, he might then seek to alleviate the REAL threats to each and every woman he so evidently wishes to “protect.”

Ontological Egalitarianism vs. Functional Egalitarianism

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

I was talking this weekend to a dear Christian woman who objected — strenuously — to my call for an egalitarian Church, according to the Scriptures.

Her examples were along the line of “police officers have authority over the citizen; thus, they’re not equals,” or “some people are better at things than others, so the ‘others’ aren’t equal to their superiors.” This betrays a misunderstanding of terms that I hope to correct here.

I’m talking about ontological egalitarianism — the equality of worth and value, the unchangeable truth of being created equally in the image of God, of every human being. There are people, of course, who don’t believe in ontological egalitarianism; they believe that one race was created superior to another, or one gender created more in the image of God than the other, and they are rightly shunned by most Christians, although distressingly tolerated by some here in Moscow. Most clear-thinking people, though, argue that ALL human beings are EQUALLY made in the image of God and are of EQUAL value and worth to their Creator — even if they insist that roles and functions are always the prerogative of one gender over the other.

Functional differences, or differences in role or position, have to be accepted for society to operate with some semblance of order. If, for example, a police officer yells at me to “Freeze!,” the rules of society, and the testimony of Scripture, require that I do, indeed, stop right there. The cop is in a proper position of authority over me, but that is a function of her operating in her role as a cop. When she is off duty, and we’re both attending a party, she cannot compel me to bring her the clam dip; her authority over me is situational, a function of her role and not of any ontological superiority.

Likewise, as many complementarians like to argue, only women can bear children, which, in their minds, makes men and women “not equal” and thus strikes a blow against egalitarianism. But there is no created superiority in women; our ability to bear children doesn’t make us better than, and certainly not worse than, the men around us. It makes us different, but it doesn’t make us unequal ontologically. Childbearing is a function of gender. Growing a beard is a function of gender. But the ability to use one’s Spirit-given gifts in service of Christ and his Church is not a function of gender, at least according to the Word.

No Biblical egalitarian argues against the fact that men and women are different, or that some people in some situations have legitimate authority over others, or have superior gifts than do others. What we find unBiblical is the use of gender in determining someone’s inherent worth — or their ability to function, all other things being equal, in the Church. Because we take Scripture seriously, we believe that Galatians 3:28 is a mandate for the Church, and we grieve that God’s people today, as in years past, insist on obeying it only two-thirds of the way by not excluding the poor from service, or Gentiles from service, but denying equality of ecclesiastical service to gifted women. We must take the Scriptures literally here; for in Christ Jesus there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female. All are truly — ontologically — equal in Christ and in his Body, and service within it must be encouraged on the basis of giftedness, not gender. Anything less is an example of disobedience to the One in whom all of us were created.

Two Years Of Prevailing Winds

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Next week marks the second anniversary of Prevailing Winds. During that time, I’ve been criticized, harrassed, blog-stalked, and called all sorts of fun names. And that’s by the Christians who read — those who don’t identify as disciples of Jesus have been remarkably kind. This isn’t to say that it’s a shock when non-believers behave well. Not at all. It’s just a shock when Jesus-followers behave so badly.

Nonetheless, I’ve gotten some really encouraging comments from readers, and through this blog I’ve made some wonderful friends. Most of all, I’ve learned a lot, and I hope I’ve been able to teach some as well. I’ve been humbled, made contrite, and brought up short by sharp readers who have the guts to take me to task, and I’ve been dismayed at the cowardice displayed by those who hide behind a cloak of anonymity when they attack me. It seems . . . well, less than manly.

But I want to thank all of you who read this blog. You make me a better writer, a better person, and a better Christian. I plan to continue ’til I die. I’ll be 50 in a few weeks, so I assume that, by the grace of God, I’ll be around for awhile, making it difficult for bigots to continue without rebuke and trying to right wrong theology and point out the wrongful behavior it promotes. Bad theology leads inexorably to bad practice, and bad practice is like a raging flood that swamps real people and causes real devastation. I’m just trying to contain the damage and point to a better way.

Fisticuffs And Drop-Kicks: A Few Relevant Verses For Pastors Itchin’ For A Fight

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

It saddens me that there’s even the possibility of discussion between believers over whether or not pastors ought to be chosen among those who brawl, particularly when the Word is so clear that they must not (1 Tim. 3:3).

The Church surely has failed in its responsibility in this area if we are not known as people of peace and gentleness, reconciliation and humility. But perhaps this is the best argument for the inclusion of women in ecclesiastical leadership — a Church operating with such a gross imbalance of masculine and feminine energy is a Church unable to stanch the torrent of testosterone that not only swamps its witness in the world, but wrongly portrays the God we serve as male, and male only. That is not only a tragedy of evangelism, but a tragedy of relationship with the Almighty.

We can only serve a God we know in truth. If we serve in falsehood, we sow in falsehood. That cannot be accepted by God’s Church, serving in a world drowning in lies.

So I wonder how those who would applaud black eyes and bruised knuckles on their pastors would respond to what they know well from the Word:

“But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also . . . ” Matthew 5:39

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:18-19

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds . . . ” 2 Cor. 10:4

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25

It saddens me that there’s even the possibility of discussion between believers over whether or not pastors ought to be chosen among those who brawl, particularly when the Word is so clear that they must not (1 Tim. 3:3). The Church surely has failed in its responsibility in this area if we are not known as people of peace and gentleness, reconciliation and humility. But perhaps this is the best argument for the inclusion of women in ecclesiastical leadership — a Church operating with such a gross imbalance of masculine and feminine energy is a Church unable to stanch the torrent of testosterone that not only swamps its witness in the world, but wrongly portrays the God we serve as male, and male only. That is not only a tragedy of evangelism, but a tragedy of relationship with the Almighty.

We can only serve a God we know in truth. If we serve in falsehood, we sow in falsehood. I’m not willing to be silent in the face of it.

Fight! Fight! Fight! (Or Not . . . )

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

After engaging with Doug Wilson’s post regarding young men with black eyes and their suitability for the pastorate, I remembered a lovely dinner I had a few years ago as the guest of a Kirk woman who said she wanted to get to know me. L. was very kind to invite me, and I enjoyed talking to her. But as we talked, and especially about the Kirk’s boxing matches for its young boys, she did find it odd that my two sons had never been in a fight. I, in turn, found it odd that L. assumed they had.

But it’s true — neither of the Mix brothers, now 21 and 17, has ever been in a fight. They haven’t fought each other, and they haven’t fought friends. I don’t expect they ever will; in fact, my younger son is a committed pacifist. And yet they’re both entirely masculine, as L. and everyone in her world would define “masculine,” and they both are Christians, as the Lord would define “Christian.” I happen to think that’s not at all odd and is, in fact, as it should be for two wonderful but imperfect guys who’ve grown up confessing Christ as Lord.

So my sons have neither socked nor been socked. Further, my husband — an outdoorsman and a landscaper of 30 years, with calloused hands and knotted, sinewy arms — says he’s never been in a fight. My burly and bearded, tattooed and pierced brother, neither Christian nor coward, has never fought anyone, either. He grew up in crime-ridden Tucson, and yet will turn 49 in a couple of months with all of his scars — and there are many — having come from baseball, bikes, and bets placed by buddies he grew up with but didn’t find need to beat up.

Obviously there are people who believe boys will inevitably grow up with a few black eyes and other battle scars, and there are always going to be boys who oblige their expectations. But in a world choking on senseless violence and saturated in malice, malevolence, and malfeasance, it would seem that Christian parents would try to stem the tide — and be obedient to their God — by training up children who embody the childlike and adolescent-version fruit of the Spirit. That’s not negotiable, nor is it excusable that we live in a violent world to which we gladly contribute misguided, foreign notions of masculinity. The Church of our Lord, of a peculiar people called to be ambassadors of reconciliation, can’t also be an agent of accommodation when faced with bad behavior — no matter how much thuggishness is portrayed as a manly virtue by the Church and its male guardians.

Wrestling Pimps — The Work Of Today’s Male Pastors?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Ashwin has provided me with a smorgasbord of opportunity in his rebuttal of my views on thuggish young men and the ministry. His response — and I’m sure he didn’t intend this — offers an embarrassment of riches for anyone defending the role of ministry and women’s involvement in it. In fact, and particularly for those of us in Moscow, some parts of his reply are more than a little ironic.

So here’s Ashwin’s polemic on why women can’t be ministers — echoing Doug Wilson’s “Why Ministers Must Be Men,” from which I took my initial post on why teenage boys with a history of brawling aren’t, as such, generally to be considered prime pastoral material. I’ve edited for brevity; my comments will be interspersed throughout his.

(Ashwin): Anyhow, I think it would be wonderful to have more men like Marc Driscoll. Or St. Peter. The most “pastoral” qualities among the apostles were displayed by Andrew and John. Perhaps Matthew was the most learned. But to whom was the pastorate given? To the rude, thoughtless, boorish, unsophisticated, barely literate, bullying, cowardly, churlish Peter. “In other words, a man,” as Chesterton puts it. Factor that into your calculations.

(Keely): Must I? I hope your hero wasn’t impugning the masculinity of the other apostles, or maligning the innate character of all men — because if he does think “real men” are rude, thoughtless, boorish, unsophisticated, barely literate, bullying, churlish, and cowardly, he clearly suffers from abysmal self-esteem as a man and appears to suggest that men are incorrigible beyond the reach of the Spirit. I like men too much to agree with him.

(Ashwin): Also, Mr. Wilson is right about the change in the nature of the pastoral ministry. The modern American pastor enjoys a rather generous salary, spends most of his time in air-conditioned, carpeted comfort, has access to wonderful libraries and to excellent seminaries and visits the sick in gleaming hospital wards or well appointed palatial homes. His job can just as well be done by a woman.

(Keely): Uhhh, thanks. I think.

(Ashwin): Now how about a pastor who actually visits the lost sheep. Who spends his time among prostitutes and their pimps. Among violent, brutish, desperate men, drug- crazed maniacs and perverted sadists, (someone) who routinely breaks up street fights involving broken bottles, razors and sometimes guns. Do you want THAT sort of job for a woman? That is a man’s job.

(Keely): I want that job to go to anyone with the Spirit-wrought courage to do it. Yes, not enough pastors actually visit the lost sheep, and that’s certainly true in Moscow. See, those of us in Moscow have seen in Doug Wilson an attitude that suggests he is blissfully unburdened by contact with prostitutes, pimps, drug-crazed maniacs, and others who represent the seamy underbelly of life. He’s not exactly known for a passion for finding the ickiest of the lost sheep; you might want to look for a better example. I agree, however, that ministers — and I’m assuming you mean “pastors” — ought to extend themselves in favor of the lost, and I lament that most pastors neglect the evangelism of those shipwrecked without the Gospel. Like Chesterton, however, you seem to think that only men need ministry, and that the dangerous, hardened roads of perdition are walked only by guys. Might I suggest that the harsh underbelly of life has also ensnared women? Further, are you suggesting that the brute physical strength possessed by men is what they primarily offer as ministers? I’m unaware of any Scriptural insistence on heavy lifting and and calloused knuckles as a requirement for ministry — and surely the First Century Church’s existence was as marked by seamy bad guys and debauchery as you believe the modern minister’s life to be.

(Ashwin): And what Mr. Wilson is saying is that that is what a pastor ought to look like. He should be more like the pimp than the Pharisee. Only then can he really give succor to pimps. He should be more like the street-thug than the scholar, for the street-thug needs him more than the scholar. THAT is why ministers must be men.

(Keely): Please trust me when I suggest again that you look to someone other than Wilson to illustrate your point, given his indifference toward those outside of the Covenant and his mocking disdain for non-Covenanters who fall outside the well-groomed boundaries of polite society. While he is a bit of a bully, he’s not likely to be confused anytime soon with a street thug; Wilson’s bullying emerges from a terribly refined, erudite, elder-statesman sort of demeanor. However, I do agree with you that ministers MUST engage with thugs, pimps, and addicts. But since I, as a woman in ministry, have engaged directly, personally, consistently, and successfully with prostitutes, criminals, addicts, and thugs, I fail to see your point. Three decades of walking with Christ and nearly 12 years of working with the poor has taught me that it’s lack of backbone, not lack of testicles, that has crippled the Church.

(Ashwin): A woman who cannot (and a woman CANNOT) minister to violent hoodlums, cannot then wield authority over the church. Nor should a woman demand this office – but should rather demand that men fulfill ALL of their pastoral duties, most of which involves getting intimate with the dregs of society – trusting in the Spirit for every breath they take and every every word they speak. For their very lives hang in that balance.

(Keely): I assume we’re clear that ALL members of Christ’s body are ministers, and so you mean “pastors” here, I think, unless you disdain the efforts of women so much that you insist men do all of the ministerial heavy lifting in the Church. That’s clearly not Biblical, although, I suppose, it’s possible. We both lament that the Church expends relatively little effort in reaching those in bondage to crime, drugs, and violence — something many women I know do with great success, by the glory of God. Nonetheless, most male ministers have little contact with violent hoodlums. Yet when they do work with “the dregs,” my sincere hope is that they don’t “wield authority” but offer humility in service. That’s what a pastor should offer her/his congregation — not a “wielding of authority,” which is in sinful contrast to Christ’s example of servitude to the Church. Beyond that, no egalitarian woman I know “demands” the pastoral or any other ecclesiastical office; we simply ask that we be allowed to exercise the gifts and calling of the Spirit. I’m afraid your argument is not just circular, but illogical. Most of all, I still contend that it’s un-Scriptural, which is all that matters to me.

(Keely continuing, as she is wont to do): Ashwin sees a Church that doesn’t engage as it should, as often as it should, with the most undesirable elements of society. So do I. He wants to face a violent, dangerous, unsaved world with the Gospel of Christ, and I do as well. But he contends that a Church working with one hand tied behind its back — a Church that dismisses the gifts of its women — is pleasing to the God who desires that the lost be found. I believe it’s a Church that grieves him and fails in its mission.

I’m reminded of the Church’s long history of foreign evangelism — women’s work for the Gospel on the mission field, including in Ashwin’s native country of East India, where countless single women faced untold danger in their devotion to Jesus Christ and risked their very lives to preach Christ’s message. That they were unable to speak from the pulpit on their return home after evangelizing and pastoring in the field is un-Biblically sexist and, frankly, racist, as if they can lead non-white men “over there,” but not lead their brethren “right here.” The history of the Christian Church is the history of thousands of women who endeavored to reach the world for Christ, and who won souls not by being physically stronger than the lost they chose to serve, but by manifesting enormous spiritual strength — the kind our Lord uses to reach his lost sheep, and the kind abundantly available through the Spirit to any woman, any man, whose heart is open to Christ.