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

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.

2 Responses to “Wrestling Pimps — The Work Of Today’s Male Pastors?”

  1. Ashwin says:

    What Mr. Wilson has preached is what the Bible says. That he should practise what he preaches is of course a given. If he is not doing so, that is his problem.

    Anyhow, the Bible is quite clear that women are not to wield authority over men. What this is so, I don’t know. Mr. Wilson speculates that it is because men are indispensable for certain critical aspects of a pastor’s role – presumably street fights.

    This is only speculation though. What is not speculation is the teaching of the Bible – ministers must be men.

    And the Body need not worry about having “one arm tied behind [her] back”. It is God who does the fighting. We are merely to plant the flag. We FOLLOW Him. He goes BEFORE us.

    And women and men may freely exercise the gifts of the Spirit. But if it transpires that some of the “gifts” go against the clear teaching of the Bible – especially when they simultaneous go WITH the teaching of a rebellious culture – one must be careful and spend much time in prayer.

    The only “right” any of us have is to serve. We may not demand to “lead”. So let us not.

    There is PLENTY of scope for service. Enough that each of us could work our hearts out and there would still be many time more than enough to go around. So the “constraint” that certain positions be occupied only be men is hardly a suffocating one. Men might as well complain that God did not allow us to bear children. There is plenty we can do without doing that.

  2. It’s Wilson whose book is titled “Why Ministers Must Be Men,” which suggests that his pastor-as-fighter model is one of the reasons he offers in support of his thesis. It is a spurious defense. I believe I have demonstrated that prohibitions against women in leadership are at least questionable, based on Scripture, but I’m saddened that the employment of fisticuffs is ever considered an appropriate part of the arsenal of the pastor.

    Keely

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