Friday, July 24, 2009

Satire: The Case Against Male Pastors*

*Note: The following post was inspired by an email I received from a blogger friend and is most certainly satire. I say this because, unfortunately, I'm not confident in the ability of some to recognize it as such. In this post, I satirize not only the evangelical arguments against women in ministry [by turning them on the matter of men in ministry], but also the cartoonish views of masculinity, femininity, and family perpetuated in evangelical circles. I hope you can smile just a little bit, even if the satire makes you uncomfortable. Also, know that you have permission not to like it. Not everyone enjoys satire and I don't expect everyone to enjoy this one either.

The question of who can and should serve as pastors within Christ's church has been a subject of controversy and struggle for hundreds of years. While most of God's people have resolved this issue and conduct their churches in a manner pleasing to God, many have wandered into iniquity and promoted the idea that men--yes, men--can serve as pastors. I have been alarmed at the number of my fellow evangelicals who continue to insist upon this perspective, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As a result, I provide the following post for my readers: The Case Against Male Pastors.

In the beginning, the first couple faced their first real test by the Serpent of Old. When Eve was offered the forbidden fruit and she succumbed to temptation, the Bible attests that Adam was alongside her: "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." In this, the first chance for a man to shepherd another in the direction of righteousness, Adam fails miserably and caused the downfall of the whole human race. Clearly, therefore, God is permanently displeased with male shepherds and they are an abomination in his sight.

Despite the fact that our sinful, perverted culture has promoted the dangerous idea that men should be nurturing, kind, emotionally mature, and sensitive, we must resist the cultural shift and insist that men remain the role given to them by God. The nurturing, caring responsibilities of a pastor violate the God-given order, to which men must conform, no matter what "enlightened" minds say about it. Men should stick to the tasks that best suit them: shooting things, beating people up, and hunting. With such responsibilities to fulfill, pastoring is not an option.

The Old Testament is clear that men belong in the workplace so that they can bring home the bacon. Over and over in the Hebrew history, we see the men going to the fields to work the land or raise animals, while the women stay home, nurture the children, and keep the household in order. Men have no business managing the household of God when it is clear that women are the ones who have been developing, over thousands of years, the gifts and skill-set needed to do so expertly.

Furthermore, the testimony of the New Testament is that the closest disciples of Jesus were all men. Sadly, not only did a man betray Jesus for a sack of money, but all of them abandoned Jesus upon his arrest. It was the women who steadfastly followed Jesus to the cross and then came to prepare his body after his death. And, it was a woman who first saw and spoke to Jesus after his resurrection, and the first one to be sent to inform others (the male disciples) of the Good News. Clearly, women make up the most loyal and faithful disciples of Jesus and they were originally entrusted with the full Gospel message. Therefore, women should be the ones entrusted with the shepherding of other disciples.

Also, men's bodies are an obvious stumbling block for female parishioners. Just as Potiphar's wife was lured by Joseph's good looks, and Delilah by Samson's rippling muscles, so also Christian women are constantly tempted by the good looks of male pastors. Although there is nothing in scripture that denotes the male form to be a problem for their ministry, common sense says that they simply cannot perform the duties of pastor without causing a major problem in the thought lives of impressionable women. In this sense, when men voluntarily submit to the leadership of women in church, they find the best way to protect the minds and hearts of their sisters in Christ.

Moreover, the Bible is clear that men are to be the spiritual leaders of their homes. The hierarchy of the home is clear: God first, husband second, wife third, and children last. Each answers to their superior for matters of spirituality and none have more responsibility than the husband, who must answer to God for the spiritual state of his wife and kids. If a husband is being obedient to the Word and takes this sacred trust seriously, then he will not have the time or energy necessary to shepherd others. With the eternal souls of his family on the line, a godly man would not want to distract himself with the spiritual concerns of others. Therefore, since the wife is not responsible for her own spirituality, she is the one best suited for caring for the lives of fellow Christians as their pastor.

Finally, the advances of psychology and neurology have shown that men and women are very different in their minds and emotions. While women are adept at multi-tasking, managing relationships, and seeing the connectedness of all things, men tend to compartmentalize, blunder through relationships, and disregard the symbiosis of all things. Also, men are generally out of touch with their feelings, struggle to empathize, and do not naturally show mercy. This means that, through no fault of their own, men are ill-equipped to be pastors, for their mind and emotions are not set up that way. Rather than bemoan this limitation, however, we should rejoice in the profound differences between men and women and thank God for the clarity we have received through the sciences in recent years.

All of these arguments do not mean, however, that men are not equal to women. Of course not! Men and women are equal in essence, but different in function. Men and women are equal in their place before God, but different in their place in the church. It is not because of any defect or malformation in men that makes them unsuitable for the pastorate. It is just the way God intends it to be.

Men are still capable of having a vibrant and meaningful place in the ministry of God's church. Among other things, men can mow the church grounds, count the money, pick up heavy furniture, and eat at the potlucks. Men can be recognized on Father's Day, saluted on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, and acknowledged by the church on their birthday. With so many blessed ways to serve God's people, why would men desire to usurp God's order and pursue anything else?

Being a man is a high calling and it deserves our utmost respect. Let us women support men in their endeavor to pursue God's best, honoring their service to the church, even if they cannot serve as the church's pastor.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I Do Not Need a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ

Note: What follows is a little bit like a rant and a little bit like a prayer. I don't know what category it should fall into, really, but I thank my readers in advance for accepting my honesty without reproach. You may quibble with my quibbles, but know that the desperate heart behind the words is real.

Life has been tough recently. And, frankly, I haven't done life very well, either. While I think I've adjusted to motherhood pretty well, and I've managed not to make any major blunders with William so far, in every other way, I have struggled. If life is an ocean, then I've been dog-paddling inefficiently for weeks, occasionally dipping below the surface, only to pop up a few seconds later gasping and sputtering, and flailing for help. Unfortunately, there's not a rescue boat in sight.

In all this, I have found myself feeling very alone. Although my two degrees in theology tell me that God is everywhere-present and will never leave me or forsake me, I have walked around for weeks with a hollow belly--the kind of feeling you get when you haven't eaten all day--the hunger gnawing at your insides like a rottweiler chomping a rawhide bone. The hollowness has been almost unbearable, particularly since circumstances in our life are such that what I really want is a warm, enveloping feeling of peace and security. But, this comfort has eluded me.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. I've heard many fellow Christians going through similarly difficult times proclaim, "If it weren't for my relationship with Jesus, I don't know what I'd do." Or, "I don't know what people do who don't have a relationship with Jesus."

Of course, I understand where they are coming from and the idea they intend to convey when then say such things. They are saying that without their faith in Christ, they would be without hope. Even so, perhaps its the theologian in me, but in light of my current circumstances and spiritual state, I feel compelled to quibble with the verbiage.

When I examine my heart in light of recent struggles, I realize that my relationship with Jesus Christ is not enough. Yes, I have a relationship with Jesus. In part, at least, I know what makes him happy and sad. I know some of his favorite sayings and most memorable stories. And, he knows all theses things about me, as well. I can speak to him and expect him to respond. I can become angry with him, and he with me, and we can "make up" and enjoy each others company again.

Yes, I have a relationship with Jesus--a unique one, for sure--but I have a "relationship" with my Starbucks barista and regular handy-man, as well.

As I see it, there's a problem with the word "relationship," for it says nothing about the proximity of the two persons to one another, nor does it properly address the spiritual trajectory intended for all those who characterize themselves as Christians. The truth is, I do not need a relationship with Jesus Christ (and neither do you). What I need is union with him. The chief end of all Christians is not a good relationship with Jesus, it is union with Christ.

Right now, my "relationship" with Jesus brings me little peace, comfort, or joy. I know he is with me, but I feel like there's a smog of unspoken tensions and misunderstandings clouding the space between us. We continue to "relate" to each other, but not in the way that brings me ultimate freedom, or Christ ultimate glory. Because I am only in a "relationship" with him, I continue to live my own way, think my own thoughts, make my own plans, and then throw a toddleresque temper tantrum when Jesus doesn't conform to my will.

Thus, my conclusion: my relationship with Christ isn't good enough. I need to be one with him. What I need is not give-and-take with him--I need to be completely undone and consumed within his goodness and grace. I need the life of Christ to become my life--"it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). I need to experience (and not just pay lip-service to) the life of one who "abides" in Christ and knows for a fact that apart from him, the Vine, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

I need to be so united with Jesus that every minute of every day I'm smiling when he smiles, weeping when he weeps, and laughing when he laughs. Only by union with Christ can I truly know myself, for through the eyes of Truth, I can finally see what is true about me. I need the security that comes, not from knowing all--for even Jesus did not know some of the Father's plans--but from resting in the love of the Father, who cares for us. Only through union--oneness of mind and spirit--with Christ, can I truly "cease striving and know God" (Ps 46:10).

The good news is, in the words of Brennan Manning: "Love by its nature seeks union." This means that even as I observe my present life and realize how impoverished my spirit has become, I know that the love of Christ is such that he is already seeking to unite with me and provide satisfaction. It is the nature of Love to do this and it is the nature of our God, as well. In a sense, he cannot help it. Christ's foolish, serendipitous, jealous, and unbounded love compels him to woo me into union with him. If only I would stop flailing in the ocean, give up my hunger pains, and surrender. Let us pray for each other as we pursue that end.