Thursday, May 6, 2010

faith of our what? entry one

I am an ELCA Lutheran Pastor.

A pastor? Shit. *Face drops* The usual response. On a date. At a bar. Interviewing folks from craigslist in search of a roommate.

For many—Indeed for me as well—the word, the title, the label “pastor” conjures up a whole lot of... well: confusion. Coupled with assumptions. Coupled with weird emotions. Coupled with weird assumptive emotions. Religious emotions. Anti-religious emotions. Emotional responses somehow related to peoples' issues with authority. Or Evolution. Or Abortion. Or a presumed alleged anti-intellectual thread that is at the root of all things god. Or, more often, their own father-figure.

Those who are glad to hear such a thing, or even impressed by a man of the cloth (they are still uncomfortable with my female peers and superiors, of course)—the ones who shake or bounce or blush with delight so that their cheeks nearly match the color of their thick red makeup smears—the ones who are so quite pleased that such a young such-and-such-a-man (the adjective always changes and always dances over the line, somewhere between flattering and creepy, a sort of holy-hitting-upon—especially if she decides it's okay to touch the arm of a clergyman because, obviously, we have less clearly defined and more easily and ethically penetrable personal physical boundaries)—those are the ones who assume “the best,” which, for folks like me is nowhere near the best because by “best” those ones mean: “Ah-ha! A clergy! And a young one. Finally a young person who agrees with all of my religious delusions. I mean conclusions. Yes. And affirms them—Nay! Praises me for them! He is a clergy so he believes all I believe. Fervently! Fervently! Fervently! He must. He backs all that I back. He's behind all that I'm behind: politically, morally, dogmatically, spiritually, interpretively etc., etc., and so on down the line.

But just in case...

Just in case she says to heartburn. Or the Holy Spirit. Or both.

I must test him. I must.

I must put him to the test.

Test all things. Hold fast to what is Good. That's what the Good Book says, it does.

So like the Garden of Eden and Jesus in the Wilderness married to the Great Commission, the face-painted woman becomes at once both the great Tester and the Holy Advocate, the Proctor and the Giver of the Grades. She both loves the clergy but tests the clergy. For for the clergy to be true and tried and tried and true (Hallelujah), that clergy must have:

every I
and every T
one hundred percent
agree with me.
Oo rah rah.

Hold fast to what is good. Test all clergies. Put all clergies to the test.

So she does.

And I'm wrong.

And she's disappointed.

I think many of us mainline Christian folk—clergy or not—find ourselves in a spot of mild tension. Between the political right and the political left—often categories into which we don't perfectly fit, deep, deep, down. And between a Pop-Christianity that seems to endlessly attract the media (generally more by motivation of social curiosity than real religious desire or fervor for religious discovery), a band of Televangelists, a gay bishop here and there, and the circles of agnostics and atheists that we often times tend to have more socially in common with—and who certainly spend less time using the Lord's name in vain.

I hope, with the myriad other folks more articulate than I, with this blog, to articulate a bit more clearly where folks like me (and there are many of us) find ourselves swimming. In those gray waters, nearly void of black and white, either/or, and so on.

Yup. That's what I hope to do.

But not tonight.

Soon. Well, soon-ish.

So let's see how it goes.

This is entry number one.

I hope you dug it.

Please add comments.

In God's Peace.



  1. Thanks, Tom. I'm not a pastor, but I appreciate that you're articulating the gray area - it can be difficult to live there, but it's what I'm striving for as well.

  2. Right on, friend.
    Just 2 hours ago, sitting in the doomsday consultation room of our Emergency Room I met a husband whose wife had just attempted suicide. He said: "You're the first female pastor I've ever met." His partner, lover, friend, just attempted to forever dis-join her life from his, and he wants to talk about how I became a chaplain. Maybe therapeutic distraction from his pain, maybe such a shock to his "clergical" history that he couldn't help but ask. I don't mind, though I still find I have an underlying question of how I got here too.

    Thanks for the reflective time tonight.

  3. Perhaps due to our innate low tolerance of ambiguity & uncertainty, we do tend to "divide & conquer" prematurely to settle at either end of the spectrum. And yet, if today we have dived into the complexities of the material world from Mars to quarks, we ought to be willing to probe matters of faith with more nuances than simple "either/or’s".

    For this purpose, it helps to remember that, yes, we are to "test everything & hold fast onto what's good" - but this "everything" includes our OWN understandings & believes, at least for all those who think that there is an objective reality "out there" for us to "test everything" against. Conversations are to facilitate the search of this reality - by putting our heads together, so to speak - and not to "test the clergy man"! =)

    Indeed, amidst the comings and goings of fashions and opinions, it is those "limits" (e.g., death, suffering, sin, guilt, and meaning, etc.) that constantly challenge and really "test" us ALL for an answer. Even though no one has a panoramic view of life, thankfully, we do have one another as co-seekers on the same spiritual pilgrimage! =)

    So, thank you, Pastor, for opening up this forum for sincere dialogue and heartfelt conversation! Look forward to reading your further thoughts & reflections.