Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, April 2, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

Recently a man I know in a non-church setting found out that I used to be a preacher. Whenever a person finds out you are or were a preacher, they want to preach to you either about why they don’t go to church, or they want to preach to you about what the Bible says. I prefer the
“why I don’t go” sermons.

So when Scott learned I used to be a preacher, he asked me what I thought about women preachers.

“Depends on whether she’s any good,” I said, which was the wrong reply. Of course, any reply other than “There should be no women in the ministry” would have been the wrong reply.

He immediately explained to me why there should be no women preachers, because he is a Bible believer, and it says in Titus that there should be no women preachers.

I expressed approval that he was basing his beliefs on the Bible and said I assumed that he also did not take interest on his money since there are far more prescripts against taking interest on your money in the Bible than there are against women preachers. He had a very good answer. He explained that the rule against interest was made in a different time and culture, that the purpose of that rule was to make the economy better, and the development of capitalism had done a better job of making the economy better, so it superseded the old rule.

I am not at all sure that he is right that capitalism has made the economy better, but the main problem is that it never occurred to him that if you apply the “different time and culture” rule to one part of the Bible, you have to do it to all the others, also.

Then he made it clear that his disconcert about women preachers was much more emotional than biblical. The same rule against women preachers applied to women soldiers, he said, for it was his job as a man to protect women, and he could not do that if they were fighting on the front lines, and women should not be preachers because it was too stressful a job for them.

I agree that preaching is too stressful for women. I also think it is too stressful for men. I think only chipmunks should be allowed to preach. I did not say that to him, though. What I did said was, “You are a Neanderthal who is totally out of touch.” He accepted that with remarkably good grace.

I made three mistakes.

The first was getting pulled into the discussion in the first place. I should have said at his very first question, “I don’t come to this group to discuss religion. I’m willing to talk with you about this over a cup of coffee, but I come to this group to get away from the stuff preachers usually deal with and right now we are both tired, and we want to get home, and that means it is not a good time for a serious discussion.” I have never been smart enough to do that.

The second mistake was expecting rationality. At first he sounded very rational, with his “different time and culture” argument. But then he went on to “It’s my responsibility to protect women,” which is an emotional basis. If one person is trying to be logical and consistent, and the other is emotionally based, the discussion won’t get very far.

Religious beliefs, in general, are rarely based on logic, and so it is hard for people to talk about them logically. And religion is often used simply to justify what a person already feels. “I’m afraid of black people, or women, or strangers, so I’ll look around in the Bible for some stuff to make my shunning of them, or domination of them, acceptable.”

My third mistake was calling him a name, Neanderthal. Name-calling cuts off discussion, it does not foster it. Of course, I wanted to cut off discussion. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I wanted to go home. Name calling got me what I wanted… for the moment. But not in the long run. The only way we make progress on these issues is to talk to one another, and listen to one another, patiently. I’m still working on that.

John Robert McFarland

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

I tweet as yooper1721.

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