top of page

No Penis? No Pastorate for You.

How can I not write about this? Of the three ordained Presbyterian pastors in my immediate family, I’m the only one with a penis. Most of the great clergy I know today are women. But yesterday, the national convention of the ginormous Southern Baptist church (47,000 churches nationwide) tossed two congregations out of their denomination for having female pastors. And today they’ll amend their constitution to de-frock the 2,000 or so other women now serving as pastors elsewhere in their denomination. The women’s unforgivable sin? Having the wrong kind of plumbing, I guess. No atoning for that.

If this were just one more of the continuing idiocies and immoralities to which we Christians and other religious types all-too-often find ourselves irresistibly drawn, I’d find something else to write about today. After all, religion has always been an admixture of the holy and the profane—myth, miracle, mystery, mendacity—with sometimes inhumane consequences for those they choose to "save". It’s usually ignorable.

But, alas, this latest regression is just too gripping a sequel to my last post in which I pondered Americans’ drift into hallucinatory realms that defy logic and/or reality. I was marveling then about the ability of cohorts to create and dwell within their own preferred version of the world utterly unmoored from everyday facts and givens.

Now, I don’t begrudge anybody’s living within a hallucinatory mind. Heck, all during the ‘70s we watched friends and neighbors and relatives trip away for years under the mind-bending effects of LSD and other freak-out tools. But for the most part, they kept to themselves and didn’t try to insist that their neighbors get high and stay high along with them. It was voluntary insanity.

But these days those who have conjured their own universe are hell-bent on making their fantasyland the universal dwelling place of their fellow citizens.

I realize that the Southern Baptist church is a voluntary organization that’s not trying to force themselves on outsiders. But this witless misogyny is a highly illustrative example about the cabalistic urge to roll back the clock and the calendar to a misunderstood and misbegotten set of norms that perniciously denied “others” the gratifications God intends for all God’s children.

I kind of understand misogyny. Human history is replete with it, and American history is a pathetic showcase for it, beginning with consigning colonial women to the stove and the birthing room—and not the voting booth or the legislator’s chair. And those who do occupy the chairs of power have no trouble telling women how they may and may not use their bodies, defying the indisputable truth of Gloria Steinem’s 1971 stinger, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

But I have a much harder time accepting it in the presumably modern-day church. If worshipping congregations of any and all faiths stand for anything, surely it must be love. Can’t possibly be anything else, can it? And love is so clear and simple. Loving. Not the noun. The verb: to love. The act—loving. Not a concept. A calling. “Love thy neighbor.” It’s an imperative. Could it possibly be any clearer?

In his very last days, my beloved friend Nick was suffering from Lewy Body dementia—an unholy amalgam of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s that results in hallucinations and hazy engagement with facts and personalities. But it doesn’t preclude occasionally keen perception. While sitting with Nick in his living room one day shortly before he died, I said, "You know, Nick, I think we over-studied this theology stuff. We spent years and years in seminary, you got yourself a doctorate, we’ve read books and written books and gotten respect for our supposedly advanced learning…but in the end, what we know about God and what God has in mind for us really all comes down to just a couple of words, doesn’t it?”

Nick gave me a conspiratorial grin, put his index finger to his lips, and said, “Shhhhh!”

Our call to love can’t get any simpler. But it can get foggier. All you have to do is arrogate to yourself the demented notion that you know better than your neighbor does what is good for your neighbor. Bingo! That’s it! The way I will love them is to make them more like me.

That will do it. Kerplunk. Just laid the first paving stone on that road of good intentions that leads to hell. Let’s deny these women their God-given calling, because…well, because…hmmm…well, we’ll think of something. Meanwhile, it’s just their tough luck.

Long ago, I settled on a definition of love to which I am ever-increasingly devoted: “To love is to yearn for the fulfillment of another person on their own terms.”

If you’re not willing to do that, you should just sit down and shut up.

256 views5 comments

5 Kommentare

20. Juni 2023


Gefällt mir

Once again, Eliot, I have had the opportunity to listen to your amazingly wonderful way of telling the truth. Thank you for continuing to write so that the rest of us can find the best words to describe what we are also thinking. And in doing so you remind me of those great times we spent together so many years ago and of the others who were part of our worshiping community. Grace to you and Peace always!

Gefällt mir

One of my cross-country teammates at Columbia back in the day, who I believe was Catholic, told me he probably wouldn't ever go to your Church after I told him Patti was a Pastor there. It was/is about the handed down interpretations of the Bible that get used for discrimination. Needless to say I tried talking some sense into him, but got nowhere.

I had another friend who's a devout Christian not accept a free Giants giveaway jersey this past weekend at a game we attended because "Giants" was in rainbow colors for Pride Week. I talked about "supporting" and not "being" in that instance but again got nowhere. This of course doesn't mean I shunned those friends for th…

Gefällt mir
15. Juni 2023
Antwort an

As always, your comments are spot-on. All we can do is keep on working to generate empathy…


Gefällt mir

Amen. And Awomen.

Gefällt mir
bottom of page