As those of you who read lutherpunk know, we have recently found out that we are expecting our second child. I am thrilled about this. I love being a daddy; now that Lil’ G is a toddler it’ll be nice to have a baby around again too.
I find that the excitement is a little bit subdued on the second go-‘round. The novelty factor isn’t there. Before Lil’ G was born, M and I scoured the stores, read a tall stack of baby books cover to cover, got our hands on most of the pregnancy magazines out there and were seriously—maybe overly—informed. Now, we’ve been through it before. Much of the mystery and attendant anxiety is gone. We’re not expecting this to be a major shake-up of our life and ways of being—Lil’ G already shook things up. While this little one will be an important and precious addition to the family—the major shift has already happened.
The other reason that the excitement is subdued is because the pregnancy—though not the baby(?)—will probably make our current precarious situation even more so. As regular readers know, I’m temporarily living in the City, pulling down a paycheck while M and Lil’ G live in Philly with her parents as she looks for a job. “Temporarily” has now stretched through the summer…and it’s not been easy for any of us being separated.
The primary reason is that the job market sucks. There just aren’t many jobs out there to be had for associates. Rectors, yes, but not associates. Those who are looking for associates want people with years of experience. As a young person who obediently followed God’s call to the ministry from college, M stands to dedicate a good 30+ years of her life to the church. Furthermore, she’s got not one but two degrees from good schools and—more importantly—knows how to take the academic stuff and translate it into practical ministry. We keep hearing how churches want to bring in Gen-X and –Y folk and how we all wish there were more young people in ministry. Apparently they’re wanted—just not here (wherever it is that *here* happens to be). The people hired instead are the second-career people. I know many of them, I’ve taught many of them, I know their strengths and weaknesses as a group better than most. If I were a rector and I wanted to bring in young people with families, I would think that I would want some one of that same age and situation. Clearly I’m not a rector or vestry member in this area.
I fear that M’s pregnancy will hurt her currently slim chances for employment because after however many years—let’s just say “after one generation”—the Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations are not interested in ordaining women. Hold on—let me clarify and make plain *exactly* what I mean by that.
I know people who don’t believe in the ordination of women. Some of these people are very good, close friends of ours; some of them read this site. Most of these friends—if not all—support M in what she does even if they wouldn’t receive the sacrament from her. That’s fine. I have no problem with that—I don’t agree, obviously—but it’s not a huge problem for me. You are where you are on these things.
Individuals aside, there are organizations, church bodies, that don’t believe in the ordination of women (SBC, PCA, RCC, etc.) Okay, great. Most of them take this position because of hermeneutical choices that they have made. As groups, that’s their decision. I’m not willing to say in a blanket fashion that they’re wrong and I’m right—I don’t believe I have that much certainty. I would certainly ask if they’re sure it’s a hermeneutical decision and not just culture masquerading as hermeneutics (I’m sure they wonder the same about me). I just ask that they be consistent with their hermeneutics; if you’re reading one text this way for a certain reason, you’d darn well better be reading *all* of the text that way or the “hypocrite” word may start getting exercised. The thing is—we don’t belong to one of these organizations. Therefore, what they think on the matter has absolutely no bearing on our situation. So where do we belong?
We belong to one of the churches that says it ordains women. In this particular category I’m thinking about the mainline Protestant groups who are easily identified as the ones who put out knee-jerk political statements; if the Right says it they hate it, if the Left says it they love it. Those folks. They say that they ordain women and like to call it a “justice issue.” Hmmm. Then do they act justly with regard to it?
Last time M was down to met with the folk in the diocese where we’re canonically resident to prepare for her diaconal ordination, another comrade went down too. He was a guy. His wife was pregnant. I think they may have given him a word of congratulations; other than that it wasn’t mentioned at all. M—this was a while ago, now, she wasn’t pregnant at all nor were we thinking about it—M got grilled for at least 20 minutes solid about what would happen *if* she might get pregnant She was muchly warned against it. The board expressed themselves quite…thoroughly. I think the upshot of was that she had to get the bishop’s permission before she decided to get pregnant again.
Now that she is pregnant (and without the bishop’s permission no less[!!]) I can see churches being far more willing to use the “experience” card or the “not a good fit” card at the beginning of the application process. Why? Because she may be out of work for six to eight weeks in her first year. Tell me, is this a good reason not to hire somebody?
The thing that pisses me off the most is that this church is one of the ones that proclaims so vehemently that it ordains women—but it really doesn’t want to. It doesn’t want to ordain women unless they’re willing to act like men. As long as you function like a man with breasts they’ll take you. But if you’re a woman of child-bearing years and…bear children…suddenly they want nothing to do with you. It’d be one thing if this were a secular job that involved daily exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals….but it’s not. It’s supposed to be about ministry. It’s supposed to be the church. The one that cares about justice. But they’ll make a big to-do about justice as long as it means they don’t have to get off their asses and actually live up to their fine words.
Maybe other women in the Episcopal Church and other churches don’t have this problem. Maybe I’m way off base. I don’t think so, though. To my mind this is cultural capitulation just as corrosive to the Gospel as other forms. It means that we as a church are still buying into the society that likes to sell with sex than kill the consequences. We have bought into the model—not that we’re men and women with complementary gifts, skills, and dispositions, each having something to say in the proclamation of the whole Gospel—but the model of androgynous clock-punching drones whose purpose in life is to produce and consume. In case anyone’s keeping score, yeah, I blame both the Left and the Right for their own “gifts” to this pathetic sub-human model of existence. Women’s Lib allowed middle-class white women to go to work—and to add a full day of work onto the rest of their domestic chores that middle-class white men haven’t suddenly started doing. By the same token, Corporate America’s labor-units model certainly doesn’t help. Folks, the Gospel has a strong word against this kind of culture. Where is it? Where did we loose it behind fancy talk about divestment and justice that gets really nebulous on specifics and the like? What’s the word from God on these things and why isn’t the Church reading and proclaiming it?
Part of the reason why the Church can take the stance that it has against pregnancy and against children is because, quite simply, the men haven’t been stepping up. We as guys—as daddies—haven’t been claiming our own rights to take our paternity leave and spend quality time with our new-borns. We haven’t let the Church—and other employers—know that we’re not gonna put up with this model. Yeah, there really are “family values” implications to the Gospel and I’m not talking about hating queer folk. Will this mean that employers might start seeing*any* person of child-bearing age as a potential “pregnancy liability”? Maybe. But so be it. We’re not called for the purpose of making our lives easier…
As you’ve probably figured out, part of the source of this post is my frustration with our continuing situation. But that source doesn’t invalidate anything I’m saying here. We’ve been blessed with another little one. That’s what ought to be at the forefront here. But life is never simple. It’s the complexities and turbulences that make you realize that you have to have a rock somewhere. We do have a Rock…but it’s also the Church’s job to proclaim that Rock. May it not be said of us “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”