PastorX is now ex-pastor

Who is PastorX?

That would be me.  I went through a brief stint, early in my stay-at-home Mom career, of visiting places on the internet where atheists were hanging out (mainly columns on atheist subjects in webzines and online newspapers) and injecting myself into the conversational mix as the (often lone) reasonable, educated, patient Christian type.  I was starved for an intellectual and an evangelistic challenge, and engaging both young atheists and their angry fundamentalist detractors in dialogue (tri-alogue?) provided me with both – all conveniently available in the home I was confined to for 2 – 2+hour baby naps per day!

And when I went online for these purposes, I went by the handle “PastorX.”

Why?  I was looking for a handle that right away identified me as a professional interpreter of Christianity, so – Pastor.  In math, we use the letter X to refer to an unknown quantity.  And I wanted to remain unknown – especially as to gender.  Frankly, a lot of brainy young men seem to think that you have to be a man to be brainy.  (Let’s be clear – I am talking about chauvinist beliefs as lived in practice, not as espoused explicitly.)  And atheists actively arguing on the internet are disproportionately brainy young men.  I wanted to keep the focus on what I was saying, not what organs I was or was not born with.  So – PastorX was born.

But the X grew on me for many more reasons.  Again in math, X is meaningless, unknowable on its own.  X is known only in relationship to others.  X is the name of my generation – an at once jaded and hopeful generation that is liberal politically, but holds tightly to the value espoused by conservatives – personal responsibility – a generation that believes in community, in egalitarian relationships – a generation that still can’t quite believe that we really are the grownups now.

It also occurred to me that X might signify a rejection of a slave name.  Malcolm X changed his last name to X from Little to signify that his true name was unknown – that Little was not an African name, but a name inherited from white slaveholders.  Similarly, as a woman, changing a name in marriage recalls a transfer of property between two men – the true holders of the name.  To go by “X” could be a feminist assertion that my true name is unknown – I have only the surnames of men to chose from in recorded history.   But it could also be taking on the name of Christ, whose name begins in the Greek with the letter Chi, printed “X” – I am no longer a slave to sin and death, but have been given a name and a heritage.  Taking up my X could signify that I now in fact do know my true name – it is X – I am marked as a member of Christ’s family.

I gave the X a lot of thought, but I took the title “Pastor” for granted.

At the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, certain changes were made regarding the relationship between family leave and the ordination process.  And as a result, it became impossible to imagine that I could complete the ordination requirements in the new allotted time.  So this past June, my petition to be discontinued as a Probationary Elder was accepted by the Virginia Annual Conference.

This summer, I received a note from my District Superintendent.  As an ex-pastor, I was required to return not only my license for local ministry, but also the certificate I received when I was commissioned a probationary elder.  Turns out it is not so much like a diploma, and more like a license.

It was not until a few weeks ago that I was finally ready to climb the stairs to my work space, take the frame off the wall, pry open the back, and remove the certificates.  Today I will put them in the envelope and finally send them back to the District Office.

Now, I am pure X – the traditional mark made by an individual who does not know how to sign her or his own name.  I think that it is starting to grow on me.

3 responses

  1. So… who are you? What is it that you are seeking? To tell (me) that there is a god? To leave god in the dust of fading human dreams?

    Are you an open X… a closed X. Are you an X because god has suffocated your identity? Who is your master? Why does a human being needs to be an X? You’re saying much… what makes you say it?

    • Hey Albert – Note that I said I *used to* hang out engaging in dialogue with atheists – now that I have an older preschooler who does not nap, my time for back-and-forth is more constrained – so if you choose to reply to my reply, you are quite likely to be awarded the last word! I doubt I’m going to have time to respond to any one respondent more than once.
      I’ve given your website a look, and obviously (if you’ve read any more of my blog) I believe in God. So there’s a major point of disagreement. But we are on the same page in another concern – that of liberation. It sounded to me like you were espousing your natural philosophy because you want to free human minds from their shackles. Me too. But we disagree about what shackles us, and how we can be freed. If I read you right, you would say that it is ideas like God that keep people shackled – our origins and reason for being can be found in the natural world, and because we have free will, we can free ourselves at any time from the limitations that believing in God, etc. imposes, and find our identity in ourselves. Whereas I observe that people enslave themselves to all sorts things – television, money, sex, fame, drugs, toxic relationships, and so on – and that it is incredibly dangerous to believe that people don’t (and needn’t) serve anyone or anything, because then they find themselves sucked into unwitting slavery – slavery from which it is very difficult to be liberated because it is not even acknowledged. And I assert that only God can liberate us from this “slavery to sin and death” as the Apostle Paul writes. (Have you read Paul’s letter to the Romans, by chance? To have a clear sense of what it is you are refuting / rejecting?)
      I have never felt at all suffocated by God. On the contrary, God is the air I breathe, which is part of what is meant to be conveyed by calling the third person of the Trinity “Spirit.” Now, it probably helps that I am a Methodist. If you are not particularly familiar with the different flavors of Christianity, we are not a monolithic lot. My Wesleyan heritage means in part that I don’t truck with this whole “Purpose Driven Life” predestination fatalistic thing. Like most Atheists, Methodists have some roots in the Enlightenment. So I’m on board with the free will idea – with the corollary that the human will is easily distracted, easily enslaved.
      I appreciate that you are so concerned about my identity. I’m in good shape – thanks for asking! God has gifted me with the identity of one who loves and (tries to!) follow Jesus – God desires for each and every one of us to partner in the renewal and liberation of all nature, and so this Christian identity is available not just to some lucky few, but to all. But to truly benefit from this liberation – to make it effective – we must first recognize what has enslaved us. I pray that you and those you love will experience this liberation in your lifetime. Grace and Peace.

      • Hello again human X, thanks for responding. It’s always appreciated. Yes, we are not exactly on the same wavelength…and I am as dedicated to a natural conception of things as you are to a divine one.

        You get meaning following the words of someone named Jesus…. I get meaning looking at trees losing their leaves in the fall and regaining them again in the spring.

        The reason we need to free ourselves from a god, a master in the sky (and the human heart) is that this god is not there. We’ve read a story… and got attached to it. Nature attaches forms to forms. Even gods stories, But also, natures separates, nature frees. When we no longer find meaning in our attachments… we free yourself and move on… but again our sight will be attracted. Attachments will follows.There is no sin, nor evil, nor defects in that. Actually, there is much meaning in “being’ the flow of existence.

        Take good care.

        (And thanks for taing the time to visit my site)

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