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.