Day 101: Have an interesting conversation.

I am a former newspaper reporter turned church secretary turned vampire novelist. I wrote my first complete novel, ‘Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs,’ at night while I was working as the receptionist for a Baptist church. That was an interesting conversation with the pastor. (Molly Harper)

Yesterday, I read a blog post from a colleague (or more accurately, fellow pastor; I’ve never met the man, and I can’t really tell from his blog whether or not, as a woman, he would consider me a colleague) entitled, “Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly.” While I didn’t find the list offensive or spot on, I did think that it had more truth to it than many other pastors were willing to admit and way more truth than many lay people wanted to hear. To be completely transparent (or as transparent as I am willing to be in this format), I found the comments to be as enlightening as his blog post. At first, I was engaged by what started out as an interesting conversation.

We need to be willing to have interesting conversations in the church, and everywhere else for that matter. But from what I see, we really aren’t so willing to do that. We want to be Minnesota nice, we want everyone to like us, and as pastors, we want our jobs to be as easy as parishioners imagine them to be. And considering that I am both an ordained minister and a pastor’s spouse (I do refuse to refer to myself as a “pastor’s wife”) I know this issue from both sides. But let me make it clear from the outset that I speak only for myself. While what I write may resonate with pastors both male and female (or not), I am not trying to speak for anyone but me.

I’m frustrated because I find that too many folks are not interested in having good conversations. I’m finding more and more people who want to shut conversations down if they don’t want to hear what you have to say. It’s counter-cultural to have an interesting conversation and downright subversive to agree to disagree. We live in a litigious, contentious society that would rather fight than exchange ideas. This is why Fox News exists. It’s only purpose is to provide “information” that people want to hear — whether or not it is true. It’s secondary purpose is to denigrate the ideas of anyone who doesn’t agree with their version of “information.” They want a good fight. They’d rather start a knock down drag out fight than have an interesting conversation.

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In the comments on the blog I mentioned above, a man named Phil commented that his wife was a pastor, and so as a pastor’s male spouse, he didn’t think that there were as many expectations on him as parishioners place on a pastor’s female spouse (or something to that effect.) Several comments down (and I had to go back and see what this comment was referring to) another man wrote, “So Phil, how does it feel to be married to a woman living in sin?”

As I said, I had to go back and figure out who Phil was and what comment this person was referring to, and then I realized that to this man, I too was living in sin. Bam. Conversation over.

What has happened to civility? This man didn’t know Phil or his wife — who’s only known sin was making the obvious sacrifice to spend her life in service to God. You don’t believe that women should be ordained? Fine, go to a church that doesn’t ordain women. But don’t troll the internet with the expressed intent of offending other servants of God. (And no, I did not call you a sinner, or a jerk.) As Matt so eloquently expressed throughout his post, it’s tough enough to be a pastor.

And no, I’m not complaining. I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else. God has called me to it and I feel blessed to be living my life in service to God in a formal way. (And just to be clear, I think that all Christians do this as well, but in less formal ways.)

I just want to say “thanks” to Matt for his transparency, and all those who were willing to engage in the conversation without trying to shut it down. Don’t be afraid to have an interesting conversation.