Know Thy Neighbor

A week ago, Lee Roop, a Huntsville Times columnist, was arrested for possession of cocaine and driving under the influence of drugs. He also happens to be a deacon[1] at my church.

I’m not going to talk about what Lee did. Instead, I’m going to marvel at one guy’s response on the newspaper’s forum when he found out Lee was a deacon at our church.

Yeah but look at the list of other deacons. God, thru the Bible, specifically details what qualifications & characteristics a deacon should have. Here’s where all the femi-nazis are going to attack me–one of those characteristics is to be male. Don’t get me wrong…women have a crucial & vital role in church…and not that it’s unequal to men…just different types of roles. It’s already evident that the Trinity members and pastoral staff are choosing “deacons” unqualified for the job–so doesn’t surprise me that one would be a “cokehead” in some of your eyes.

This piñata is so full of stupid, it’s hard to know where to start whacking. I’ll start with the view that deaconhood is obviously a no-women-allowed club. The comment author is undoubtedly referring to Paul’s list of requirements for deacons. Without going into the full details[2] or listing Paul’s interesting view of women and marriage[3], I’ll note two things. One, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul demands that women not speak in church. At all. Two, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul requires that women cover their heads when praying in public. One guess as to whether or not the comment author’s church follows these requirements as well as Paul’s list of deacon requirements.

I also note that he (and you know it has to be a he even if you don’t check his username) brings in femi-nazi as an epithet. “Femi-nazi” is one of those slurs that gets thrown about by people who think women should sit down, shut up, be happy with making 77 cents on the dollar, and ideally get back to making babies.

Many churches owe their ongoing existence to the faithfulness and perseverance of women. That they continue to do so while being viewed as second-class citizens is astounding, and practically speaking unlikely to continue in the future.

And while we’re talking practicality, let’s get to the heart of the poster’s complaint, the point where his playing-card house of logic collapses: that, since our church has chosen women deacons, it’s no surprise that we chose a “cokehead”. Let’s perform a little Gedankenexperiment[4]. Think about a good acquaintance of yours — not your best friend, but someone you know decently well.

Now: has he ever used illegal drugs? Is she currently abusing illegal drugs? Has she ever cheated on someone she’s been in a relationship with? Does he enjoy autoerotic asphyxiation? Has he ever struck his wife? Does she abuse her children?

We don’t know people. Even with our best friends, we only know so much about their lives. There’s no way we know the deepest, darkest secrets of just about anyone. Oddly enough, we haven’t taken to wearing scarlet letters on our chest to tell everyone our sins.

Furthermore, the expectation that church members, even deacons, would be blameless is idiotic. Church is not where people go because they’re better than everyone else. Church is where people go, and people are messed up and broken regardless of whether they’re religious or not. Expecting otherwise is to ignore human nature, and to keep church — or any community of people, really — from being able to help others.

Of course, it doesn’t sound like helping others is what this guy’s religion is about.

[1] For those of you not steeped in the hierarchical minutia of low-church Protestant Christianity, deacons are members of the lay congregation who are called by the church. The duties vary among Baptist churches, but in ours, deacons are there mainly to minister to and help individual members and families.

[2] If you want to go diving into this, you can look at Acts 6, 1 Timothy 3, and the many, many commentaries on them both.

[3] The short version: ew! cooties!

[4] German for “you mean I can get paid to sit around and just think about imaginary situations?”

10 thoughts on “Know Thy Neighbor

  1. The church I grew up with was a Church of Christ. There were no female preachers, deacons, elders, song leaders, prayer leaders, ever.

  2. Loved the post. I’ll take this opportunity to put in a shameless plug for the brilliantly written and incredibly balanced book by Dr. Sarah Sumner, Men and Women in the Church. It is a breath of fresh air, a must read, and as an added bonus, a textbook for studying God’s Word for all it is worth, not just at face value. I can’t say enough good about it. It’s so good, I had to get it at Amazon because my local Christian bookstore wouldn’t sell anything that wasn’t written from a severely one-sided perspective.

  3. Aaron: And no instrumental accompaniment for music! Presumably that’s because trompette is feminine.

    Jaime: That sounds like an interesting book. I’ll take a look.

  4. When I went to church when I was little I thought ‘deacon’ was a church word for ‘guy who holds the doors open and smokes’.

  5. While that guy’s position was not defensible, I do think “femi-nazi” is the most apt description of a very real breed of individual who believes with great conviction that the simple act of being male constitutes a moral failure. That is to say, there is an equal but opposite brand of stupidity. I’ve observed it personally in specific members of the Duke department of womens’ studies.

  6. “Femi-nazi” as a term has been applied to nearly any woman standing up for her rights. It’s been applied with too broad of a brush for it to be useful for me as an actual signifier.

  7. Morgan,
    The group of people you’d describe as a ‘femi-nazi’ is so small as to be a straw-man sample. I am positive there are people who hold untenable and incredible positions. I do not believe people asserting their equality to be among them.

    As Stephen said there’s too broad a brush being used with the term.


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