I have been thinking about my next project. Because I unexpectedly needed to give myself medical leave for surgery in October, I now find it is late in the year. A polar vortex has again fallen on the Midwest. This has me thinking about Florida, where we will go in January. January is not very far away.
So now I am thinking about a seasonal Advent/Christmas project. I am going to give myself until next week to decide just what it will be.
In the process of thinking about projects, I considered a book about doctrinal history in the early church. There is the widespread notion that politics and even violent repression had a lot to do with the development of orthodox doctrine in what I call the classic tradition of Christianity. Just mention Constantine. This notion is true to some extent. But it does not tell the whole story.
Maybe I will take that on next year.
In my early training I specialized in church history. I won an award for my research and some of my professors thought I had a future as an academic church historian. Instead I became a country preacher. As a preacher I spent 40 years using the Bible every week. My use of church history was much less. So now my interests and expertise tip sharply in the direction of biblical studies.
Why did I become a preacher instead of a professor? A simple social and political explanation would be that affirmative action worked against me as a white male. I do not even know that it would have been a problem. What I do know is that when I explored a Ph.D. program, an adviser told me that job prospects for me were bad because most colleges and universities had to hire x number of minorities and females before they could hire another white male.
One reaction to this would be to get all bitter and whiney about it. I am not that way because I have on the whole liked the life I have lived. Yes, I am pretty introverted and had to somewhat fake to make it in the extroverted role of a minister. But as an academic I might have followed my inclinations an become too socially isolated. I likely have a better life now and a more diverse set of friends. I do not want a do-over.
Also, I saw first hand that there was a bias in favor of people like me and against women and minorities in ministry. So that kind of balanced out any unfairness that went the other way. For the last 10 years before retirement I was an interim minister. I worked with churches in the process of calling pastors. Churches were beginning to shed some of the sexism and consider female candidates. I also saw a couple of small-town churches in white communities call black pastors.’
Part of the new openness to women was because there were better female candidates. In the early 80s I went to summer school one year and lived in a dorm a floor below a bunch of Mary Daly-reading, feminist theological students who seemed to all have chips on their shoulders. I had to unlearn what my mother taught me and stop holding doors open for people. I can think of reasons other than sexism that churches in county-seat towns in Texas, Oklahoma, or Missouri might not have been eager to call these people.
In this new century there was still some reluctance to consider women . Older men and women faced an ageism problem as well, though. Anyway, the advice to check your privilege sometimes hits the mark.
But, just as you can find social and political reasons that church doctrine developed as it did, you can find social and political reasons your life turned out like it did. But did the will and calling and providence of God have anything to do will it? People of faith will say that it did. This world isn’t fair. Sometimes it is downright mean. Think of the crucifixion. Yet, the whole point of faith is to believe God still works through it all.
So I say that I did what I did because God called me.