Pastor’s Husband & People who “don’t get it”

One of my ideas for this blog is to relate some of the interesting & unusual parts of being a pastor’s husband. Probably the most interesting and frustrating aspects are the people who “don’t get it”- people who won’t believe that she’s the pastor, not me. Let me start by saying that these people are very few and far between- but when I run into one, it’s always interesting.

Take the following conversation from a couple years back. My wife and I were sitting at a table at a regional church dinner gathering. To my left was a Children’s Church Helper, a guy in his 40’s who seemed nice enough. CCH guy started a conversation with me that went like this. (My wife was engaged in a conversation to her right at the time.)
CCH: …so what church do you pastor?
Me: Me? Oh, I’m a computer guy. My wife (pointing to my right) is the pastor. We’re at The Assembly in Jackson.
CCH: [Confused look. Silence for 1 minute.]
CCH: So how long have you been the pastor there?
Me: [Confused look]
Me: Oh, no, I sometimes help with the sound board, but that’s all I do there. She’s the pastor. [Points thumb to right] She’s been there for x years.
CCH: [Dead quiet for 5 minutes]
CCH: So, how many people do you have in your kid’s ministry area working under you?
Me: [polite, but not nearly as friendly as before] I’m not the pastor.
I don’t work in a church. I work as an IT Systems Integrator at the local power company.
I support computer networks and servers for the folks that keep your lights on. She’s the pastor.

CCH was silent to both us for the whole rest of the evening. Made for an awkward evening. And yes, I did literally tell him “She’s the pastor” three times, three different ways.  He was so uncomfortable with the idea, that it couldn’t possibly be true in his world.

What made the above conversation even funnier (in retrospect), was the program that was handed out at this same event. One of the pages had a listing of the churches represented at the gathering. As I was looking it over, I saw a list which included the following among the many names:

Rachel/Mitchell Ross

Now, I don’t know many people who think Rachel is a male name. Likewise, not many people think Mitchell is a female name. I jokingly pointed out the mistake to the gentleman in charge of the paperwork for the evening. He graciously apologized, and laughed with me.

The next year at the same event, I was still listed as a wife. [sigh] I had another joking conversation with the same gentleman, who promised he would fix it. The next year it was- I became a “spouse”.

Or a more recent example. When applying for a loan, I was talking to a Friendly Banker Lady on the phone:
FBL: …and what’s your wife’s occupation?
Me: Clergy
FBL: I’m sorry?
Me: She’s a pastor.
FBL: Oh, does she work as a children’s pastor full time?
Me: Well, she’s THE pastor on staff, and yes, she works full time.
FBL: OK. So how long has she been working as the assistant pastor?
Me: [Sigh]
At this point it has become obvious that this person has deliberately chosen not to grasp this concept. It’s not worth the battle. Even if I were to explain that our church has one paid person on staff, that one person does 100% of the preaching, counseling, weddings, and funerals, and there is nobody else we call “pastor” in the church, FBL still would refuse to understand.

It’s OK if she disagrees with the concept of women in church leadership. We could have an interesting conversation on that topic. We might never agree about it either. But to deny the existence of something because you don’t like it… that’s… that’s… surreal.

I’ve found that of the people who “don’t get it”, about two-thirds of the time they are female. I find that strange. About 90% of the time, they are older than me. (I’m over 30, and let’s leave it at that, shall we?) Non-churched people almost universally have no issues, and think nothing of it.

The thing is, I come from the corporate world where these things have been taken care of a long time ago. Nobody assumes that the CEO of a company must be a male. Nobody assumes that all doctors are male, all nurses are female, and all teachers must be female.  If a document were to list “Supervisor/Wife” within a company, there would be threats of a sex discrimination lawsuit. Not jokingly, but seriously, with large dollar signs in glazed over eyes. It just doesn’t happen.

At any rate, I’m not angry or bitter at those few people who “just don’t get it”. I get frustrated at times, but I’ve learned that the problem isn’t how I explain it. It’s that they refuse to accept parts of reality. Think of the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch. These people may never “get it”, and that’s their loss. There’s probably a whole list of things they’ve chosen to deny exist in their own little world.

Seems like a good time for some pithy quotes.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
– Aldous Huxley, “Proper Studies”, 1927

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
– Max Planck

(This blog posting was originally written July 13th, 2007)