Monday, February 1, 2010


I just took my dog for a walk. The temperature on our back porch is 18 degrees, but it seemed so much warmer than it has for many nights. Temperature, like many things is relative.

A dear friend of mine keeps sending me forwarded emails that are very critical of President Obama. I'm not critical at all of the president--I think he's done a worthy job against the almost unspeakable road-block negativity of the Republicans. My friend, I believe, is a registered Democrat. But, like the temperature, 'democrats' are relative.

I've begun to believe relativity can tell us a lot about most everything--take Christians, for example. I am a Christian and it seems to me that my credentials as a Christian (having been an Episcopal priest for over 30 years) should be unassailable. Not true, beloved. Since I am pro-gay marriage, anti-death penalty, a student of evolution, a defender of Roe vs. Wade and a Christian who believes the Kingdom of God will welcome those of other faiths, I am suspect among other Christians.

The conversation that begins, "How can you be a Christian and believe that?" isn't a conversation at all. It is a conversation stopper.

There is a relativity to being a Christian, I think. And that thought is made difficult since there are Christians who think 'relativity' is anti-Christian. For many Christians of many stripes (not a few of which are in the Anglican Communion!) it is a up or down, right or wrong, true or false world. The world where I live and move and have my being (the same world I think God, in some obscure way 'created') is floating, maybe this/maybe that, gray and paradoxical and, in many ways, inscrutable.

My friend Maner, who is a Southern Baptist, keeps talking about how I'll probably become a Southern Baptist when I retire. Fat chance of that! My theology is so relative and complex and confounding--even to me--that I thank God I found the Episcopal Church before I left Christianity all together for something Eastern or primitive or Druid-like. I AM a Christian, but I'm a Christian with many more questions than answers, many more obscurities than absolutes, many more ponderings than doctrines.

Thirty plus years ago, I truly believed I'd be safe to ask questions, question authority and wrestle with my angels in the Episcopal Church. I still believe that--just not as 'truly'. A lot of my conservative friends think the church left them behind at some point by being too liberal. I think, from time to time, that I have outrun the church because it isn't nearly as liberal or progressive as I believed.

I often hear people suggest that as we get older, we get more conservative, set in our way, all that. What I think is that as people age, they 'become MORE like they always were...."

It's interesting to me that my clergy friends are always looking for and finding ways in which I am much more 'moderate' than they think I am. There is stuff I believe in, like the 'objective reality of the sacraments' (we aren't just 'playing' church--we ARE church--is the way I'd put it). And folks to the right of me theologically and politically and just ontologically, always are delighted to point out how open I am to people who disagree. Well, that is true, even my friend who sends me bull-shit emails about Obama--I'm open to being his friend though his politics are bull-shit! But I would suggest that is a factor of my becoming more liberal and progressive than I was as a younger man. When I was in my 30's I wanted nothing to do with people who didn't agree with me--but that's not a very liberal point of view. Besides, I love a good argument and can talk louder than most people who disagree with me....

I'm a liberal, for example, who thinks we've lost our minds about smoking rules ('course I smoke...) and that everyone in the US should learn English (but only because they don't teach classes in Harvard Law School or John Hopkins Med School in any language but English and every child should have a shot at that rather than being part of an underclass). Conservatives say I'm contradictory in those two stands since I'm willing to let people smoke but not willing to let people speak the language of their choice. Like Walt Whitman (talk about your liberal!) I say: "do I contradict myself? very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes...."

I'm actually a 'realist' and 'relativist' as well as a liberal and progressive. People have a right to kill themselves how ever they choose to. But society owes it to everyone to have a shot at being a Harvard lawyer or a John's Hopkins physcian. And people have a right to make all the money they can, but they have a responsibility to share it in a big way. I'd tax the rich back into the middle class because if they were just doing it for the money, they should let someone do it for the joy of a job well done.

Everytime I hear someone say "Obama is a socialist", I say, in response, "Don't I wish!!!"

Truth is, just like me, I think, our president is a liberal and progressive who is washed well in the waters of realism and relativism. For me, that seems about right.

For my email friend, it is apparently a nightmare.

Well, everything is relative, after all....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.