On February 22, 2018, I presented a ten-minute talk about men and erotic community on Jonathan’s Circle Live. Here is the link to that talk.
Jonathan’s Circle is a group of men, many in the DC Metro area but ranging as far as Australia, who share an interest in spirituality and sexuality, and engage in open conversation–sometimes in person for Circles, on a Google+ page, and through an online blog. Here is the link to blog, and here is the link to Jonathan’s Circle web page.
My talk certainly is not limited to men, so I invite all to check it out. Of course, I would be very interested in your thoughts.
I will be posting some additional writing on this topic here soon.
Most of my life I have been fascinated by politics, probably accurate to call me a political junkie, avidly reading the latest tidbits of commentary, polls and the like.
Some of this is tied to the fact that I have been an elected official, albeit at the relatively low level of local and county government in my native Michigan. I also served as an aide to a U.S. Congressman and a State Senator. My undergraduate degree is in political science. I was sure, in years long ago, that I wanted to make my way in politics, and dreamed of being a U.S. Senator, maybe even President. [Note: There used to be a picture of the county seal here, but the county’s office of corporation counsel asked me to remove it, fearing that someone could think its presence constituted an endorsement by the county of this blog. I guess they have little better to do with their time than worry about a lowly blog by a former county official. But I have complied, to save them filing suit or taking some other such, in my view, unnecessary action, and to save the taxpayers further burden.]
I have not abandoned that interest entirely (though no dreams of elected office remain!), but I am finding it less and less satisfying. The shift began in the late 1970s when I perceived the inadequacy of the political system to solve some really basic problems in our world, at the very time I felt a call to ordained ministry (I went to seminary in 1981, graduating from the Episcopal Divinity School in 1985).
Neither politics or religion have all the answers, of course. Both create problems as well as offer solutions. This is probably because each is a human construct managed by human beings. I say this without denying the role of divine inspiration in religion, and sometimes even in politics.
There is one thing however that I do not find in politics generally, and especially today, and that is love. Love is at the center of my life, because I believe it is at the center of all life. I agree with St. John of the Cross, who said, “There is nothing better or more necessary than love.” One of my favorite spiritual writers, Fr. Richard Rohr, has written about this extensively in, among other places,Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of AssisiandImmortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.
Neither they, nor others, nor I, mean so much the feeling or sentiment of love (romantic love, Hallmark card love, etc. (although this can be very good and indeed wonderful) as we mean the active engagement with others. all others, in mutually respectful, caring, holistic relationship.
In the political realm, I guess this makes me a liberal. I do not doubt that conservatives love other people, but their politics seems mostly devoid of it. Love requires a largeness of spirit, and certainly a focus on things in addition to money, the national debt, and the latest outrages.
Speaking of outrages, there are many in the world, and they are not limited to beheadings by ISIS and shootings by extremists (“Islamic” or otherwise). How about the fact that tens of millions of people in the world go hungry every day, and yet there is enough food to feed everyone? That is an outrage of grand and preposterous proportions!
So love. I am in search of how I can help grow the quantity and quality of love in the world. I believe it can be done best, maybe only done, in community–hence the name of this blog.
Which is where politics could come in, and religion, too. Both are fundamentally communal. But I am having a hard time finding much love in what passes for political discourse, even among Democrats. Maybe love is at the root of what they say, but they do not use the word very much (President Obama’s tears when speaking about the children killed in Newtown demonstrate love). The only Republican running for President who comes close is Governor Kasich of Ohio (and he is not doing very well in the polls!).
I believe in the responsibility and power of the vote, I will never stop voting, but my criteria are clear: the more loving you sound and act, the more likely I am to vote for you. And it is possible that in some contests, if I cannot sense any love, I will leave the ballot blank.
Of course, I find it difficult to find much love in what passes for religion in many quarters these days. The good news is that, unlike politics so far, we are not required to live under the rule of a religion (although many have tried and will continue to try to make it so).
And by the way, love includes “tough love,” but by that I do not mean being a tough, macho-like guy (or gal). Tough love means, to me, telling the whole truth no matter the cost. Much of the time, the hard truth is not the aggressive- or militant-sounding one, but the quiet one, the clear analysis which shows that solutions are more complicated than building walls or denying rights and livelihoods to whole groups of people.
In that vein, consider this post an installment payment on “tough love” for my country and the world.
I encourage you to join the love campaign; let me know how you are promoting love in the world. Together, we can grow love until all the unlove is cast aside.
I am a great fan of Fr. Richard Rohr, Franciscan monk and teacher of holy truths. Someday, I hope to visit his Center for Action & Contemplation in New Mexico. But in the meantime, I read him regularly.
As I come up on the tenth anniversary of Jonathan and I arriving in Richmond, for me to take up my new duties as pastor at MCC Richmond, I have been letting the gifts of the years wash over me. I am grateful for so much–the church work, yes, and the sense that this place is truly home, and also all the personal growth that grew out of that work and God’s continuing shaping of me, here.
So it was a special joy to read, on July 2 while I was in Chicago at the UFMCC triennial General Conference, the following excerpt from an audio recording, “On Pilgrimage with Father Richard Rohr”:
A pilgrim must be a child who can approach everything with an attitude of wonder, awe and faith. Pray for wonder, awe, desire. Ask God to take away your sophistication and cynicism. Ask God to take away the restless, anxious heart of the tourist, which always needs to find the new, the more, the curious. Recognize yourself as a pilgrim, as one who has already been found by God.
The reason this feels so vital to me is that I realize that I became a pilgrim here. It took me quite a while to realize how little I knew and how much I needed to look around with an open eye and mind and heart, an open soul. I did not know it when I was called here and we got here, but I came to Richmond to become a pilgrim.
Oh I had been on a long journey before I got here, but until I got quite a ways into my time in Richmond I was more like the tourist Rohr mentions. I still can slip into tourist-iness easily enough, but it does not take too long for me to realize how unsatisfying it can be. The really satisfying way to live is to stay open to God continually finding me and changing me.
People go on pilgrimages for many reasons, of course, but fundamentally they are about change. And the best pilgrimages create interior change, not just showing a new exterior view but more vitally really changing the landscape inside us.
I have changed in so many ways from when I got here in 2003, and it is a good thing.