We live in a complex and confusing world. Old values are often no longer thought to be of any value at all and new values often seem to be out of step and out of place with what was once considered to be proper in the world. Where is it all heading? Where will it all end up?
I don't worry so much about myself in this world of new emerging values, but I do worry about what it will bring to my grandchildren. Yet at the same time looking back on the 63 years of my own life it is clear that change is constant and much that has changed has changed for the better.
Median income in the United States is now hovering somewhere around $67,000.00 a year. When I was born, I imagine my father was earning less than $1,200.00 a year. But World War II had just ended and hope was abundant and opportunity was to be found almost anywhere one looked. My family grabbed hold of that hope, embraced opportunity and rode the post war economic boom right into the middle class.
But my parents didn't just concentrate on making money. They concentrated on building a better and fuller life for me and my brothers. They were wise enough to know that there are some things in life which money cannot buy. Among those are a sense of self worth born of hard work and achievement, an empathy for those people around you and a willingness to help out when you can. And perhaps, above all, the ability to understand and to employ critical thinking.
Today, critical thinking is quickly becoming a lost art. It's not taught in our schools where one has only to choose between multiple choice answers. Its certainly not encouraged in politically correct society where it is perceived as rude and confrontational. We certainly don't see anything resembling critical thinking in the mass media. News organizations are now, in reality, an integral part of the entertainment industry and spew out nothing but sensationalized hype 24/7. There is no such thing as a "trusted news source" in todays world. Even networks that promise to be "fair and balanced" are so top heavy with hype that the only thing they may actually be fair and balanced about is that they give somewhat equal time to both the hype from the left and the hype from the right.
When I was a boy, our schools were bastions of order and education. The curriculum was not politicized and for the most part neither were the teachers. It's not that students in my day didn't sometimes get into trouble doing stupid things. We did, but the stupid things we did were not violations of zero tolerance rules run amuck and thus criminal acts. How did we come to a place where the normal actions of kids who make mistakes that should be just a part of learning right and wrong and learning to become responsible adults find those mistakes to be criminal actions in a criminalized educational system in which the constitution of the United States of American has only a tenuous foothold?
As a bisexual guy, I've spent a lot of time over the past 45 years thinking about my sexuality and trying to fit it into my life, my marriage, my religious faith and my own self esteem. It's been a difficult task. I don't think the task will ever be complete, but for the most part I have come to a point of understanding and acceptance with which I can live. I don't see my bisexuality so much as a question of right or wrong anymore. Right and wrong have become not much more than marketing concepts in todays world, handles for the right and the left leaning idealogues to pull on in the war for recruits. I just see my bisexuality as what "is" and I think my job is to make the most of it. My bisexuality is not my life, it is only a part of my life. With or without it, I have the same obligations in life. I'm obligated to provide for my family and myself as best I can. I'm obligated to help others along the way. I'm obligated to try to leave my little corner of the world a little better than I found it.
My faith has always been a major concern to me. In todays world too many of us, in particular those of us who are part of the radical right, are way to quick to try to link science and faith in ways which they cannot be successfully linked. On the face of it, science and religion are polar opposites. Science is all about those things which can be demonstrated empirically, those things which can be factualized. Religion on the other hand is all about those things which cannot be seen, cannot be empirically demonstrated, must be held purely on faith. The only things science and faith have in common are theories and because they both are made up of theories, they both inspire critical thinking. Its just that a scientist can and does eventually prove his theory to be true or to not be true. The theologian can never prove his theories to be true or untrue. He can only hone his faith and hold to it.
But scientists have an advantage on many of those who are religious leaders. They are more highly trained in and more respectful of dispassionate critical thinking. Scientists tend to be good at weighing evidence and following where it leads. For at least 6,000 years religious leaders have made careers out of ignoring their own prophets, their own holy books and giving full throttle to their personal self serving biases. Their congregants, for the most part, have blindly followed without so much as a whimper. I have often said that people of faith are their own worst enemy. Its no wonder that membership in organzied religions has been declining for years because organized religions have made the unbelievable and the nonsensical to be the ultimate test of faith and except for third world countries where Muslim extremist hold sway over largely uneducated and ignorant masses, people are simply too well educated today to believe the unbelieveable.
Their are rays of hope though. There are individual thinkers, even edcuated scientists, who hold onto their faith and realize the difference between faith and science and understand the place for and the need for both. While membership in organized religion is down, those who identify themselves as "spiritual" are growing in number as are the non denominational mega churches. For the most part these mega churches appeal to and attract a cross section of the population. They welcome people of all races. They welcome straight people and gay people. They welcome those who have it altogether and they welcome those who are struggling and even provide those who are struggling with resources they can well afford to offer them with their multimillion dollar budgets. For example, the divorced are not shunned as of old, they are offered support and special classes to help divorced men and women transition through the building of a new life. Gay men and women are reassured that they are welcome and assured that at worst we are all sinners and that the church is not a union of saints but rather a brotherhood of those who are bedraggled, beat up, burnt out and short on faith in a world that seems unrelenting.
Recently, I ran across a link to Adam Hamilton. Adam Hamilton is another ray of hope in this crazy world. Adam Hamilton is an unassuming and gentle man yet highly educated with a gift for connecting to people. He is the founder of the 16,000 member First United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
One can begin to get a feel for Adam Hamilton, just by reading the titles of a few of his many books. The one that first caught my eye was Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics. Other books are: When Christians Get It Wrong and Confronting the Controversies: Biblical Perspectives on Tough Issues. People who see the world in black and white scare me. The world is not a black and white place. It is a multi hued world and on the tough issues the predominate hue is gray for those who do not have a social or political agenda. There is something inheirently refreshing to me in a highly educated religious leader who is the pastor of a 16,000 member church who will admit that he strives to see the gray in a world where opposing sides on almost any issue try to convince us that the answers are black and white. When Christians get it wrong? This guy is admitting up front that Christians can and do get things wrong? How great is that? How humble in a brazen world. Taking on the tough issues? Whose willing to do that in this day and time? Our political leaders run from the tough issues like they would run from a forest fire. No one is willing to talk about tough issues in this politically correctd world and polarized world, yet here is a guy who has written a book about it.
I highly recommed all these books to those of you who are interested in personal growth and understanding. But I want to warn you that Adam Hamilton doesn't have the answers to all of the tough questions and he admits that. That is the point. He doesn't have them and neither do those that pretend to. But unlike too many Christians on the religious right just because he doesn't have the answer doesn't mean he makes one up and condemns those who are struggling with a matter. Some of the tough questions just boil down to personal matters which each of us must deal with. The role of everyone else is to be emphathetic and helpful when possible, not judgemental and legalistic and holier than thou.
All of Adam Hamilton's sermons are posted on line. One that may be of particular interest is "In Dealing with Homosexuality: When Christians Get It Wrong." You can find the video of the sermon at http://adamhamilton.cor.org/2009/02/03/in-dealing-with-homosexuals/
You don't have to be a religious person to appreciate the critical thought in this sermon. In fact those of you who are not religious should, in particular, view it so that you can see for yourself that not all Christians are judgemental, biggoted, hypocritical, self-serving reprobates. Although Adam Hamilton is a Christian pastor, his message and thoughts concerning Christian scriptures are equally valid when applied to any other faith or belief system that singles out homosexuality, or indeed many similar hot button issues (women's rights, skin color, heritage, etc) as worthy of particular condemnation. Critical thinking, even critical thinking about one's faith, does not supplant faith, rather it permits one to fully understand faith on a deeper personal level.For those of you who are not religious I don't urge you to view the video with the thought that you will come to believe, but simply because it may help you to enhance your own sense of self worth. To be quite honest, I hope it will also help you to see that there are people, even in the religious world, who, contrary to most commonly held impressions, see all people as people of worth.
Where is it all heading? Where will it all end up? I guess for a guy who can be pessimistic, I'm pretty much of an optimist. I think mankind can reach enlightenment. I think good can trump evil. I think eventually understanding can best ignorance. I think justise can defeat tyranny and I think the day is at hand when homosexual and bisexual men and women are thought of and seen as just men and women with a place in the world like all other men and women.
Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.
But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.
I look forward to hearing from each of you.
The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.
I look forward to hearing from each of you.