Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thoughts On Coincidence, Random Chance And Faith

This blog post was first published here on July 18, 2012. It has been edited and reposted on July 30, 2012.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross once said, "Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from."

On the other hand, Charles Caleb Cotton, a 19th century Cleric, said: "If we consider… how many events occur every day, we shall no longer wonder at those accidental coincidences which ignorance mistakes for verification."

How intriguing life is. I say, "Black." Another says, "White." You say, "Yes." Your friend says, "No." Ms. Kubler-Ross and I wonder about coincidences. Mr. Cotton thinks that to do such a thing is the mark of ignorance.

Differences of opinions are what make the world an interesting place. The only problem for me is the world has just about created more interest than I can wrap my mind around.

If sixteen years ago, one of you who is reading this blog would have told me I would be writing it, I would have said you were sorely mistaken. As a professional man who was required to make almost daily decision which affected the lives of others for good and for bad, I found it the hardest duty I had. I simply did not like making decisions that others would have to live with.

So it is in writing this blog, I often struggle with myself about the things I write. Will they lead someone astray? Will they cause someone to stumble? Will they help someone to find his way? Will they incite new ways of looking at old struggles? On balance, will what I write be a source of good or a source of evil? These questions are always on my mind.

This week I received a comment from an anonymous reader who feels I am "selling a lot of men short." His comment goes on to say there is never a good excuse for being unfaithful to one's spouse. He feels married bisexual or married homosexual men should buck up and stick to their vows no matter the emotional, psychological or personal costs. I understand where he is coming from in his comment, but either he has not through all the possibilities of life from both a woman's viewpoint as well as a man's viewpoint or he has led a very sheltered life. If all the unfaithfulness resulting from the excuses of men were to disappear, there would still be unfaithfulness in the world.  It simply is not true men simply need to grab onto their boot straps, pull themselves up straight (pun intended), and be happy to eliminate unfaithfulness.

I just can't live comprehend the world this anonymous commenter seems to live in. Not only are there good reasons for sometimes having sex outside of marriage, there are often good reasons for divorce. Sometimes sex outside of marriage makes both a man and his wife happier in trying to live in their broken marriage to provide support for their children. Sometimes sex outside marriage enables a man to keep his family together when his wife is unable or unwilling to have sex any longer. Absolute statements about anything beyond scientific fact hardly ever stand up to the light of open minded consideration for me or any other rational person.

That said, the anonymous commenter would likely be surprised to know how often I do worry about the things I write and if I am saying the right thing or not. Sometimes this worry gets so strong that it causes me to consider stopping my blogging altogether.

The reason I have not stopped blogging is a simple one; but one the anonymous commenter will most likely find difficult to believe. I keep blogging because the comments I get from my readers are overwhelmingly positive, easily ten positive comments to every single negative comment. And the comments are not just positive. Often guys and sometimes even women tell me I have changed their lives for the better. It is far from an isolated occurrence.

Even more interesting to me personally is that the comments most complimentary to my blogging more often than not, seem to come in just when I am thinking most seriously about shutting it all down. Is this a coincidence or is it something else? I guess if it just happened once, I would see it as coincidence; but it seems to happen every time I get discouraged or burned out.

I guess, in a very real way, how one sees the question of coincidence depends on whether one sees the world as Kubler-Ross sees it or sees it as Cotton sees it. As for me, I have been doing this for several years now and there have been so many "coincidences" I have lost count. Most of them have been unbelievably complex, not just events strained into some kind of coincidence in my mind.

I recently admitted to my readers though I am a person of faith, my faith is not unshakeable. I have my moments of doubt. I even have my moments of anger with God, if there is God, because He sure doesn't run the world as well as it seems He could sometimes. Some people would say such thoughts are the mark of a non-Christian. My own pastor says if one has never doubted God and has never been angry at God, one doesn't know God. I'm inclined to agree. Those with whom we are well acquainted, those who matter to us sometimes make us angry; and sometimes we make them angry.

As a man who tries to have faith, I see God at work in the things I do and in the things that happen as a result. While I do have atheist and agnostic friends, as I mentioned above, I've never had the opportunity to discuss with them at length how they view such coincidences in life. Perhaps they view them as Charles Cotton did, just the a statistical convergence of fate in billions of events. Perhaps they see them as the product of fate resulting from some power within the universe we do not yet understand. I don't know, but that is ok with me because I don't know for certain God exists either. I simply have a degree of faith He does. I have hope he does. But my lack of full unquestioning faith in the matter makes me very much unwilling to accost those who do not believe. Their lack of faith or belief is at least as reasonable as my faith.

A Leap of Faith
If any of you reading this piece is an atheist or agnostic, I would count it as a personal favor if you would take the time to respond on this issue with an open comment to me and my readers. Hopefully, I have assured you I am not going to be judgmental of your personal philosophy of life. As an atheist or an agnostic, I know there have to be influences in your life that spur you to take leaps of faith to achieve those things that are important to you, even if it is just faith in your own ability to achieve. My feeling is that people of faith should be as respectful and accepting  of those things that spur you to achieve and endure as those of religious faith would hope you are of their faith. In my view even those with religious faith must have some faith in themselves also to achieve personal success.

To me, some kind of faith in something bigger than oneself is a vital thing. I don't think I could live without faith of some sort. And honestly, I don't think one's faith has to be in God for it to matter and be effective. A four year old child does not have faith in God, but he has unmeasurable; and, to him, incomprehensible faith in his mother. I think the same sort of thing is possible for adults. Those who do not believe in God, it seems to me, must have faith in someone they love or someone who is their colleague. Perhaps they even have faith in a relatively benign universe which provides us with life and time and talents to use in the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Again, I'd like to hear from those of you who are non-believers on this issue and who are willing to candidly discuss the values which guide your life choices.

Come Unto Me
Since I have often written that the United Methodist Church, the denomination to which I belong, is often a reconciling Church I am always happy to hear of reconciling churches around the country. There are many. The Lutheran Churches have been increasingly accepting of homosexuals. True, the stand has caused a split in the ranks of church members; but nevertheless a significant number of Lutherans now publicly welcome homosexuals to their churches. St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Atlanta is another reconciling church as is Bering United Methodist Church here in Houston. Bering UMC has built their web site to make it instantly clear that they support homosexual individuals, couples and families ( I wish I could leave it at that. I can't.

The sad truth is the United Methodist Conference is still denying full faith and fellowship to gay and bisexual individuals. The Conference and most Churches are happy to have these people as members, but they will not allow them to openly serve as ministers or deacons. Often they are not allowed to work in lay positions within the life of the church.

The truth is many United Methodist laymen and laywomen are ahead of the Church's leadership in their realization that homosexual and bisexual people are children of God just like all other people.

But the church is making progress. Recently the Houston Chronicle had an article within it that told of 200 United Methodist Ministers who have made the decision to civilly disobey Church authority and marry same sex partners who request such union. At the same time many individual United Methodist Churches are formally identifying themselves as reconciling churches in which homosexual and bisexual persons are welcome.

I think it important to acknowledge that gay men do not necessarily look for or want churches that espouse a gay gospel (Jesus was gay, some of the apostles and other figures of the Bible were gay). What they want instead is assurance God loves them and has a place for them in the life of churches who claim to preach the gospel of Christ.

This is the world for which I work and for which I look forward. I dream of and actually see in the not too distant future, a world in which being gay is no more of a "thing" than is being black or white or  hispanic. I see a world in the not too distant future in which each of us is accepted or rejected on his personal merits, not his sexuality or his race. I see in the not too distant future a world in which we have the freedom to agree or disagree with each other without anyone raising the issue of sexuality or race.

The increasing number of courageous gay Americans who are choosing to live openly as homosexual men are helping to bring about that future world. Already the benefits of their struggle are taking hold and the world is the beneficiary.

Will there ever be a time when we all accept each other without prejudice of some kind? No. But even the Fundamental Christians know their days of riding rough shod over people they consider to be beyond the love of God are numbered. That is why they are getting more and more shrill in their condemnations of homosexuality. They are scared shitless that the world as they want it to be is doomed. They are loosing the battles more and more often and they will ultimately loose the war.

Through President Johnson's civil rights efforts and the support of many others in government and in other positions of influence, there finally came a tipping point in racial prejudice; and Southern Democrats who had long run for office on racially prejudiced platforms found religion so to speak. Some of these national leaders had even been members of the Ku Klux Klan. As they quickly came to understand the new realities which would no longer tolerate racial prejudices, they quietly and quickly rewrote their personal histories to omit their racially prejudiced personas of the past.

So it shall be with homosexuality and bisexuality. A tipping point is coming when it will no longer be possible for Republican ultra right wing candidates to be elected or reelected to office while rejecting homosexuality as a lifestyle norm. When that tipping point comes; and I think it is coming sooner than many think, these Republican leaders will also rewrite their own personal histories, quietly retract their sexually prejudiced remarks and embrace a new world of sexual tolerance. The tie between these right wing politicians and what remains of the Fundamental Religious Right will be broken.

Guys who are willingly living openly as gay partnered men along with churches like St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Bering United Methodist Church in Houston, Lutheran Churches across the nation and other churches like them are leading the way to the new world.

If you know of reconciling and accepting churches in your area, please email me information about them or put it in a comment to this blog. I'll make a list of these churches for others to see.

Jack Scott


  1. I am probably agnostic and I was raised as a catholic boy. I have no problem at all reading some religious oriented posts. Religion is still a subject that I like to learn about. Also, as homosexuality is condemned by some religious ministers, it is nice to see the other side of the medal and learn how some people conciliate their faith with their sexuality.

    1. JF, thanks for your comment. Your a very good example of why I like to hear from my readers. They often say things I've never thought of or never thought of in the way they describe it.

      That is what you have done. I've been worrying that I was letting my blog get too balled up in religion. I actually hadn't thought of it in the way you expressed it: "as homosexuality is condemned by some religious ministers, it is nice to see the other side of the medal and learn how some people conciliate their faith with their sexuality."

      I can see how that would be helpful to guys. I have several times, posted information from experts to help guys see the other side of the issues, but I just hadn't put two and two together as doing that myself in the way you expressed it.

      Thanks. I appreciate your insight. If you are in the mood sometime to learn more about religion, get in contact with me. I'd be glad to help. There is so much more to religion and faith than one hears from the Catholic Church and from the Fundamental Protestant Churches.

      I am working on my next blog which will have nothing to do with faith or religion. It is a difficult subject so I hope I can meet the challenge to present it in a way that spurs some thought in others.

      Jack Scott

  2. Excellent post as usual, Jack! As I have written to you before, I have gone from United Methodism to atheism.

    Nevertheless, like you, I would be the last to condemn those who seek spirituality for answers. If I were to go back to the United Methodist Church, it would be to a Reconciling United Methodist Congregation. They are gradually springing up all over the country and very accepting of all sexual orientations. For those who are interested, use Google to search "reconciling UMC."

    1. Thanks man. I appreciate your comment. I would like to hear more about the paradigms that now guide your life.

      Also thanks for reminding me of the correct word "reconciling" which I should have used instead of "affirming." I have made t hat correction and other needed edits.

      Jack Scott

  3. Jack,
    I am new to your blog as well as the Yahoo group you moderate. I am also United Methodist, so I was amazed to see what you had written. Not a lot of time to comment today other than to say that there are a lot of people of faith who are looking for new paradigms and I am working to helping to usher that in in the Western Jurisdiction. Funny how connections get made some time.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Glad to have you as a member of the group and as a reader of my blog.

      I'd like to talk with you. Drop me an email at when you get the time.

      Jack Scott


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

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.

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.

Jack Scott