Sunday, August 19, 2007

postal scrotum: chickens home to roost

More thinking out loud...

My friend Nathan sent me a very thoughtful email, the complete text of which I won't reproduce here. I did, however, want to slap this part up, which refers to one risk during my trans-America walk:

A couple of cautions: One thing I've been thinking is that if you try entering any mosques, and if any of them happen to see certain pictures on your blog, they might kill you! I'm only half-joking. Alternatively, if you got publicity, and if Hairy Chasms was considered offensive by the Presbyterian church you're a member of, and you were put on trial for heresy or something, would that be ok? The more publicity and people you have following your trip, the more likely these things become.

The prospect of a not-so-friendly reception is a legitimate concern, and it might require a measure of political skill to make some people understand how it's possible for a person to be equally comfortable mucking around in both the sacred and the profane ("profane" as in "obscene," not Mircea Eliade's sense of "ordinary").

But the risk that who I am and what I'm doing might offend people is there even if I close this blog, eliminate all trace of its existence on Google, and simply do my walk. Some folks don't want anything to do with this interreligious nonsense, and they'll have an attitude when they meet me, blog or not. I knew one woman, an evangelical/charismatic Christian, who wrote me that she'd never set foot in a Buddhist temple because "my Spirit [sic] wouldn't allow it." I expect I'll encounter plenty of folks like that along the way. That's part of the journey.

Because I've published a book that includes plenty of critique of Christianity (a pastor friend of mine wrote in to tell me he found some passages "smug"), I have already "left a trail," so to speak. My opinions are out there and can't be recalled. It's possible that someone, somewhere along the journey, will confront me about what I've written. That's fine; I look forward to such an exchange.

But I'm not actively seeking a series of fights-- God, no. While there's nothing inherently wrong with taking a position and having one's own thoughts, the best strategy is likely one that Nathan suggests in his email: do the walk with the intention of being a listener, a suppliant, a person looking for wisdom and knowledge, i.e., not a person who goes from place to place pointing out religious inconsistencies and such. Actually, that's been my intent all along-- to be an asker, not a teller.

I doubt my own church will "put me on trial for heresy," though I'd have to review the PCUSA's Book of Order, which contains a large section on disciplinary measures. The worst that can happen is a sort of defrocking, the stripping away of my status as elder. That wouldn't be tragic: I've been thinking for years that I'm not a very good elder, and never have been.

More thoughts as they come to me. Now, it's laundry time, and then I'm back in the office yet again. Hooray!



Anonymous said...

Idea for naming the walk:

"The Walk of Pain: Getting My Butt Kicked Across America, One Religious Fanatic at a Time"

It is a bit unwieldy, but it makes me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin!

I was actually thinking that the charge of heresy, if proven, might lead to defrocking. Glad you're not fazed, though!