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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Leading with my chin

Regular readers of this blog (or probably only obsessed ones) will note that I have modified the language of my last two posts somewhat. I removed personal references, removed language that was, shall we say, rather tart, and generally "took it down a notch" in tone. By the age of 53, I should probably have the maturity, or at least the grace, not to have to be schooled toward this, but I was, by a helpful, kind, and well-intentioned colleague. And of course they were right to do so.

I have been noticing lately that in matters theological, I tend to "lead with my chin".

This of course, refers to something you should NOT do in boxing, for if you do, you tend to get hit. This is true not just of my blogs but of my engagement in class discussion as well. Basically, I am the lone Unitarian in a room full of Trinitarians, and as I've said before in this blog, the Biblio-centric/Christo-centric focus I find challenging.

And this challenge takes two forms. First, I find it challenging not to want to defend my corner, and so I set about challenging the (to me) unexamined assumptions of religion based on faith untempered by rational questioning. Like most Unitarians, I find the doctrine of the trinity absurd and un-necessary, and unexamined ideas about God, unworthy. It's the teacher in me. So, I have a tendency to pull out a samurai sword and slice-and-dice in the name of clarity and orderly thinking.

Second, and more importantly, I feel challenged because I haven't made my mind up about God, and I'm not sure I want to. Like many of my Trinitarian colleagues, I have a SENSE of a loving, awesome intelligence subtly pervading all of creation, unknowable but there and capable of surprising you. But I also know that that sense could just be me, imagining or projecting this. I seem cursed (or blest?) with the ability and desire to hold both of these completely contradictory notions at the same time, forever in tension. It's like holding two magnets of opposite polarities together. They slip and slide and will not stick together, and never will.

And this tension produces a lot of heat. I get equally infuriated by the credulous theist, and by the smug, reflexive atheist. So, to extend the pugilist metaphor, I am in a fight on two fronts, and we all know how well that usually works out. Ask Hitler or Napoleon.

It's wearing, but that's no reason to quit. Both are right. Both are wrong. This is what I truly feel. And the questions are too important to just forget it and join one side or the other for the sake of ease or fellowship.

However, this doesn't mean I have to 'lead with my chin', picking fights with everybody. After all, what's the worst that could happen if I just shut up? What am I, some sort of caped crusader? Isn't it more important for everybody to just get along? Isn't peace more important than truth (or at least, avoiding error)?

So my mission now is to see if I can not let the heat drive me from the kitchen. I mean, this theological study is a fascinating ride, in the company of good, committed, curious people. Because in the end, this heat-creating tension of opposites is MY problem, not theirs. It's not that I mind taking hits. I'm a big boy, and I can take it. But by doing so, I make them the aggressor, and nothing could be further from the truth or more unjust.

So maybe I'll just sit with it for a while. And listen. And keep my chin tucked....

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