Monday, July 30, 2012

It is what it is…and it’s all good…..

It is what it is…and it’s all good…..

Setting the Scene

It is a large auditorium near the center of campus in a building constructed for use by computer scientists. It has no board - white or black - to write upon but it does have screens upon which the powerpoint is sometimes legible. Two sets of double doors in the back offer both entry and exit. A world religions course with nearly 300 students is meeting there. 

The university assigned this room based upon the size of the class. The possible needs of the instructor or the students are rarely among its considerations in such assignments.

I am there as a member of the faculty to observe the first of three candidates for a tenure track line, the first religious studies tenure line the department has been allowed to fill in the 11 years I’ve been there. The candidate is coming from a well known university and will offer a lecture comparing the Virgin Mary with Kwan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, two of my favorite subjects of study and objects of my personal devotion. I am definitely looking forward to this lecture.

Upon arrival, it is revealed that the instructor whose class has been commandeered for the search process has forgotten the candidate was coming. Worse yet, the students have come expecting a test. When they discover that the test won’t be given and that a guest lecture will be offered instead, many get up and stomp out of the auditorium, slamming the doors behind them. The stampede delays the beginning of the lecture by a good five minutes.

Welcome to our university!

The lecture finally begins. The few students who remain are almost to the student completely absorbed with their laptops. Virtually none of the handful still present are actually paying attention. Between the exodus of students and the numerous late arrivals (for an exam, no less), the doors slam so noisily and consistently throughout the entire 50 minute presentation that at the back of the auditorium I can hear very little of it.

Mind you, I’ve never been one to conceal my feelings well. My annoyance clearly showed on my face. After a half hour of scowling, a colleague looks over at me, shrugs and simply says, “It is what it is.”

Gee. That certainly makes everything better.

What is the “it” that simply is?

But what is the “it” that such an axiom would suggest, Tao-like, we simply must accept yin-like to avoid being swept away by an opposing flow of yang?

Is it that we must anticipate that students will feel so empowered as consumers that they will engage in rude, disruptive behaviors without apology when their expectations are not instantly gratified? Is it that we must anticipate most students will feel no obligations to a guest speaker, the university who brings such speakers to campus or to classmates who actually remain to hear these lectures? Must their noisy slamming of classroom doors upon exiting and their blaring into cellphones before they even hit the door simply be accepted?  Is it that the vast majority of those who actually remain cannot be expected to pay attention in this class - or doubtless any of the others - so long as technological distractions are available?

What is it that simply is and must be accepted here?

Perhaps it’s the fact that a course in world religions, the source of some of the world’s greatest tensions today as well as some of the most noble possible resolutions to those conflicts, is being taught in a huge auditorium where the faces of the anonymous occupants of the last few rows of the auditorium are not even discernible from the stage. Discussion is simply out of the question in such situations. Indeed, it’s unlikely the instructor will even know the names of more than a handful of the students. The factory-like setting itself sends any number of messages to its occupants beginning with the notion that college credit is being mass produced here on the cheap with little concern for the individuals or the ideas being taught.

As I sat there steaming, the pounding of heavy metal doors reverberating in the dull aching of my head, I found myself feeling enormous sympathy for the poor candidate we had invited to our campus, struggling to communicate provocative ideas to a disinterested crowd strung out in the far corners of a sprawling room, laptops concealing their faces. At least their disinterest was not immediately obvious.

What a hellacious interview experience that would have been! Speaking of bad karma.

It’s a shame, shame, shame…

But I also found myself feeling a burning sense of shame that day. I was ashamed of this university whose disinterest in the learning of these students and the subject matter to which this candidate and I have devoted our academic careers was displayed with such impunity.  I was ashamed for a college which seeks candidates with Ph.D. in hand, teaching experience and publication history, runs them through an incredibly rigorous search process only to offer the successful candidate less money than many starting public school teachers make today. And I was ashamed for my department whose expert efforts to organize and run a healthy search process had been stymied by mistake and miscalculation by a crucial player at the critical moment.

Most of all, I felt ashamed for the students whose behaviors that day suggested that the sole ranking UCF had attained on Princeton Review’s 2011 rankings – #2, Students (Report They) Never Study –probably well reflects the actual disinterest in becoming educated human beings the majority of them actually hold.

“It is what it is.”

That response rang in my ears as I walked across campus, my heart rapidly beating, the blood pressure singing in my ears. It occurred to me later that the fact “It is what it is” serves as the primary response to such an incredibly shameful performance by the university and its students is precisely the reason why “It is what it is.” Indeed, the only part of the maxim missing from this response was the prime directive contained in its unspoken second line: “And it’s all good.”

I wish I could say that this sad event is the exception to the rule of life in the new academia of corporate imperatives. Sadly, it isn’t. Indeed, it has proven to be but one of many very difficult lessons for me about the new realities of higher education today.

But even slow learners like me, often blinded by persistent hopeful idealism, can finally realize that whatever else one might do as a faculty member at an overpopulated, underfunded state university, engaging in truth telling about the actual reality of that situation is simply not among the possibilities. Violations of the poorly kept family secrets of a university like ours can draw swift, certain and often secretive punitive responses. Shakespeare may have thought that “Honesty is the best policy” but Will never worked for a corporate university. I write these very words with no small amount of apprehension.

Where mediocrity is triumphant

Author Chris Hedges is one of my favorite social critics despite his dark vision of human existence shaped by a background in Calvinist theology and several years of news correspondence from the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. One of his primary targets is the way he sees the tentacles of corporate interests invading virtually every segment of American life, successfully colonizing the lifeworld (as Habermas predicted) to serve its own interests.

In a July 9, 2012 column entitled “How to Think,” Hedges offers this critique of academia in a corporate dominated culture:

 Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster. Members of this intellectual and artistic class, who are usually not welcome in the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is triumphant, serve as prophets. [But, they are often] dismissed, or labeled by the power elites as subversive, because they do not embrace collective self-worship.

For Hedges, the survival of a healthy culture requires thinkers who are not beholden to the interests of “collective self-worship”:

They force us to confront unexamined assumptions, ones that, if not challenged, lead to destruction. They expose the ruling elites as hollow and corrupt. They articulate the senselessness of a system built on the ideology of endless growth, ceaseless exploitation and constant expansion. They warn us about the poison of careerism and the futility of the search for happiness in the accumulation of wealth. They make us face ourselves, from the bitter reality of slavery and Jim Crow to the genocidal slaughter of Native Americans to the repression of working-class movements to the atrocities carried out in imperial wars to the assault on the ecosystem. They make us unsure of our virtue. They challenge the easy clichés we use to describe the nation—the land of the free, the greatest country on earth, the beacon of liberty—to expose our darkness, crimes and ignorance. They offer the possibility of a life of meaning and the capacity for transformation.

As I read Hedge’s column last week, memories of the students noisily exiting that auditorium, slamming doors behind them and blaring into cell phones, with those few who remained peering into laptop screens oblivious to the speaker on the stage all came flooding back. I instantly returned to that painful day as I read these words:

Our corporate culture has effectively severed us from human imagination. Our electronic devices intrude deeper and deeper into spaces that were once reserved for solitude, reflection and privacy. Our airwaves are filled with the tawdry and the absurd. Our systems of education and communication scorn the disciplines that allow us to see. We celebrate prosaic vocational skills and the ridiculous requirements of standardized tests. We have tossed those who think, including many teachers of the humanities, into a wilderness where they cannot find employment, remuneration or a voice. We follow the blind over the cliff. We make war on ourselves.

One would almost think Hedges had been in the room that day.

Hedge’s indictments sting as they find their targets in the mediocrity of factory-process credit facilitation. They deflate the celebration of credentialing through mass produced “vocational skills” in places which once at least pretended to be about higher learning. They lament the loss of "the possibility of a life of meaning and the capacity for transformation" among consumers once called students. And they eulogize the rejection and exile of “those who think…into a wilderness…”

But, as Hedges acknowledges, “Human societies see what they want to see.” For in the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is far too often triumphant these days, human societies find ways of avoiding the elephants in the room with easy adages – “It is what it is and it’s all good…” And prophetic voices, “who are usually not welcome…” because they dare to suggest that the insulting rude behaviors, inhospitality and institutional ineptitude should never be acceptable at any institution of higher learning “are dismissed, or labeled subversives by the power elites because they do not embrace collective self-worship.”

Hedges recognizes only too well that the stakes of such attitudes and behaviors are high indeed:  

If a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices…it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind….

Such attitudes and behaviors also leave those who still have the self-defeating temerity to name the elephants in the room in the face of the unspoken prime directive of silent acquiescence disillusioned, distanced, and, for those who find themselves simply unable to play the game, desperate for alternatives.

So where do the “[a]rtists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades” with any semblance of conscience go when their places in “the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is triumphant” simply become untenable? The words of Jimmy Ruffin (Motown, 1966) say it well:

What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find,
Some kind of peace of mind.
Help me…..

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Coming to Grips with the Beast – II

Coming to Grips with the Beast – II

A familiar tune

For some of us, this phenomenon is a bit easier to see than for others simply because we’ve heard this tune before. As a Southerner, born the year before the Brown v. the Board decision and attending schools that were desegregated in the late 1960s, the argumentation pattern that we hear from the defenders of homophobia today is very, very familiar: it’s not normal, it’s not natural, it’s always been this way, the majority doesn’t want it, and, when desperate enough, the Bible and thus “God himself” (sic) prohibits it.

Of course, none of these arguments are particularly original. They were the source material for most of the arguments against ending slavery. Indeed, the primary place pro-slavery arguments were heard prior to the Civil War was in Protestant pulpits (and not just in Southern churches).

Mark Noll’s fine work, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press (2006), documents the arguments of pro-slavery forces which almost exclusively cited proof-texted scripture, inevitably out of context, as support for their reluctance to end the inhuman practice of human bondage. The gravamen of their resistance to abolition was that they had no choice but to oppose it because the Bible – and thus G-d – appeared to speak in favor of slavery.

Their abolitionist foes employed a much more nuanced approach to scripture and theology which appealed more to principle than to the letter of the text, arguments which pointed out the obvious contradiction between fundamental beliefs such as the Golden Rule and the practice of slavery. Who would really be willing to be treated as a slave?

In many ways this was a classic example of Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning talking past each other, the post-conventional appeal to justice and love of neighbor as oneself (Stage 5) largely escaping the literalist conventional reasoning (Stage 3-4) which pointed to the divine law of the received tradition as the beginning and ending of the discussion: G-d said it, I believe it, that settles it. Indeed, Southerners claimed that the principled approach urged by the abolitionists would actually “lead to the overthrow of the Bible…,” (Noll 94) which then as today serves as the foundation for most Southern Protestant religion - if not its primary idol.

The patterns of argumentation Noll details in his book will be very familiar to any child of the South who lived through the desegregation of public schools. The sense of déjà vu for many of us hearing these same arguments, today made in reference to ending discrimination against gays and lesbians, is overwhelming.

The arguments that one has no choice but to hold onto homophobic understandings because the Bible - and thus G-d himself - commands it ring as hollow in the case of same sex rights questions as they were in the cases of slavery and segregation. Unless we are presuming that G-d somehow shares our homophobia, the notion that G-d would command homophobic behaviors is simply indefensible.

Noll dryly notes that ultimately it would be the Union Army and not the superior Christian theology which would determine the outcome of the question of slavery. Similarly, in the slaying of the beast of homophobia, it appears that it will be the appeal to science and reason of the larger society which eventually ends the current controversy, not the dueling theologians.

Of course, misanthropy is itself a multi-headed hydra and it should not be surprising that the same arguments will be continually recycled to be arrayed against new perceived threats arising out of the prejudices du jour. But when such arguments continue to be made in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this suggests there is something beyond faith - or even reason - at work here.

The loss of the luxury of naîveté

I am currently reading moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s work The Righteous Mind, Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics. Random House. NY. (2012). In it he argues that most moral decision making begins as moral intuition, much as philosopher David Hume posited 400 years ago.  The rationalization process is post-hoc, Haidt says, and dedicated to making what may well be irrational appear to be reasonable.

According to Haidt, while the rare human being may engage in critical reflection sufficient to change their mind, the average human being does so only when they encounter the views of others.  Of course, that human beings tend to be tribal, surrounding themselves with like-minded fellow travelers makes it difficult for the contrary word to works its way in edge-wise.

While I find some of Haidt’s conclusions lacking, I do think he is onto something here. 
Where this explanation begins to come apart, however, is when the element of the electronic media is added to the equation.

It is true that the proliferation of media sources has provided the means to surround oneself with confirmation bias media (think “dittoheads”). All one has to do is visit their elderly parents (or their parents’ doctors’ waiting rooms) where the TV blares All Faux, All the Time.  But even in such intellectual cesspools, it is simply impossible to totally escape the overwhelming weight of disconfirming evidence from science that unmasks homophobia for what it is – a socially constructed prejudice whose holders seek to rationalize it any way they can.

Indeed, it is precisely in the intentional avoidance of any forum where any disconfirming understandings might possibly be heard that the recognition of the problems these understandings pose is evidenced. One may have the nominal ability to say with a modicum of “truthiness” (thanks, Stephen Colbert), “I simply didn’t know” that one is attempting to rationalize a social prejudice which modern science and reasoned argument disconfirms. But at the moment one begins to avoid even hearing the disconfirming evidence, the luxury of naîveté – and thus good faith in such arguments - is simply no longer available to them.

Of course, the very act of rationalization evidences the fact that the understanding or behavior seeking justification has been realized at some level of consciousness as not consistent with reason. One never needs to rationalize thought or conduct which is already reasonable.

And this is precisely where homophobia comes into the picture. Leaving aside  the aspects of psychological pathology, homophobia in very basic terms is  simply an irrational response to the historically consistent but statistically subordinate presence of homosexual feelings, attractions and behaviors among human animals and throughout the animal kingdom. That is what the scientific evidence tells us. How we construct that evidence ultimately says more about us than that which we would construct.

A long history of human sacrifice

Homophobia poses an enormous challenge to the Christian tradition in much the same way its history of legitimating slavery, blessing the conquest of a New World that proved genocidal for Native Americans, burning women as witches and providing the raw materials for an anti-Semitism that would blossom into a Holocaust have challenged it. In every case where the tradition has required involuntary human sacrifices of designated scapegoats, these attitudes and behaviors have run solidly against the prime directive of Christianity: Love your neighbor as yourself. Period. No exceptions. Indeed, it is the impossibility of reconciling that prime directive with this bloody history that has caused many historically to wonder aloud if Christianity is not itself intrinsically pathogenic when it comes to the human race.

In all fairness, I find such judgments simplistic at best. Because while Christian attitudes and behaviors have, indeed, proven pathogenic at various points in human history, the tradition has also provided the raw materials for brave men and women to confront their own faith traditions with their failures and the harm they have caused.  A staple within Christian theology is its call for all its members to reflection, confession, repentance and a resulting action to right those wrongs.  And names like Bartolome de las Casas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa and Oscar Romero remind us that it can be done.

Little wonder, then, it has proven so difficult for the Episcopal Church and its fellow Christian traditions to come to grips with the beast of homophobia. It requires not only the revisiting of the default understandings of Christians from the first century to the present, understandings that were considered to be settled if not self-evident. It also requires the willingness to admit that these understandings have been harmful to others, that they have failed to evidence the love of neighbor as oneself, and thus, that they are…gulp, sinful. 

As a Southerner who came of age during desegregation, I know how difficult that can be. It means recognizing the truth of what appears on its face to be totally counterintuitive, a violation of the common sense “everybody knows.” It means an implicit betrayal of the significant others who taught you those understandings which have been revealed to be sinful and an explicit rejection of the values those understandings reflect. It means realizing that your own attitudes and behaviors have been harmful to others and that the legacy of understandings you have held since childhood will entail a lifetime of trying to bring their lingering impact on your thinking to consciousness.

This is not a path for the spiritually lazy. But I am absolutely convinced it is the part and parcel of the Way of Jesus.

Finding one’s voice to name the evil

Clearly some find the way to follow that path, even among the representatives of the institutional church itself. Here’s an example:

On Trinity Sunday, a preacher in the Diocese of Southeast Florida gave a sermon in which the evil of Sinistralism was assailed from the pulpit. The preacher went on to elaborate on the history of this modern threat to church doctrine which would dare to permit left handed people to use their left hand – the hand designated for toilet functions in Jesus’ day - just as right handed persons - without penalty! The preacher noted that the very word for left in Greek, the language of the Christian scriptures, is sinister.  He noted that rumor has it that up to 10% of all human beings are secretly afflicted with this disease and that even five of the last six US Presidents may have been closet southpaws.

Of course, by the middle of the sermon, the subtext had become clear. And if it weren’t, the preacher blew away all subterfuge with the following: For me, one of the dangers that we face as a church is when selected Bible verses are used out of context to demonize others. The real abomination lies in using the Bible to justify homophobia much in the same way that some still use selected passages from the Bible to justify slavery, racial discrimination, xenophobia and misogynist ideas.”

The preacher? The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, Bishop of the Diocese of Southeast Florida. Having known the good bishop for several decades now, I know this is not where he began on this issue. But I also know this is a man who has been willing to engage others, to listen to views that drew his initial moral intuitions and subsequent rationalizations into question. He has been willing to do the hard work that growth and development always entail. And his courage provides a fine example for his fellow Christians who still wrestle with the beast of homophobia.

What is remarkable about this sermon is that a bishop has been willing to name the evil of homophobia and call it what it is – sin. And I believe it is no accident that it is only in the wake of courageous and forthright sermons like this one that the changes at General Convention could ever have been realized. It is only when one has the courage to name any evil, to call it a sin, to recognize its harmfulness and thus the need to repent of the attitudes and understandings which gave rise to it that any of us can change our ways of being human. 

It can be done. But until that happens, the beast continues to dominate us.

It is precisely because of brave men like Leo Frade that the Episcopal Church has begun to find its way back to being the church its highest self has always called it to be. And while I do not anticipate that this repentance and change of life will soon uniformly mark the attitudes and behaviours of Episcopalians everywhere, this day we are one small step closer to that reality than before.  For that, I offer my most heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Coming to Grips with the Beast – I

Coming to Grips with the Beast – I

The culmination of a 50 year struggle

News from the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church indicates that the church has edged ever closer to coming to grips with the beast of homophobia. In lopsided votes, the Convention approved a trial use of a rite to bless same sex unions and also voted to lift barriers to transgendered persons seeking ordination. While the beast of homophobia is hardly dead, particularly not in most of the dioceses of Florida whose representatives not surprisingly led the resistance to these measures, it has sustained some major, perhaps mortal, wounds within the Episcopal Church.

It has been a long road for the church from its initial study of homosexuality and alcoholism by the House of Bishops in 1962 from which came the magnanimous pronouncement that homosexuality was a mere “standard weakness” and not a mortal sin. In 1976, the General Convention took a giant step in resolving to offer "pastoral care" to those in same sex relationships and to oppose discrimination against the legal rights of gays and lesbians.

But the church itself continued to discriminate when it came to ordination until 1997 when the Convention would agree to ordain openly gay and lesbian priests. It would take another vote at Convention in 2009 to remove the last barrier to ordination of gay bishops to the episcopacy. And the recent convention voted to open the ordination process to transgendered persons.

The approval of a trial use of a same sex blessing rite thus comes at the end of a 50 year bitter struggle within the Episcopal Church over the question of whether its gay and lesbian members would be treated as first class citizens. Throughout its seemingly endless debate during which gay and lesbian Episcopalians have served as the subjects under the microscope of study after study, justice delayed has surely been justice denied for many loyal Episcopalians. And no small number of them could not endure the long wait and departed the ranks of its members.

For the injustice within its own ranks and the harm it has inflicted on its own members, the church must ultimately apologize to its victims to regain any semblance of integrity. But for its willingness to engage and persevere through such an extended struggle and ultimately to choose to do the right thing in the face of centuries of attitudes and practice to the contrary, the church deserves no small amount of credit.

It came by the beast honestly

In all fairness, the church came by the beast of homophobia honestly. Misanthropy has long marked the Christian tradition from its very beginnings. Read the commentaries about women and slavery in the letters attributed (probably erroneously) to Paul. Read the Hebrew Scripture’s rationalization of genocide committed against human beings in places with names like Jericho and Ai supposedly at the command of a deity called YHWH. The Christian tradition is definitely no stranger to misanthropy.

Of course, it’s hardly surprising that tribal, sectarian thinking would mark a tradition which would purport to hold the exclusive path to heaven, that path extended only to those within the circled wagons of the tribe. A generous supply of the damned has always been necessary to those who would construct themselves as the elect if nothing else than for marking tribal boundaries.

Where Christianity has always erred is in the attribution of its socially constructed distinctions to the mind of G-d, a move by which eternal, existential ramifications come to apply to temporally and culturally conditioned distinctions. As Annie Lamott observes, You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."
The Original Sin of Christianity
Homophobia is but one of many heads of the hydra of Christianity’s Original Sin, its dysfunction regarding anything remotely related to the human body, particularly its sexual expressions. Rooted in part in Greek dualism, the subordination of the body to the spirit has, over time developed into a decided antipathy toward the body. From this body-negative starting place, it’s not difficult to see how the experience of the majority - heterosexual feelings and behaviors - came to be seen as normative for everyone resulting in a comparatively benign heterosexism. But it is out of this matrix that a more malignant and virulent homophobia would ultimately arise.

As a common social prejudice, homophobia has tainted the thinking of many, perhaps most, cultures historically including those which produced the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Thus it should not be surprising to see that prejudice reflected in the scriptures those cultures produced. To make the prejudice even more difficult to confront, homophobia has long been the common sense default in western thought, seen as “normal” in both the statistically prevalent sense as well as in the self-serving moralism which arises from majorities who come to see their understandings as normative – and thus imperative - for everyone else.

The uphill struggle within Christianity to finally come to grips with this beast has in large part turned on the willingness of Christians to call this particular form of misanthropy, the primordial sin of failing to love our brothers and sisters as ourselves, what it really is - homophobia. And this has proven the major stumbling block for many Christians, Episcopalians included.

No darkness at all….

The reality is that no one wants to see themselves in less than socially acceptable terms. This becomes particularly pointed when one adds the values of purity and perfection to the self-constructions of most Christians.

The Episcopal hymn “Child of the Light” illustrates this well: “I want to walk like a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus…In him there is no darkness at all…” The goal of imitating one in whom “there is no darkness of all” is particularly trying for imperfect human beings. It almost inevitably means that the contents of one’s shadow must be repressed into the unconscious. From there the shadow is readily projected onto socially powerless targets who become the designated scapegoats.

Personas constructed on the terms of this faith tradition demand that the good Christian be seen as unconditionally loving, respecting of the image of G-d on every human face. But such demands are ultimately irreconcilable with the base, common social prejudices of the surrounding culture and therefore cannot be allowed to come to consciousness.

Thus it becomes very difficult to even recognize the operation of such prejudices in one’s worldview, much less to confront them and confess them as sins. Little wonder many good Christian voters in California gave survey takers the expected halo effect response of opposing the deeply homophobic Proposition 8 – no one wants to out themselves as homophobes - only to go into the inner sanctum of the voting booth to cast ballots arising from their darkest prejudices.


The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Like an old shoe

Like an old shoe

Chaplain to the margins

This past Sunday, I attended church at St. Richard’s parish, Winter Park. In itself, that’s not terribly remarkable. But what was unusual about it was the fact it was the third Sunday in a row I’d been in the pews, something that had not happened since I last served the church in an official capacity as assistant chaplain at the Chapel of the Resurrection at FSU during my doctoral work days.

To put this into persepctive, I moved to Orlando from Tallahassee in 1997. Over the past 15 years I have occasionally attended church, almost always at St. Richard’s, and have from time to time actually officiated at services in a handful of parishes across the dioceses of Central and Southwest Florida, generally under the auspices of the Franciscan Third Order. More often, I have led services at gravesides, backyards, dining room tables and at altars of churches outside ECUSA. When I was ordained I was told I was going to serve those at the margins of the church. I simply had no idea how far those margins stretched.

Watching others do what I was ordained to do

I’m pretty clear on why I’ve been essentially a no-show at church here in Central Florida on any kind of regular basis. This has long been a hostile diocese to LBGTQ people, leading the retrenchment efforts within the national church against guaranteeing that all Episcopalians have equal access to all the sacraments including ordination and marriage. While St. Richard’s has long been a don’t-ask-don’t-tell exception to that institutional homophobia, it has largely done so in terms of silent tolerance.

What that has meant for this priest is being confined to the pews and watching others officiate services, carrying out the duties I was ordained to do as well but knowing that I could never live into that ordination here. From the pew side, these services are a bittersweet experience, a repeated dagger to the heart of rejection and judgment on the one hand, the warm familiarity of an old shoe on the other. It’s a bit like having a traditional Christmas dinner with one’s abusive family that one still loves despite the history of abuse. Most of the time, it’s just been too much to handle. As a result, my spot in the pew has remained cold most of the time.  

Coming back to church on even a semi-regular basis signals that some of the deep hurts this diocese has inflicted upon me and so many other people have largely scarred over. That has been accomplished largely by avoiding the scene of the crime.  While I hold fond memories of my days at St. Luke’s Cathedral and its once vibrant downtown ministry, I also know that place and that community no longer exist. Perhaps I have finally worked through my grieving over that loss even as the Ghosts of Cathedrals Past prevent me from returning to its ornate halls, the chaplaincy to the well-to-do now guarded by iron fences and locked gates. Like the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, once one has lost the luxury of naîveté, one’s innocent childhood is no longer available to them, the return barred by angels with flaming swords guarding its gates. 

My return to the pews also signals that I have to a large degree come to grips with the disappointment and finally the death of the many dreams held out by life in seminary and my experiences in the magical parish of St. Phillips, San Jose, CA. In those days it seemed the Christian tradition was emerging from its encrusted shell of power, prejudice and an addiction to comfort, promising to offer the world what it needed – a way to love our neighbors as ourselves, to embrace the outcast, to offer ordinary people the tools they needed for a meaningful life here and now with the hope of the presence of G-d in the hereafter. In short, it seemed to offer a means of nothing less than actually transforming the world. Wrapped in the symbolic universe of powerful music, lyrical liturgies and centuries of art and intentionally engaging the ethical wrestling with the many concerns of the world around us, the Episcopal Church offered a way of being fully human like none other I had encountered. I left seminary hopeful, excited about living in the world in a new way.

I find myself wistfully smiling as I write these words. That life seems like a long time ago in a place far removed from here. Things were a lot clearer then. There have been a lot of disappointments and even more disillusionment between that place and here.

Thus I find it a little odd as I realized last Sunday that I was in church for the third straight Sunday for the first time in 15 years. I noted that to the priest on the way out the door and she asked, “So, how does it feel?” I told her it felt pretty good. And it does. Sort of. Why I am not sure though I have some ideas about it.

Actually, he brings me

The immediate occasion for my attendance is at some level a relatively minor act of compassion. My long time friend Charles, legally blind, evicted from public housing and only recently recovered from being run over by a car in middle of the busy highway on which he now lives, wanted to attend church and asked if I’d take him. It’s a bit of a pain to drive up there to get him and take him home afterward, but it also insures that I go to church as well. Perhaps it’s Charles who’s doing me the favor.

Charles will go just about anywhere I am willing to take him, in part just to get out of the house, but his presence with me in churches has long been a litmus test for the communities I have visited with him. He tends to wear old, worn out clothing and sometimes is not the most attentive to personal hygiene. If one didn’t know better, it’d be easy to conclude he was homeless. And given his nearly complete reliance on others at this point in his life, he effectively is. So how people respond to Charles in the churches we visit tells me volumes about them, their character and their religions. It also tells me whether I ever want to go back.

The folks at St. Richards are politely tolerant if nothing else. And their response to Charles has been guardedly welcoming. I find it amusing that many of them signal to me that they see my bringing Charles as some kind of major kindness. An old friend from Cathedral days recently said to me, “Thank you for bringing him.” Without thinking I responded, “Actually, he brings me.” And, at least for the past three Sundays, that has been partially true.

I hear my mother’s voice singing

But there’s more to it than that. In my conversation with the energetic and engaging rector who is a fellow alumna of my seminar in Berkeley, we talked a lot about the value of community. I find my life in a time of upheaval these days. I’m not sure what I am called to be and do at this point in my life as my sixth decade comes to an end. I also find the communities of which I have been a part seem to be disintegrating before my eyes, often painfully and angrily. I find myself craving grounding, relationship, human contact. And, I’m beginning to feel that at St. Richards if ever so tentatively.

I find my throat clutching and my eyes tearing up as I sing old, familiar hymns that date back to my now 38 years of being an Episcopalian, some going back even further to my childhood as a Methodist. (The Wesleys were faithful Anglicans after all). I sometimes hear my mother’s voice as we sing old Wesleyan hymns. And I feel a wave of sad nostalgia sweep over me as the choir sings anthems whose bass line I once sang in the choir of a Cathedral whose intentionally welcoming urban community has long since gone away.

Interestingly, I also find myself doing a lot less wrestling with the liturgy, the lessons and the sermons than I have in more recent years. I have come to enjoy the familiarity of the liturgy even as I can only make sense of it in symbolic terms and awareness of its historical construction. While I have long since realized that atonement theology and the Christology of its pronouncements were almost completely meaningless to me, I continue to find the life and example of Jesus as the revelation of G_d to be worth affirming. And I do believe that it is possible to hope for a life after death with G-d (in the words of the Canadian United Church affirmation we use at Integrity eucharists).

Compassion for the spiritual needs of others

I have also come to be more tolerant of the spiritual needs of others around me that are expressed in common liturgical worship. I know that many feel a need for the lessons from the lectionary to be seen as somehow “the word of God” even as I recognize that while G-d’s voice may be in those lessons, it’s one of many voices present in scripture, along with its writers, editors and transmitters historically. While I never liked the response “Here ends the reading” in my more Anglo-Catholic days, I find in my old age that it really is more honest than responding with “the word of the Lord.”

I also know that rehearsing the details of the bargain in the Creed that many make each week– if one buys into the Trinitarian theology package complete with its atonement construct one gets one free pass directly into Heaven – is important for them. Never underestimate the ability of existential anxiety to motivate people. And what could be more existentially anxiety producing than fear that this life is the only one human beings get or, worse, that an afterlife of suffering is possible if one doesn’t get the formula right here and now?

While notions of arbitrary deities who require agreement with particular human constructions of religion as a condition of an artificial existential security – much less an afterlife -  are probably not worthy of serious consideration by thoughtful believers, fear can produce an awful lot of results not otherwise indicated. One of the many gifts my Buddhist teacher in San Jose gave me was the realization that in most cases where judgment is our first instinct, compassion is more likely the appropriate response. “We all know what it feels like to suffer,” she said, “which is why we should recognize the suffering in the other with our compassion, not our judgment.”

Finally, I recognize the deep need almost all of us feel for affirmation if not social respectability. Never underestimate the desire for comfort as a motivation for human behavior. And few institutions are more prone to focus on comfort than organized religion. Indeed, it is the comfort of having a place to belong that at least in part has brought me back to the pews at St. Richards.

Which is why the assertion that the rector at St. Richard’s makes each week is refreshing – “We’re here to change our lives and to change our world,” adding puckishly, “That’s all.” I’ve long since come to believe that a religion which does not have the potential to transform individual lives and the world in which we live is not a faith worth practicing. How that happens is quite another story. And, frankly, while St. Richard’s is not a particularly dynamic parish in this sense, it is clearly a stark contrast to the parishes which dominate this diocese who weekly pound their parishioners with moralistic, fear-driven drivel and the smug, self-righteous prayer of the Pharisee giving thanks that G-d has not made them like other men.

Over the past couple of years I’ve taught a couple of adult Sunday School classes at the parish and volunteered to lead a couple of rounds of Stations of the Cross this past Lent. I’ve also agreed to preach on the Feast of St. Francis this fall. There are some who would like to see me become more active in parish life while I sense there are others who are at best tentative about the presence of a well-educated, outspoken and openly gay priest who is legally married to his husband of 38 years. Such figures tend to be lightning rods.

A new breeze is blowing?

Frankly, I don’t see this diocese returning to its former tolerance for gay priests anytime soon. The new bishop is his own man and will not be guided by the mean-spirited moralism of his predecessor who destroyed the Cathedral community I once loved and served. His deployment officer recently was quoted as saying “A new breeze is blowing through this diocese.” Time will tell what that means.

In the meantime, I am not holding my breath that I’ll be licensed to function here. Indeed, I’m not sure I even want that. I do know that my intuition was on target when I realized in seminary that I never wanted to run a parish myself. I also know that the idealistic alternative vision I entertained in seminary of being an engaged worker priest may have been optimistic about my energies and my time management skills.

But I also know that my life is changing in ways I never thought possible. I am more tolerant of beliefs and practices I once found antithetical to true religion (always defined, of course, on my own terms). I am more desirous of community and the occasional opportunity to serve that community than I have been in the past. And I find that my arm’s length reengagement of the church after a 15 year self-imposed exile might actually provide a workable relationship. Perhaps this is a good example of the rabbinical joke, “If you want to make G-d laugh, tell G-d your plans. If you want to make G-d really laugh, tell G-d G-d’s plans.”

One final thought. It does not hurt the chances that I might reengage the Episcopal Church in a more substantial manner that it has in its last two General Conventions accomplished things I never thought possible. Last convention it apologized to LBGTQ people for the pain it had caused them. This convention it approved a trial use of same-sex blessings and removed discrimination against transgendered persons in the ordination track. It has also expanded its Lesser Feasts and Fasts to include a wide range of human exemplars worthy of our reverence and remembrance. Amazing.

This sounds like the Episcopal Church I thought I had joined some 38 years ago – marked by a beautiful, lyrical and mystical worship, devoted to community both within and without its walls and dedicated to justice in the world around us. That is the church I knew as a child I wished to join and which I once loved deeply and devotedly. That is the church I once vowed to serve as priest. And perhaps it is a church I will re-embrace and perhaps actually be able to serve once again. Time will tell.


Post Scriptum Unus – I celebrated the 17th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood on June 22, the Feast of Saint Thomas More, patron saint of attorneys and college professors, and, not coincidentally, also the Summer Solstice in honor of my Celtic heritage. It has been an interesting 17 years as the chaplain to the far flung margins. As I reflected on my nearly two decades of priesthood on the anniversary of my ordination, it occurred to me that I actually like being a priest. I have never been a conventional priest, confusing middle class mores with the concerns of the divine. And I have never felt the need to be a defender of the institution. Indeed, I see the failure to be critically aware of its shortcomings and humbly willing to confront them honestly as a greater liability to the tradition than any perceived threat from the outside.

Though I have been prevented from serving the church in any systematic fashion since my return to Central Florida, I remain grateful for everything the Episcopal Church has given me over the past nearly four decades. And even as I sit in the pew watching others do what I, too, was ordained to do but prevented from doing so by the ongoing legacy of homophobia within the Christian tradition, I remain grateful to the bishop who took a chance on me and ordained me priest 17 years ago. May you rest in peace, Richard Schimpfky.


Post-Scriptum Secondus – As Mark Twain’s famous quip that rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated, I find myself sheepishly smiling as I put the finishing touches on this blog entry on Sunday four, having overslept this morning after a long weekend with my Dad and two nephews and thus absent from my pew at St. Richards.

Next week…..


The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D. 
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status) 
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA) 
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law 
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. 
 Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Angry Champion

An Angry Champion

“Imagination…  its limits are only those of the mind itself.”  
“Every man can and must search for his own dignity.”Rod Serling

Please Understand Me, the blog devoted to information about the Kiersey Temperament sorter, recently ran a short essay on one of my all-time heroes, Rod Serling. Best known for his eerie black and white episodes of The Twilight Zone on 1960s television, Serling had a long creative life marked by friction with the powers that be both within television and the corporate boardrooms without which even then sought to control America’s communication systems.

Scary, Troubling Stuff

I had always loved the Twilight Zone as a kid. In all honesty, some of those episodes scared the bejezus out of me. I remember in particular the episode about the howling man, locked in a prison cell in a monastery in Europe, proclaiming his misery and the cruelty of his incarceration. The intimidating abbot of the monastery warned the visiting business man from America that this was a mere ruse, that the pitiful figure in the cell was actually Lucifer, the devil himself, and under no circumstances should he open the door of the cell.

Predictably, the American is moved by the protestations of the prisoner and ultimately opens the cell to allow for his escape. As the prisoner moves down the hallway to the open doorway to a balcony at its end, his appearance changes. The horns appear, the scepter comes to his hand, his cape unfurls. All the while the businessman is forced into a supplicant posture on the floor by an unseen force. By the time the now-transformed howling man reaches the window, Lucifer is ready to fly off into the night sky. Neither he nor the frightened eight year old boy from rural Central Florida watching that show would sleep that night. I also knew by the end of the episode that, like the well-intentioned businessman, I would have foolishly let the howling man out as well. My Dad was right: good intentions do on occasion pave the road to Hell, sometimes quite literally.

By the time I had reached junior high, it had become clear to me that the Twilight Zone was not just about cheap frights. Serling’s pieces inevitably nudged me into consciousness, into recognizing that there was something deeper at work in each of these episodes. I found myself wondering what question he was really posing in each episode. What was the moral lesson I was not picking up on? What aspects of life in 1960s America was Serling prompting his viewers to consider, perhaps in ways we’d never thought about them before?

Of course, I had no way of putting into words the fact that I was also experiencing a boyhood crush on this clean cut, chain smoking, deep throated and extremely serious man whose dark features were accentuated by his inevitable dark suit, white shirt and tie. At that point in my life, I had no idea what any of those feelings even meant. I just knew that Serling titillated me in just about every way possible. And I also knew that at the end of each half hour show, I always needed some time alone to process what I’d just seen to try to make sense out of it.

A Troubled, Angry Young Man

What I did not know then was that Serling was widely seen as a trouble maker in both the New York of his young adulthood as well as the Hollywood of his exile. Serling had just come home from helping free the Philippines from the Japanese invaders in WWII. He arrived in an America brimming with unspoken tensions from segregation to the fascist-like censorship and repression of the McCarthy era  to the (Mutually Assured Destruction) MADness of the Cold War. He quickly became intent upon forcing Americans to look at things they did not want to see – the depravity of the recently concluded Holocaust, the fears of a coming computer age in which our technology would quickly outpace our ethics and the shallowness of an exploding suburban life which was touted as the American Dream. As Serling said, “I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest.”  

Not surprisingly, Serling’s energy for confrontation with America’s conscience made him a lightning rod in a television industry just coming into its own after the war. “Corporate sponsors quickly became squeamish about his penchant for the unorthodox and the unnerving. While Serling had a lot to say, they wanted to edit it or censor certain things, for they were paying for it. They didn’t want anyone to say anything that might offend, and lose the audience, for sponsors and advertisers want eyeballs for their brands and products: not thoughtful and controversial explorations of the human mind and condition.”  (“An Angry Champion,”

Serling had come to be known as television’s “Angry Young Man” even as his television productions on first Playhouse live television theater and later his serial recorded Twilight Zone episodes shot to the top of American viewer ratings.

Tired of seeing his scripts butchered in manners that removed any political statements, ethnic identities, and even the Chrysler Building being removed from a script sponsored by Ford, the frustrated, angered Serling decided that the only way to avoid such artistic interference was to create his own show.

In an interview with Mike Wallace, Serling confessed, “I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to have to battle sponsors and agencies. I don’t want to have to push for something that I want and have to settle for second best. I don’t want to have to compromise all the time, which in essence is what a television writer does if he wants to put on controversial themes.”Wikipedia

It is tempting to see figures like Serling as just being angry young men. In such simplistic visions, the anger is inevitably seen as the problem of the one who is angry. That allows the outsider to ascribe the problem entirely to the angry man without any consideration of why the man might be angry. It’s also a particularly effective way of avoiding any responsibility for the aspects of the situation that gave rise to the anger, particularly if one happens to be complicit in the situation.

This aspect of Serling’s embattled life reminds me of the way that women who had become conscienticized during the consciousness raising days of the early women’s liberation movement were routinely dismissed as “angry feminists” as if that somehow explained everything. I often ask my students when we study this period  how one is supposed to respond when they come to realize the extent to which they have been treated as less than human and the degree to which their own acquiescence to - if not willing participation in - that dehumanization permitted that indignity to continue?  It’s a bit like the sadistic parent who spanks their child and then shrieks, “Now, don’t cry or I’ll really give you something to cry about!”

We become the grave diggers

But Serling had a good reason for being angry. Having seen some of the worst aspects of human behavior during WWII and coming home to an America in denial about any number of social tensions preparing to explode one decade later, Serling was angry about America’s dedication to playing an ill-timed game of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Serling feared that the teachable moment about the recent world war with its machine-like dispatch of 12 million souls in a Holocaust and its safely distanced off-site detonation of two atomic blasts with their mass slaughter of 125,000 souls could be lost. He said,

All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes -all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard, into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the grave diggers.” 

It was an anger born less out of a judgment of human shortcomings than a desire to actively confront those shortcomings, to make America the place of which its own ideals of liberty and justice for all spoke. It was an anger born out of a love for humanity beginning at home but ultimately stretching to include the whole world. His friend, the late Gene Roddenberry put it well: “No one could know Serling, or view or read his work, without recognizing his deep affection for humanity … and his determination to enlarge our horizons by giving us a better understanding of ourselves.” And Serling was clear that it was precisely the combination of forcing ourselves to look at our most desperate problems with a sense of responsibility for confronting our social ills that offered a way to insure that human societies never again become their own grave diggers.

The dilemma of the Idealist Champion

The  Aha! moment in reading the Serling article for me came with the revelation that we shared the same MBTI temperament, ENFP (Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) and Keirsey type, Idealist Champion. Here is some of the description from the Keirsey site:

Like the other Idealists, Champions are rather rare, say three or four percent of the population, but even more than the others they consider intense emotional experiences as being vital to a full life. Champions have a wide range and variety of emotions, and a great passion for novelty. They see life as an exciting drama, pregnant with possibilities for both good and evil, and they want to experience all the meaningful events and fascinating people in the world. The most outgoing of the Idealists, Champions often can't wait to tell others of their extraordinary experiences… Champions often speak (or write) in the hope of revealing some truth about human experience, or of motivating others with their powerful convictions. (N.B. -Perhaps like this blog and my Facebook site?) Their strong drive to speak out on issues and events, along with their boundless enthusiasm and natural talent with language, makes them the most vivacious and inspiring of all the types. (N.B. – It also makes them social lightning rods)

Fiercely individualistic, Champions strive toward a kind of personal authenticity…At the same time, Champions have outstanding intuitive powers and can tell what is going on inside of others, reading hidden emotions and giving special significance to words or actions. In fact, Champions are constantly scanning the social environment, and no intriguing character or silent motive is likely to escape their attention. Far more than the other Idealists, Champions are keen and probing observers of the people around them, and are capable of intense concentration on another individual. Their attention is rarely passive or casual. On the contrary, Champions tend to be extra sensitive and alert, always ready for emergencies, always on the lookout for what's possible.

Champions are good with people and usually have a wide range of personal relationships... Champions are positive, exuberant people, and often their confidence in the goodness of life and of human nature makes good things happen. (emphases and parentheticals mine)

Here lies the dilemma of the Idealist Champion. On the one hand, Champions want to save the world. Literally. All of it, starting with the plight of the most vulnerable. Indeed, we feel we have no other choice. To do that, Champions, whose big picture iNtuition is dominant, MUST confront the ills of the world with little or no anesthesia. We feel driven to continually call our fellow human beings to their own highest potential, bringing the reality of our common settlement for mediocrity with all of its injustices into stark contrast with the ideals we say we believe and the potential for humane societies those ideals promise. In short, we must reveal the very real Twilight Zone existing all around us all the time that we so readily see and which the world has so studiously ignored. And we must not let people close their eyes when we do.

On the other hand, Champions are also Feelers. We want people to like us. We crave relationship. And we want to be both recognized and valued for our hard work and taken seriously when we complete that work, no matter how disturbing it might be. We want what rarely occurs - to be simultaneously welcomed by those whose dreams we have disturbed– something we do with little effort and much skill - and affirmed by those from whom we have taken away the last vestiges of the luxury of naîveté they had previously enjoyed. Little wonder we frequently find ourselves conflicted, confused and disappointed.

While I hardly place my own life on the same scale as the all-too-brief life of Serling, (he died at 51), his biography does provide no small amount of affirmation if not inspiration. If I take nothing else away from this revealing essay on Rod Serling, it is the comfort of knowing there are other Champion Idealists in the world who have known the same kind of rejection, sometimes even loathing and deep disillusionment, that I have at times experienced in my own life. While that makes the predictable responses from a world the Champion would selflessly and often sacrificially serve no less painful, it does make that often solitary path seem a bit less lonely.

Perhaps most importantly, Serling’s history reveals something essential to those of us among this tiny fraction of human beings who would call humanity to its highest potentials as a people: the anger we often exhibit is rarely borne out of control issues, out of self-serving, out of fearful insecurities or the mere desires to have our own way. The anger is rarely just about ourselves, even in the inevitability of our darkest moments of despair and cynicism. We aren’t just angry men and women. And while it’s an easy out to simply dismiss us as such, it’s also dishonest and simplistic.

The anger that one sees in the Idealist Champion more likely arises from the broken hearts of those who find the avoidable suffering of any living being intolerable. It erupts unbidden from the vision of a human potential which is unlimited when consciously and intentionally pursued but frequently unrealized, unsought and avoided. Most of all, it springs from an almost endless hopefulness about humanity that, while frequently disappointed, is never fully extinguished.   

The world rarely values its Idealist Champions but it always needs them, if for no other reason than to periodically remind us, in the wisdom of Rod Serling,  that “Every man can and must search for his own dignity” and that when it comes to “imagination…  its limits are only those of the mind itself.”  

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++