Sunday, May 31, 2015


Did anyone not notice that David Letterman has quit?

The king of late night's celebration of his retirement seemed to go on for weeks, although the extent of his fame, success and influence probably deserved as much.

However, near the end of  Letterman's final show, I was touched when he recognized his wife and son sitting in the audience. And then, with great affection, he said to them:

   "Thank you for being my family...nothing else really matters."

What does really matter?
It is an existential question that no one can answer for us -- we must answer for our self.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


A retired journalist, A. C. Snow, writes a commentary column which appears every Sunday in The News and Observer. This past Sunday (May 24, 2015) he wrote :

   At the beach on Sunday morning, my wife drove up to the nearby...Methodist Church.
   I remained at the condo to watch the ocean, one of God's greatest sermons delivered during his six-day work week...
   Upon returning from church, my wife said...a member of the congregation said that he had gotten up that morning feeling dispirited and sad. But when he arrived at church, a friend presented him with a pie, and he already felt cheered by the thoughtful gesture.
   I started to ask her what kind of pie but hesitated, anticipating her frequent answer  to such trivia questions, "I don't know. But why does it matter?"

                                             WHY DOES IT MATTER?

I believe that is a question that should be asked regarding many religious arguments.

A good example is the subject of baptism.

Most conservative Baptist congregations practice and require what is known as "believer's baptism" by immersion.;  consequently they do not recognize baptism by sprinkling or pouring, much less infant baptism. This has generated centuries of religious arguments, and is doing so again as a Baptist minister has recently performed an infant baptism in his church.

The tragedy to me is that this is such a controversy.

Raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church, and baptized by immersion in 1961, I long ago came to the conclusion that the mode of baptism does not matter to G-d. [Though it can matter to us in very important ways, I don't believe that it matters to G-d whether or not we are even baptized in the first place.]

When I was a Chaplain resident at Virginia Baptist Hospital, I performed a number of infant baptisms; in most cases, a relative newborn that was not going to live, and in one case, a dead baby.
I never felt I was doing anything that affected G-d's care for that new life, but I felt I was sharing G-d's love for that tragic new life, and helping to provide comfort and support to the parents.

I will never forget getting called into the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit one Saturday afternoon.
With no hope for survival, the parents and staff had decided to remove life support from their newborn premie, but the parents requested  baptism be done first. As I performed the rite, I can still recall the site of tears in the eyes of everyone present, including the staff nurses and attending physician. Afterward, I felt that I had been an instrument of grace in the midst of one of life's most tragic circumstances--which mattered to me, and to all those who were present. But did the fact that this baby was baptized before death  matter to G-d? I can't believe that it did. But it mattered to the parents, and that was enough for me.

How can I support my position?

Jesus said, "Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man."
I believe the same is true for baptism.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Oprah's Super Sunday program recently featured Sister Joan Chittister (who I love!)

As they discussed women's role in the church, Sister Joan made the point that Jesus did not have any problem with women, as they were part of his "band."

She noted that women walked with him in the streets--when women were not allowed to do that.

She then proclaimed in no uncertain terms: "Jesus was a feminist!"
{Joan then went on to observe the genesis of the problem:}

"But all of a sudden when the churches get institutionalized, guess who's in charge?"

And Oprah chimed in : "men!"

I believe that exchange points to the main reason why I came to see myself as spiritual but not religious (SBNR.)

By their nature, religions are institutional.
And I acknowledge  that in many ways, institutions are a necessary evil.
But institutions do not have a heart (which is why they can ride roughshod over individuals.)
And to promote order, they develop a structure to identify who's in charge.

Consequently, most religions have some sort of clerical hierarchy, such as the Roman system with the pope, cardinals, bishops, etc.

But spirituality is an individual, personal must take responsibility for yourself, because you are in charge.

As Woody Guthrie observed in his song "Lonesome Valley"  back in 1963, no one can walk the lonesome valley for you--"you gotta walk it by yourself."