Controversy has always been my most feared opponent. I hate it with a fiery passion because being controversial often leads one down a path toward confrontation, another thing I avoid at most possible costs. But, though peace can be a wonderful thing, constant avoidance is exhausting. What's more, most people never get a chance to see who I really am and to know what I really think. So, throwing a lot of caution to the wind, I'm going to make myself vulnerable here and write about three things that will surprise some of my readers.
Let's start with what will probably seem least surprising to most of you. Over the past few years, especially my time here at Princeton, I've been forced to consider what my next step in life should be. For many years, I was convinced that one day I would be a professor. The field of study I was interested in changed, but the end goal remained the same: Ph.D. and professorship. This summer, however, I decided to begin the process of ordination in the PCUSA. It's a step I never expected to take. I never fought it in the sense that some of my friends fought their callings to ministry, I just never really considered it. First Pres of Salem did a number on me, though. Up until my arrival there, almost all of the people in my life simply supported my opinion that I was not cut out for full time ministry. But, week after week in Salem, dedicated members of that congregation, including several retired ministers, people who had no idea what my vocational goals were, constantly affirmed my gifts for ministry. Scary step, yes, but I think I need to take the wisdom of these encouragers seriously. Also, active participation in worship from week to week was something I enjoyed more deeply than I ever expected. When we had communion, and I couldn't even serve the bread, I felt profoundly sad. Though I still wonder whether ordination should really be necessary to participate in that way, it is right now, so I'm going to work with the system.
I still can't picture myself in parish ministry, but I suppose that could change in the next few years as I walk through the steps of the ordination process. My supervisor in Salem actually suggested becoming a campus chaplain, a position that would allow me to combine my love of academia with my desire to work with folks face-to-face. I would still love to get my Ph.D., and expect I will sometime in the not-too-distant future, but studying for and taking the GRE, researching and applying to programs, and learning German won't all fit on top of the million other things I have to do this year. Instead, I'm going to take a few years off from school and get a job in a church, to gain some experience and remain engaged in "professional" ministry, and (possibly) a second job, which will help me pay the bills.
Moving on to my second item... one that will probably seem least controversial to some and most irritating to others: I'm going to vote for Barack Obama. Perhaps I have taken a little sip of the kool-aid on this, but let me tell you, it tastes good. I almost wrote "pretty good," but that would be a serious understatement. Most of my years of political awareness have been spent in knee-jerk support of conservative candidates because that's what you do if you're from my city, my church, my college, but I'm done with their pragmatism. I don't actually think that Barack is just a starry-eyed optimist, but if he is, so what? My life could do with a little more optimism. Believe me, I can supply all the pessimism for myself and three other people. Keep the pragmatists in the trenches getting things done, but give me a leader who can dream.
I'm not supposed to say this, but I'm okay with having higher taxes if it means children will get health care or that we will wean ourselves from oil so that our earth can begin to heal or that students who come after me won't have to go into serious debt to finance their education. Sure, I don't really want to surrender half of my salaray, but I can live in a smaller house with less stuff if it means that a family down on their luck won't have to live on the street.
Finally, and with little explanation because that will come later in it's own special post, I think it's okay to be gay; not a sin or a problem. I don't love homosexuals despite their "lifestyle," I love every part of them and encourage them to make wise and healthy decisions, just as I would a heterosexual person. There is a lot of thought behind this statement, but I'll lay that out more fully in a forthcoming post. Before that, I'll be posting a paper I wrote this summer concerning my view of biblical authority, which will probably help clarify why my thinking has turned in this direction. But, for now, I leave you with enough to chew on for a few days.