For Hamlet, as for many young people, “that is the question.” In my sixties, I experience it more as a simple declaratory sentence.
I am more passionate than ever. But the often conflicting and tumultuous passions of my youth had an either-or, sometimes judgmental edge to them, rather than a both-and, welcoming quality. Choices had to be made. Nothing was worse than fence-sitting or being middle of the road, or, in the case of the church of Laodicea in Revelation, being lukewarm.
Older, presenting to church audiences a progressive understanding of sexuality, gender, and also spirituality as broad spectrums of identity and experience, I sometimes pointed to my slacks, saying, “I wish we had the same tolerance for ambiguity that my dry cleaner has. Every time I get these pants back, the crease line is in a different place.”
The lines are always changing. Boundaries too. And our places along those spectrums, lines, and boundaries. As an old hymn about God’s commonwealth declares:
New occasions teach new duties,Time makes ancient good uncouth;They must upward still and onward,Who would keep abreast of truth.
Many of us had our Christianity questioned by those who wouldn’t let go of their certainties: There is “One Way”: to read the Bible, to follow Jesus, to be saved. There is one Christian lifestyle. You can’t be Christian and (fill in the blank: gay, agnostic, divorced, use contraceptives, etc.).
Orthodoxy literally means “straight or right opinion,” and I like to joke that I can’t even think straight. My “fundamentals” of faith would be very different from those who claim a fundamentalist identity. So too my understanding of “evangelical.” I think Jesus would differ from them as well.
We often feel pressure to make choices that conform to those of peers, parents, partners, or preachers. We may question our very lives: “To be or not to be?”
We have “not been” most of eternity. Best to make the best of being now. In the words of poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
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