“Rage against the dying of the light?” or “Let go?”

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Soon bears us all away;
We fly forgotten, as a dream
Fades at the opening day.
-Issac Watts, 1719; alt

It used to annoy me when someone use “passed away” for “died.” I am glad to say I have come to see that everyone can, and maybe should, use any euphemism that helps in grief.

Changing my mind may have to do with my age.

Thirty-five years ago, in a small group of Unitarian University clergy, I took part in a mini-debate about whether, as Dylan Thomas wrote, we should “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” or simply, as the 12 Step phrase reminds us, just “Let go, let god.” As I have hinted, I argued that we ought not “go gentle into that good night” while others, with the gray hair I now possess, suggested that faith, and a longer view, made them see that dying should be not a struggle but an acceptance.

There are certainly tragic deaths for which “passed away” seems a ridiculous description. School shootings, tsunamis, childhood cancer, just to mention a few, are events for which “died” is the only appropriate word.

But there are, every day, the examples of humans who have simply gone the way of all creatures. A stalwart church member in Hanover was over a hundred at the end. A dear Bailey family friend just went at over a hundred My mother was 96. It is just the way life is.

This concept is more difficult for those who are left behind. No matter how old the person may be we still never want that day to come. I thought this when we lost Bill Coffin and, in another way, when  George Carlin had a fatal heart attack. What they were to us and their closest love ones make the passing away to be filled with utter loss.

There never really is enough time and as we approach the end of our days, that becomes more poignant. For me, the concept of passing away which comes to us all, helps me to use the time I do have in a more meaningful way.

At Least Tell The Truth

This is a very important blog post. Hope it helps you.

Paula Stone Williams

I was in Palm Springs to present a keynote and workshop to psychotherapists who work with the LGBTQ population.  My keynote was warmly received, as was my workshop about the evangelical church and its rejection of LGBTQ people.

One delightful couple talked with me after the workshop.  They are from a city in the west where they work as psychotherapists.  In my talk I mentioned that 100 percent of the 100 largest churches in the nation are non-affirming of LGBTQ people.

As we spoke, the couple mentioned that they were a part of a megachurch.  I asked the name of the church, and when they told me, I said I used to have a friendship with their senior pastor.  Not only that, but a little over a decade ago one of my family members served on their staff.   The couple said they would say hello to the senior pastor for…

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Here’s the thing

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God ain’t a he or she, but an it.”  

Shug from THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker
“Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit. It? I ask. Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It. But what do it look like? I ask. Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found it.”

In 1995, the United Church of Christ published The New Century Hymnal, its official worship book-in-the-pews. The “black book” (Often sitting next to the “red book”, the Pilgrim Hymnal of the previous Congregational Christian Church), has many qualities to be appreciated. However, it also stirred arguments in many churches. The bone of contention was its use of “inclusive language”. As Wikipedia puts it: “The New Century Hymnal is perhaps most famous both in and outside the United Church of Christ for its approach to using “inclusive language”.”

When it was first published we were “between churches”, so to speak, and didn’t have to face arguments in our local congregation. Then when we went to Hanover, the black book/red book was the thing. Some churches, however, just couldn’t seem to handle the far-reaching changes of language.

The editorial committee probably bit off more than it could chew but there wasn’t going to be another chance for a long time. As a result, many and assorted issues were addressed such as militaristic language, words like kings, kingdoms, and masters, the use of “Lord”, archaic language in general, and on and on.

The easiest for the conservatives to take was gender inclusivity in regards to humanity. After all, “man” can’t really refer to all humans, everyone is not a “he”. However, I would guess the hardest adjustment was about the gender of God. (Picture an old white male with flowing white hair sitting on a throne.) As one writer put it, The editors were “seeking to reduce the solely-masculine use of language for God, and/or balancing masculine images with feminine and non-gendered images”

How has this worked out? The Lord’s Prayer still begins, Our Father. Male pronouns are hard to drop. Some try to use “she” or “her” but does that really do it? For example, does it really help to say, as one writer did recently, “God goes to battle for you, Her weapons of choice are…”? (Sounds a bit like Wonder Woman to me)

My view is that the whole question should be who or what is the divine? Using male and/or female pronouns still anthropomorphizes something that is indescribable. Alice Walker really did get it right:

Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It. But what do it look like? I ask. Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug.