J Walking

J Walking


Here’s Doug

posted by David Kuo

This is a blast. Here is Doug Pascover’s story:

From the ages of 10 months old until 7 years, my family lived on the South side of Chicago so the White Sox were my first religion. I became a Christian at 13 and have never been particularly good at it. I worked as a cowboy, farm-hand and construction-worker until I went to Emory University at the age of 24. While a student and for a few years after I worked at The Carter Center’s Interfaith Health Program. Today I am the Executive Director of an agency that helps adults with developmental disabilities become independent, which sounds virtuous but mostly isn’t. (My employees have virtuous jobs.) I am very involved in the development of State policy towards people with disabilities, mostly as a crank. I raise dogs in lieu of children, marriage being too complicated for me.
I guess, considering your politics and religion focus, I can add that I am a member of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) and a political independent with fairly conservative views on the size and scope of government and no interest in regulating personal behavior. I have a very difficult relationship with large, man-made institutions including both government and the church.



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Doug

posted May 10, 2008 at 10:19 am


Yikes, a brush with greatness! I’ve been pretty successful avoiding this until now.



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aquaman

posted May 10, 2008 at 12:29 pm


Most enduring religions hold out some sort of transcendent hope to their followers. The White Sox somehow endured for decades without offering that hope (until recently). 2005 must have been special for you, Doug.
Peace.



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Doug

posted May 10, 2008 at 1:21 pm


Aquaman, 2005 was huge. I realized the price of prosperity when I had to stop answering the question “Do you want the good news or the bad news” with “Look, I’m a White Sox fan, you can’t depress me.”



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Brian Horan

posted May 10, 2008 at 1:43 pm


Doug,
I transitioned out of Evangelical Christianity into New Thought via the ELCA. I ended up being confirmed my second senior year of my undergrad.
I think the ELCA is the most diverse body of Christians. Within the body you have biblical literalists, liberals, and Episcopalians (with whom the ELCA has full communion).
After 911 I decided that I would try to go to seminary in the Boulder, CO Synod where I was living at the time. My pastor and potential sponsor for candidacy told me that I needed to believe in the more orthodox aspects of the faith to proceed any further than I already had.
I think he meant well and am grateful. I tried a semester of graduate school in the field of Education and have seen that abstract notions can be torn apart for political reasons, thus tanking your graduate pursuits.
I bet you’re more of an asset at work in the church and at work than you think.
You state: “I have a very difficult relationship with large, man-made institutions including both government and the church.”
I am interested in what you think Doug. Please elaborate. How do you maneuver within and around man made institutions? How do you keep your cool?
P.S. I’m a Rockies fan and it’s been tough in Denver too. Last year was a miracle for us.



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Doug

posted May 10, 2008 at 1:59 pm


Brian, to be honest, dripping sarcasm and almost opaque cynicism is my mechanism for dealing with institutions. I don’t get particularly involved in congregational life (I have lived in California for seven years without changing my church membership) or larger agencies. John The Baptist is my model, I’m just looking for a pretty enough Salomé and a proud enough Herod.
I do try to remember when I am in contact with institutional life that most of the people I’m encountering are good people trying to do good things. I have trained myself to say “That’s stupid” without saying “you’re stupid.” Plus, I confess that I’m stupid before every meeting. That helps a lot, especially when I get the spelling right.
Last year was amazing for the Rockies. I went to a Rockies-Cubs game in Denver during the great Sosa-McGuire home run race and had a great time, even though Brother Sammy never got closer than a fly-out to left-center.



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Doug

posted May 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm


Oh, and Brian, you’re a real seeker. I admire that.



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Brian Horan

posted May 10, 2008 at 2:28 pm


Doug,
I’m flattered.
I consider Luther to be the Ralph Nader of medieval times. Sadly Nader hasn’t been as successful getting the moneyed interests out of the sacred institutions of our government.
Yeah, I’m a red blooded liberal; but, I think the forefathers created something profound.
I was tortured with doubt and self-doubt in some of the same ways as Luther. We owe an incredible debt to him. I think he went through a lot of torment.
My seeking comes out of a burning need. Lutheran theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich calls that need ‘Ultmate Concern’.
One of my favorite songs is ‘The Seeker’ by the Who. I also dig the classic U2 ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’.
One of my favorite movies illustrating faith and doubt is ‘The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc’. I relate to a particular scene in which Joan as a child breaks into a local parish during a thunder storm; breaks open the eucharist; and pours wine into her mouth and all over her face and says, “I want to be one with you!”
Dustin Hoffman haunted me as Joan’s conscience.
I think the search is part of the fun. Searching doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t found God. For me, it means that I just can’t get enough of the best thing in the entire universe/cosmos/space-time continuum.
I’ll send some good thoughts to your Sox. One thing I don’t like is sports dynasties. The Rocks and Sox certainly don’t fit the dynasty category.



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Thinker

posted May 10, 2008 at 2:51 pm


Heck Doug, I’m a Cubs fan. We consider Socks fans to be insincere. 100 years of losing and we still love em. My daughter lives a block from Wrigley.
Girardian stuff has toned down my sarcasm, but it is the natural language of disappointed idealists. It is the last week of school and I find my sarcasm and cold looks at sophomores titre going up.



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Doug

posted May 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm


Brian, I never saw that movie. But the biggest hang up I have with literalism is that I don’t know what worship is, if discovery isn’t part of it. To quote (or probably paraphrase) from Zorba The Greek “Rain, rain, come as you please.)
Thinker, I once read a great article by Roberta Bondi in Christian Century magazine about how our first instinct is to see God as we saw our fathers. I bring that up not to discuss theology but to introduce this: When my team was etched and my younger brother’s not yet, our family moved away from Chicago into the great blue Cubs country of the central midwest and he became a Cubs fan. When we were young and competitive I resented Cubs people as elite and overpowering in class and pervasion. As we grew older and became great friends, I find myself rooting for the Cubs except when they play the Sox.
But be honest, through 2004 the difference between the Cubs and White Sox in terms of futility was not enough to define character or sincerity.



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Doug

posted May 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm


Brian, I’ll add that you make a great point about Luther and doubt. I try to always remember that most of what orthodox Westerners call “etetrnal Christian truth” is not from biblical times but was innovated by doubters like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Aquinas and others since. The truth is subject to human haze and no-one navigates that mist like a doubter.



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Donny

posted May 11, 2008 at 11:47 am


Doug, thank you for being most civl towards my perspective most often. The cowardice of Jim Wallis and his dissent silencing hordes could be cured by you. I just go to the source – the Apostles – of whatever is portrayed as Christianity now and then. There is no “Christianity” without them. Jesus never heard the word this side of the Ascension. I think the word “fundamentalist” is the place you find honesty and the “faith delivered ONLY once to the saints.” (I think, what would a skyscraper be without a fundamentalist writing the blueprints and the builders following that truth.) The Apostles didn’t give their lives – like Jesus before them – for this “anything goes” bunch of male bovine excrement that liberalism and the progressive movement have “tried” to do to the Gospel. Every warning by the Apostles stands in stark finger-pointing and warning about as to what has become of the Leftist wing of society. Also, a Christian fundamentalist (all it means is apostolic truth verses “anything goes,”) opposes the whack-job literalist show-boat preachers as well. TV evangelistst have been around long before TV. It’s all in the foundation.
Anyway, thanks for putting your cyber neck on the line for me ever so often. Leftists are not nice to dissenters. As history has always proven. Or, just go over to “God’s politics” (how hypocritical are these people?) and see for yourself.
May the God of Jesus Bless you. Which of course, Jesus is a member of. Etc., etc., etc..



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Doug

posted May 11, 2008 at 12:03 pm


Hi, Donny. No need to thank me. I believe brothers and sisters receive the word and truth differently, according to the Holy Spirit that knows us each and speaks to us differently. We don’t all read the same verse and read the same message, but I agree with you that the Word is normative and I know that the last commandment of Jesus was to love each other as he has loved us. God help me to do no less by you and I will stick my neck out on my faith that you will do no less by me. And happy mother’s day to your wife. I bet your daughter’s singing will insure it.



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Donny

posted May 11, 2008 at 10:45 pm


You’re a brave man Doug. Willing to be excommunicated from the Club Elite to speak kndly to me. But if you would, please show me where any of the writers of the New Testament witness heard from the Holy Spirit differently? I’m thinking it is the antithesis of “love” to encourage and support people to follow falsehood and engage in sin. This why I have the position I do of liberal and progressive actions and belief statements. They have thrown away norms because the calendar has years that have four numbers. The Apostles did not. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” I believe that “love” always exists in honesty and usally disappears in fads. If I were to say “THEY, do this or that,” the honest reply would be “who” is “they?” I just try to head off the question with examples, because honesty requires it. Is that not the moral thing to do? We have the “normative” Christian life and culture laid out quite remarkably “definitive” by those that founded it. BTW, my wife (she’s a woman and has been since conception) and I spent the whole day with our kids. Thanks.



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Doug

posted May 12, 2008 at 12:50 am


OK, Donny. I’ll be happy to share my thinking, although I suspect it won’t be convincing to you and we’ll end up where we normally do. If by “heard from the Holy Spirit” you refer to the Pentecost, we only have one cannonized account of that so, of course, there is no diversity of opinion but I do look at the styles. Thomas was obviously had a different approach, not believing in anything he couldn’t touch. Peter was with Jesus almost from the start of his ministry and yet, on the night in which Jesus was betrayed, defended him by sword (and got rebuked) after all he had been told. You also have him refusing (initially) to take on a Roman centurion as a student, after the Pentecost. We also have contention among the apostles after the pentecost over which laws gentile Christians would and would not have to follow. The pentecost has already occured but not all things are known to the Apostles and they are not of one mind, but reach a conclusion by compromise. We are their inheritors and we did not have Jesus walk with us in person as a teacher so, yes, I conclude from that that even taking the bible literally, we should expect to be uncertain and to find disagreement, even when we all follow Him faithfully.
It’s all easier to see in the old testament, and maybe this is a place to expand on my biography a little. I am a sinner, have sinned, continue to sin, am often bad but I have strived most of my life to live biblically. But the bible gives a lot of direction, specifies not only law, but, as you know, there are a lot of instructions as to how a man should live and the Old Testament, as you’ve noted is very pro-family. Now, take this weirdo smart-ass Doug you met on David’s site who struggles to live right. I happen to have the exact right sexual orientation to form a marriage in all 50 states but pretty much none of my other dispositions, temperments, patiences and appetites make me marriage material. So my struggle has been how to follow without forming a family as we’re so often called to do. Then I think about Hosea who, in spite of Mosaic laws instructing very much a different outcome for a prostitute is called by God to take one as a wife. You have Elijah and Elisha, two men traveling the countryside as a sort of family (I am not implying anything homoerotic here, just suggesting that their story implies that Godly bonds of affection do not always follow one model.) You have Jesus and his disciples and Mary Magdalene, thirteen (so far as we know) unmarried men travelling around with a known prostitute. Samson, John the Baptist, even David lived lives of service to God without following the prescribed moral pattern.
So you have these laws that are clearly there and which clearly emphasize a certain way of going through life and a bible filled with misfits like me doing God’s work. I consider myself conservative both politically and biblically, but I do wonder how the “social conservatives,” given enough power, would treat a 40-year-old single man like me or thirteen male thirty-somethings and a reformed hooker who wandered homeless and preaching. The first conclusion I reach, which I’m certain of, is that God has a place for us all in his plan but not all in the same role. The second, which I’m less certain of, is that we can run hard up against God’s plan when we try too hard to make His laws ours. The third, which I’m by no means certain of, is that even someone who knows the bible by heart in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and can quote passages from memory can prove a point biblically and still get the message wrong. None of this is meant to say that, to use a favorite phrase of yours “anything goes” or “if it feels good do it” or “Whatever you believe is cool.” It is to say that I believe there’s a place for skepticism, query and contemplation in the life of a follower of Jesus, the Christ.
Just for the future, I welcome debate, discussion and questions. When I’ve been angry with you in the past, it was never over your questioning me. I know I don’t know much and appreciate having some of the things I’m dumb about pointed out to me. Well, most of the time. There’s no need to explain your challenge and I’m not real worried about my membership status in any clubs. As mentioned in my original email to David I’m not much of a joiner anyway.



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Brian Horan

posted May 12, 2008 at 1:43 am


Doug,
Your May 12, 2008 12:50 AM post coincides with my feelings.
I’ve never been into prostitutes myself and have had chances out of the country (I had one foreign friend try to set me up several times). Just maybe the apostles were able to control themselves; after all yours truly did.
Jesus, according to Biblical narratives, was conceived out of wed-lock. So are very own savior, exemplar, avatar, etc. had a single mother (granted for a brief time).
Donny,
I first came across the idea of cultural relativism doing a summer study program in Mexico (a couple of years after falling out of the Evangelical movement). I’m not a big fan of absolute cultural relativism or moral relativism. I do think some behaviors clearly work better than others.
But, my questions to absolute moralists goes something like this:
Do you think love motivates morals or just obligation?
I tend to think that our highest moral actions are a result of love and a response to it. Morals follow love. The apostle Paul says we love because we are first loved.
In some respects I think Evangelicals are right to say, “Would you like to have a personal relationship with God?” Although, the problem for a doubter like myself is the fact that God can be a complete mystery at times (i.e., impersonal). It’s taken me a hell of a long time to accept that my rational mind will never capture God and some several hundred hours of Zen Buddhist meditation and study.
Evangelicals cherry pick scriptures:
Do you eat a completely kosher diet? Do you refuse to hug your wife when she’s having a period? Are women forbidden from speaking in your church? Do you refuse to shop or patronize any business on the Sabbath so as much of your community can make it to church as possible?
If you answered yes to all of these then I sincerely apologize. You pass the literal test and you don’t cherry pick.
Martin Luther struggled and struggled with the law and finally understood that the apostle Paul struggled with the law.
Donny,
I’m not necessarily saying anything goes. But, at the same time, just like Paul figured out – it’s impossible to keep the written law. I’ve found love to be the most positive focus.
We are saved by grace as far as I can tell in the orthodox scheme of things. Any requisite behavior to receive that grace is completely contradictory to grace. We respond to that grace as best we can.
I applaud you for having morals! Seriously! I don’t doubt that you love God. But, I believe we each come to that unconditional and absolute love in our own way.
Check this quote out from C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, 1st page of Book IV in my edition)
“In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force), and an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”
Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real.”
Just some food for thought bro! Puleez don’t taze me man!



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Doug

posted May 12, 2008 at 12:38 pm


Brian, I do think there are some clear truths in the bible and I agree with Donny that the purpose of studying the bible should not be to redact it for comfort’s sake. But I agree that cherry-picking is prevalent throughout the Church. Fundamentalism is not apostolic but a 19th Century innovation and the original fundamentalist texts were specifically written to highlight certain passages, by implication reducing the importance of others. I think that’s normal, fair and presumably well-intended but orthodoxy is not the same as originalism, the former involving a contemporary community agreement on what the bible means and the latter being, I think, impossible in this world and at this time.
The duty I accept is to be a serious student the word and to change myself to fit the scripture, not to change the scripture to suit me.



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Brian Horan

posted May 12, 2008 at 2:26 pm


Doug,
I think if we interpret the scriptures via the Holy Spirit of Love (i.e., Love your brother/neighbor/blogger/political adversary as yourself; and love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, and mind!) , we’re actually more likely to be moral. After all Jesus said that love meets the requirements of the law.
Love is the clearest truth of all.
Seeing myself in others, even adversaries, isn’t a relative thing. Actually, it’s quite difficult for my shallow little ego.
Come to think of it, my ego seems like a hell of a phenomena to me.
If your following statement isn’t copy-written, I’d like to use it in the future:
“We also have contention among the apostles after the Pentecost over which laws gentile Christians would and would not have to follow. The Pentecost has already occurred, but not all things are known to the apostles; and they are not of one mind.
They reach a conclusion by compromise. We are their inheritors and we did not have Jesus walk with us in person as a teacher so, yes, I conclude from that that even taking the bible literally, we should expect to be uncertain and to find disagreement, even when we all follow Him faithfully.”



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Doug

posted May 12, 2008 at 5:57 pm


Brian, I have no copywrites. It could be plagiarized from someone who does.



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