QUESTIONS & RESPONSES: the toughest questions I’ve ever been asked, and some responses
Update (10 August 2014): Mosaic Press, with whom I had a contract to submit the total manuscript by October 2014, has gone into liquidation. Sad, that: however the pressure to write (which had often got me up in the ‘small hours’) is now off. Watch this space…Â
For an ‘ABC’S OF A GOOD LIFE’ version of Contents, see here
For rough drafts of many chapters etc. see hereÂ .Â
When someone makes an appointment to see me, a ‘generalist’ pastoral counselor, what do we talk about?Â
Short answer: anything at all that’s important for them.
Within the first five minutes I invite my parishioner/client to ‘give me a headline or two’. And, then, mostly, we jump into the deep end.
Some memorable ones:
# Â ‘Rowland, I used to belong to a biker gang. Recently I’ve started going to church and I heard about the need to ‘confess your sins to one another’. Well, I killed seven people during those wild years… And nobody else knows… ‘
# ‘Pastor, I’m in my fifties now, and I’ve never had a close relationship with a man. I’d love to have been a mother, but it’s too late. I have a strong sexual drive and my way of dealing with that is to pleasure myself. My pastor, however, is a fundamentalist who reckons I’ll go to hell for doing what I do. I’m scared and often sleepless about it all. What do you think?’
# Â To a 15/16-year-old: ‘Jane, what do you want to do with your life?’ ‘Oh, that’s easy: kill a couple of people.’ ‘Uh-huh… Anything else?’ ‘Yeah… burn down the [social welfare organisation’s] building: they should have been protecting me…’
# Undergrad student: ‘We’re doing philosophy, and recently studied the so-called “proofs” for God’s existence. My evangelical friend says he’s impressed by the “first cause” idea. I reckon there could have been an infinite regression of causes…’
Where do these conversations go from there? Read on. Here are my 30 ‘big ones’: one for each day of the month if you want to give yourself some quality-time thinking about these issues and chasing up the footnotes… Â (This is the first book I’ve written post-Google: love it!).
At this point you may need to know just a little about me. General ideological approach? ‘Progressive Evangelical Christian’. Not theologically ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘liberal’ – I have strong issues with some of their respective presuppositions. My Anglican friends say I’m ‘broad church’. Father Richard Rohr and popular Christian writer Brian McLaren are generally OK! Is there truth in other religions? Of course, God’s truth can be discovered in the most unlikely places. Is it OK to doubt what authority-figures put into our heads when we were impressionable? Again: of course. How much serious pastoral counseling have I actually done? About 25,000 hours, starting when I was a College Christian student leader in 1957, then within eleven full- and part-time pastoral vocations, etc. etc.
Come and enjoy the ride my fellow-strugglers/learners…
Rowland Croucher Â Â Â Â (email@example.com)
It’s called the ‘Swan-song phenomenon’… Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California studied 1919 compositions written by 172 classical composers and compared how highly the works were rated by musicologists with how close the creation of those works came to the composers’ deaths.
Main finding: compositions that were written later in the artists’ lives – when, asÂ Simonton wrote, ‘death was raising a fist to knock on the door’ – tended to be briefer, with cleaner, simpler melody lines, and yet scored high in aesthetic significance according to the experts. (Time, ‘The Art of Living’, September 23, 2013, p. 42).
I’m now 76, and it’s about 20 years since my last book was published. This little contribution is my best effort to say in a ‘cleaner, simpler’ fashion what I believe about the most important questions facing humankind. Writers these days can put their words together in a ‘cryptic teasing’ fashion: if the reader wants to know more about something, they can simply check with everyone’s friend Google Search.
As my Gmail auto-signature says…
Shalom! Salaam! Pax!
QUESTIONS & RESPONSESÂ
PART 1: THE BIG PICTURE…Â
1. Â GOOD & EVIL: Why be good? Why fight evil? And are we born or made to be good or evil (or either or both)?
2. Â GOD & SATAN: What are we postmoderns supposed to do with all that medieval stuff?
3.Â AUTHORITY & CERTAINTY: The eternal question: ‘What is Truth?’ Sources of truth: reason, a sacred book (e.g. the Bible), tradition, experience – and more…
4. JESUS & CHRISTIANITY:Â ‘An Ancient Near Eastern carpenter claims to be God – can thoughtful people still believe that?’
5. RELIGIONS, CHURCHES & SECTS: ‘They can’t all/any of them be right can they?’
6. FUNDAMENTALISM(S): Source of most of the world’s ideological-ethno-religious conflicts. Paradigm-shifts (‘You don’t know you’re wearing chains until you begin to move…’)
PART 2: ME, MYSELF & MINE – OH, AND OTHERS…Â
7. WHO AM I? Who gives me my grade/worth? Parents, mentors, and heroes.
8. FAMILIES: How to make something of your life – even if you didn’t choose your parents well.Â
9. WOMEN & MEN: Vive la difference? Mars/Venus and other theories…
10. RELATIONSHIPS – LOVE/JUSTICE (Keys to all relationships): ‘Why do we mistreat so many people – defenceless children, religious and racial/ethnic minorities, the handicapped, sweat-shop workers… the list goes on…?’ (And, in many countries, women are doing better academically, but earn 5%+ less than men – where’s the sense/justice in that)?
11. PRIDE & POWER: ‘Why do too many humans want to be #1?’
PART 3: (ROMANTIC) LOVE, SEX AND MARRIAGE…
12. ROMANCE/FALLING IN LOVE: ‘A genetic trick nature plays on us to hook us into marriage’?
13. HOMOSEXUALITY & GENDER ISSUES:Â If blacks/gays/ dwarfs/whoever had no choice… what are they asking of the rest of us?
14. SEX: ‘It can all be very nice or very horrible… Why?’ Sexual abuse…
15. MASTURBATION: ‘Nothing to be ashamed of; nothing to be proud of either.’
PART 4: YOU’VE GOT ONE LIFE: MAKE THE MOST OF IT…
17. HAPPINESS & JOY: ‘No, they’re not the same, but why am I mostly bereft of both of them?’ Emotional and intellectual intelligence…
18. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: Lectio divina, prayer, meditation, solitude, silence, stillness: finding peace in the desert – every day.
19. SUCCESS & FAILURE/WORK & PLAYÂ
20. STRESS & BURNOUT:
21. LEADERS & FOLLOWERS:
22. BIRDS & FLOWERS: ‘How can I enjoy “all things bright and beautiful” more?
PART 5: (MORE) VIRTUES, VICES & HUMAN ARRANGEMENTS
23. WAR & PEACE:
24. POVERTY & HUNGER:
25. LAWS & POLITICS: Unfortunate necessities; mantras and shibolleths.
26. ABORTION & EUTHANASIA etc. : Moral issues where good (and bad) people differ.
PART 5: AND IN THE END…
27. APOCALYPSE CHECKLIST: Caring for the planet – for future generations.
28. GROWING OLD:Â Towards simplicity theÂ otherÂ side of complexity.
29. SICKNESS & HEALTH: If I reduced it to 10 ‘health commandments’ what would my list look like?’
30. DEATH & DYING:
31. TIME & ETERNITY: Theories about nothingness, reincarnation, heaven, & hell.
YOUR CHECK-LISTÂ FOR A VERY GOOD LIFE: What’s general and universal; and what’s relative and personal.
9th December 2013