I am a United Methodist candidate for elders’ orders and seminarian at Perkins School of Theology-SMU. I think I have an unusual perspective on political issues because I was a Political Science major who concentrated in political theory/philosophy. I am certain I am very unusual among United Methodists in terms of my spiritual journey. I grew up attending a UM church and a Roman Catholic school and between them and my family I was introduced to faith in Jesus Christ. In college I was involved with churches and ministries of Evangelicals and Baptists, and also Pentecostals and Charismatics, and at the same time with Episcopalians and even a couple Charismatic Episcopalians. After reviewing the history, doctrinal standards, the polity, and the “current trends” of several denominations (and non-denominations) I consciously chose to return to the UMC because I saw the most potential there for becoming a truly moderate, historical/catholic, Spirit-filled, and evangelical church, and I wanted to take part in that.
Why do you blog?
Well, besides the fact that I enjoy it, I guess it helps me try to work through some intellectual issues or questions and invite others to work through them with me. I like to pass on interesting things I read about and also to share any of the things I learn or ideas I have (especially if they are unique and may be helpful for others) so that I don’t become the intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea.
What has been your best blogging experience?
I guess that would be the day that I realized I wasn’t the only person who read my blog!
What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Hmm…Before I started “Gloria Deo” I had a sort of a diary blog. But I realized, I am just not so interesting that it does the world any good to read my diary. Once I started writing about theology, ecclesiastical and political issues (I am more passionate about these things than I am about myself) I have had a lot more fun, and I think done a lot more good for others too, inviting people to think about things that might not have occurred to them or that they might not have heard about.
If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
If I had that much free time would certainly read Pontifications, and I’d say Wesleyblog and probably one miscellaneous other blog, probably yours.
Who are your spiritual heroes?
Well, besides Jesus, of course, I really respect and have learned from St. Athanasius, John Wesley, and Thomas Cranmer. I’m also a really big fan of Richard Foster, and Obi-wan Kenobi.
What are you reading at the moment?
These questions. Most recent book I’ve read, C. John Sommerville’s The Decline of the Secular University. Every thinking person should read this book, it challenges ideological arrangements (of influence) that we just take for granted in our society.
Also in my free time I’m reading Who are We? by Samuel P. Huntington and Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: 5 views edited by Chad Owen Brand.
What is your favorite hymn and why?
Does that include “praise and worship” songs? Either way, it is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” (UMH 626) – I love singing a hymn about the utter blinding majesty of the same Lord Jesus Christ who comes to us and touches us in the Sacrament of his body and blood; and I love singing those same words that my forebears have been singing for 1600 years.
Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
Well, I have moved in a more “Amish” direction in my attitudes toward war, capital punishment and the idea of pledging allegiance to a nation-state (or its flag), though I am not quite Amish at this point. I guess the big one is that I once a secular democracy was the most legitimate form of government in a diverse world, but as the more thought I have given to the idea that secularism itself is a “religious” ideology I’m a lot more skeptical about the legitimacy of “secular” democracy, though it still may be the lesser of several evils. I’m still pondering that.
What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
The casual and uncritical acceptance of intellectual hypocrisy in our society. The hypocrisy of moralizing from a position of secularism or relativism or some other ideology that by its very nature denies any foundation upon which moralizing can logically even be built. This drives me crazy. And we Americans do a lot of moralizing.
If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
I think we should break the polarized “2 party system” trap we are in. I find it really hard to support either of our 2 parties with a clear conscience. We need a viable 3rd party. And a 4th and 5th party might be good to throw into the mix.
If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
I think the most important thing we need is higher expectations from ourselves, especially in terms of personal holiness. If we had these higher expectations then we and our bishops would do more to hold people accountable to their membership vows or ordination vows contained in the Book of Discipline. If we are passionate for “Scriptural holiness,” then avoiding rash vows and keeping the vows we do make should be a no-brainer, yet a great many of us don’t seem to take this seriously. That is really an attitude change more than a policy change. I am pretty happy with our policies on paper, just not with the fact that we don’t live up to them. One specific need might be some new way of selecting bishops that would allow us to leave behind some of the political maneuvering.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
“This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3
What, if anything, do you worry about?
I try not to worry. It just takes your life away from you and gives you nothing in return.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
Hmm…I think I would have started a savings account as a child, and put just a few dollars back per month. And by now I might have enough money to pay off my massive seminary debts! Or invested in Microsoft back in the early 80s…
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Oxford, England, or someplace in rural England.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I like to read and blog in coffee shops, and travel especially to places with mountains and old history. And I like to talk with interesting people.
What is your most treasured possession?
My pog collection! Honestly, this is a tough one, I am trying to think of what I might rescue if my apartment were burning down. I couldn’t get out with my whole book collection. I do have a box with a lot of my journals and pictures from the last few years in it, so probably that, though a lot of my more recent pictures and reading materials are on my laptop.
What talent would you most like to have?
To play the guitar well. Not just make noises like I sometimes do when I’m bored. Unless we are talking about super-powers, in which case the ability to control the weather (and fly) like Storm the X-man or to control metal (and fly) like Magneto would be pretty cool.
If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and Thomas Jefferson - that ought to be an interesting conversation. It also might be fun to sit down to dinner with the blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph and talk about Jesus’ childhood.