Grace and Bootstraps (#310)

On NPR’s Fresh Air this week, listeners were introduced to a new film being released entitled Moonlight. The film tells the story of a young man’s life growing up in a housing project in Miami. He endures bullying for being gay, but the greatest challenge he faces is growing up in a home where his mother is addicted to drugs. The film is based on playwright Tarell McCraney’s life. “There were times when we were without food and the lights got turned off often,” McCraney says. “If I did get money from an aunt or a grandmother or whoever, more often than not my mom would find a way to take it or talk me out of it, or sometimes the TV would disappear, or sometimes the furniture would disappear.” With no father in the picture, the local drug dealer became the nearest thing to a father figure McCraney had.

McCraney’s childhood resembles J. D. Vance’s childhood that he writes about in his book Hillbilly Elegy. Vance’s mother also suffered from drug-addiction and he talks about the numerous men who came in and out of his life as supposed father figures. Vance recalls growing up in Middletown, Ohio (right near my hometown) and often not knowing where the next meal would come from or where he would be sleeping on a particular night. Although he did have some stability from his grandparents, his grandmother was known to have taken out a pistol from time to time and shoot it at her husband in their kitchen. She claimed she never intended to harm him because she was too good of a shot. She missed shooting him on purpose.

Both McCraney and Vance have remarkable stories. Both excelled in spite of their childhoods. McCraney went on DePaul University’s theatre program and then Yale after that. In 2013, he received a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called “Genius Grant.” Vance put himself through Ohio State University and then Yale Law School and now has a position with a major firm in San Francisco. Both young men were able to make it out of their difficult life circumstances and thrive.

With these two stories, it would be easy for us to conclude that if these two young men “made it,” then everyone who has had to endure similar childhoods should be able to do the same. It’s the old “bootstrap” argument, as in “they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps,” so what’s preventing everyone else from doing the same? I grant you it is theoretically possible for everyone to do it, after all, McCraney and Vance did it, but there are factors that we often ignore when such examples are trotted out as proof.

Life can be hard for all of us even when things go our way much of the time, even when we have had a supportive, nurturing home life growing up. Blaming the poor and others who have “two strikes against them” even before the enter kindergarten doesn’t help anyone. Yes, we should celebrate those like McCraney and Vance who have overcome so much in their lives to excel as they have. But we also need compassion for those who have not, who were not able to climb out of their difficult childhood circumstances.

A little grace is in order when we’re tempted to blame others for their lot in life.


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I began to write this eCrozier about 40 days from the election. I thought: “How appropriate, I feel quite Lenten right now.” I also feel the need to take a hot bath to rid me of the stench that has enveloped me during this election season. As candidates play to our selfishness and suck up to our xenophobia, There’s a particularly foul smell in the air. So, I offer these six observations now that election day is less than a month away.

First, as a Christian formed in the Anglican Tradition, I understand my vote primarily as “damage control.” Given that all of us are flawed by our sin (including our political parties), I ask myself: Which political party will do the least damage to the poor and vulnerable among us? In my judgment, the policies of both political parties damage the poor and vulnerable, so I seek to discern which will do the least damage? Any other measure of my vote simply becomes a rationalization for my own selfishness.

Second, governments can do a lot of good by making laws, but laws can’t legislate love, compassion, or mercy. In other words, only God can change the human heart. Many Christians place way too much faith in government and even more faith in their affiliation with a particular political party or candidate. Many politicians talk a lot about their faith in God, but then while they’re in office they mainly act as if God might as well not even exist and thus won’t judge them for how they exercised their elected offices. They’re de facto functional atheists when they do that.

Third, in Matthew 25 Jesus tells us that God will judge the nations by how each cares for the poor, for those in prison, and for the immigrant in their midst. The Gospel says that God will judge “the nations,” not the Church and not individuals, by this particular standard. So, God will judge the United States, just like every other nation for how we treat the poor, the prisoner, and the immigrant. America does not have a special exemption from God’s judgment. As the Prophets of the Bible tell us time and again, neither did David and the other kings of ancient Israel.

Fourth, in Luke 6, Jesus declares: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Jesus doesn’t say: “Blessed are you who are middle-class.” Yet, that’s all we hear from the political parties this year. Where’s the voice for the poor in this election? It’s glaringly absent from our political conversation and concern.

Fifth, Democrats & Republicans are estimated to spend well over 3 billion dollars in this election cycle. I don’t know who’ll benefit from that $3 billion, but my hunch is it won’t be those who are hungry or those who are in need of healing from disease or injury. The amount of money in our politics is corrupting for all of us.

Lastly, we can’t wait for politicians to change the world, because they won’t. We can’t wait for governments to legislate love, because they can’t. And we must not allow our politics to determine the means by which we love and honor one another. How we love and honor one another must determine the means of our politics.


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The Spiritual Geography of Hurricane Matthew (#308)

Hurricane Matthew has brought tragedy to the sisters and brothers in the Caribbean and Florida. As I write this we in Georgia are awaiting the tragic results of this hurricane. To reflect on any tragedy, we need to employ some spiritual geography. We need to locate it. There are, of course, the geographical locations where it took place. But there are also our own individual locations.

We all will remember where we were when this hurricane passed through. That, however, is not the only “where” of spiritual geography. Many also ask: “Where was God?” We’ve all heard cheap answers to that question. It’s a question, not asked by people of mature faith, but by people who have lingered on the edges of their faith for a lifetime and are forced by tragic events to ask that question. It’s a question that is as old as the Bible. It’s asked in John’s Gospel by Martha as she grieves over the death of her brother, Lazarus. She asks: “Where were you, Jesus, when my brother was dying? If you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” It’s a question and a conclusion that cries out from her pain and grief.

Many ask about God’s location when tragedy strikes. I don’t wish to be insensitive, but it’s a faithless question. That question in its naïve form has been asked for millennia. Where was God in the Yellow Fever epidemic that wiped out thousands of people in Memphis, Tennessee in 1873? Where was God when we brutally killed one another during our Civil War? Where was God when millions of Jews were murdered in the Holocost? Such questions imply that God owes a particular favoritism to the people in question, because the question really asks: “How could you do this to us, God?” It’s as if other people deserve their tragedies, while we don’t. We aren’t the first nor will we be the last to experience a tragedy. It’s common to all of us. The question of where God is in all this is clear from our faith. God is in the midst of us, hanging on a cross, dying for the sins of the world. Asking where God is in a tragedy is like asking where God was when Jesus hung on the cross. God was right there. And this God we worship and glorify, bids you and me to take up that cross and follow Jesus.

A sonnet written by the late Vassar Miller, speaks powerfully. It’s called The Wisdom of Insecurity.
There’s no abiding city, no, not one.
The towers of stone and steel are fairy stories.
God will not play our games nor join our fun,
Does not give tit for tat, parade His glories.
And chance is chance, not providence dressed neat,
Credentials hidden in its wooden leg.
When the earth opens underneath our feet,
It is a waste of brain and breath to beg.
No angel intervenes but shouts that matter
Has been forever mostly full of holes.
So Simon Peter always walked on water,
Not merely when the lake waves licked his soles.
And when at last he saw he would not drown,
The shining knowledge turned him upside-down.

You remember that when Peter was sentenced by the Romans to death by crucifixion, he asked to be crucified upside-down, because he thought himself unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. Christians call this “good news,” a rather odd claim to make about a public execution. Part of this good news is that Peter, who by all gospel accounts was a slow learner, became a rock of the church. So there is hope for us as well. The lessons are hard, but not new. The world is not safe. It has never been ours to control. We’ve always needed each other more than we care to admit. God is God alone, and we’re not. Learning that is easy; we can do it again and again and again. Living it, however, is our calling.

And that brings me to the last part of the spiritual geography. For the question is not where we were when a tragedy struck, or even where was God? No, the most important spiritual geography is “where are you and I going?” Has tragedy made us bitter and drawn us inward. Or, has it opened our eyes to God’s world and made us even more committed to carrying the cross of Jesus?

Death should not be the issue, not the deaths caused by a tragedy, and not our own deaths in the future. As Vassar Miller says in her sonnet: When the earth opens underneath our feet, It is a waste of brain and breath to beg. The issue is our faith in a loving and redeeming God, who, as Vassar Miller writes: will not play our games nor join our fun, and a God who Does not give tit for tat, nor parade His glories.

Martha came to that conclusion. In the end, she knew it was by the power of God, and God alone, that her brother would be raised. And that is where we need to go as well in our own spiritual geography



The Wages of Sin Aren’t Half Bad (#307)

The most heart-felt experience I had at my son’s wedding last Saturday was when people from various parts of his 29 years on this earth came up to me separately and shared stories about him. The different stories all had a similar theme: “John’s a good man. He’s honest and true. I count on him as a friend.” You can imagine how that moved me. Kelly and I raised him to be that kind of man.

That’s not easy for parents to do. Beginning with the Vietnam War and Watergate and up to our present day, our public leaders have not modeled such honesty and decency, so our children receive mixed messages as they grow up. We’ve experienced a cultural downward slide toward greater self-interested behavior that seeks to benefit one person or group regardless of whether or not it’s ethical. There’s an old saying that you can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they act when they think no one’s watching them. It shouldn’t be about getting away with something just because one can get away with it.

The latest example is Wells Fargo Bank. It seems branch employees were under heavy pressure to do what is called “cross-selling.” So, if you had a checking account with the bank, they’d try to get you to take out a loan or a new credit card with them. Employees reported that they received pressure from their bosses to “cross-sell” and were afraid that they’d lose their jobs if they didn’t. So, many of the branch employees across the country opened thousands of additional accounts without their customer’s knowledge. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau just fined the bank $185 million, which is a small fraction of the approximately $80 billion Wells Fargo makes each year.

Wells Fargo isn’t alone. By one estimate, all of the banks that engaged in similar unethical behavior to increase their profits have paid only $110 billion in fines since the 2008 financial crisis (again, just a small fraction of their total profits since then). These fines have most often been paid with no admission of guilt and no upper-level managers going to jail. The result is predictable: there’s no connection being made between unethical (and often, illegal) behavior and any dire consequences. The fines become a small price to pay to make bigger profits, just another cost of doing business. But at what loss to our collective moral character? Now, it’s being reported that two of Wells Fargo’s top executives will forgo some of their future unvested equity awards, stock options, and annual bonuses. I guess that’s a start, but it’s hardly a consequence that’ll deter such behavior in others. Instead of $100 million, they’ll have to “settle” for only $10 million or so in compensation, all the while never spending even one night in jail. Meanwhile petty thieves will spend months behind bars.

We try to raise our children to be honest and just. We teach our children what we were taught, that “crime does not pay.” Or, in biblical terms, we teach them that “the wages of sin is death.” But, at least temporally speaking, these days “the wages of sin aren’t half bad!” That’s the message being received by our children when they learn about Wells Fargo and what some of the other banks have gotten away with. We need a very different message.


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Marriage on My Mind (#306)

My son, John, marries his beloved Sarah tomorrow at Christ Church Savannah, so marriage is on my heart and mind this day (as well as the last minute details of hosting 50 people for a rehearsal dinner in our backyard!). Marriage, of course, has been much debated in the headlines over the last few years. Our Supreme Court even weighed in on it last summer. However important that debate may be, I’m more drawn today to what marriage is because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t know if John and Sarah will ever read this, but if they do, then this is what I hope they take to heart.

First, marriage is a covenant between two people who equally submit themselves to God and to each another. The couple isn’t “married” by a priest. It always amused me when a couple said to me years later: “You married us, remember?” Apart from my faulty memory (getting faultier all the time), I was tempted to say: “No I didn’t, plural marriage is against the law, besides I was already married at the time!” A priest of the Church doesn’t “marry” a couple. They marry each other and the Church (represented by those gathered on that day) witnesses their marriage and the priest declares God’s blessing over the vows made by the couple. That being said, the Church, again represented by those gathered, also makes a vow when responding positively to the question: “Will you do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?” So, while marriage is a covenant between two people that the Church witnesses and a priest blesses, the Church has a stake and role in every marriage. No Christian marriage can be faithful or fruitful without the prayers and support of the Church.

Second, marriage is a missionary vocation and partnership, otherwise it becomes little more than an exercise in mutual gratification and familial selfishness. To echo The Blues Brothers, a married couple is “on a mission from God.” One of the prayers said over the couple after they’ve taken their vows is this: “Make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.” Christ’s love poured out graciously on the cross declares that being in communion with each other is more godly than being estranged from one another; that forgiveness is God’s natural response to the guilt of our sins; and, that joy is God’s final word to us bringing our despair to an end. When marriage is understood through the lens of Christ’s work on the cross, it’ll then be seen in a context beyond what it does for the couple alone. Thus, marriage isn’t meant to be lived selfishly to benefit the couple alone. It’s intended by God as a vocation, though imperfectly lived, to the world that points us toward the very nature of God in Christ.

Lastly, the love shared by a married couple is never pure and complete. It is, after all, shared by two sinful human beings who’ll at times behave in petty and vindictive ways. Still, in marriage we’re blessed to get a glimpse in the other of the grace of Jesus. As we are on the receiving end of such grace, we experience conversion of life. In other, more personal words, I’m a better, more faithful person because Kelly has shown me grace. While marriage isn’t necessary for such grace to be imputed, it’s one way God uses our humanity to offer his reconciling love to sinful and broken human beings like us.


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Living Gracefully (eCrozier #305)

No account of the Christian Gospel is intelligible without the grace bestowed upon us in the Cross. God’s pre-emptive act in Jesus to redeem humanity on the cross means that everything else must be seen and understood through that cosmic intervention into human history. And that, of course, means God’s intervention of grace must shape how we behave in the Church. It makes no sense to model our behavior on Utilitarianism, Meritocracy, or Social Darwinism each of which at one time or another seems to be the ruling paradigm in western culture. If grace is true and it’s what God’s up to in the world, then we can’t proclaim it as God’s very nature and not practice it in how we live.

Although I’m by no means a Calvinist, I’m alert to my own life and to the world around me. Thus, certain aspects of Calvinism’s TULIP Doctrine make a whole lot of sense to me (especially the Big T, “total depravity” part). I recognize such depraved tendencies in myself, and to be “fair and balanced,” I see it in others as well. Sin is everywhere and all the time. No part of me and no part of the world goes unaffected by it. As the Office of Morning Prayer in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer states: “There is no health in us.” Well, maybe there’s some health? Maybe that overstates the human condition a bit? There’s “health” in me. My intentions are good most of the time. I’m able to do good. I can be kind, compassionate, and just. But I also know that even my best intentions can become an avenue for my sin.

Still, I understand the biblical witness to one of God’s irresistible grace, mostly. That doesn’t mean we don’t resist it. We do, sin being what sin is. But God has the last word on humanity’s fate. God has not and will not leave us to our own devices. Grace intercedes in our path to personal and communal destruction and snatches us from the jaws of death. And this is not only for the “sweet by and by.” There’s plenty of living death right now when we live gracelessly.

But when we do live gracefully, we do so because we know how the drama of the human story ends: with the New Jerusalem of John’s Revelation coming to earth. And, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer, God’s kingdom will come one day on this earth “as it (already) is in heaven.” God’s grace in Jesus makes this possible. The human family, who has seemingly bought a one-way ticket to death and destruction, gets its destiny rerouted by God’s intervention on the cross. So, our human trajectory changes from death to life. This is God’s last word to humanity.

God’s grace made manifest in the cross of Jesus then shouldn’t be seen as God meeting us anything less than all the way. It’s not as if God reaches half of the way to us and then waits patiently for us to come to our senses and then we reach the other half of the way. Our good works, our insight, our cleverness, or our efforts at living justly don’t make up the other half so we can meet God somewhere in the middle, that is, God does God’s part and we do the rest. God through Jesus steps into the sin of our lives and brings us out all the way. We do not help one bit. Once that sinks home, we begin to take the first steps to living gracefully.


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John Keble, priest, poet, and a leader of the Oxford Movement in 19th Century England, referenced what he called “the trivial round, the common task.” It is in these things, Keble asserted, where the opportunity exists “to bring us daily nearer God.” It’s in the daily and weekly “round” of our lives of work, family, and friends that we have the occasion to nourish ourselves while also learning to give spiritual food to other souls. But if we’re not regularly “feeding” our own souls, then we can hardly offer “food” to other souls. That’s why the Daily Office has been absolutely crucial to my own soul. Hearing daily the witness of Scripture, and praying the canticles and the prayers of the Church feeds my soul. I know this. I have regularly experienced it for over 30 years.

And yet I’m the worst at it. It hardly comes naturally to me. On most days I have to force myself to do it. There’s always a distraction that presents itself that’ll seem at that moment more enticing. It may be a story I’m listening to on NPR, or an email in my inbox that I feel I must respond to now (“It can’t wait!”), or something funny one of the dogs is doing at the time (which consistently happens). Sin being what sin is though, I’m easily distracted. I’m like the dog in the animated movie Up that’s always having his attention drawn away by the potential of a passing squirrel.

That’s why I have to resist the temptation to turn on the radio, fire up the computer, check my smartphone, or engage with the dogs before I say the prayers of the Church found in the Daily Office. I know what’s good for me. I know what feeds my soul. I know the grounding, insight, and connectedness I receive from the Scriptures and the prayers of the Church and yet, one small distraction can send me down the proverbial rabbit hole, “wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24a)

What I practice then is akin to the words of Alcoholics Anonymous: “One day at a time.” Just as the recovering alcoholic promises that only for the coming day he/she will seek sobriety, I have to say to myself each morning, “today I’m going to pray the office first before I do anything else.” I’d like to think I’d have the personal fortitude and backbone for making that promise for a life time, but I know myself too well. I don’t have that strength of character.

I struggle with what we all struggle with. Our culture engenders in us an ethos that seeks the non-trivial and the uncommon, it dangles in front of us the lure that if we were just somewhere else, someone else, or had something more, then we’d be closer to God; that if we just had this possession or that ability, then our life would be better; that if our spouses, or friends, or co-workers, were just a bit different than they are, maybe a little nicer, maybe more like us, maybe more attentive to us, then our lives would be just fine and dandy. This cultural ethos serves as our very own Uncle Screwtape, as C. S. Lewis wrote, tempting us not to see ourselves truthfully and in the light of God’s saving grace.

Only by seeing our lives through the lens of God’s grace will we be able to laugh at old Uncle Screwtape and then sit down and say our prayers each day. One day at a time.


What’s become of my people (eCrozier #303)

During my sabbatical this summer I had a chance to return to my hillbilly roots in Portsmouth, Ohio where I grew up. I’m technically only half-hillbilly, being from a family of Scots-Irish Baptists from Kentucky on one side and backslidden German Roman Catholics from southern Ohio on the other. And since my German Roman Catholic side was working-class, they identified with the hillbillies in my family. This summer, I also read J.D. Vance’s new book, Hillbilly Elegy, which I highly recommend. It’s about my people who migrated from Kentucky to southern Ohio to look for work.

My Kentucky forebears found good-paying factory jobs at places like Detroit Steel in Portsmouth and Fisher Body in Cincinnati. Most of those jobs are gone now. Those like my father who “got out,” finishing high school and college, had a different life. He was the only one among his brothers and cousins to finish high school let alone get a college degree. People really don’t understand how truly tough it is for these folks now that the good-paying jobs are gone and they don’t have an education. Opioid addiction and (death from it) is increasing. In Portsmouth, deaths from drug addiction now outpace deaths from all other causes except old age. As I walked through the streets of downtown Portsmouth, which bustled in the 1960s, I saw many vacant storefronts. All that is there now are pawn shops, pay-day lenders, and cash-for-gold stores. There are good people there trying to turn things around, but the deck is stacked against them.

For the last 36 years, both political parties have basically proposed nothing to address the needs of the people with whom I grew up. Democrats sneer that these folks vote against their own economic self-interest due to social issues and Republicans have continually proposed policies of tax cuts benefiting the rich and deregulation and free trade that primarily help the business class. These policies have done nothing to help address the deep, real crisis in southern Ohio’s working class people. That’s why Trump’s candidacy is resonating with them. When he rails against corporations for shipping jobs overseas and promises to build a wall to keep out competitors for working class jobs, his rhetoric is like a sweet, siren song to them. The fact that both parties would never support either of those two things isn’t lost on my people. They know that both parties take their cues from big business. They’re just glad someone is “sticking it to the man,” even though the “man” who’s doing the “sticking” is a narcissistic blowhard who’s as culpable as anyone else in the business world and proud of it (“You’re fired!”.)

Yes, “my people” are given to racism and xenophobia. I’m not trying to make them out to be totally virtuous. But they’re hard-working and they just want a chance to have a decent life for their families. I know the issues of globalization and rapid economic change are complex. I don’t know exactly what the answers are. But I do know that both political parties have left my people out. Despite their words, neither party has a track record that proves they care about the plight of these folks. Of course, the Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures had much to say about the ethical misdeeds of the rich and powerful who seek only to benefit themselves while neglecting the poor (Amos 8:4-6.) My heart breaks seeing what has become of the people and the place where I grew up.



Sabbatical (eCrozier #302)

The eCrozier is going on sabbatical with me for the next 3 months. I may send the eCrozier on a world tour, but I’m not going along. This sabbatical is not a three-month long vacation (although Kelly and I have a week in Nova Scotia planned). I’m not “vacating.”  I’m taking a sabbath rest from my episcopate. This will be a 3-month holy day (holiday) for me so that I may rest from my duties and responsibilities.

A sabbatical is counter-cultural in a world where over-functioning is rewarded and keeping up a frenetic pace is seen as a sign of one’s importance and self-worth. It shouldn’t be counter-cultural in the church, but so often it’s seen that way. Some feel they need to justify a sabbatical by making statements like: “I’ll come back from my sabbatical rested and renewed, so then I’ll be able to over-function even more!” Or, “I’ll spend my time on sabbatical solving all the problems of the church, so when I come back, we’ll implement my master plan and it’ll be huge, I tell you, huge!”

I will be engaging in neither scenario when I return. As Parker Palmer wrote: “By surviving passages of doubt and depression on the vocational journey, I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” I’m neither doubting nor depressed, but I do need this time away for my self-stewardship and for the care of my aging parents. It will be a privilege for me to be with them in this season of their lives.

Part of what I hope my sabbatical will do is break me from some of my own expectations around productivity. Like some, I don’t feel I’m worth much if I don’t accomplish something. So, I’m going to read some books for fun. On some days, I won’t set my alarm clock. I’ll sleep in if the dogs let me. I’m going to write some things I’ve been wanting to write for some time. I may just wonder around the back yard. Who knows? I’m not going to answer emails regularly. The world in which I inhabit, particularly the world of the Diocese of Georgia, can survive if I step away for three months and aren’t around to run things. I don’t need to watch God’s flank (self-importance is such a horrible sin). God got along quite well before I arrived.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the vocation to which God has called me. I’m thankful for the privilege God and the people of this Diocese have given me for the last 6 ½ years. Spiritually, I can sing with the Reverend James Cleveland, that “I don’t feel no ways tired.” But, truthfully, I’m a bit worn down physically and emotionally by the demands of being a bishop. The sabbatical will give me the time and space to get back in shape, so when I return my body and emotions will be hopefully as enlivened as my spirit.

So, see you in late August. By the way, “Save the Date!” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be with us in 16 months on September 24, 2017. It’s early and we’re still working on the details, but right now just picture a large tent on a late Sunday afternoon and some good, old-fashioned revival preaching.



When I was a young curate in Indianapolis in the early 1980s, a parishioner of mine was also a leading pediatrician at the Indiana Children’s Hospital. As I got to know him and his work, I was confronted by some significant things I hadn’t known before; things that had never occurred to me; that were out of my own experience or even my own imagination. In other words, I was just plain ignorant about some things even though I assumed at the time that I was well educated and knew just about everything there was worth knowing (ah youth!).

This pediatrician headed a panel of other doctors and medical professionals who had the awesome responsibility for discerning which gender to assign to babies brought to the Children’s Hospital. More often than probably anyone thinks, children are born with mixed genitalia, or confused genitalia, or none at all. My parishioner and his team had to weigh all the data they had in front of them and do their best through medical procedures and other measures to assign a gender to these babies. They were greatly committed to their work because they knew they were making decisions that would affect these children for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they got it right and sometimes they didn’t. And they often wouldn’t know whether or not they got it right until long after the children grew up.

Science and medicine have come a long way in the last 30 years or so, but much about human sexuality and gender identity is still unknown to us. It seems odd to many of us that someone who has the apparent biology of one gender might experience life inside their soul as the other gender. What seems even odder to me is that some other people would think that people who have this gender dilemma are doing it just for fun, or to be different, or just to flagrantly express themselves. No one would wish to bring such a dilemma on themselves knowing the external pressure and possible social ridicule they could face. The pull of gender identity in each of us is strong. Most often it’s clear and unambiguous, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s messy and confusing, like life itself sometimes is for all of us.

I’m certainly no expert on biology or medical science, but I’ve spent a life time reflecting theologically on the world around me using the teachings of Jesus and his Cross as my foundation. Often my reflection has led me to the completely obvious spiritual insight that life’s messy and not always as clear as we’d like. As St Paul says: “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And Jesus, no matter with whom he interacted: the rich young man, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who washed his feet with her tears, Jairus, Simon Peter, or even Judas Iscariot – Jesus always showed mercy. And he called his followers to show mercy as well, because, well, life’s messy.

I don’t know the answers to the questions that human sexuality and gender identity pose. I do know that “Restroom Laws” try to solve a problem that does not really exist. And I do know this as well: when Jesus was faced with the messiness of this world, he responded to it with such grace that not even the grave could contain him.