My Theology

ExPluribusUnum, or "one from many", is the Shortest Way to Describe My Theology.

I believe that we are all mere human beings trying to make sense of our existence; so we should keep that in mind when we interact with one another. We are one people, composed of many persons. "God" is found in the love we share. The only way to get to that holy place is to practice more love!

Monday, November 29, 2010

What's a Uvangelist?

Uvangelism is a word I first saw online maybe a decade ago on a Unitarian Universalist website called UniUniques (see It's usually spelled UUvangelism, due to the quaint habit we UU's have of doubling the letter U in funny acronyms etc.

In any case, the original word is evangel, which comes from the Greek 'εὐαγγέλιον' whose roots mean "true/good" and "message/news"; so evangel means "true message" or "good news". An evangelist is a person who carries/spreads the good news (e.g. about their faith). extension, a Uvangelist is a UU evangelist. In other words, a Unitarian Universalist who believes that the "good news" of their Unitarian Universalist faith is worth sharing with other people.

Unfortunately, the word evangelism is often confused in the U.S. with the word proselytism (which means "to make a proselyte", proselyte meaning "one who has converted", from the Greek 'πρόςηλυτος', or "went toward" i.e. converted). Thus, a proselytizer is someone who is trying to convert another to his/her faith, whereas an evangelist is simply sharing his/her faith with people. Uvangelism is an attempt by UUs like myself to enhance the meaning of evangelism (by proudly bearing the title "Uvangelist" and spreading the Good News!), while at the same time avoiding the negative connotations of proselytizing. Of course, if one believes that their news is worth sharing one would also hope that others will share this belief...but such belief cannot and should not be compulsory or forced.

Sunday, November 28, 2010 question: I've written a distant future novel where humans have evolved an ability to naturally trans-gender based on preferences with their partners. What about it: same sex partners gradually becoming opposite sex partners (and having kids)? Good thing or not?

Although not entirely the same concept, this reminds me of a movie I saw called "Zerophilia" where certain people (i.e. "zerophiliacs") change gender after becoming aroused. As far as I'm concerned, if people don't feel that their physical sex matches their intended or felt gender, and they can naturally remedy the situation, I don't see why they shouldn't. The catch for me is...if they are same-sex partners in a same-sex relationship, why would they *want* to change genders?

So I guess my short answer is...if they switch gender out of love (for self and for partner) and for a sense of personal integrity, then I would go with "good thing". If it's for a whim, or to "fit in" and to "be normal", then I would say "bad thing". Very bad thing.

Besides, if God *really* wanted us to exceed the earth's carrying capacity for human populations, thereby bringing about our own ruin and leading to the extinction of countless other species along the way, we would all be born straight and fertile with extraordinarily high libidos. ;-)

Tangent: It might be a controversial theory, but it just seems to me that the closer a population gets to the limits its environment can withstand, the more widespread homosexuality seems to become as a natural population curb. That's not scientific fact, just speculation....Gaia has to protect herself and her children from destroying themselves.

Ready. Set. DEBATE!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 question: What do you most love about your personality?

Empathy, and my insatiable curiosity. That's what keeps me engaged with other people and with life in general. Without it, I would be a totally different person. Thanks for asking! I don't think I ever thought about it.

Ask me anything cultural, especially about language, music, sexuality, religion and faith.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It Gets Better: Adrian in Baltimore

There are other younger me's out there, and they are hurting. Please help to end homophobia in school, in church, in society at large. God loves everyone equally and unconditionally - so should you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The role of religion in my life

Years ago, I was a very active member of a community of Unitarian Universalists on the popular website Participating there actually helped me on my journey into Unitarian Universalism, and provided a virtual community that I sorely needed at that time. In the decade or so since I first joined, Beliefnet has gone through many changes...many of which I did not appreciate, and therefore my participation in whatever community may remain there has become nonexistent.

However, the memory of what once was occasionally draws me back to the site, and I sometimes find little gems of conversation that spark more thoughts in me about my spiritual journey.

Today I happened to catch a tweet (@beliefnet) that led me to the site, where a user posed the question "What role does religion play in your life?", followed by a series of illustrative questions to elicit responses. Most folks answered the questions individually, and so that's what I did. Here is my response, with questions included:

What role does religion play in your life?

Religion is pretty central to my life, and everything I am and do is an expression of that.

Do you believe in the absolute historical accuracy and authority of your religious text(s)?
I believe that all religious texts are representations of a people’s attempt to understand themselves and the universe they inhabit. They are true inasmuch as any story illustrates its truth, and need not be literal in order to have meaning. In this sense, the text has only as much authority as is given it by the reader, who must find some resonance with it. The question of “absolute historical accuracy” is therefore moot.
Is it just a cultural thing for you, something you were raised with and identify yourself as, but otherwise don't care much about?
No. I actually “converted” in my late teens/early twenties, and my religious identity is very important to me.
Do you participate in your religion because it gives you comfort and strength? Or maybe a sense of community and belonging?
Both. It also provides me with opportunities to fulfill my own human potential, a challenge to help others fulfill their potential, and a safe framework within which to struggle with “the big questions”.
Do you feel like you're fulfilling a destiny of some kind by carrying out the teachings of your religion?
I feel like am doing the best I can to comprehend existence and to improve our experience of it. If that moving toward wholeness and holiness is “destiny”, then I must answer yes. If by destiny you mean something like “the inevitability of fate”, then I would say no.
I welcome you to state your religion when answering, if you feel comfortable doing so.
I am a Unitarian Universalist.

More questions? Feel free to ask me anything cultural - especially about language, music, sexuality, religion and faith - by clicking here. Account not required; anonymous questions allowed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

formspring question: If everyone goes to Heaven, as Universalists traditionally believe, whats the reward for doing good works over doing bad works?

Universalists have understood the concepts of Heaven and Hell in different ways over the centuries. Few (if any) modern Universalists within the Unitarian Universalist movement believe in Heaven or Hell as a literal place-destination. If they find the idea theologically useful at all, it is more likely that these terms will refer to frames of mind and states of being.
When Christians refer to “building the Kingdom of God”, this usually means creating a world that is just and at peace in the here-and-now, rather than designating any otherworldly heaven in the afterlife. I would wager that for most Universalists, Christian or otherwise, creating such a world is the only way to “get to Heaven” right here on Earth, and that in itself is enough motivation for doing good.
As for rewards, I’m not sure Universalists seek any…but if the consequence of doing bad works is living a personal hell, then I’d say that’s deterrent enough to live as best a life as one can.

Thanks for the question. I hope I’ve done it justice with my response!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Facts and the Truth

This is the reflection I shared during a Young Adult-presented summer worship service at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, July 18, 2010.


The poet Maya Angelou is quoted to have said, “There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.”
I never did finish college. Having an existential crisis involving issues of sexuality, a loss of faith, and psychological duress is not conducive to study! For a period of about 2 years I attempted to convince myself that I would live purely by the facts, the scientific, the observable and falsifiable. But it eventually became apparent to me that something was missing. I felt empty. All my background in science and learning left me with the facts of my life and an ability to analyze them, but helpless to do anything with this information. The truth of my life, the meaning that connected the fact-engendered dots, eluded me. It was then that I started on the path that led me to becoming a Unitarian Universalist, and after more than a decade I still see evidence that we have not overcome the false dichotomy of science vs. faith, of fact vs. truth.
Science and faith are not of necessity at odds with one another. In truth, I would contend that they can both be seen as tools in our human search for understanding. Which tool one chooses to use primarily is likely based on one’s personal experience.
If we take Angelou’s quote at face value, we may be tempted to conclude (if we equate facts with science and truth with faith) that science can and does obstruct faith. That faith is the better tool to use. However, in addition to the statement “facts can obscure the truth”, I would argue that facts help to reveal truth as well.
When I was a very young child, I loved to play outside in the dirt and observe all the little creatures that lived in our garden. By the time I got to high school, my interest in nature and in science was great. I took six science courses in 4 years, half of these in my senior year.
But I have also always had a love for language, for music, and for culture. Ever since my earliest years growing up in Irvington, NJ, I have been blessed to have friends who come from many different places around the globe. I have always been surrounded by Spanish-speaking peoples. I studied Italian, Greek, German, and French, besides a host of other languages. When I entered college in the fall of 1997, I had no idea which direction to go in. Should I follow my interest in science? Or should I go with my passion for culture, focusing on language and music?
These were and are some of the facts of my life. But at some point, a decision had to be made about the truth of my life.
In Marcus Borg’s book The Heart of Christianity (which is subtitled “Rediscovering a Life of Faith”, so if the word Christianity has too much baggage feel free to engage in mental gymnastics and leave behind the fact of the word and hear the truth of the statements he makes), the renowned professor of Religion and Culture explores a paradigm shift in Christian worldview from that of a tradition of divine authority that is literal-factual to one primarily of metaphor, human response, and transformation. Borg asserts that faith is at the heart of Christianity, and provides four ways to understand what faith is — assensus, or faith as belief; fiducia, or faith as trust; fidelitas, or faith as loyalty and commitment; and visio, or “faith as a way of seeing the whole, a way of seeing ‘what is’.” If we take this last understanding of faith, we might start to see facts and truth working in concert with one another, even as we choose to see through one lens or the other. To me, science (or the facts) provides the dots and the lines of our daily lives, the material in which we exist and with which we work to understand life as we know it. To me, faith (or the truth) provides a holistic understanding that goes beyond reason and intellect; it is what connects the dots of science and that which allows us to read between the lines of factual existence. We may be able to factually describe what happens to us when we experience emotion, awe, and wonder; but for me, the power of language, of story and myth, was and is the more transformative path. However, I believe we need both the facts and the truth in order to fully live.
In fact, my main academic interests growing up were science and language. In truth, learning several different languages opened my mind to different ways to view the world, and life in general. Language helped me to understand the sciences as other forms of communication and understanding. In his book, Borg goes on to explain the Latin word credo, which is usually translated as “I believe”, splitting it into its constituent parts of ‘cre’ (think cardiac) meaning ‘heart’, and ‘do’ (think donate) meaning ‘to give’. When I say “I believe”, it is with this understanding of giving my heart to something, which is different than believing something intellectually – with mind.
Again, I believe we need both the facts and the truth in order to fully live. May we Unitarian Universalists continue building bridges between them.

Personal Transitions

This text is from a reflection on Transition that I shared during a summer worship service at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore back in 2008.
Harry Emerson Fosdick, the early 20th Century liberal Baptist minister who was a prominent force against the emergence of modern-day Fundamentalism, says, in part, in his 1932 book entitled As I See Religion:
The whole discussion…as to which is the true church, seems…a poor expenditure of time because there is no such thing as a true church. All religious organizations, like all secular organizations, are approximate endeavors to meet changing human needs; and one of the best things about them is that, in spite of themselves, they cannot remain as they are.

Fosdick goes on to say, that:
The envenomed controversy also as to which is the true theology…seems largely futile, not because the discovery of the truth about God is unimportant, but because the idea that anybody has so discovered and defined God that he should controversially desire to enforce his opinion on another is absurd. All theology tentatively phrases in current thought and language the best that, up to date, thinkers on religion have achieved; and the most hopeful thing about any system of theology is that it will not last.
Well, the most hopeful thing about my own personal relationships has also been that they do not last. Before you get all anxious about what I am going to say, let me clarify: they do not last as they are, but grow and blossom into something new. Or, when the time has come, they fade away into the past. A concept that has been useful, hopeful, and saving for me, is that of the circle or of the spiral. In a circle one can see that the ending is the beginning is the ending is the beginning. In a spiral, one sees more clearly that a cycle doesn’t necessarily require a ceaseless repetition of the same, over and over and over again; the spiral illustrates the ever-widening scope of experience—every round goes higher and higher.

Today I am 29 years old, and have come to see clear decade-long demarcations in the quality and type of relationship that I have had. My first 5 years were spent almost carefree, living in a 3-story house filled with aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, cousins, my grandmother and great-grandmother! The next 5 years – my first 5 in school – I became much more guarded and cautious with the world. For awhile, I did not know what the word ‘fag’ meant, but could tell by the meanness of those who chose to apply it to me that I did not want to be associated with it.

My grandmother, Shirley Mae, died when I was 10; and so started the next decade of my life. I’d be willing to bet that none of you would have recognized the Adrian of 10-20. Sure, I was friendly and outgoing; but I was deeply closeted and unhappy. Severely depressed at times. My relationships with people, my family, with God, they all deteriorated slowly until at times I felt I would not reach my 20th year.

But I did. I came out to my friends, I came out to my family, I came out of a theological environment that was harming my soul and came to Unitarian Universalism, which as I once told [the Reverend] Phyllis Hubbell, is saving me every day as my mind and spirit are expanded in love. My 20s have proven to be a time of personal trial and error—a time of learning who I want to be, and of learning to be who I am in all my relationships again. Relationships with other people, my family, with God, with faith, and yes, with myself. The most hopeful thing about any system of theology – or any system for that matter – is that it does not last; that it is not static and stale, but grows and is ever-becoming.
My 20s are coming to an end. I have met the love of my life in my partner, Joel Graham, who is now officially a full-time resident of [Baltimore City], I thank you very much. And a new phase of life begins, calling me to grow even more, in the spirit of love. I expect my 30s to be, like my 20s, years of personal trial and error. But though the cycle be repeated, these next 10 years will be even better than I can possibly imagine. Blessed be each transition, as they are times of holy action.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Thank God It Wasn’t a Bullet!" Or, the ways in which we train ourselves to cope with (and accept) injustice in the world.

On Thursday night, April 22, 2010, after a long day at work, I arrived home and found that my partner Joel had gone out for the evening. He had decided to go dance at a local bar where we hang out frequently, just blocks from our apartment in the ‘gayborhood’ at the heart of Baltimore City’s midtown cultural district. After a quick phone call to him, we decided that I would go to the bar and have a beer or two while he danced, and then we would walk home together. It was nice out; there were lots of people there, having a great time, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Even though I opened a tab, expecting to be there a while, I drank exactly one beer (which I didn’t really like) and made up my mind to close and go home.

Sitting at the bar, I must have looked odd. Normally, I am what people call a “social butterfly” – I walk around a lot and talk to different people, I’m bubbly, I’m loud, I have a good time. That night, I just sat there thinking, “Why am I out? I’m tired”. But Joel was having a great time, and that made me happy, so I quietly had my beer and then sent him a text message that I was ready to go.

Shortly afterward, he came over from the dance floor and we headed home. Happy. Tired. In love. Holding hands. Smiling.

And then, we got egged.

Now, I am pretty sure that I have never been physically assaulted in my life. At first, I wasn’t sure what happened. I heard a crack, and thought that perhaps someone had dropped a glass bottle that shattered on the sidewalk. Then, I thought that someone threw a bottle at us, and was concerned that Joel might have been hurt. When I saw the fragments of eggshell on the ground, and felt the goo dripping down my clothing, and realized that there was no blood, I calmed down long enough to allow my anger to surface. It all happened so quickly; it was confusing. The egg had been hurled at us from a moving vehicle travelling toward us, and by the time we figured out what happened it was too late to discern which vehicle it came from, much less get its tag number. At this point, I’m just angry…and sopping with gooey egg.

We went home. I called the police. They arrived within 5 minutes, filed a report, and left. I must admit, the responding officer was very nice, cordial, and efficient. We understood that there wasn’t much that could be done, but I was insistent that there be a record of the crime. Joel thinks these may be the same hoodlums who yelled insults at him a few weeks prior. As someone remarked, “silence is hurting [our] community”, and I refuse to silently accept injustice, no matter that some might think this a petty offense not worthy of so much attention, especially when there are so many more heinous crimes happening in Baltimore. I beg to differ, and here are a few of my reasons.

#1 “Thank God it wasn’t a bullet”. Well, sure. I’m very thankful that it wasn’t a bullet – this time. It started with words (have you ever had some random person yell an epithet at you from a moving vehicle, in your own neighborhood?), and has now progressed to physical violence. Yes, it was ‘just’ an egg. Are we supposed to wait until after we get shot to speak up? Does someone have to be seriously injured before it’s ok to report a crime? Hell no. This is how things start, and the situation escalates when you allow it to.

#2 Throwing things at people from moving vehicles is ILLEGAL. I’m tired of people suggesting, whether they intend to or not, that you should just roll over and accept what they deem to be trifling matters. Yes, relatively speaking, this was not the worst that could have happened. But it was still a crime, and it happened to my partner and me, and the right thing to do was to report it to the police, despite the unlikelihood of these criminals’ apprehension. So what if there are more severe crimes? Those should be reported as well! When will it stop if we don’t work to stop it? Why shouldn’t we be outraged that someone thought this was ok? This is how it starts!

#3 This is a safety issue. Granted, we tend to get a little too comfortable in our affirming churches and our progressive urban gayborhoods and forget that the wider world out there is still broadly dangerous, and in this time of political vitriol, xenophobia, and tea partiers, our little havens aren’t necessarily as safe as we once thought. We have to heal the world. Safety, like peace, is something that we have to create. Safety is the presence of peace-of-mind provided by structures that support and sustain, not just the absence of violence. I want to make the world safe, for me and for others.

#4 This was a hate crime. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t motive play a role in prosecuting crime? When you perpetrate any crime against another being, you are creating a victim. When you target someone specifically because of some demographic that you despise, you are terrorizing an entire community of people. Some say that “a crime is a crime”, but I don’t think that these two types of crime should be treated in quite the same way. Yes, they are both awful. But when your motive is based in hatred for an entire group of people, the punishment should be commensurate. Of course, designating some acts as “hate crimes” is not the solution, yet prosecuting said crimes more strongly is a response that can help alleviate the detrimental effects of having one’s community under constant potential threat, and may increase an individual’s willingness to actually report crime!

So yeah, let’s all thank God it wasn’t a bullet. If it had been, you might be attending a funeral or two now, wondering how such an atrocity could have come about, instead of reading my rant about a single hurled egg.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Have you been counted?

I received my 2010 Census the day they were to be sent out. I filled it in, making sure to mark my partner as "husband", and mailed it back the very next day.

Imagine my surprise when I received another form, clearly telling me that my participation was mandated by the Constitution (as did the first). At first, I thought that perhaps my carefully completed form had been misplaced and would not be counted. But then I figured that the bureau probably just sent out duplicates to ensure a higher count, and that sending in another form would screw up the count.

Turns out I was right about the duplicate mailings. See: Americans Get Mixed Messages About Census - AOL News
But since every form is barcoded, can they actually double-count? Not so sure.

Anyway, here's a live look at my neighborhood count. As of April 6, 2010, it is at 57% - which is just below the national average.

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