Radical Minister Vs. Radical Philosopher?



I haven’t blogged here for real in months.

I am feeling stuck, and am writing to work through it.

I’ve dreamed of becoming a preacher since I was in early grade school, possibly even earlier. My father, his father, my mother’s mother, several uncles, an aunt, brother, and a few cousins are or were all preachers, mostly conservative Pentecostals. It’s the freaking family business.

As a 3-time college dropout, I’m finishing an undergraduate degree in Political Science. I chose Poli. Sci. because I want to be a social revolutionary. Not what you’d expect from a Pentecostal preacher’s kid. Dr. King has always been my greatest role model, among others. Maybe the fact that my grandmother was a liberal Methodist preacher had a tiny bit to do with it, as well.

But, what to do after the undergrad? For the past 2 or 3 years, I’ve been saying I am going to enroll at Meadville Lombard Theological School and become an ordained Unitarian-Universalist Minister. At my age of nearly 53, this seems like such a huge undertaking that I often have doubts. Mostly about the thousands of dollars of possible debts.

Before I started saying I was bound for seminary, I talked about becoming a political philosopher, getting a grad degree in Critical Theory maybe, and teaching high school history to fund it.

That shelved possibility came roaring back last night, as I sat through the first session of a freshman writing seminar on the theme of “social protest.” We began with a somewhat lengthy round of paired interviews and introductions of ourselves. After that was done, the instructor “generously” offers us the choice to push on through a short theoretical introduction to the theme, or take a break. Adding 15 minutes to the end of the class seemed undesirable – since Chicago is in the throes of its usual January deep freeze – so we chose the quitting early option.

The instructor – who admittedly is not a political theorist – decided to give us a thumbnail of theories of protest. She started off referencing the “mob behavior” theories of Tarde, Le Bon, and Simmel. My brain went into radical philosophical overdrive. In fact, I could barely contain my desire to rebut the relevance of this starting point in light of the historical examples of planned mass protests that did not rely on inciting chaotic riots. Tarde, Le Bon, and Simmel were all most interested in the criminality of mob behavior, and thus represented completely reactionary analyses.

You can probably see where I am going. I kept my objections to myself, went home, and promptly spent hours on the interwebs reading up on political theory!!

So, my recurring dilemma is now strongly on the side of the political philosopher track. I want to spend all my vocational capital fighting the revolutionary struggle against the late modern death-systems of fake democracy, capitalism, white supremacy, and male domination. I’ve devoted an entire blog “Radical Progress” to political theory with 80 published postings and over 40 drafts. Clearly, I am obsessed with this aspect of my passions.

By comparison, this blog “Radical Righteous Love/Leftist Quaker” has 49 posts and 12 drafts. RRLove was created a few years after Radical Progress and RP actually contains a significant number of postings on religion. I always maintain that religion and politics are inseperable, despite modern state-church constructs. So, maybe I do have enough dynamic energy in my vocational drive to push ahead with the ministry plans.

One reason I find ministry so much more desirable than political philosopher is that I aspire to be a advocate for the people – the oppressed, exploited, repressed, and dominated. Teaching political philosophy, even very radical philosophy, to privileged grad students seems like an ivory tower career with little enduring value. Dr. King’s life is very much the counterpoint. He wrote and preached and marched from 1955-1968 as the figurehead of an epochal shift in US history. I will never be such a figurehead, but working with human beings from a variety of walks of life fighting the death-systems while caring for souls seems much more satisfying.

I still have a lot of thinking and planning to do. “How can I afford seminary?” looms like a vampire over my throbbing heart.

Writing this post has helped me out quite a bit, actually. I am a slave to Universal Love and to Her I owe my most passionate labors.

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