I met ‘my’ Baptist minister back in the late 80’s when I was asked to be part of a ‘tribunal’ to divide the estate of a divorcing couple. They wanted a lawyer, a minister and a layman to ‘do the separating’. So, we all met. We all looked at the circumstances and we all went to work on it somewhat separately. Then we came together and compared notes, our reasoning and we then came up with the settlement. It was mutually derived and no one took the ‘lead’. We worked well as a team. The settlement turned out to be a good one – especially over the long haul.
The minister got called to perform another quasi-judicial process again a few years later and it involved a very strict and heavily religious community in the valley. They were intent on ostracizing and expelling a family and the family was fighting to stay within the community. And so the minister asked us to re-group and do it again. The lawyer declined but the Minister and I went out and ‘heard the case’. Again, we separated and deliberated on our own and then got back together to compare notes. And again we agreed on the outcome and so rendered our verdict. It went well. All very, very interesting.
I found it particularly fascinating in that second case that the minister went into OLD English law and found parallels in private societies, clubs, teams and the various conditions under which a member might be expelled. I instead, read their (the community’s) constitution and found that it was very reliant on God, the bible and the basic tenets of Christianity. I read their constitution as an implied contract with the members. The more religious stuff I read, the more the decision was made clear. I concluded that the member family needed Christian forgiveness and that it was an implicit promise made by the community in their constitution to provide it. I argued ‘bible’, the minister argued ‘private club’.
Ironically, the minister was somewhat drawn to the ‘private club’, exclusivity, high social standing and money-set and I am not. He does not worship the golden calf but he admires it. I do not. But the gap is NOT huge. We got along.
And then he asked me to edit all his monthly newsletters. I do not know much about the bible, Baptists, churches or congregations but I agreed to help. As the years wore on, I became more and more involved in the editing to the point that I would just tear up what he wrote and write the whole damn thing again. Some people write as they speak (me) and others write as they think they are supposed to (him). Fair enough…ministers can have a codified, professional-jargon-filled style not unlike engineers, doctors, lawyers and sea captains. They talk their professional talk. And I get it. Being boring is not a sin.
But that ain’t me and he asked for me to write and say what I thought…so I started writing more and more irreverently. I was not in the least sacrilegious, disrespectful or blasphemous but my prose was personal and familiar. Earthy at times. Blunt. Worse, I started to sprinkle the odd Green meme or anti-capitalism theme in what was ostensibly HIS newsletter. The minister was NOT all that thrilled by that ‘commoner’ approach but he kept his mouth shut because his newsletters were getting better reviews and he even went so far as to consolidate them all in a book.
But then he wrote something I strongly objected to and I reamed him a new ordination.
We split up.
I was OK with that.
I guessed he was, too.
And the years went on.
Last month he wrote and asked for another newsletter edit. I gave it. This month he wrote and asked again. This months topic is forgiveness. And that is not a coincidence. Funny how things come full circle sometimes, don’t you think?