Trump change

Donald John Trump, the 45th President of the United States, on the long march, slog through the campaign to his election and inauguration, and now in office, among many pledges, promised “to drain the swamp” of the rapacious and mendacious Washington, DC, political establishment characterized by institutionalized (constitutionalized?) cronyism.

Would that he would endeavor to fulfill this promise (such an attempt I consider a chivalrous task of Don Quixote-esque proportions). But no (though I do perceive this similarity between the man of La Mancha and Mr. Trump; both replace a realistic view of the world with an imaginary and narcissistic – thus, self-serving and, therefore, inevitably self-defeating – vision of life and their noble, exalted place in it). A half-year into his presidency, Mr. Trump appears to me to have remained as he, again, from my perspective, alway hath been – as rapacious and mendacious as the town and culture he vowed to change.

Therefore, Trump change truly is chump change of trifling measure and even less meaning.

As President Trump, the Tweeter-in-Chief, might opine: Sad

an epistemological epiphany about life and legacy

My mother named me after St. Paul. (Perhaps she knew something!) I’ve always had a kinship with the Apostle; one of his words long being a touchstone for me: Now we see in a mirror dimly…Now I know only in part.[1]

It never ceases to amaze me how much I don’t know. About anything. God. The creation. Others. Myself. In this daily state of conscious ignorance, I also always am amazed when an epiphany, especially about myself (which, of the four aforementioned things, I think I should know most well, but oft do not!) dawns. It usually happens in a moment of sheer serendipity, verily, from that proverbial realm “out of nowhere.”

It happened today. I was in conversation with a friend, Carolyn. Our subjects of interest, covering a wide range – meditation, prayer, God, eternal life, reincarnation – had a common core of spiritual beliefs and practices and, even more, epistemology, and that, still more, in its most basic sense concerning how we know what we know.

I spoke of my life as a writer, mostly sermons, but also poetry, novellas, and my blog. I told Carolyn that usually I never know where the words will take me until I arrive at an “Aha!” moment of deepened self-awareness.

William John Abernathy

As an aside, I referenced my blog post of yesterday – at some point (thinking ahead, thinking back)… – a personal reflection about my father, which Carolyn had read.

And then, it happened. “Aha!”

For years, truly, so long ago that I cannot recall my first awareness, I’ve loved history; the chronicle of human life in time and space is a principle lens through which I perceive reality. And as a philosophical and theological existentialist, I long have been enamored by the questions of identity and destiny; constantly asking myself who am I and who am I becoming as a person, as a creation of God?

PRA 6-19-16

In yesterday’s blog post, I wrote of my father’s largely vain pursuit of his history and identity. And it wasn’t until today as Carolyn and I talked that I realized that I bear in my blood and in my bones my father’s legacy. I now know that I, on my father’s behalf and for myself, live to fulfill his quest.




[1] 1 Corinthians 13.12

Of life in the still-Christian South (a retired cleric’s occasional reflections)…

On preaching (Part 1 of 2)

“Paul, is preaching different in the South?”

In early 2015, following over 35 years of active ministry,[1] I retired to Spartanburg, SC. Since then, many times and in many ways, many people, most living in places other than the South, have asked me this question.

Usually, I answer with an immediate “Yes.”

Equally usually, I seek to intuit the assumption that provoked the question.[2] That assumption, for the most part, I characterize as a perception held by many of Southern illiberalism, manifesting itself, especially in regard to preaching, in a traditional (read: doctrinaire and dogmatic) form of biblical interpretation. However, I have not found this to be true.

Admittedly, as an Episcopal priest, I preach largely with Episcopalians, who, given our historic roots in the Church of England, the church of the via media,[3] whether North or South, East or West, span the widest and moderating range of the conservative-progressive biblical/theological continuum. Still, on the occasions I have preached in other settings with folk of the Church of God and of Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian communities, the common element of the experience, as fat as I can reckon, has had little, truly, nothing to do with my assumed or acknowledged conformity to one side or the other of the ideological spectrum. Rather, what I have found, what I have felt in the bones of my soul is people’s hunger to have an experience of God through the Bible. In this, I recognize the difference of preaching in the South.

Part 2 to come…


[1] I emphasize the word active for three reasons. First, to distinguish my working life and my now retired life. Second, to testify to my belief that as long as one has breath and strength (no matter the vocation, but I also consider this supremely true of ordained ministry), there is life and labor to do in God’s Name. Third, in recognition of this second point, to acknowledge that, in December 2015, I “went back to work” as the part-time priest-in-charge (though daily I pray that God-in-Christ-through-the-Holy Spirit is in charge!) of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC.

[2] Over time and experience, I have come to believe that in order for me to ask a question, seeking to fill a void in my pool of knowledge or to resolve a lack of my understanding, I have had to base my inquiry on a starting assumption, which, given the response, either was validated or negated. To put this another way, I often ask myself: “What question did I have to answer first that formed the basis for my present inquiry?” I have found this tact useful in revealing my sometimes unconscious notions about the truth or reality of a person (including myself!), place, or thing.

[3] Via media, “the middle way” or “the middle road” has been a common self-identifier of the Anglican Church (Church of England) since its formal establishment during the 16th and 17th centuries; at that time in history descriptive of stance between Roman Catholicism and the Continental (European) Protestant Reformation. (Today, one way that I would characterize the Episcopal Church as via media is taking a position between nihilism, which, believing life is meaningless, rejects all religious and moral principles, and relativism, which, believing no principles have absolute value, views all ideologies as equal.)