On marching to the beat of your own drum , singer Judy Collins wrote:
“The creative act is one of great boldness where you act on your own beliefs. Creativity is the ability to risk being different from the crowd, to think differently, to act differently, and yet in a calculated, orderly fashion so that your idea, your vision, your new insight, is clear. It is the successful effort to make completeness out of chaos, to make the world dance, for a moment or forever, to your drum, at your pace, to your dream.”
I was thinking of this when I read of the recent death at 87 of theologian William Hamilton. Hamilton was a member of the ‘Death of God’ movement of the 1960’s. His controversial book: “Is God Dead?”, created a nationwide dialogue about changing beliefs and values in the turbulent time of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement.
Hamilton told the Oregonian newspaper in 2007 that he had questioned the existence of God since he was a teenager, when two friends – an Episcopalian and a Catholic – died from the explosion of a pipe bomb they were building, while a third – an atheist – escaped without a scratch.
It caused him to question why the innocent suffer, and whether God intervened in people’s lives, he said. “The death of God is a metaphor,” Hamilton said. “We needed to redefine Christianity as a possibility without the presence of God.”
William Hamilton paid a price for his belief. He lost his job teaching at a seminary and for the rest of his life lived outside the boundaries of the faith that had nurtured him.
I reference Mr. Hamilton not because I agree with him. My own wrestling with the very same question of theodicy (God, good and evil), led me to a very different conclusion. Rather, I reference William Hamilton to honor his commitment to his own spiritual journey and his willingness to step out of the mainstream and announce the truth as he understood it.
Such willingness to go against one’s tradition, to risk losing one’s job and the respect of one’s peers, takes courage. And such courage of conviction, is always rare and deserves to be honored.
Judy Collins wrote. “The creative act is one of great boldness where you act on your own beliefs.”
While William Hamilton’s truth was different from mine, his life long witness challenges me to be a more authentic pastor and person. May we each find the courage to discover, speak and live out our truth.