Deep Thoughts From Team Chauncey

Chauncey must be learning good things at school. Here’s his latest insight:

It occurs to me that we’ve been taught to believe a lie

That brokenness in our world (and ourselves) is absolute

The person you or I am cannot change

Scars, the lie says, are signs of a wound

Pain is to be feared, safety is to be protected

We ought to remain as intact as possible

It so happens that the truth is much more complex

Healing almost always comes with pain

Risk often opens the doorway to joy

Allowing yourself to be transformed is where life is found

Scars, the truth says, are the artwork of the healer

How hard it is to hear and trust the whispers

That in time, all will be made well

No Stupid Questions

Chauncey has left Seattle for an adventure at seminary. Thus far, I approve of his classes:


One of my professors said something yesterday that stuck with me. He said, “There are some people who say there are no stupid questions…we know this is patently untrue. However, the stupid question is not asked from ignorance on grounds of seeking understanding. The stupid question is that which is asked to make oneself seem intelligent.” We then made an informal agreement as a class to avoid such questions.

Asking questions is important; and I don’t think there should be shame or embarrassment in asking questions. If something is unclear, I think you have a duty to get understanding about it. This has been a hard thing for me to learn — and I’m still learning it. But I love asking questions and I try to make a lot of what I do about asking questions, there are very few better ways to learn.

One of the stories that has inspired me is Richard Feynman’s experience at Los Alamos. When I’m talking to young engineers, or really anybody, about asking questions, I like to recall this story. Feynman is overseeing some work at Los Alamos, helping design nuclear weapons and such:

I sat down and I told them all about neutrons, how they worked, da da, ta ta ta, there are too many neutrons together, you’ve got to keep the material apart, cadmium absorbs, and slow neutrons are more effective than fast neutrons, and yak yak — all of which was elementary stuff at Los Alamos, but they had never heard of any of it, so I appeared to be a tremendous genius to them.

The result was that they decided to set up little groups to make their own calculations to learn how to do it. They started to redesign plants, and the designers of the plants were there, the construction designers, and engineers, and chemical engineers for the new plant that was going to handle the separated material.

They told me to come back in a few months, so I came back when the engineers had finished the design of the plant. Now it was for me to look at the plant.

How do you look at a plant that isn’t built yet? I don’t know. Lieutenant Zumwalt, who was always coming around with me because I had to have an escort everywhere, takes me into this room where there are these two engineers and a loooooong table covered with a stack of blueprints representing the various floors of the proposed plant.

I took mechanical drawing when I was in school, but I am not good at reading blueprints. So they unroll the stack of blueprints and start to explain it to me, thinking I am a genius. Now, one of the things they had to avoid in the plant was accumulation. They had problems like when there’s an evaporator working, which is trying to accumulate the stuff, if the valve gets stuck or something like that and too much stuff accumulates, it’ll explode. So they explained to me that this plant is designed so that if any one valve gets stuck nothing will happen. It needs at least two valves everywhere.

Then they explain how it works. The carbon tetrachloride comes in here, the uranium nitrate from here comes in here, it goes up and down, it goes up through the floor, comes up through the pipes, coming up from the second floor, bluuuuurp — going through the stack of blueprints, down-up-down-up, talking very fast, explaining the very, very complicated chemical plant.

I’m completely dazed. Worse, I don’t know what the symbols on the blueprint mean! There is some kind of a thing that at first I think is a window. It’s a square with a little cross in the middle, all over the damn place. I think it’s a window, but no, it can’t be a window, because it isn’t always at the edge. I want to ask them what it is.

You must have been in a situation like this when you didn’t ask them right away. Right away it would have been OK. But now they’ve been talking a little bit too long. You hesitated too long. If you ask them now they’ll say, “What are you wasting my time all this time for?”

What am I going to do? I get an idea. Maybe it’s a valve. I take my finger and I put it down on one of the mysterious little crosses in the middle of one of the blueprints on page three, and I say, “What happens if this valve gets stuck?” — figuring they’re going to say, “That’s not a valve, sir, that’s a window.”

So one looks at the other and says, “Well, if that valve gets stuck –” and he goes up and down on the blueprint, up and down, the other guy goes up and down, back and forth, back and forth, and they both look at each other. They turn around to me and they open their mouths like astonished fish and say, “You’re absolutely right, sir.”

So they rolled up the blueprints and away they went and we walked out. And Mr. Zumwalt, who had been following me all the way through, said, “You’re a genius. I got the idea you were a genius when you went through the plant once and you could tell them about evaporator C-21 in building 90-207 the next morning,” he says, “but what you have just done is so fantastic I want to know how, how do you do that?”

I told him you try to find out whether it’s a valve or not.

Feynman clearly is wanting to know what that thing is! And so he asks, although in a definitively roundabout way. But he asks the question. And so should you.

Church and Sexuality

Chauncey linked to this the other day, and I finally had a chance to read it; I think this is a great conversation to be having:

It seems to me that many of us Christians are born, raised, and taught with a giant elephant in the room.

That elephant would be sexuality.

Most Christians don’t hear anything about it growing up or if they do it’s an entirely negative frame of reference that only shifts dramatically once the word marriage is attached to it.

I’m unsure how young adults who grow up without healthy conversation regarding sexuality are going to be able to participate in a healthy expression of it.

Chauncey helps kick off the discussion by linking to an article written by Tina Schermer Sellers, “a clinical professor in the graduate Family Therapy Department at Seattle Pacific University and director of their post-graduate certificate in Medical Family Therapy”, called Christians Caught Between the Sheets – How ‘abstinence only’ Ideology Hurts Us:


“The sex affirming Hebraic roots of Western civilization has been masked by Augustine’s legacy of eroticism-hating sexual dualism, perpetuated by authoritarian-rooted Christian dogma, which negated the basic worthiness of human beings. The evolution of Western culture is a history of theologically based sexual oppression.”5

“Traditional Christian sexual ethics is not only inadequate in that it fails to reflect God’s reign of justice and love which Jesus died announcing, but its legalistic, apologetic approach is also incompatible with central Judaic and Christian affirmations of creation, life, and an incarnate messiah. Because the Christian sexual tradition has diverged from this its life-affirming source, it has become responsible for innumerable deaths, the stunting of souls, the destruction of relationships, and the distortion of human communities. The Christian sexual tradition uses scripture and theological traditions as supports for a code of behavior which developed out of mistaken, pre-scientific understanding of man, anatomy, physiology and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships.”7

It’s a long read, but I think it’s worth it.