A United Methodist pastor with over thirty-six years of pastoral experience, Rev. Wayne Plumstead describes what he has learned about the aesthetics of religion from the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel.

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Location: Bloomfield, New Jersey, United States

The Rev. Wayne Jack Plumstead holds a BA from Drake University and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained a minister in the United Methodist Church in 1973, he has served since 1991 as Senior Pastor at the Park United Methodist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Prior to that time he served pastorates in Lower Berkshire Valley, Bayonne, Arlington and Jersey City, all in New Jersey. Rev. Plumstead credits the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, with having an invaluable influence on his theological formation. He has given many public seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City. In 1994, the Board of Global Ministries invited him to give a presentation at a consultation on Developing Multicultural Congregations in San Antonio, Texas to assist national church staff in developing strategies for congregations in transitional communities. In 2000, he was invited to give the opening sermon at the first meeting of clergy in the newly formed Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. And, in 2002, the United Methodist Publishing House printed an article he authored in its national magazine for United Methodist clergy, Circuit Rider.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Note About Scoffers, Name-Callers, Dirt-Kickers and Fabricators

"Blessed is he who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." -- Psalm 1:1

Unfortunately, Aesthetic Realism has been on the receiving end of some pretty outrageous lies. The most outlandish of which is that it is a cult. New thought has often in history been met with such ignorance and outright malice, and Aesthetic Realism is no exception.

The history of Christianity itself can comment on the problem. In the early days of the church the Christian movement was labelled a cult by uncomprehending and, sometimes, deliberately misleading persons who had their own motivations. In his respected work A Summary of Christian History, Robert A. Baker writes: "Either willfully or ignorantly, the pagans twisted the vocabulary of the Christians to involve atheism (no idols), cannibalism (eating the Lord's body and drinking his blood), immorality (growing out of the sensual conception of the word 'love'), and magic and sorcery (in the Supper and baptism). The large gulf between the ethical ideas of the Christians and those of the pagans constantly exposed Christianity to the ire of the people." (Robert A. Baker; A Summary of Christian History, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1959, pg. 16)

Aesthetic Realism today faces such "pagans," who are on the hunt to twist Aesthetic Realism into something it isn't. Reading the highly manipulative web site of a certain individual who has decided to base his self-importance on attacking Aesthetic Realism most unjustly, I couldn't help but recall the words of Abraham Lincoln in commenting upon President Polk's pathetic lies and absurd justifications about a totally unnecessary war with Mexico in 1848. "His confused mind runs hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease."

It does seem strange to me that people can take pride in saying some of the most decidedly hurtful and untruthful things. I read recently about how Abraham Lincoln's good friend Joshua Speed once cautioned him against penning some of his most injudicious thoughts. "Once put your words into writing and they stand as a living and eternal monument against you," Speed warned Lincoln. When what Aesthetic Realism truly is becomes known by people in all its splendor and intellectual acumen, the rantings of this particular web site will indeed stand as a living and eternal monument against its misguided author.

Fortunately, the internet can be used for good as well as evil, and to tell the truth as well as to lie--as many persons are now doing in responding to these ludicrous charges in the admirable web site Friends of Aesthetic Realism, Countering the Lies. I encourage you check it out.

There you can read the noted photographer and editor Ralph Hattersley on Aesthetic Realism. His insightful observations on the mindset and motives of the persons who are attempting to defame Aesthetic Realism are contained in his 1962 letter to Martha Baird. My colleague, Dr. Arnold Perey, has also written importantly on how Aesthetic Realism has been met, placing this current injustice in its larger historical context. There is also my statement on Friends of Aesthetic Realism (Statement by Rev. Wayne Plumstead).

So outrageous are these falsehoods that my father, Jack Plumstead, was impelled to write his own statement concerning them, for which I am truly grateful. There is also a statement by my stepmother, Maria Plumstead and the statement of my dear wife, Rosemary Plumstead.

All I can say about this whole matter is that the internet, while in and of itself a truly wonderful thing that can be used for so much good, has also provided a means for unscrupulous individuals to construct a virtual reality world; one in which they assume the role of God and become the authors of their own "truth" because they do not love or respect the facts as they truly are. It must give these persons a tremendous sense of power and ego-importance to feel that they can bamboozle the unsuspecting into believing all kinds of things so contrary to reality.

Unfortunately, the desire to know is not as strong and beautiful as it should be in the human mind. There is a pronounced tendency in many people toward WANTING to believe the very worst about someone or something. (Witness the prevalence and popularity of some current biographies that pick, choose and rearrange their "facts" most selectively to debunk the lives of great American heroes.) These factors have combined to give the fabricators a fertile field in which to sow their noxious seeds. To my mind, truth is the most sacred thing in the world and the greatest measurement of a person's character and integrity is how intent they are on knowing and acting upon the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Clearly, to pick and choose, and even to manufacture, your "facts" in order to create an incomplete and false picture of something or someone is hardly an honoring of the truth. But while loving the truth might not be an easy or a popular thing, I sincerely believe it is an individual's highest ethical and intellectual achievement. I hope the readers of this blog will join me in a humble attempt to practice this most lovely of all the human virtues. Not only will we all be much better for it, but the world will be too. "Blessed are those who sitteth not in the seat of the scornful!"