Standing On My Head … With My Fly Open
When the author was in the fourth grade, a Philadelphia Inquirer photographer caught his grammar school tumbling team’s premier performance at a PTA meeting. As a result, Duke Robinson claims to be the only Presbyterian minister in the history of Western civilization to have had his picture in a major metropolitan newspaper standing on his head with his fly open.
The fact his fly was open, he says, reflects the innocence typical of an eight-year old boy reared in a very religious family in the first half of the Twentieth Century. That’s who he says he was. That’s what he did. And he says, “I wanted never to do it again.”
Robinson’s intimate memoir takes you through a life marked by weird coincidences, surprise twists and turns, and life-or-death close calls that impacted him dramatically. His curious mind kept him asking and trying to answer, with some measure of intellectual integrity, why life works the way it does. How come the smallest incident or choice, either by yourself or someone else, can turn your life in a direction you never dreamed of?
The mythology on which Robinson was reared gave him an answer to this question. It emerged, however, from an ancient people who thought the world had recently been created for them, didn’t know where the sun went at night and believed demons caused illness. He says that he came to see that he could not be whole living in both that world and the scientific cause-and-effect world we all know today.
The author’s story of his own personal change has to do with discarding a lot of superstition, sentimentality and wishful thinking in religion, in order to be grounded in, integrated with, and liberated by relating honestly to the real world. Looking back, he says, “I never wanted to be caught standing on my theological head with my fly open.”
This book gets you inside the head of a Presbyterian minister who early on found that he also could not go through the motions or play so many of the games that the Church generally asks of its clergy. He has wrestled with traditional religion for well over a half-century. Of the last congregation he served for twenty-eight years, he began by asking its membership to lighten up and to get real. And they did. And he tells some remarkable stories about them.
Robinson’s four other books bear witness to his changed and changing worldview. Here, in more personal terms he weaves together stories about his Christian fundamentalist upbringing, the wonderful loves of his life, hilarious adventures on stage, his reputation for humor, reflections on sexual repression, parenting four strong children, and some hilarious, embarrassing professional mistakes, and fascinating projects in retirement. He also talks about being a fervent fan of the Philadelphia, Kansas City and now Oakland A’s baseball teams for almost eighty years.
He asks, “How much more theological can you get than that?”