There is a humorous scene in the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? in which two characters discuss the spiritual decisions made by three of the four fellow travelers. Tommy, has just sold his soul to the devil, while Pete and Delmar were caught up in an emotional moment and committed themselves to a Christian Church.

Tommy Johnson: I had to be up at that there crossroads last midnight, to sell my soul to the devil.
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well, ain’t it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved. I guess I’m the only one that remains unaffiliated.1

Ulysses (masterfully played by George Clooney) suggests that he is unaffiliated and not committed to any particular view. Yet, his rejection of each of the options embraced by those with whom he travels is a choice in itself. He seems to be willing to simply take his chances.  There may be many others who can relate to this. Certainly, I meet people who have decided to play the odds and seek to remain unaffiliated. Mary-Chapin Carpenter expresses this sentiment in her song, “I Take My Chances.”

I took a walk in the rain one day on the wrong side of the tracks
I stood on the rails till I saw that train
Just to see how my heart would react
Now some people say that you shouldn’t tempt fate
And for them I would not disagree
But I never learned nothing from playing it safe
I say fate should not tempt me

I take my chances, I don’t mind working without a net
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get
I sat alone in the dark one night, tuning in by remote
I found a preacher who spoke of the light but there was brimstone in his throat
He’d show me the way according to him in return for my personal check
I flipped my channel back to CNN and I lit another cigarette

I take my chances, forgiveness doesn’t come with a debt
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get
I’ve crossed lines of words and wire and both have cut me deep
I’ve been frozen out and I’ve been on fire and the tears are mine to weep
Now I can cry until I laugh and laugh until I cry
So cut the deck right in half, I’ll play from either side

I take my chances, I pay my dollar and I place my bet
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get
I take my chances, I don’t cling to remorse or regret
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get

I take my chances
I take my chances

But even as we cut the deck and roll the dice, most of us are aware that there is more to it than that. There is no such thing as remaining unaffiliated. Every choice we make, or refuse to make, puts us squarely in the camp of others who have chosen before us. Non-affiliation is simply affiliation with those who refuse to choose.

1 Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Directed by Joel Cohen and
Ethan Cohen. Performed by George Clooney and Chris Thomas King. 2000.

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