Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Allan Unger, MD; R.I.P.

March 30, 2012

Dear Jane, Harriett, Richard and Robert,

Eleanor Burke called me at 8:15 AM this morning to tell me of Allan’s death. I was saddened but not as pained as you must be. My heartfelt sympathies go out to you and all your families.

My family and I moved to Diamond Heights in 1965 to become Vicar of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church on Goldmine Dr. We lived at 56 Amber Drive not far from you all.

Allan and I first clashed on the race issue and I was pleased that he softened and became a real supporter of black rights. I am sure you kids also made sure of that.

Then Richard, I believe, after your Bar Mitzvah, accepted my invitation to read the Hebrew Bible lesson in Hebrew and English at St. Aidan’s. Allan and Jane were there and very proud parents.

Later I chose Allan to be my doctor. We had many pleasant visits. I learned, “When in doubt, take it out” from Allan as he recommended surgery on a benign lump in my neck.

One time I had a wen on my penis. Allan took some thread, tied it around the wen assuring me the wen would soon fall off. He fumbled with the thread then smiled and said, “See why I didn’t go into surgery.”

Another time I asked him if I should stop eating butter. He drawled, “Well Robert, if you stop eating butter you’ll probably live about twenty minutes longer.”

When he retired I wrote him that the word doctor means teacher and that he had taught me a great deal about my body and healing. He wrote back saying he felt satisfied that he had succeeded in that. I was really unhappy that he retired and I would no longer see him as my cherished physician.

In retirement he took classes and made a late Bar Mitzvah. He seemed glad to reclaim his Jewish religious heritage. In the last couple of years he was less sure about notions of God, prayer and why evil existed.

In the late 1990s, I met him on Gough Street in front of Trinity Church where I was then rector. He was on the Trustees of Temple Emmanuel. He said he was mad at the Rabbi because he had hired an assistant who was a lesbian. He said he didn’t care that she was a lesbian but annoyed that the Rabbi hadn’t informed the board of her orientation.

I remember Allan and Jane’s 50th Wedding Anniversary where they threw a grand dinner party and dance at a hotel. We still have the 8x10 color photograph of Ann and me taken at that wonderful occasion. It hangs proudly on our wall to this day.

I shall long remember his gentle manner, caring concern and practical medical wisdom. I trusted him completely. His humor, interest in my family and our mutual friends will always be admired.

Like it or not Allan, the prayers of this gentile Episcopalian are with you wherever you are. Ann and I will remember you, his family, also in these days of loss sorrow and bewilderment.



Friday, March 16, 2012


I had lunch with Rowan Williams at Christ Church College in Oxford when Ann and I were there for a month in 1988. He was charming, oh, so bright and seemed interested in me, my ministry and was a supporter of lesbi/gay rights. He had written some books I had read and I heard him lecture at a series at Grace Cathedral. I was thrilled when he got elected AB.

Needless to say I have been horribly disappointed in him during his decade in office. He chose the unity of the Anglican Communion as his chief goal. Some of our Bishops have also the notion of the unity of the church as a major goal. The AB and our Bishops have failed in that mission. The church is as fractured as it ever was. He pushed the Anglican Covenant that is an abomination which I would not follow for a moment in my preaching, writing and teaching. Anglicanism's great virtue is freedom, flexibility and local control while holding similar world wide views within the framework of the Episcopate, Creeds, Scripture and Sacraments.

I had hoped he would have chosen social justice for all as a major goal.

Thus I am disappointed in his ministry. I am glad he is retiring. I have some sympathy for him as he did not have the thick skin and sharp tongue necessary for the job.

But God only knows what meatball will come next.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Some Thoughts about Israel, Iran and the Church

1. What Netanyahu wants the American Public Affair Committee wants. What APAC wants is what our politicians want. Our politicians want the support and money of the wealthy Jews who have the power to sway elections.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky wants the US to use overwhelming military force against Iran if American intelligence shows that Teheran decides to build nuclear weapons or enrich uranium. Remember when American intelligence said Iraq was building nuclear weapons? We invaded, destroyed that country, and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. American casualties were five thousand dead and 30,000 wounded. Our government has pledged to rebuild Iraq at taxpayer’s expense.

Violence begets violence. Overwhelming military force against Iran has unforeseeable consequences that will kill people and destroy nations and bring division and hate against all concerned.

2, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Benjamin Netanyahu are pressing President Obama into preparing for war against Iran if that country develops nuclear weapons. The President is insisting wisely on letting policies of sanctions and isolation to get the government of Iran to cease its actions.

The outrage of the government and people of a sovereign nation Iran is quite understandable. They don’t want others interfering in their internal policies. This is especially galling to Iran, as Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons. The U.S has not pressed that country about its nuclear capability. The U.S., Russia, United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan and North Korea all possess nuclear weapons. Frankly, Iran is no more a threat to using nuclear weapons than any of the others. They are smart people who know what war destroys

War brings death and injury not so much to the military but the civilians, the elderly, women and children Violence begets violence. It looks like we learn nothing from the last ten years of war.

3. Here is Wikipedia on Nuclear Weapons:

Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have been detonated on over two thousand occasions for testing purposes and demonstrations. Only a few nations possess such weapons or are suspected of seeking them. The only countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons—and that acknowledge possessing such weapons—are (chronologically by date of first test) the United States, the Soviet Union (succeeded as a nuclear power by Russia), the United Kingdom, France, the People's Republic of China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. In addition, Israel is also widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, though it does not acknowledge having them.[4][5][6] One state, South Africa, has admitted to having previous fabricated nuclear weapons in the past, but has since disassembled their arsenal and submitted to international safeguards.[7]

4. If the US goes to war to defend Israel, I believe the undercurrents of anti-Semitism alive and sick in this country will erupt. I suspect this will be true among southerners, black and white poor, the bikers, neo-Nazi and extreme right wing white supremacists. It will be taken out on Jewish business people, violence against Jews who are alone and isolated. I also believe there is plenty of anti-Semitism among the genteel WASPs and upper crust Roman Catholics. I hope I am wrong. I truly do. But I have a lurking fear.

I suspect my own motives in this, as genteel anti-Semitism was part of my family upbringing. My long time criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians may color my judgment. But I know I am not an anti-Semite. I have been accused of being one by some of my critics. But my Jewish friends remain friends knowing quite clearly of my criticism of the Israeli government and APAC.

We must not let the fear of being judged an anti-Semite prevent us from criticizing Israeli policies that have lead to oppression of the Palestinians and threatening war. We cannot be intimidated by such fears. If we lose friends who don’t want to listen to our views, what have we lost?

Since the leadership in Iran is clearly anti-Semitic and denying the holocaust, it is no wonder that many in Israel and the United States fear Iran. While that fear is real, it should not direct American foreign policy that involves the whole mid-east and not just Israel. President Obama has made himself clear on that and we should support him.

5. American politicians want money and support from American Jews. It is no wonder that thoughtful, objective evaluation by the administration and congress of Israel-Iran relations is always pro-Israel. We saw the ludicrous support Netanyahu received when he spoke to the joint session of Congress last year.

Here is a role that American Christians can provide leadership and a more objective voice in the beating war drums in Israel and Washington, DC. I don’t mean General Conventions and Assemblies of various denominations. I mean local parish churches need to deal with this dangerous issue. Clergy and lay people on local levels can take anti-war stands on this issue. They can provide discussion and communication between Jews, Muslims and themselves.

Another war in the mid-east where the United States is not threatened on our soil is useless and can only bring more dissension and violence – mostly to the innocent people of Iran, Israel and other countries too.

Thursday, March 01, 2012



An article by Robert Warren Cromey

I have never seen a naked body that was not beautiful. At the shower room where I go after my swim I observe many naked men. Since it is at a University the young men are taut, strong and handsome. But some are hairy, plump and tattooed. An older man named Boris is enormously fat. Great rolls of fat spring up from the crevasses in his belly and back. His buttocks are huge. Yet looking carefully at him I realized his body was quite beautiful, partly because there was so much of it. He looked powerful, even dangerous. I’d hate to have him hit me with those short powerful arms hanging down from those massive shoulders. The curves and valleys caused by his girth had a massive solidity to them. I found I liked looking at him with his bald head and olive skin.

In 1969 I spent five months at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. The program is seminars in consciousness raising and body and spiritual awareness. It is famous for its hot tubs where steaming hot water springs from the depths of the earth into tubs where the water cools so that people can bask in them. The tubs overlook the Pacific Ocean where bathers can gaze at the changing blue colors of the water, the white wave caps, and the gray rocks below where the waves smack them. The nude baskers watch the horizon, an occasional ship or even small boat and at certain times of the year whales passing by in pods.

Men and women mostly nude walk to open showers, then walk with blue and red towels, to soak in the tubs some single and some with room enough for ten. Men and women bathe together, initial modesty giving way to relaxed ease and enjoyment. Of course people look at each other’s bodies. Most of us have never seen several men and women together with no clothes on. The discreeet staring soon gives way to enjoying quiet conversation and appreciating the ocean views. That is not to say that we don’t glance anew at the pink-nippled breasts of a new woman joining us in the tub or the new penis slipping into the hot water.

Many who have not been to hot tubs at Esalen or nude beaches or colonies believe seeing naked bodies will be sexually arousing, descending into orgiastic activity. Of course, sexual feelings are stimulated by looking at nude bodies. But after a few minutes the serenity of the tubs, the magnificence of the ocean and sky, temper erotic feelings. Soon there are only human beings and views. Certainly from time to time sexual feelings crop up, fantasies abound, but behavior is calm and quiet.

I stick by my initial remark - I have never seen a naked body that was not beautiful. I have seen a man with huge angry red scars from burns covering half his chest, women who have had double mastectomies, men with full body hair, women with one breast, people who were obese, anorectically thin, scars, amputations and people with colostomy bags alone in a single tub. They were beautiful, shiny, soft, hard, clean, shapely, well proportioned and in conversation, real people.

One of the most beautiful and unusual women I met at the baths was Betty. She was an unashamedly three hundred pounds who swooped into the baths wearing a bright red and yellow muumuu. She whooshed it over her head, gazed out over the sunlit ocean and then very gently slipped into the tub and introduced herself to the five of us already there. She had long graying hair down to her broad shoulders, brown eyes and quite pretty features. She was five feet ten inches tall. Her breasts were large, coral tipped and succulent. Her huge stomach seemed to just go round and round. Her thighs were thick and strong mottled with cellulose. Her legs were muscled and her feet quite tiny. Her face was open and expressive and let out a splendid roar when she was induced to laugh. She was a mighty and beautiful woman, all woman. She said she had recently broken up with a man and was open to new relationships. She was no virgin.

Of course it is easy to see and enjoy the beauty in well-built tanned muscular men with classic and rugged features and well-tuned bodies. Model perfect women with perfect white, yellow or black figures, clear skin and perfectly proportioned figures are so easy on the eyes. It is harder for us to see the glory in women the size of Betty

At Esalen in a group setting, we learned how to do a body trip. We took some time together where some trust and willingness to take some risks was established. Our leader then asked for a volunteer to remove all their clothing and stand in front of the group and let members look at the person’s body and comment on it. After initial embarrassment and fear, before long each of the twelve members of the group allowed themselves to take a body trip. After people spoke about what they saw in the body, then the person would talk about his or her own body, what they liked or did not like, what they might do to change what they did not like.

We were instructed to stand and evaluate our own bodies, starting with the hair and head, working our way down to our toes. As usual, the person evaluating their own body said their bottom was too big or too small, women thought their breasts were either too big or too small. Men thought their penises they were either too big or too small. The same with arms, legs, feet, shoulders and head.

In analyzing other people’s bodies, group members were kind and gentle and often not comfortable telling the truth. Most people compared themselves to the people standing naked before them.

Just the process of evaluating our own bodies and getting feedback from trusted members of the group gave us a sense of our own beauty and strength. I for one found out it really didn’t matter much what other people thought of my body as long as I liked it. At 81 years old the only thing I don’t like about my body is my round tummy. I eat too much. I can do exercises to trim my waist but I don’t do it. Of course, I wish I were sexually as vigorous as I once was. But I am content with our sex life, with what we have, not with what we don’t.

I have a great interest in the female form and have a fine collection of nude paintings, photographs and small statuary of women unclothed. When I go to museums I seek out images and statues of the female form. It sure saves a lot of time in the museum. I like to watch porn, particularly enjoying the beautiful bodies of the men and women and mostly the women. The boring repetitive sucking and fucking interferes with seeing bodies. MILF is a new term for me in porn. It means Mothers I’d Like to Fuck. Older women are shown having sex, usually with younger men. I have long held the thought that many young men would love to have sex with older women and heavy women, but did not want to admit it to their buddies. Some porn shows such activity.

Sadly, we are often ashamed and embarrassed by our bodies. Few people pay much attention to their bodies except to see whether they are not too fat or too skinny and to want the perfect face and teeth.

Our bodies are gifts to us from god. We are stewards of our bodies and are to take care of and enjoy what we have been given. Christianity is full of bodily images. Incarnation is the idea that God has become a man in Jesus. Creation of the universe and human kind is indeed earthy and bodily. Resurrection of the body means to say that somehow the human form exists after death. We know that you can’t get rid of matter.

I hope by reading this paper that readers can see their bodies anew, fight off any shame about them and fully enjoy them and keep their bodies in full health and wholeness.