Interviewee: Doyle Hamilton
Interviewer: Suzanne Degnats
Date of Interview: February 25, 2011
Format: WAV file, transcript
Length of Interview: 79 minutes
Transcript: 22 pages
Doyle Hamilton was born in 1955 and grew up in a small town in North Louisiana, the son of a physician. Hamilton came from a long lineage of Southern Baptists, and begins his narrative by speaking about his family history, saying, "And faith has been a part of our family heritage, back to my great grandfather." (His grandfather held a doctorate, and was at one time President of the Southern Baptist Convention; his father was a church Deacon). He graduated from Baylor University and Baptist seminary, and began work first as a pastor and later as a pastoral counselor. He now works in private practice as a pastoral counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. One of his specialties is dealing with infertility issues, and he has a great interest in how these issues intersect with religion. In his work, he blends psychology and theological thinking to help couples deal with infertility, an issue that he says the church has not dealt with. As an adult, he attends church and actively prays in his vocational and personal life.
Hamilton describes his own spiritual evolution within his Baptist faith. His first memory was of his baptism, with his sister, when he was eight, describing the symbolism of the baptism is that “we are buried with Christ in baptism, and then when they bring you up, the minister says raised to walk in the newness of life. But, you know, I was eight, so it was a … it was faith of an eight year old.” He describes his childhood as one of privilege, growing up on the wealthier side of the tracks and feeling very guilty about having more than others. Although pressured to go to private school, he was “very intentional about going to public school." Giving back has always been an important issue to Hamilton. In his adult life, his faith starts to change with two events, first, when he and his wife went through infertility and as he watched his sister die. His way of dealing with his grief was to go back to school, and get another degree with an emphasis was on pastoral counseling with couples dealing with infertility. Eventually, he and his wife conceived, and had a healthy daughter. He describes the event: “That was such a powerful manifestation of the goodness of God (words very measured and careful) and I say that with reluctance, because what do you say to the couple that prayed for a child and doesn't have a child? So, I think of it as a blessing of God, but I am reluctant to say that because does that mean that the couple that does not have a child – that they are cursed by God? I don't feel that." He sees changes over the years in his denomination. In his words, "There has been a lot of changes in my congregation; I just grieve this very much. This congregation that I mentioned where Brenda and Debbie and I were baptized, and my two sisters were married in that congregation, and I was married in that congregation; it has been... they just asked the pastor to leave, it has dwindled done to nothing." He talks about issues that the Baptist tradition has struggled with, including issues of homosexuality. His own parents, now in their eighties, have not worshiped anywhere for the last dozen years or so. Even as his roots are of a Baptist tradition, he laments the future of the Baptist church, saying that "these younger people have no loyalty to any denomination whatsoever. Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist-these younger folks could care less. And so I don't know what's going..." When asked if his beliefs are in line with what his church teaches, he replied, "Yeah, I'd say they are pretty much in line. Now, here is what might be a fine line. I think probably I am a little bit more open minded than the average within my denomination. Because, what would you say to the Buddhist, or what would you say to the Hindu that has their own tradition?” He is curious about other faiths, but acknowledges that he knows little about them. "But of course, you have to take seriously the words of Christ who said 'I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the father but by me’. So, I wrestle with that as a Christian. What does the Hindu believe, or the Jewish faiths, who say the Messiah is yet to come?" Additionally, he was curious about the other interviewees, ending the interview by asking, "How is my interview similar and different than other people you have interviewed?"