Bet

Betting on Earth’s Future

Before the 16th-century Scientific Revolution, it used to be more reasonable to hold the worldview that we humans were at the center of “life, the universe, and everything.” According to the ancient Ptolemaic model of the universe, our planet was stationary, and the sun, moon, and stars revolved around us. But after Copernicus’s 1543 book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, our planet was shown to be merely the “third rock from the sun.”  And we have come to see in the centuries since — … [Read More...]

IMG_6616

“The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene”

Some of you may remember the controversy in the late 1980s when the film director Martin Scorsese released his screen adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel The Last Temptation of Christ. One reason I remember the uproar is because my father owned a video rental business, and when this film was released on VHS, local pastors in our hometown of Florence, South Carolina petitioned my dad to remove the film from the shelves because they perceived it as offensive. Although I can count on one hand t … [Read More...]

BrookFarm

What Do We Mean We When Say, “Building the Beloved Community”?

In progressive religious circles, you will often hear calls to “build the Beloved Community,” but I’m not sure we always appreciate the full historic resonance of that phrase. The term “Beloved Community” was coined by the early twentieth-century American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916). But most of us learned it not from Royce but from The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who often spoke of the “Beloved Community” as his ultimate goal. As an early example, after the Montgomery Bus Boycott … [Read More...]

AmericanHeretic

The Transient and the Permanent in Christianity: Theodore Parker and the Transcendentalist Revolt

“[I invite you to] imagine you are in Boston some summer Sunday morning in the mid 1850s. You decide to go hear Theodore Parker, the famous Transcendentalist minister, preach to the 28th Congregational Society. Having never been, you arrange to accompany a friend who attends regularly. As the two of you turn the corner from Tremont onto Winter Street, you are struck by the sheer size of the crowd gathered there. The sight of nearly three thousand people massing for a routine religious service i … [Read More...]

ABRAMS-AGodThatCouldBeReal-forewords

“A God That Could Be Real”

After Copernicus, we know that Earth is not at the center of the universe. Our planet is merely the "third rock from the sun" on the edge of one spiral galaxy, which in turn is merely one among more than a billion galaxies in the universe. After Darwin, we know that we humans are not "a little lower than the angels," but merely "a little higher than the apes." These are but two of the paradigm-shifting ways that science has de-centered traditional religious claims.In her new book from Beacon … [Read More...]

Selma

“The Selma Awakening”

I have posted previously on “Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall: Claiming Our Social Justice Story” in which I invited us to reflect on the activist legacy in this country. And today during the 50th anniversary month of the Selma to Montgomery Marches, the core questions I will be inviting us to reflect on is when the calls come to take action for social, economic, and environmental justice, will we stand up, will we speak up, will we show up? To begin to set the stage historically, when you think o … [Read More...]

GP

The Generosity Path

The Jewish tradition, with its tremendous respect for all we have inherited from previous  generations, reminds us that we often find ourselves “living in houses which we did not build, drinking from wells which we did not dig, and eating from trees which we did not plant.” In that spirit, I invite you to take a few moments to recall:a time when someone offered you tremendous generosity. It could have been a gift of time, intelligence, money, caring, or simply presence. Remember who that pe … [Read More...]

Chocolate

Chocolate for Lent

Lent (the forty-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday) has a bad reputation in some quarters as solely negative and dour time. However, the season of Lent is not only a challenge to give up a bad habit (to loosen attachment to the aspects of our lives that unduly occupy our attention), but also an invitation to take on a spiritual practice to refocus ourselves on something positive and healthy. You might take time each day of Lent to:slowly and contemplatively read from a sacred s … [Read More...]

Air

An Honest Heretic: Religion, Science, & Dr. Joseph Priestley

The future free-thinking minister-scientist Joseph Priestley was born in 1733 to a strict Calvinist family, but by his early twenties he was already experimenting boldly with both theology and science.  For the purposes of this post, I will be drawing from the an excellent, accessible, and lively introduction to Priestley, Steven Johnson’s 200-page book The Invention of Air. (If that book leaves you interested in learning more, there is also a recent two-volume biography by Robert Schofield from … [Read More...]

Parks

Rosa Parks: The Rest of the Story

One of many reasons why the film Selma is so riveting is that it focuses much more on the behind-the-scene dynamics of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches than the more familiar public events. And the often-hidden background is what I would like to focus on in this post. Among the many important and significant figures that made Dr. King’s leadership possible, I would like to share with you about “Rosa Parks: The Rest of the Story.” I’ll be drawing from an important new biography published in 2013 by … [Read More...]


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