“God Bless America (and No Place Else?!)”: The Uses & Abuses of Civil Religion

Memorial Day has sometimes become merely a three-day holiday weekend, symbolically marking the beginning of the summer vacation season. But the original intent of Memorial Day is an annual time to honor and remember all who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces—not to be confused with Veterans Day in November, which honors all military veterans. For me, Memorial Day includes remembering my great-uncle Wilber, who was killed in action during World War II. And when I think about h … [Read more...]

Beyond “McMindfulness”: How Not To Get Stuck in the Early Stages of Buddhist Meditation

One of my new favorite books is The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science by John Yates, a former Ph.D. professor of neuroscience turned full-time meditation teacher under the name Culadasa (xi). What he does especially well is translate the traditional stages on the path to Buddhist Awakening into a clear, user-friendly manual with many helpful illustrations. For each of the ten stages, there is an emphasis on best practices for that phase … [Read more...]

Julia Ward Howe: Founding Mothers of Unitarian Universalism

I was excited to see that the renown feminist literary critic Elaine Showalter had published a new biography of Julia Ward Howe. If this post piques your interest, I highly recommend the book. To begin with an overview that trances the competing priorities that Julia Ward Howe struggled to balance throughout her life, she:had six children, learned six languages, and published six books.… Born [in 1819], three days after Queen Victoria, she was sometimes called the Queen of America…. When sh … [Read more...]

Struggling to “Speak the Truth in Love” in Election Season: Pluralistic Ethics & Political Polarization

Over the past few decades, many studies have shown a growing political polarization in our country. This widening gap between the right and the left has made finding a middle ground increasingly difficult. So in this presidential election season in which our collective awareness of political polarization is heightened, I would like to reflect on negotiating between divergent perspectives.  There was, for example, a front page headline last week in my hometown paper that read, “Transgender teen s … [Read more...]

Evil: Bad Apples or Bad Barrels?

Historically, one of the weaknesses of liberal religious traditions has been a naïve optimism. In rejecting the extreme pessimism of many orthodox religious traditions (a belief in “Original Sin,” the “total depravity” of human beings, and the corrupt nature of the world and society), many progressives  overestimated the perfectibility of human nature, the possibility of building utopian societies, and the inevitability of progress “onward and upward forever.” Whereas many orthodox religious trad … [Read more...]

“Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice”

A few years ago, a park ranger was leading an environmental awareness tour for a group  that I was a part of that included a visit to the county landfill. The part of her talk I remember most vividly was that, “We are deceiving ourselves whenever we think we are throwing something away in the trash. There is no ‘away.’” We can try to throw something away from us into the trash can, but there are impacts on the environment from landfills and all the other ways we dispose of our waste. We are alway … [Read more...]


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