Celebrating Mixed Religion: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Syncretism

The summer after my freshman year in college, Sarah McLachlan released her album Surfacing. Among the many singles from that album that seemed to be playing on every radio, in every elevator, and in every store was the opening track, “Building a Mystery.” And having spent the past year questioning the conservative Christian theology I had been taught as a child, one line from that ubiquitous song stood out to me — about a man wearing “a cross from a faith that died before Jesus came.” Those lyri … [Read more...]

What’s Next After “Spiritual But Not Religious”?

Editor's Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: New Religions. Read other perspectives here. Even seminarians sometimes sleep late and skip church. On such occasions, my classmates and I, if asked, would sometimes joke that we had attended “The Church of the Holy Comforter.” Along these lines, Wendell Berry published a book titled A Timbered Choir of poems inspired by long walks through the woods that he had taken in lieu of attending a Sund … [Read more...]

What Happens When You Immerse Yourself in the Sound of Silence?

In 1950, the activist Audre Lorde wrote a poem titled “Memorial I,” which includes these lines:If you come as softly as the wind within the trees you may hear what I hear see what sorrow sees. If you come as lightly as threading dew I will take you gladly nor ask more of you. You may sit beside me silent as a breath....Between the lines of that poem, I hear a caution that when someone is suffering, if you do not come softly/lightly/silently, then an opportunity to offer com … [Read more...]

Equal Access: The Ongoing Struggle for Disability Rights

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is estimated to have improved the lives of 43 million U.S. citizens at the time of its passage (Nielson 180). Today approximately 20% of the U.S. population are people living with disabilities: “Some disabilities like diabetes, muscular sclerosis, and depression, can be invisible. Others, like deafness or vision loss, are not immediately noticeable. Some chronic illnesses, like hepatitis C or HIV, aren’t ap … [Read more...]

“The Peabody Sisters”

What stood out to me most from reading Megan Marshall's The Peabody Sisters (a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography) were the sections about the oldest and longest-living of the three sisters, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804 - 1894). But it is perhaps appropriate to begin with the Peabody Sisters’s own mother, Eliza, who strongly influenced her daughters. And whereas the lives of her daughters spanned almost the whole of the 1800s, Eliza came of age in the 1780s in t … [Read more...]

Why You Should Give Yourself Permission for Self-Care: Cautionary Tales from UU History

There was an article in a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine titled “Mary Cain Is Growing Up Fast” about an 18-year-old young woman, who is a promising professional middle-distance runner from New York:In fifth grade, she ran a 6 [minute, 15 seconds] mile…. In ninth grade, Cain won the New York State 1,500-meter championship, breaking the freshman girls’ record. The summer after her sophomore year, she flew to the Junior World Championships in Barcelona and ran the 1,500 in 4 [minu … [Read more...]


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