Why “Columbus Day” Should Be “Indigenous People’s Day”


In August, the County Council where I live voted by a slim 4-to-3 margin to repeal an “English-only” ordinance that had been passed in 2012. In reading the many impassioned letters to the editor about this issue, one missing component from almost all the English-only supporters was an acknowledgement of the history of this land — now called Frederick, Maryland — prior to the founding of the United States, less than 250 years ago. Many of the arguments seemed grounded in a worldview that English i … [Read more...]

What Ta-Nehisi Coates Taught Me About “People Who Believe They Are White”


In the book Learning to Be White, the Unitarian Universalist minister and scholar Thandeka writes that, “No one is born white in America” (vii). For many people in the U.S., that claim likely feels either counter-intuitive or perhaps even nonsensical. Elaborating on her view in a later anthology called Soul Work, she writes that although no one is born white,children are born with an innate ability to relate and bond to others…. Children thus have to learn how to internally destroy their ow … [Read more...]

Letting Go of Fear & Celebrating Differences: Insights from Intersectionality

Intersection (photo credit: Carl Gregg)

This past Sunday was the 70th anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on the  Japanese city of Nagasaki toward the end of World War II. The weapon, nicknamed “Fat Man,” was released at 11:01 a.m. local time, causing tens of thousands of civilian casualties. (The even more devastating bombing of Hiroshima was three days earlier.) This anniversary of the only time to date that atomic bombs have been used in warfare comes at a time when headlines are being made worldwide concerning … [Read more...]

Top Ten Highlights from The Cornel West Reader


Dr. Cornel West (1953-), the provocative activist, public intellectual, and professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, will deliver the Ware Lecture at the 2015 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly.This occasion prompted me to finish reading The Cornel West Reader (1999), which weighs in at more than 600 pages. The following are highlights for me from this anthology of West's prolific publications:1.  West draws from an immense variety of sources. The two epigraphs at th … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]