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...]

“Unsanctifying Human Life”: Wrestling with Peter Singer’s Ethics


Our human population has septupled (increased sevenfold) in a mere two centuries — from approximately 1 billion in 1800 to more than 7 billion today. The resulting environmental impact of our species is jeopardizing the entire planet’s climate. We have not, however, always been aware of our potential to have a cataclysmic effect on Earth. As Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about in her Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction, prior to fossil discoveries in the 1700s, we humans didn’t know that a … [Read more...]

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...]

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

"Self-care in Nature —Lincoln Park" (photo credit: Carl Gregg)

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...]

The Spirituality of Embodiment: “The Science of Yoga” and Befriending Your Body

Running as Spiritual Practice (photo credit: Carl Gregg)

One way of classifying the various methods of self-improvement that one can pursue is to divide the different paths into four major categories: body, mind, spirit, and shadow. As I list some examples, drawn from a book titled Integral Life Practice, I invite you to consider where your proclivities lie, and how your attraction to practices in one or more of these categories may have shifted over time.  If left to my own devices, I’m most naturally drawn to practices around the mind: “reading and … [Read more...]