Top Ten Highlights from The Cornel West Reader

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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...]

Practicing Forgiveness

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When I think about forgiveness, one experience that comes to mind is from when I was in seminary. I had stopped by the office of one of my professors to make what I thought was a simple request that barely affected him. I was shocked when he responded loudly and harshly — not only refusing to accommodate me, but also using this opportunity to tell me all the inadequacies he perceived in me as a student and as a human being. I was stunned, and sat there until the yelling stopped and he said I c … [Read more...]

“Liberal Religion in the Public Square”

Reclaiming Prophetic Witness

Each year the Unitarian Universalist Association chooses one book as a “Common Read,” and encourages all UUs to read, discuss, and consider action in light of the contents. Previous Common Reads have included:The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and  Behind the Kitchen Door (about just … [Read more...]

What Is “The Fourth Turning of Buddhism”?

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Ken Wilber (1949-) is a contemporary American philosopher who has written a host of books related to what he calls his Integral Theory. And in general I find many of his frameworks for thinking about the world both helpful personally as well as particularly relevant for navigating our pluralistic, postmodern world. As the name “Integral Theory” implies, Wilber seeks to integrate the best of all available sources of knowledge and experience related to any given field. If you are interested in lea … [Read more...]

Betting on Earth’s Future

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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...]

“The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene”

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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...]

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

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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

AmericanHeretic

“[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...]

“A God That Could Be Real”

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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...]

“The Selma Awakening”

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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...]


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