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...]

The Spirituality of Shakespeare

We do not know the exact date when William Shakespeare was born. Our first record is of his christening on April 26, 1564 at Stratford-on-Avon in England. There is a certain appealing symmetry in the speculation that he was born three days before his christening, which would mean that the day of his birth coincided with the day of his death, exactly 52 years later on April 23, 1616. This month we are approaching the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. And in our time, significant S … [Read more...]

Just Mercy: “Each of Us Is More Than the Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done”

Each year the Unitarian Universalist Association selects one book as a “Common Read” that all UUs are encouraged to study, discuss, and respond to. 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, Behind the Kitchen Door (justice for restaurant wor … [Read more...]

Remembering, Changing, Inventing: How Stories About Jesus Were Told

One of my favorite college classes was “Jesus and the Gospels.” Ironically, one of my strongest memories from the class was not a lesson the professor intended. During a series of presentations toward the end of the semester, one student—instead of following the assignment to use historical-critical research methods—used the opportunity to denounce everything we had learned that semester as heretical and concluded by quoting Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. … [Read more...]

Beyoncé, Black Panthers, & W.E.B. Du Bois: Developing “Double Consciousness”

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868 - 1963) was the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University. He was one of the co-founders of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. And he was a fierce activist for racial equality for many decades. If you want to learn more about Du Bois, there is an excellent new book by Gary Dorrien titled The New Abolition W. E. B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel (Yale University Press, 2015). But perhaps the best entry … [Read more...]

Celebrating Darwin Day: “Perpetual Curiosity, Scientific Thinking, & Hunger for Truth”

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. In recent years, his birthday has become known as International Darwin Day, an annual opportunity to remember his life and be inspired to act on the principles of “perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth” that he represents. But even more than 150 years after the publication of Darwin’s landmark book On the Origin of Species, there remain large parts of humanity unconvinced of Darwin’s genius. Polls here in the U.S. consist … [Read more...]

The Spirituality of Doubt

One famous definition of faith from the Christian tradition is Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Etymologically, the root of the word faith is related to trust. Faith trusts that something is (or will be) the case even though there is not verifiable proof. In many cases, the evidence for faith-based claims is internal, subjective, and unpredictable — as opposed to external, objective, and easily repeatable in laboratory conditions, whic … [Read more...]

Rewatching “Groundhog Day” as a Spiritual Practice

The comedic icon Harold Ramis died a little less than two years ago at the far too young age of 69. My introduction to Ramis was in the eighties, through his role as Dr. Egon Spengler in the two Ghostbusters movies, which he co-wrote. He is also remembered fondly by many as the writer-director of Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day (1993), and Analyze This (1999). But critics agree that it is Groundhog Day that stands outs as his “masterpiece.”  Starring Bill Mur … [Read more...]

The Radical Martin Luther King, Jr.: Why We Need a Third Reconstruction in America

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only thirty-nine years old when he was murdered. If King were alive today, he would be celebrating his eighty-seventh birthday. His prophetic activism for peace and justice ended tragically early. Looking back, less than five years passed from King’s famous “I Have a  Dream” speech in 1963 to his assassination in 1968. Exactly one year to the day before he was killed, he preached a powerful and controversial sermon from the pulpit of Riverside Church in N … [Read more...]


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