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

"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...]

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...]

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...]

“Are You Living the Life You Chose?”: How To Discern Your Call

Chicago (photo credit: Carl Gregg)

The new album from the singer-songwriter Jason Isbell includes a song with the lyrics “Are you living the life you chose? Are you living the life that chose you?” I’ve been reflecting a lot recently about discerning how we are called. Last week, I spent four days in Chicago being trained as a facilitator for a new three-year conversation within the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Association on the topic of “Where Leads Our Call?” I should note here at the beginning that some of you will likel … [Read more...]

Why a 40-Hour Work Week? (It’s Decreased Before. It Could Again.)


Peter Rollins in his book The Divine Magician tells the following "Parable of a Fisherman and a Rich Businessman":[The businessman], while returning to work after lunch, saw a fisherman get up from the side of a river with a bucket of fish. “Where are you going?” asked the businessman. “To the market to sell these fish,” replied the fisherman. “And how long did it take you to catch those?” “A couple of hours.” “Well, what are you going to do for the rest of the day?” “Oh, I don’t know … [Read more...]