Top 10 Best Books Read in 2012

The following are the top ten best books I’ve read since this time last year. The list is in alphabetical order by the author’s last name because agonizing over a precise order would take all the fun out of remembering these books: Dan Cryer, Being Alive and Having to Die: The Spiritual Odyssey of Forrest ChurchThe story of the remarkable public and private journey of Rev. Forrest Church, the scholar, activist, and preacher whose death became a way to celebrate life. Through his pulpit at th … [Read more...]

Savoring the Small Stuff: Ordinary Gratitude as Spiritual Practice

As I was preparing a final revision of this post on gratitude, I conveniently stumbled upon a New York Times article that echoes many of my themes. Regarding Thanksgiving, the article’s lede declares, “The most psychologically correct holiday of the year is upon us.... Cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude’ has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.”But a … [Read more...]

Liberal Religious History: The Radical Reformation

This post is the first in a series of at least five posts on Unitarian Universalist history in preparation for a course I'm auditing in January on "Unitarian Universalist History & Polity Survey Course" with The Rev. Dr. Nicole Kirk. For those following along as I seek formal fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association, you may be interested to see the full Ministerial Fellowship Committee "Required Reading List" and "Encouraged Reading List and Resources." The first of the five … [Read more...]

In the Wake of an Election

Unitarian Universalists care about how to create unity amidst diversity. But as I studied the Electoral Map of our country on Tuesday night and Wednesday, the divisions in our country remain stark with a large swath of Red States cutting across significant patches of Blue States.  The words that came to mind as I looked at this visual representation of our electorate were from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. Lincoln took the oath of office for his first term as the sixteenth President … [Read more...]

“The Righteous Mind” and the Democratic Process

The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy? The heart is the house of empathy whose door opens when we receive the … [Read more...]

Change We Can Believe In? The Obama Question

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and … [Read more...]

Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and Book of Mormon: The Musical

Beliefs are an important part of religion, but they are by no means its only — or often even its central — element. Mormonism also represents a community, a set of social practices, a set of moral strictures, a set of aesthetic responses, a sense of historical identity, a set of friendships, a series of covenants or commitments, in many cases a set of family relationships, a liturgy, an institutional structure, a set of overlapping intellectual discourses, and so on. A Latter-day Saint’s commi … [Read more...]

Letter to the Editor: “Minister says yes to same-sex marriage”

The following is the text of my letter to the editor, which was published in today's Frederick News-Post:I am writing in response to an article published on Sept. 29 -- "Area congregations weigh in for, against same-sex marriage."As the new minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, I was encouraged to see a number of my colleagues publicly supporting same-sex marriage rights in Maryland.The Unitarian Universalist Association has an ongoing public advocacy … [Read more...]

Do We Need a Moratorium on the Word “God”?

I have been trying to find a way of being religious that’s still possible (or maybe the word is “decent”) for us. What would it be like to be religious without fudging our best thoughts, without repressing anything we have learned...? What would it be like to be religious when we can’t really believe any of that glorious stuff — creation ex nihilo, virgin birth, bodily resurrection — we used to believe? It’s not decent, I think, to pretend to believe it, or to do a fancy philosophical number on “ … [Read more...]

Does “The Master” Have Clothes?

I want to like Paul Thomas Anderson's new film The Master, and perhaps my expectations were too high. If so, they were high for good reason: Anderson has set such a lofty bar with his previous work.I haven't seen his first feature-length film Hard Eight (1996), but since seeing Boogie Nights (1997) on DVD, I've eagerly anticipated each of his subsequent theatrical releases. I loved both Magnolia (1999) and Punch-Drunk Love (2002). And 2007's There Will Be Blood was easily my favorite film of … [Read more...]