Vampires, Witches, & NPR: The Legacy of Margot Adler

I first heard Margot Adler’s voice on the radio — along with Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Lakshmi Singh, Sylvia Poggioli, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Kai Ryssdal, and so many others. I learned their names through repetition as they signed off at the end of new stories on “Morning Edition” or “All Things Considered”: Margot Adler, NPR News, New York. There were many opportunities to hear Adler, who was an NPR reporter for more than three decades prior to her death from cancer in 2014 at the far too young an … [Read more...]

Why “Columbus Day” Should Be “Indigenous People’s Day”

In August, the County Council where I live voted by a slim 4-to-3 margin to repeal an “English-only” ordinance that had been passed in 2012. In reading the many impassioned letters to the editor about this issue, one missing component from almost all the English-only supporters was an acknowledgement of the history of this land — now called Frederick, Maryland — prior to the founding of the United States, less than 250 years ago. Many of the arguments seemed grounded in a worldview that English i … [Read more...]

“Practicing Safe Texts”: Misquoting Moses, Misquoting Jesus, Misquoting Muhammad

I try to post about Islam from time to time for at least two reasons. First, it is important to learn about the world’s second largest religion. There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and 2.1 billion Christians. And current statistical projections have Islam on track to become the world’s largest religion by 2070. Second, there is a lot of Islamophobic misinformation that needs to be corrected. For instance, contrary to the popular stereotypes that all Muslims are Arabic and wo … [Read more...]

“Do You Really Want to Know?” From Pope Francis & Kim Davis to Copernicus, Darwin, & Marx

The singer-songwriter Peter Mayer’s tune, “Do You Really Want to Know” traces two monumental paradigm shifts in how we humans understand ourselves. The first was the Copernican Revolution in the wake of astronomer Nicolai Copernicus’ 1543 book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, which demonstrated that our planet is not the center of the universe. The sun, moon, and stars do not revolve around us; we are merely the third rock from the sun. And I love Mayer's lyrically imagined conversa … [Read more...]

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...]

“Coming Out of the Broom Closet” #PaganPride

My previous post on "Celebrating Mixed Religion: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Syncretism," explored the impact of Paganism’s encounter with Christianity: from the choice to celebrate Jesus’s birthday near Winter Solstice to Christmas retaining many pagan holiday trappings — from yule logs to feasting to decorating evergreen trees, traditions that pre-date the historical Jesus by millennia. Similarly, we saw the ways the word Easter comes from the fertility goddess Oestre; hence, the … [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...]

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...]


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