What Is “Religion”? (Who Benefits? Who Decides?)

As a Unitarian Universalist minister, part of what I say at the beginning of each Sunday service is that, "We seek to draw wisdom from all the world’s religions, balanced with the insights of modern science.” But what does that mean exactly?  In what sense is Unitarian Universalism a religious movement? And what is “religion” anyway? Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? Who gets to decide? As a point of comparison regarding what constitutes being religious, let’s begin by considering the Eth … [Read more...]

How to Be Happy (Even in the Age of Trump)

I initially planned this post about happiness as a potentially helpful topic in these days of increasing darkness as we approach Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Now, there is the additional trauma of the coming Trump Administration. So this post is one among many reflections to come on resistance and resilience in the age of Trump. Happiness is a broad word with meanings that can range from the more even-keeled positive emotions of contentment, peacefulness, and gratitude to th … [Read more...]

What’s Fair? Who Decides?

At the congregation I serve as minister, I recently finished teaching a seven-session course on "What's Fair? Who Decides? Navigating the Ethics of Privilege & Oppression." Our textbook was an anthology titled Privilege: A Reader. (In the spirit of full disclosure, many of the essays were moving and meaningful, but others needed to be edited for length, clarity, and academic jargon.) What appealed most to me was that the book went beyond reflections on white privilege and male privilege to i … [Read more...]

“No Permanent Waves”: Rising Up Again after an Election

What do we do when the President-elect of the United States is a bully and a serial liar, who has fanned the flames of racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and Islamophobia in our country? My first impulse as a progressive religious leader was to reaffirm that regardless of this or any other election, the congregation I serve will continue to be in solidarity with Muslims, women, refugees, people of color, and people with disabilities. We will continue to advocate for the equal rights of Lesbians, Ga … [Read more...]

Voting on the Side of Love

Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for President of the United States on April 12, 2015. Donald Trump announced his presidential bid the next month, on June 16. So if you feel like this campaign has been going on forever, it has been going for a year-and-a-half. But as you may have heard a little something about, Election Day will finally arrive tomorrow!  The volatility of this election season inspired me to take a step back from the daily headlines and consider the history of our d … [Read more...]

“Witches of America”

Last night was Halloween, a time to dress up as ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and things that go bump in the night! In the tradition of Modern Paganism, this same night is known as Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), and it is a time that is particularly auspicious for remembering one's ancestors. On this day after Halloween, the Pagan tradition is also a reminder that some among us identify as witches all year long — and in a way that differs from the exaggerated forms of Halloween costumes. For example, … [Read more...]

“None of Us Are Getting Out of This Alive”: How & Why to Have End-of-Life Conversations

Part of what it means to be human is to be aware of our mortality: to wrestle with the  existential reality of “being alive and having to die.” As the saying goes, “Ultimately, none of us are getting out of this alive.” Realizing our finitude can be terrifying, but it can also be motivating. As Thoreau wrote in Walden: “I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” The temptation can be to r … [Read more...]

Lessons from “Les Mis” in the Age of Trump

Les Misérables premiered on Broadway in 1987, after earlier versions in France and London. I first encountered Les Mis in the early ‘90s. My church youth group took at trip to New York City that included seeing Les Mis. I had never paid attention to the musical before—other than seeing the ubiquitous t-shirts with the image of Cosette on the front. But after seeing the musical live in New York City, suddenly all of my peers were listening not only to the 1987 Original Broadway Cast recording, but … [Read more...]

Top 5 Words for Understanding Trump

1. Demagogue - "a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument."2. Gaslight - "manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity."3. Panjandrum - "a person who has or claims to have a great deal of authority or influence."4. Projection - "a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by … [Read more...]

Understanding Trump Supporters: Reactions to the End of White Christian America

In the 1976 film, Network, there’s a famous scene in which a  network anchor looks into the camera and tells the viewers at home:I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, “I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!…. Then we'll figure out what to do.… But first get up out of your chairs, … [Read more...]