Meaning, Purpose, and Individualism: Thinking Our Way Out of Self-Reliance 

We human beings appear to be the only animals that become confused about our meaning and purpose. Cats don’t appear to forget their cat purpose; horses reclaim their own meaning and purpose as soon as the harness is removed. It appears that only human beings get confused about meaning and purpose. Humanity has devised many explanations for our meaning and purpose, some that have positively affected human well-being, and some that have not. For me, the measure of a values… Read more

A Toolkit for Resisting Totalitarianism 

For my money the philosopher Hannah Arendt offers the most profound analysis of the causes of totalitarianism. During and after the Second World War, Arendt spent a lot of time researching and thinking about totalitarianism and wrote such classics as The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt’s conclusions were controversial at the time because she argued that “evil” isn’t an isolated anomaly of the human condition, but a function of human… Read more

Working for Posterity

Sir Boyle Roche was an eighteenth century Irish politician known even today because of his unfortunate turns of phrase. He was the master of mixed metaphors. He once said, “Mr Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him forming in the air and darkening the sky; but I’ll nip him in the bud.” Sir Roche is best known for saying, “Why should we put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity, for what has posterity ever done… Read more

The True Origin Story

February 12th is the 208th birthday of Charles Darwin. In celebration, I want to look at a couple of extracts from his writing. The first is from The Descent of Man, published in 1871: As man (sic) advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. From tribe… Read more

Building Walls, Banning the Human 

“Blame is a valuable antidote to helplessness.” Martha Nussbaum I spent last Monday morning in a multi-faith press conference where the subject was the recent immigration ban by the Trump administration. We heard from Muslims, Jews, and Christians. All read scriptures concerning how “the stranger” is to be treated. All agreed that “god” wishes the stranger to fare well. We all know that any argument will convince the already convinced—that preaching to the choir thing. Convincing the frightened, however, is… Read more

Circles of Concern: How to Talk Politics

The bad news is…well, there’s a hell of a lot of it. But the good news is that many people are choosing to engage in politics and protest in a way they never have before. Which is awesome, and the main thing that gives me hope these days. But the thing is, like anything else you’ve never done before, it’s easy to engage awkwardly and feel ineffective or get chastised by someone who you identified as being on your side,… Read more

Blessing the Organizers

Beloveds, thank you for showing up. We sing: organize, organize, organize We bear witness to the courage and the power – our own and each others. Last month we created a ritual for the Blessing of Organizers for a service led by the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal and I offer it to us now as a resource for the movement, fortification for the struggle: Blessing of Organizers: In this sacred time, we would ask for everyone present… Read more

Alternative Facts and Reason in Religion

  There are no alternative facts. There are alternative theories when we don’t know the facts. There are alternative ways of looking at interpreting the facts. But there are no alternative facts. I say this as someone who is not scientifically trained. I’m a poet and a minister. But I know that artists and ministers must live with facts just like everyone else. We now know that reason is merely another way of feeling; another way of thinking—thinking fast and… Read more

“Great Men” and the Tide of History

“Hindsight is 20/20” goes the cliche. And in my experience a lot of people want to say “I told you so.” I have to say I’m a terrible pundit—over and over in the last US presidential election cycle I predicted the meltdown of Donald Trump. I was wrong every time. I got it completely wrong because I’m an amateur historian, and the last US presidential election cycle was the essence of that overused word “unprecedented.” History didn’t reveal much about… Read more

America’s deadly theological crisis

My special holiday guest blogger is Rev. Jim Foti, assistant minister at the congregation I serve. He delivered a version of this reflection over the Martin Luther King weekend. The first clear thought I had back in the wee hours of November 9th was that a lot of people are going to die. Unchecked climate change, geopolitical recklessness, greater availability of guns, increased hate crimes, millions of people losing health care – these are lethal decisions. And as these death… Read more


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