September 11, 2019

Among anthropologists, there’s a classic story about a western missionary meeting an indigenous inhabitant of an island off the East coast of Australia. It was a bright, sunny day, and the missionary happened upon a man relaxing on the beach: MISSIONARY: Look at you! You’re just wasting your life way, lying around like that. MAN: Why? What do you think I should be doing? MISSIONARY: Well, there are plenty of coconuts all around here. Why not dry some of the… Read more

July 1, 2019

On the occasion of ordaining a new minister in the Unitarian Universalist Living Tradition. One of my favorite podcasts is Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. It features two graduates of Harvard Divinity School reading the Harry Potter series with they same attention, care, and interpretive practices often reserved only for traditional sacred texts.  The podcast started a little more than three years ago. And at the pace of a chapter per episode, they recently completed book five, The Order of the Phoenix…. Read more

June 27, 2019

There is a fascinating passage from President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address that has stuck with me since I first heard him deliver it. On that cold January day in 2013 (which in a beautiful synchronicity also happened to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day), President Obama said: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and… Read more

March 8, 2019

In the seventeenth century, the English politician Andrew Marvell (1621–1678) wrote of all we might accomplish if not for our human limitations: “Had we but world enough and time.” Or as Chaucer penned three centuries earlier: “Time flies, and for no man will it abide.” Turning the clock back even further to the first century BCE, the Roman poet Virgil (70 BCE – 19 BCE) said, “Fugit irreparable tempus” (“Time flies irretrievably”) (Burdick 189). Despite the cautions of these and… Read more

February 21, 2019

Ginger Lerner-Wren thought she knew what she was getting into. In 1996, she ran as a candidate for a judgeship in Broward County, Florida. After being elected, she was on her way to serving as a judge in the Criminal Division. What she didn’t know is that six months into her tenure she would be asked to take on an additional part-time role presiding over the first mental health court in the United States. One of the reasons this court… Read more

February 12, 2019

Charles Darwin was born two hundred and ten years ago today on February 12, 1809. And in recent years his birthday has been celebrated as International Darwin Day, an annual opportunity to celebrate the principles that guided his life: “perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth.”   One tragedy of the ongoing “Creation vs. Evolution” debate is that coming to terms with Darwin’s theories of natural selection and common descent were among the greatest intellectual challenges of the late nineteenth… Read more

January 31, 2019

Adam Winkler (1967-) is a professor of constitutional law at UCLA. I first encountered him through his fascinating book Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. So I was intrigued when I discovered he published a second book on We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights. I’ve posted previously about Winkler’s first book, so I’ll limit myself to only one point from it for now. In the 2008 case District of Columbia v…. Read more

January 21, 2019

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am aware of two  significant—though also painful—anniversaries that feel important to name aloud.  This year is the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. This year is also the 100th Anniversary of the Red Summer of 1919, when there was a sharp spike in white people violently targeting African Americans, resulting in hundreds of deaths. I invite us to allow our awareness of these historic reminders… Read more

December 31, 2018

As I have been learning more about the hidden life of trees, I have also been paying more attention to how much trees have meant to people over time. Most recently, I was watching the Springsteen on Broadway recording on Netflix, and I was not surprised that as “The Boss” waxed nostalgically about his life, one vignette prominently featured a tree. Remembering his childhood home, he recalled that, In our front yard, only a few feet from our porch, stood… Read more

December 10, 2018

One of the most interesting contemporary religion scholars I have found is Jeffrey Kripal, a tenured professor at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I discovered his work about five years ago, and have followed his career with interest since then. Last year he published a book with the unusual title Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions (University of Chicago Press, 2017). A less academic way of saying “erotic and esoteric” is: “I’m going to tell you… Read more

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