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

December 6, 2018

A few months ago I finally had the chance to visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture in D.C. Tickets are free, but they remain in short supply. I have heard many people say that they are waiting to go until the lines to go down. I’m not sure if the lines will go down, so I encourage you not to wait. We were able to get tickets through their same-day timed entry passes, which are available… Read more

November 30, 2018

The late Alan Westin (1929 – 2013) was a Professor of Public Law & Government at Columbia University. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he wrote two major books on privacy, and it is no coincidence that both book titles include the word free: Privacy and Freedom (1967) and Databanks in a Free Society (1972). Keep that word freedom in mind because it is more important than might be initially clear. Privacy is about more than what you do… Read more

November 16, 2018

On the other side of Election Day, many systems of oppression remain in place, but there are also signs of movement and progress: “At least 100 women won House races, with 35 women newly elected to the House and 65 female incumbents. That bests the previous record of 85 representatives….” “Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland will become the first Native American women elected to Congress.” “Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will become the first Muslim women in Congress.” “Colorado’s Jared… Read more

November 5, 2018

On the eve of the U.S. midterm elections, it is important to be honest, clear, and direct about the unprecedented level at which our current president has regularly, openly, and unapologetically shown “disdain for basic constitutional norms” (Mounk 2). There is not time for an exhaustive list, but here is one distillation: Over the course of his campaign, candidate Trump broke just about every basic rule of democratic politics. He promised to jail his political opponents. He refused to say… Read more

October 31, 2018

Nathan Walker’s fascinating and provocative book Cultivating Empathy: The Worth and Dignity of Every Person — Without Exception defines Liberal Fundamentalism as “when we who take pride in being open-minded close our minds—when we become what we set out against” (84). The classical liberal tradition does treasure open-mindedness, but at an even more foundational level, classical liberalism is from the Latin root liber, meaning “free.” Liberals tend to have a gut-level inclination toward freedom, toward liberty, toward saying to each… Read more

October 11, 2018

Have you seen the film The Greatest Showman? The movie is quite good in many ways–especially the soundtrack–although it is not particularly historically accurate. Since it stars Hugh Jackson and Zac Efron, I like to think of it as “What if Wolverine and that kid from High School Musical started a circus!” One of the reasons I was interested in seeing the film is that it is inspired by the life of P. T. Barnum (1810-1891), who was a prominent Universalist. Indeed,… Read more

October 3, 2018

The Genderbread Person is a playful but serious graphic attempt to visualize the four broad spectrums of gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual attraction. One of the most important aspects of this chart is that the four different attributes are on non-intersecting lines. In other words, where an individual identifies on one line does not tell you how they identify on another line. That also means that people express gender and sexuality through many different possible combinations. To… Read more

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