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

September 25, 2018

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, who has spent nearly two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. If you are looking for a quick introduction, her two TED Talks are amazing. Over the past few years, she has written three bestselling books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong. She has distilled the core themes to the following: Be you. All of you. Be all in. Fall. Get up. Try again…. Read more

September 20, 2018

In response to the word Kabbalah, many people have a vague notion that it  relates to a mysterious branch of the Jewish tradition. Others may add that it involves reading arcane texts. If you dig deeper, three additional themes include: That what we humans sometimes refer to with the letters G-d is infinite—and the Kabbalah concerns our finite attempts to perceive aspects of what is ultimately beyond us. In the often male-dominated world of religion, Kabbalah also famously includes the… Read more

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