I stand in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, dazed by the overwhelming number of choices. I like the pecans in one, the wheat flakes in another, the dried strawberries in that one—and oh, let’s not forget about raisins and nut clusters! There are so many different kinds of cereal, all with something good to offer… how can I choose just one?
Growing up, I was taught that all religions are different manifestations of a singular Truth. My religious upbringing included stories of Krishna and dancing gopi girls, Native American trickster tales, Prince Siddartha’s search for truth, and a little baby born in a manger. In some ways, it was like standing in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, surrounded by good and nourishing choices—and a little overwhelmed by the variety. Continue reading
I hear it in almost every congregation I visit: “We’re not sure it’s our role to get involved in advocating on issues. You know, separation of church and state.”
To these anxious congregation members, I can easily explain the facts and related details (see note below), usually ending with an earnest appeal for them to get involved and advocate on issues like health care, childhood hunger and global warming. But often, it’s clear that they are not convinced. It’s not that they don’t believe me; it’s that the facts about the “separation of church and state” are not their actual source of concern.
The real concern is a fear of controversy. It’s understandable; many religious communities are struggling just to hold on to the membership (and accompanying assets) that they have. Controversy could lead to division and dissent, and might cause some people to leave. Best to stay quiet and make a nice, friendly, safe place for harried, over-stressed, stretched-too-thin members to connect with God and community… and leave the political struggles of the day to others. Continue reading
Last week when I saw this article about nearly 1/3 of the Chesapeake Bay being a “dead zone” this year, it felt like someone punched me in the gut. I made some kind of audible groaning sound and reeled—as much as that’s possible while sitting in a chair at the kitchen table. For this native Texan who’s lived in the Lone Star State her whole life (except for a nine-month stint in New Orleans when I was five) to be so moved by environmental trauma in another part of the country might seem odd. I mean, there are environmental traumas happening every day all around the world. Why does this one make me want to curl into a little ball of wounded sorrow? Continue reading
Going to the park, to work, to the grocery store or pretty much anywhere today is venturing out into a religiously pluralistic setting. In all of those places, there are bound to be people who profess different religious beliefs than you do, or who profess no beliefs at all. In many of these settings, we keep quiet about our religious views so as not to offend or distance ourselves from others. I wonder, though, if this leaves us saying nothing real at all, and sometimes increases the distance between us rather than bringing us together in actual relationship. Continue reading
Trembling slightly, I pulled the folded paper out of my pocket and opened it. I held it tightly; I needed that paper. On it were the printed words that would guide my dry mouth and racing thoughts through the next few minutes. As I walked to the microphone in front of the faculty, staff and fellow students of my Christian seminary, I took a deep breath. Continue reading
I try to arrive at the house of worship early. Of course there are practical reasons for that: usually, I’ve never been there before, so I need time to evaluate the space where I’ll be meeting with people or speaking—a classroom or library, the social hall or sanctuary; I need time to set out publication materials on a table somewhere; and locating water, coffee and restrooms is always a good idea. More than that, though, I like to arrive at the house of worship early so I can explore. Continue reading