Rethinking Religion

Spirituality

Life Is A Master Class

We live as artists of Torah in a place that contemporary culture has no room for. In the self-identified Torah-world, Torah living is no longer an art; it’s a sublimation. The question to ask ourselves is “How are we living our lives?”
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Christianity

Crucifixion and the Blues

Some say the crucifixion is abhorrent—too bloody, too brutal, too cruel to contemplate. We have to shield our eyes and look away or—as in Mel Gibson’s blockbuster movie The Passion of the Christ, stare fascinated through our fingers at the spectacle. In either case, we avoid reckoning with the real power of the crucifixion, which is a blues power, a truth-telling power that not only holds a mirror up to the blood, the brutality, the cruelty that is our daily fare, but also opens up a way out of the carnage.
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Christianity

An Evolutionary Integral Understanding of the Cross

The idea of substitutionary atonement ends up saying that Jesus saves us from God—Larry Swaim article on “The Death of Christianity” is right. That’s a pickle for Christians who are supposed to believe that God is love and not vengeful retribution. Here is the question: “If Jesus preached we are to love our enemies, does God practice what Jesus preached?” If you are a follower of Jesus, you would think that the answer must surely be, “Yes!”
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Christianity

Moving Beyond a Cross Fetish: The Empty Tomb and Creation Spirituality

There can be no question that, because the cross has played so one-sided and dualistic a role for centuries, it must be let go of in order to re-emerge in its fuller meaning within the dialectic of tomb-cross.
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Christianity

A New Symbol for Christianity

In my understanding, Jesus died the horrific and disgraceful death of a political criminal because he preached that “the last shall be first.” Those in power were so threatened by that message, and by how Jesus lived it out, that they had to kill him. If the cross as symbol has given anyone the idea that the violence that killed Jesus was good—or, worse, that it was God’s will—then I am all for abandoning that symbol.
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Christianity

A Call for Redemptive Rhetoric

A mentor of mine recently told me that a huge divide is on the horizon for those of the Christian faith—one that centers on the meaning of the cross and the message of atonement. Even the act of verbalizing that thought out loud is considered sacrilege by many in my Christian tradition. To question something as integral to Christian religious history and heritage as the cross will result, to put it mildly, in a variety of responses from a variety of perspectives.
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Christianity

Could the Christian Church Contend with a Living Jesus?

It is hard to imagine any inducement that might draw Jesus—that dangerous Jewish prophet—to affiliate with the Christian Church. For the life of me, I don’t know why Jews don’t take Jesus back. We Christians have made such a mess of it.
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Christianity

Legacies of the Cross and the Lynching Tree

The lynching tree is a metaphor for white America’s crucifixion of black people. It is the window that best reveals the religious meaning of the cross in our land. In this sense, black people are Christ-figures, not because they wanted to suffer but because they had no choice. Just as Jesus had no choice in his journey to Calvary, so black people had no choice about being lynched. The evil forces of the Roman State and white supremacy in America willed it. Yet, God took the evil of the cross and the lynching tree and transformed them both into the triumphant beauty of the divine. If America has the courage to confront the great sin and ongoing legacy of white supremacy with repentance and reparation there is hope “beyond tragedy.”
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Judaism

Sabbath Practice as Political Resistance: Building the Religious Counterculture

One thing Abraham Joshua Heschel and Karl Marx had in common, aside from having both been spectacularly bearded Eastern European Jews, is the shared insight that time is the ultimate form of human wealth on this earth. Without time, all other forms of wealth are meaningless. It is this insight about time—patently obvious but frequently forgotten—that makes keeping a Sabbath day both spiritually profound and politically radical.
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Rethinking Religion

A Yom Kippur Sermon: Gay Marriage and Our Evolving Relation to Torah

If you want to use your energy and soul to prevent gay marriage, that is a personal choice. But loathing, judging, and preventing gay, lesbian and queer couples’ marriages is not supported anywhere, in any way, in Reform Jewish ideology or practice.
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Rethinking Religion

Coming Out on Yom Kippur

The moment I put the tallis around my shoulders, my service started. Immediately, I was taken up in the embrace of the rich cloth, the whole texture, the weave of my life, my family, the renewal of New Orleans. As soon as I felt the cloth on my shoulders, and the fringes between my fingers, I knew that the tallit is for both men and women. As I sat there, I felt every bit a woman, a beautiful Jewish woman in a beautiful Jewish tallis.
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Spiritual Politics

Raising the Curtain on “Gandhi Centre Stage”

I have never bothered to respond to Gandhi detractors because, like the Mahatma himself, I tend to think their pathetic writings are best left to die a natural death—the eventual fate of all untruth. Nevertheless, when Michael Lerner urged me to reply to “Gandhi Centre Stage,” the article by Perry Anderson that appeared in a recent issue of the London Review of Books, I assented.
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Judaism

Exodus: An Allegorical Portrait of the Human Mind in its Relationship to God

I would like to share a new and quite radical midrash regarding the story of Exodus, one that I have found extremely powerful.
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Gender & Sexuality

The Cross as a Central Christian Symbol of Injustice

In “The Death of Christianity,” Lawrence Swaim argues that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement “makes God out to be a vengeful, homicidal deity who can be satisfied only with the death of his son.” He eloquently elaborates how the doctrine of blood atonement is a product of Roman imperial power, injustice, and terrorism, and presents the cross as a sign of conquest that has shaped Christian identity and ecclesiastical might throughout the centuries. Urging us to embrace a counterstory of Jesus’s life, Swaim goes on to suggest that we replace the symbol of the cross with the image of “a woman holding a child.”
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Christianity

The Hope of the Cross

Ignorance of major world religions comes in many forms today, but Lawrence Swaim’s particular version is still stunning. It is almost as if Swaim skimmed pop or even comic books on Christian theology and early church history and fashioned a reckless rant from their raw materials. Of the many historically and argumentatively strange things in his essay, his call for Christians to get rid of the symbol of the cross is the most bizarre. Getting rid of the cross is tantamount to getting rid of Jesus—which is to say, of Christianity itself.
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