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Sacred Activism: A Meditation on Inner Transformation


by: Shaikh Kabir Helminski on June 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A bay at sunset.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Yetto.

To be a contemplative is to focus the heart on the Absolute Reality that gives meaning to life; to be a spiritual activist is to be engaged in the social world without losing the perspective of that heavenly Absolute Reality.

To be an activist is also to be a realist, to realize that many people are tied primarily to the materialistic plane, the secular world, the outer appearances. And yet no sane human being is entirely without a sense of values, an inner life which, if we are honest, is the key to happiness.

The contemplative faces that inner world of values directly and draws strength and wisdom from it, but no human being is devoid of those inner values, no matter how confused, egotistical, or negative they may be.

The gap between the religious world and the secular world seems to be growing larger; both sides seem to lack a way to communicate with each other. This is one of the greatest challenges of our times. The secular world views the many disparate beliefs and the conflicts among them and wants no part of it. The religious world, suspicious of the freedoms claimed by the secular world, looks at the erosion of values and morals and sees religion as something that can protect the moral nature of humankind.

But there is a third perspective, and this may be the hope of the future. This third perspective recognizes the limitations of all religious beliefs, but without discarding the core values of spirituality. It also recognizes how much the secular world sacrifices to the idols of consumerism and materialism. But it respects secularism for not imposing a single interpretation of belief upon society and for allowing the freedom to choose one’s own lifestyle.


Canonize Junipero Serra? Really?


by: Matthew Fox on June 23rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Alter for Junipero Serra.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon.

American peoples learned of Pope Francis’ decision to canonize Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) during the papal visit to the United States in Fall. Serra is the Franciscan missionary who oversaw the colonial system of missions in California. The news of his prospective canonization is sad for what it says about Church ignorance – after all these hundreds of years – of Native American accomplishments; it is also sad for what it reminds us about the history of Christian missionizing. A Native American from California recently wrote me that “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

It is particularly sad that the first American pope ever, one who has caught the attention of millions for his efforts to cleanse the church of its sins and society of its “narcissism” and social and economic inequities, and who has actively sought the perspectives of the faithful, would be so blind to the history of indigenous peoples on two continents, and deaf to the protests of indigenous and non-indigenous Christians alike. And it is sad that as many nations and peoples await the pope’s encyclical on Eco-theology and Climate Change that still another stake would be driven into the indigenous legacy of respect for nature that is so central to their spiritual tradition and to the survival of the planet as we know it today.


For the Sake of Heaven


by: Melissa Weininger on June 23rd, 2015 | Comments Off

Close up of a flame.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Oliver.

According to reports, when a young stranger walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday night, the senior pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, invited the young man to sit next to him so that he would feel welcome. It was literally an article of faith that the church should embrace the young man, though he was not a regular member of the community, though he was white in a historically black church. These things didn’t matter to Pinckney and the other members of the Bible study group that met that night. What mattered to them were tenets of faith and the standards of their community, a congregation built on the premise of inclusion, particularly inclusion of the marginalized and rejected.


Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Welcomes Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change


by: Sunita Viswanath and Christopher Fici on June 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

An aerial shot of Herbert Volcano Caldera.

Credit: CreativeCommons / U.S. Geological Survey.

In his recent eco-encyclical (ecology and economy) Laudato Sii (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis invited every person on the planet into dialogue on the many pressing ecological issues facing humanity – and their impact on the poorest people of the world. The reality of climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (#25). Humankind is responsible for care of the natural world, and that responsibility extends toward protecting poor and vulnerable people and our children and grandchildren.

Pope Francis made five key points in this teaching document, a new foundation of Catholic teaching on the environment:


In-Between “Racialized” Category of European-Heritage Jews


by: on June 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An older Jewish gentleman.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Thomas Hawk

Sometimes I don’t know which side of the wall I’m on.
—Wladylaw Szpilman, The Pianist

On numerous occasions, I have attended the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference, bringing together grass-roots activists from throughout North America as well as other countries around the world. At one of the conferences in the early 1990s, I was a participant in a well-attended workshop titled “Activists of Color/White Activists Dialogue” facilitated by two highly-respected activists: a woman of color and a white Christian man.

When the workshop began, the woman outlined the agenda for the next one-and-one-half hours: the workshop would concentrate on the concepts of “race” and dialogue across racial divides, and include two separate panels of participant volunteers: one composed of four people of color, the other of four white people. Panel members were to each, in turn, answer four questions put to them by the facilitators, first the people of color panelists followed by the white people panelists. The questions were: 1. “What do you love about being your racial identity?” 2. “What has been difficult for you growing up this racial identity?” 3. “What do you never want to hear said again about or seen done to people of your racial identity group?,” and 4. “How can people of other racial groups support you and be your allies?”

As she explained the intended focus and agenda, great confusion came over me: Should I volunteer? Well, maybe, but I really can’t because I’m not sure if either of the categories on which the panels are organized include me. I know for certain that I am not eligible to volunteer for the “persons of color” panel. But, also, I feel as if I somehow don’t belong on the “white persons” panel either. Maybe I should just listen to the panelists, which I did.

But, what caused my bewilderment? What got in my way of self-defining as “white”? From where was this feeling of not-belonging on either panel, or my feeling of in-betweenness coming? Thinking back, I came to realize that it stems, I believe, from both personal and collective experience.


The Pope Might Save the Planet… if You Would Join an Interfaith Effort to Support His Direction!


by: on June 18th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A portrait of Pope Francis.

Credit: Alberto Pizzoli via Getty Images.

The Pope issued a powerful letter to the world today, called Laudato Si, in which he called upon the people of the world as well as the members of the Catholic Church to make saving the planet from environmental destruction the major and urgent focus of our activity in the 21st century. And he highlighted how climate change will be particularly destructive to the poor. I want to share with you the following piece I wrote, which appeared on the front page of the Huffington Post today. If you prefer, you may read it there. Please never say “I didn’t know what to do in face of the environmental crisis,” because we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives are inviting you to become involved with us in some very specific steps you could take! Please read the article below!

Warm regards and blessings,

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

Pope Francis’ Laudato Si plea for environmental sanity and a serious recommitment to the Bible’s call for humanity to be stewards of this planet earth just might make a huge difference by puncturing through the emotional depression that keeps most of the people of the earth paralyzed in face of the growing crisis.

It is not that people don’t know about the environmental crisis that keeps us stuck in our current situation. It is rather that most people are unable to see any way out of the mess that global capitalism has created for us. Feeling hopeless about the possibility of the kinds of fundamental transformations needed to save the planet, much of humanity has chosen the ostrich strategy: deny the problem, and focus instead on getting as much as one can for oneself in the decades ahead as the planet whimpers under the increasing destructiveness of the capitalist imperative to growth without limits and accumulation of money, power or things as the only meaning to life. Yet it is this very growth and accumulation of things, produced at the expense of the earth, that guarantees earth-destruction if not of the planet than at least of its life-support-system that makes human life on it possible.


Stop the Canonization of Friar Serra, Patron Saint of Colonizers and Racists!


by: Matthew Fox on June 17th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Statue of Junipero Serra in profile

Credit: CreativeCommons/ millerm217.

Do we really need a Patron Saint of Colonizers? A Patron Saint of Racists? That is what is at stake in the dangerous canonization of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) that the Vatican is threatening during the papal visit to the United States in Fall 2015. We must stand with indigenous people everywhere and resist loudly this grave injustice. The native people I know are furious and fuming and for very good reasons. As one Native American leader named Toypurina put it, “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

Pope Francis has the support of many vis-à-vis his efforts to critique our failing economic system, clean up the Catholic Church, and pronounce about eco-theology and climate change. We all wish him well and extend him our prayers, but this canonization issue could seriously mar those efforts, as well as his soon-to-be-released encyclical on ecology. After all, indigenous wisdom, unlike most Western religion, has never forsaken the sense of the sacredness of the cosmos. Why continue to insult indigenous peoples? Isn’t their wisdom needed more than ever for an environmental awakening today?


Jewish Beliefs About GMOs


by: Robyn Purchia on June 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A beautiful green field of wheat.
Credit: Flickr / Miran Rijave.

Like most environmental issues, the growing supply of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food raises many concerns. Although GMO crops can feed more people, they also put people’s health at risk and degrade the environment. Small farmers can make more money growing and selling more crops, but buying GMO seeds gives corporations a lot of power over these small farmers. Along with these ethical concerns, religious groups must also wrestle with the theological issues GMOs raise.

When religion tries to apply ancient texts to modern technology there is rarely a clear answer. Application of Jewish laws and ethical traditions has burdened the GMO debate with numerous contradictions. In figuring out Jewish beliefs on GMOs we may be left with only one theological question: Can humans make God’s creation more perfect?

Jewish Law as it Applies to GMOs

Consistent with the principle that anything not expressly prohibited by God is permitted, Jewish law, or halacha, generally takes a permissive position on GMO food. But just because halacha doesn’t expressly prohibit GMO food, doesn’t mean it’s entirely silent on the issue.


Patriarchy, Religion, & Policing the Body


by: on June 8th, 2015 | Comments Off

Black and white cartoon saying "you don't need a vagina to be a woman".

Credit: CreativeCommons / trouble_x

“…Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”

Sojourner Truth, 1851

Coming as it has within the context of Caitlyn Jenner’s talking publicly about her gender confirmation as a trans woman, Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco argued on June 3 that, “The clear biological fact is that a human being is born either male or female. Yet now we have the idea gaining acceptance that biological sex and one’s personal gender identity can be at variance with each other, with more and more gender identities being invented.” He warned of the spread of a “gender ideology” that threatens the foundation of the Church and society itself because of what the Church defines as the biological imperative of the God-given “complementarity” between men and women.


The Ecological Encyclical: How Far Will Francis Go?


by: on June 7th, 2015 | Comments Off

Credit: CreativeCommon / Benson Kua.

Word comes that June 18 is the unveiling date of Pope Francis’s widely anticipated encyclical letter on themes related to the environment. Media coverage will predictably dwell on the newness of such a papal pronouncement, which is to be expected from news. And there will be enough novelty in the occasion, starting with the fact that no pope has ever offered up an ecological encyclical. More interesting, though, is not what Francis will say about the new (about climate change and such), but what he will do with the old – with timeless notions of morality, justice, and the divine.