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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Guardians of the Garden: What’s My Faith?


by: on February 15th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

I’ve changed my faith or religion or spiritual practice a lot over the years. I was born to parents of Jewish ancestry, but they were Unitarians, or Jewnitarians, as their friends joked. I was born to hybrids.

When I was twelve, we moved to Israel, largely because my Dad felt guilty for not teaching us kids about our Jewish history. It seemed to me to be too much too late. It was an alien country and faith to me. I felt terrible about the holocaust, and I understood Nazis would kill me whether or not I felt Jewish, but I still didn’t feel like kissing the ground when we landed in Israel.

At thirteen, I went to Quaker boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina. As students, we didn’t go to Meeting much, but we spent our days and nights outside in nature. You might say it was in the mountains I found God. I came home to myself and fell in love with the streams, rhododendron, sandy mica paths, and black mountaintops. I loved sliding down rocks in the South Toe river, sliding down mountain sides in the snow, skating and swimming in natural ponds, resting in wild grasses and staring at the stars on windy nights. My house parents had to drag me inside to go to bed at night.


Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust


by: on February 13th, 2013 | Comments Off

An Ash Wednesday Reflection

"Spirit of the River," Yuba River near Nevada City, California

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In Christian tradition, on this day ashes are used to symbolize two things: repentance and mortality.

As we consider the destruction of the earth and the suffering of our fellow creatures, both human and nonhuman, repentance and humble acceptance of our own mortality seem appropriate. In Ash Wednesday services the imposition of ashes is a way to show our repentance, our intention to turn away from harmful actions and to turn back toward God. As we consider harm to the earth we are called to repent of our own violence, greed, and over-consumption, our participation in ecological destruction and human misery, our complicity in the harm caused by the institutions and systems of which we are a part.


Getting Centered: A Musing by Jim Burklo


by: on February 12th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Source: Wikipedia.org

Yesterday a bit of work stuff threw me for quite a loop and left me feeling like the world and life were in complete tumult. Then, this morning, after the storm had somewhat subsided, Jim Burklo’s latest “musing” arrived and I thought “Gee, if only I had known about dorodangos and gombocs yesterday!”

So, just in case my friends at Tikkun Daily don’t know about dorodangos and gombocs, here is Rev. Jim Burklo’s latest musing.


Sadaf Syed: Breaking Stereotypes One Photo at a Time


by: Hassina Obaidy on January 26th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

“Muslims and non-Muslims should realize that we all are just travelers in this temporary world,” photojournalist Sadaf Syed tells me. She adds that we all should act on this realization “by opening up and getting to learn about each others faith, cultures, tradition.”

Photographer Sadaf Syed pays respect to the victims of 9/11 at Ground Zero in New York City.

Since she was two months old, Syed has traveled throughout the United States with her family, exposed to different cultures, religions, and people, including Muslims of different ethnicities. After picking up on many different customs and traditions, Syed became inspired to tell stories about this diverse group of Muslims.

Syed began her photography career with wedding photography and portraiture. Years later, her career shifted to amplifying the voices of people whose stories are seldom heard, giving them the chance to share their journeys, emotions, hopes, fears, abilities, and disabilities. As a visual storyteller, Syed is always looking for ways to inspire and educate people through her photography.

“You’re not a storyteller in words and writing, but you’re a storyteller visually, so you’re always looking to stimulate people visually,” she says.

In 2010, Syed, a Pakistani-Muslim, self-published iCOVER: A Day in the Life of a Muslim-American COVERed Girl, a book about Muslim women breaking stereotypes across the globe. The book features page after page of everyday Muslim women of different ethnicities and backgrounds, presenting photographs of them alongside captivating captions, quotes, and stories.


Feminist Spiritual Politics: Getting Personal About Gun Control


by: Stephanie Van Hook on January 25th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

The personal is the political, has always struck me as incomplete. It was Teilhard de Chardin who first said “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” The ‘personal is the political’ assumes an incomplete worldview, a cosmology of separation where the individual is forced to turn to the political as the end we seek – as though we were fundamentally political beings.

Grasping onto a worldview of connection, of interbeing, we hear nature whisper that we are fundamentally spiritual beings, quanta of spirit, mind and body, integrated. We weave our lives as spiders do their webs, out from ourselves and binding us to one another. Our fulfillment is in making these connections, in participating in a whole. That is what I see as spiritual politics: being accountable to the inescapable whole of which my life is just one of many, a unity masquerading as a diversity. When the personal is more than the political, when it is the sacred, I become whole.


A Pray-In for the Climate


by: Rick Reinhard on January 17th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Man with globe

Credit: Rick Reinhard

On an alarmingly milder-than-normal January day this year, about 100 religious leaders representing Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Islamic, Native American, Buddhist traditions gathered in the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church before processing in a silent march two blocks to the north side of the White House for a “pray-in for the climate.” They were led by NASA scientist James Hansen, a leading climatologist on global warming who was carrying a small inflated globe, and a group of Buddhist drummers. They had just been commissioned by Common Cause CEO Bob Edgar, a former Congressman and Secretary General of the National Council of Churches.

Rev. Edgar spoke about his own conversion in that very church years ago as he listened to Dr. Martin Luther King just weeks before King was assassinated. Dr. King preached that “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Edgar said his life changed upon hearing King’s words that day. This month, on the 84th anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday, Rev. Edgar reminded those in the pews that they are the leaders that they have been waiting for.


Once You Knew


by: on January 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

A friend recently introduced me to the poem, Hieroglyphic Stairway, by Drew Dellinger. The beginning of the poem grabbed me, because it speaks to my experience:

it’s 3:23 in the morning

and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?


Science, Morality, Ethics


by: on January 15th, 2013 | Comments Off

Sam Harris gave a TED talk in 2010 in which he argued that science can-and should-be used to define morality and ethics. His argument essentially boils down to this: moral decisions are decisions made about facts. The more we know about the world, the more facts we have about it and the better and more sophisticated our understanding of those facts, the better decisions we can make. Therefore, morality should be guided by science (and presumably not religion) because it is the scientific process that allows us to test which ethical decisions work well, and which are deficient.

At its core, I don’t disagree with this argument. For example, if we want to help children grown up healthily, I think it makes sense to research nutrition, to see what foods tend to help children grow quickly and healthily. Such an approach would be broadly scientific, and it’s hard to argue with. But it also seems clear to me that Sam Harris both misunderstands the traditional “science can’t define an ethics” argument and is overly credulous when it comes to science’s general merits. The presentation video is below:


Christianity After Religion? Why I Yearn for Community that is Spiritual AND Religious


by: on January 11th, 2013 | 16 Comments »

spiritualbutnotreligiousAt the beginning of this past semester, I was invited to read Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity After Religion. I attend a small seminary, and it seems that this book was suggested as a way to encourage the vast majority of students who are clergy-in-training to confront the reality that religious institutions have lost both influence and respectability over the last 5 decades, to say nothing of the 2 centuries before that. The world has changed; and as they say: change or die. Bass seems to have a very clear idea of what the Church must do to remain relevant to modern people, and she lays down the challenge, as she sees it, and her proposals for meeting that challenge. I was appalled by the shallowness of her analysis and the pandering of her proposed solutions. Let me get to some details.

Bass is, essentially, a supporter of the “spiritual but not religious” line of thought. In short, proponents of this attitude want to pursue a personal spiritual “quest” but are uninterested in religious institutions, rules, or communities. This is a simplistic description, but this is part of the problem: the spiritual-but-not-religious attitude is itself a gross oversimplification, as if spirituality and religiosity were two distinct modes of action or being that one could pursue independently of each other and a whole host of other cultural, social, and political practices.

I realize that this spiritual-but-not-religious attitude is embraced not only by Bass but also by many of Tikkun‘s readers and writers. Indeed, communications from Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives frequently reiterate how the network actively welcomes atheists and agnostics who identify as “spiritual but not religious,” so readers should know that I speak only for myself and not for Tikkun in my criticisms of this line of thought.

To me, the spiritual-but-not-religious approach, at least among Christians, seems to be a reaction against a traditionalist, conservative, rule-obsessed 19th century Protestantism. But is a rejection of this specific type of religiosity a rejection of “religion” altogether?


Nonviolence, God, and a Theology of Not Knowing


by: on January 10th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

The result is that they are hungry all the time, yet itI’ve been somewhat haunted by the notion (or perhaps concept, or metaphor) of the hungry ghost since the early 1990s, when I learned about them during a time that I had some significant exposure to Buddhism through a community of writers I joined. Hungry ghosts, according to my own limited understanding, are mythical creatures characterized by an emaciated body with a huge and empty belly, combined with narrow necks and tiny mouths. ‘s almost impossible for them to feed themselves, or even to be fed by others who care for them, because the passage is so constricted. This image keeps coming back to me because it symbolizes so dramatically in a physical way the emotional condition of our time: profound hunger for love and connection that cannot be satisfied because we have been trained in isolation to such a degree that most of us cannot receive sufficient love, even when it’s offered.

Recently, I’ve been plagued, again, by the tragic nature of this pervasive condition. Caring for the hungry ghosts, wanting to find a way – personally and collectively – to leave no one behind, has been one of the consistent motivating factors in my continual efforts to do my work. Although I believe that just about any of us has some degree of this affliction, some people, for reasons we may never know, are so extreme in their insistence on being given what they cannot receive, that they become self-fulfilling prophecies: every community they join eventually discards them; every relationship anyone enters with them eventually ends; and they remain isolated and in extreme agony, often without understanding why. If they happen to be people in positions of power, they may be surrounded by people who do what they want and say “yes” to their requests and demands, and yet their experience doesn’t become better, because they know it’s done without really wanting. Since I am in essence working for the possibility of a world where everyone matters, the hungry ghosts are of paramount importance to me.

The other day, being particularly agonizing over one such person, someone I care deeply about and have enormous tenderness for, and yet do not know how to support at all, I put the question forth to a friend who is somewhat of a Buddhist scholar. “The hungry ghosts,” I said, “how are we ever going to get into a future that works for all people if we cannot find a way to generate sufficient love for the hungry ghosts to be able to receive it and heal?

Today, on my weekly walk with my one friend with whom I talk theology (funny, given I live in a god-less world), I brought up with her the startling response I got from my Buddhist friend: “According to Buddhism there will never be a future that works for all people. There is radical acceptance there of the suffering inherent in the lives of humans, animals, hungry ghosts, etc…” I wanted to talk with my friend about this because, although she is a practicing Christian who does preaching, and I am a non-practicing Jew who doesn’t believe in any god, we nonetheless have a compatible theology. I thought, given this unique conjoining of the Buddhist, the Christian, and the Jewish, and with the lens of nonviolence shining light on our conversation, we will get somewhere. And we did.