Wednesday, April 28, 2027

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
--Blaise Pascal

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"One of the things we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States,” Donald Trump said regarding his visit to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. has been the biggest arms dealer in the world for a long time. Trump is just continuing the very lucrative national business of turning plowshares into swords.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control."

--Jack Kornfield

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"When you tell people the world is improving, they often look at you like you're either naive or crazy. But it's true. And once you understand it, you start to see the world differently. If you think things are getting better, then you want to know what’s working so you can accelerate the progress and spread it to more people and places. It doesn’t mean you ignore the serious problems we face. It just means you believe they can be solved, and you’re moved to act on that belief. This is the core of my worldview."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"As long as there is a lack of inner discipline that brings calmness of mind, no matter what external facilities or conditions you have, they will never give you the feeling of joy and happiness that you are seeking.  On the other hand, if you possess this inner quality, a calmness of mind, a degree of stability, within, then even if you lack various external facilities that you would normally consider necessary for happiness, it is still possible to live a happy and joyful life."

--The Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

"We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see."

– Zen Saying

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Just as a wave on the ocean is what the ocean is doing, you are what God is doing."
--Wayne Dyer

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Monday, May 08, 2017

"There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning."

--Jiddu Krishnamurti

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Saturday, May 06, 2017

"We are in touch with the highest spirit in ourselves, we too are a Buddha, filled with the Holy Spirit, and we become very tolerant, very open, very deep, and very understanding."

--Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, May 05, 2017

So come, my friends, be not afraid.
We are so lightly here.
It is in love that we are made;
In love we disappear.

--Leonard Cohen

"If the host would prepare the house, there is no doubt the Guest will come."

--Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

"A good end cannot sanctify evil means, nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it."

--William Penn, 17th century Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania

Monday, May 01, 2017

"Looking back at this century a hundred years from now, I think that the subtle but very profound way that Buddhist wisdom and practices have entered the culture is going to be one of the big stories that is told."

--Krista Tippett


Sunday, April 30, 2017

"We are the first generation of humans who haven’t inherited our spiritual identities. For most of human history, in most cultures, these things have been passed down. But suddenly, in the last couple of generations, people are very likely to have been born without that very deep formation.  So while traditional religious affiliation may be waning, I don’t think spiritual life is waning. Accompanying the demise of inherited tradition is the fact that people who have been born without a lot of formation also don’t have much baggage. They have a lot of curiosity. These generations are searching and are really committed to the integrity of joining inner life and outer life. They haven’t necessarily been given opportunities to do that, but they are looking for it and they know they’re in need of it."

--Krista Tippett

"The greatest accomplishment in life is to be who or what you are, and that is what God wanted you to be when he created you."

--Fr. Thomas Keating

Saturday, April 29, 2017

"The extraordinary and eccentric emphasis on 'belief' in Christianity today is an accident of history that has distorted our understanding of religious truth. We call religious people 'believers', as though acceptance of a set of doctrines was their principal activity..."

--Karen Armstrong, Confusion by Christians between belief and reason has created bad science and inept religion

“There’s only one thing that’s better than getting what you want: it’s to know that you can be happy whether you get it or not.”

— Adyashanti

Friday, April 28, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"The one thing God doesn't have is lack.  So, what we can offer God is our need."
--Sufi proverb

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts."
-- The Buddha

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Back in the late 1980's, my wife and young son and I visited the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas. I was a strident creationist and an avid reader of books by "creation scientists" like Henry Morris, Ken Ham and Duane Gish. The raison d'etre of the Creation Evidence Museum was to demonstrate that the "biblical account of creation" as told in the book of Genesis, as well other biblical stories, were scientifically and historically accurate. This meant that evolution was untrue, that the earth was only a few thousand years old and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed (dinosaurs died out as a result of the great worldwide flood but humans and other species survived because they boarded Noah's ark).

I've long since jettisoned creationism as a viable position. What I came to realize is that creationism puts the cart before the horse. It begins with an a priori assumption that what the Bible says is literally (historically and scientifically) true and was written (via divine inspiration) to be understood that way. As I studied more (and learned, as my seminary Old Testament professor used to say, "the story behind the story" of the biblical texts) I realized that the stories in Genesis were not supposed to be taken as literal truth--any more so than Aesop's fables or the myths we make up about American history. The biblical stories were intended to convey viewpoints which were of importance to the writers and original readers/hearers of those texts. They weren't written to be accurate and universally applicable accounts of history and science.

The implication of this is that the Bible and (real) science need not be at odds. And Christians shouldn't have to resort to the disingenuous tactics of Morris, Ham, Gish and the Creation Evidence Museum to try to bend (or misrepresent) science in order to conform it to what the Bible seems to say. It should be the other way around--our interpretation of biblical texts ought to (dare I say?) evolve as we learn more about how the universe works. The Dalai Lama was once asked what would happen if science proved the claims of Buddhism to be wrong. He responded, “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” Christian fundamentalism does not have this option.

The insistence on biblical literalism as the lens through which to view how the universe works has its roots in the American Christian fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century. Christian fundamentalism was a reaction against broad cultural shifts such as the rise of historical/literary criticism (including biblical criticism), Darwin's evolutionary theory (brought to a head in the Scopes "monkey trial"), the fledgling sciences of archeology and paleontology, and the growth of liberal Christian theology. Christian fundamentalists circled the wagons in defense of a view that the Bible was not only inspired but also inerrant and infallible. Therefore biblical accounts--from the virgin birth of Jesus to the resurrection to the various miracles described in the Gospels to the stories in the Old Testament (such as the miracles performed by Moses) to the Genesis account of creation and the flood--were absolutely factual.

Once one accepts this presupposition about the Bible, one has to defend it at all costs. It becomes a battle for the survival of Christianity. The belief of fundamentalist Christians is that if the Bible could be proven to not be literally accurate than the whole Christian faith falls apart (I have heard Hank Hanegraaf--the self-appointed "Bible Answer Man" express this very thing on numerous occasions). The "castle" cartoon included in this post, from creationist Ken Ham, depicts well this Christian fundamentalist fear.

Through the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, this fundamentalist hostility towards science (including climate science) and towards higher education has seeped into conservative politics. Conservative politicians and radio pundits rail against intellectuals such as scientists and college professors who are apparently united in some nefarious scheme to indoctrinate the masses and destroy Christianity. Films such as 'God's Not Dead' and 'God's Not Dead 2' capitalize on the fundamentalist fantasy of bringing down the ivory towers of the academic elite, who are uniformly depicted as motivated by hubris and atheistic hostility to the faith.

The fundamental error of Christian fundamentalism is in that foundational assumption of biblical literalism. In actuality, the application of that literalism by fundamentalists is very selective: for example Jesus's commands to "sell all you have and give it to the poor" and to "put away your sword; those who use the sword will die by the sword" are interpreted in very figurative and nuanced ways by fundamentalists. What is endangered by science is not Christianity but the fundamentalist presupposition about biblical literalism.

So, while there are a great many devout people of faith--Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.--walking alongside agnostics and atheists in today's marches for science, I suspect that there are somewhat few fundamentalist Christians (or political conservatives). They have painted themselves into a corner where to celebrate science is to betray the faith (or party). That is a sad and untenable position to be in. I know because I've been there.


Friday, April 21, 2017

"I'd rather be kind than right."

--The Dalai Lama

Monday, April 17, 2017

"For while the founding figures [of religious movements] were imaginative and creative, imagination and creativity were rarely qualities encouraged in the schools and orders they established.... As their traditions grew into powerful religious institutions, the preservation of orthodoxy became the main priority.  While originating in acts of imagination, orthodoxies paradoxically seek to control the imagination as a means of maintaining their authority.  The authenticity of a person's understanding is measured according to its conformity with the dogmas of the school.  While such controls may provide a necessary safeguard against charlatanism and self-deception, they also can be used to suppress authentic attempts at creative innovation that might threaten the status quo.  The imagination is anarchic and potentially subversive.  The more hierarchic and authoritarian a religious institution, the more it will require that the creations of the imagination conform to its doctrines and aesthetic norms.  Yet by suppression of the imagination, the very cut off at its source.  While religious orthodoxies may survive and even prosper for centuries, in the end they will ossify.  When the world around them changes, they will lack the imaginative power to respond creatively to the challenges of the new situation."

--Stephen Batchelor

"These days, agnosticism is often mischaracterized as an undecided response to a question. And in fact, the term is frequently applied outside of a religious context when describing things for which we haven't yet made an opinion.... Alternately, it's used to express our ambivalence about something, using the term to equate to such sentiments as, 'I don't care,' 'I don't really want to know,' or 'I don't even want to think about it.' But this casual usage of the term betrays its original purpose, an epistemological stance and methodology in which skepticism and empiricism — two hallmarks of the scientific method — takes center stage." 

Why Agnosticism Probably Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection: A Scandalous Reading of a Scandalous Gospel
By Crystal S. Lewis

This Sunday, millions of churches all over the country will celebrate Easter, or as we called it in my Evangelical days, "Resurrection Sunday." The sermons preached in those churches will recount the story of how Jesus died a brutal death at the hands of the Romans before His tomb was discovered empty three days after His crucifixion. Many of those preachers will insist that the resurrection can only mean one thing... that it can only be understood as the event through which "salvation" has come to people who hear the Evangelical Christian message and affirm its truth.

However, my understanding of the empty tomb's relevance changed radically several years ago. My exposure to Church history helped me to realize that throughout my entire life, I had engaged the resurrection through a lens provided by people who were just trying to understand what it meant and why it was important.

It occurred to me that I knew what the crucifixion meant to Paul, Irenaeus, Origen, St. Augustine and even my pastor... but I had never asked myself what the death of Jesus would have meant to the blind man who regained his sight after the Healer's touch. I had never asked myself what it meant to the woman who had been restored to her place in society after being rendered unclean for twelve years by her unstoppable flow of blood. I had never asked myself what the crucifixion meant to the leper who, undoubtedly desperate for human contact, received that and more during a chance encounter with Jesus. I had not asked how little Talitha's family, or Lazarus' family, or the Centurion may have felt to hear that Jesus had died on the cross that day.

I had never divorced myself enough from the traditional understanding of the narrative to see why Peter so desperately wanted to protect Jesus from the centurions in the Garden of Gethsemane... or why the religious people and political authorities so desperately wanted to kill Him. It wasn't until I allowed myself to think outside my theological box that I could see what really died on the cross that day.

When I thought more carefully about it, I realized that each lash of the whip, each nail, and every insult hurled at Jesus while He hung on the cross was a simultaneous assault on a generation of people who had finally started to feel loved… and free… and hopeful. I finally realized that the claim of resurrection by early Christians was arguably not as much a cosmic one as it was the subversion of a system that had been stacked against "the least of these." Finally, I realized what it meant for them to say: “Jesus is not dead.”

Those who claimed that Jesus "had risen" were telling the powerful that despite their attempts to bury hope and equality... despite their efforts to kill the voice of the one who had touched them when no one else would... despite their efforts to entomb the Good News that was being preached to the poor and the radical message of liberty for the captives, the hope of the people would continue to live.

For us, resurrection means that hope is still brewing, even in the most corrupt systems. Resurrection means that love is still powerful in ways that can often only be explained by invoking the transcendent. Resurrection means that nothing can stop the will of a downtrodden people who feel driven by a force greater than themselves-- Not the death of one person. Not the death of a religious ideology. Not even the death of a generation.

And so, on this Resurrection Sunday I celebrate the scandalous Gospel of Jesus Christ-- not because of what it meant to Paul or the church fathers, but because of what it means to the sick, the outcast, the hungry and the voiceless. I believe that like Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, for he has anointed us to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19) And my prayer is that all Christians, whether they fall on the theologically conservative or the liberal side of God's family, will find the enduring courage live out the resurrection by proclaiming this Good News.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Insight into emptiness and compassion for the world are two sides of the same coin.  To experience ourselves and the world as interactive processes rather than aggregates of discrete things undermines both habitual ways of perceiving the world as well as habitual feelings about it.  Meditative discipline is vital to dharma practice precisely because it leads us beyond the realm of ideas to that of felt-experience.  Understanding the philosophy of emptiness is not enough.  The ideas need to be translated through meditation into the wordless language of feeling in order to loosen those emotional knots that keep us locked in a spasm of self-preoccupation."

--Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

There wasn't much good about that Friday,
when the "powers that be" conspired
to torture and kill an innocent man
in order to "keep the peace."
And God responded to humanity
at their worst
not with the thunderbolts of Zeus,
or the crude weapons of Cain,
but with new life
and new hope
and indomitable.