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Electing the Pope and Crises of Faith

If the new “Papa Francisco” (has a nice ring, huh?) can inspire us all, Catholic or not, to greater dedication to the Gospel of Jesus he will have bolstered our faith (in God and/or humanity) and created a better world. (In this I think the non-religious can be included as well, if they are willing…. I’m not at all far from them myself.)

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Dust and Ashes

The Gift of Mortality

Avowed atheist Susan Jacoby recently created a dust up with a recent article in the New York Times Sunday Review entitled, “The Blessings of Atheism.” She wrote in response to all the god-talk that appeared in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown massacre; with all those unanswerable questions or inadequate answers to human suffering and death so often peddled in popular religious belief.

So too, not long ago author and “non-believer,” Christopher Hitchen’s posthumously published his little book Mortality; recounting his rambling thoughts on his own imminent demise; after a terminal diagnosis left him a sufficient number of days to find himself “deported from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.”

But what, or where to, after that? What if this really is all there is?

It seems there has always been the human hankering to imagine all kinds of fanciful notions, in our attempts to recapitulate our mortal existence into something more than it is. Many religious traditions, including centuries of “mainline” orthodox Christianity, employ great mythic stories to describe a life subsumed into something greater than we can either know, or grasp, except by “faith.” Heaven knows, some folks try to better themselves, merely in the hope of a remote possibility there something more, after our death, which is a certainty. But in the end, is it all dust and ashes? And is that OK?

This is the liturgical time of year when many in the Christian tradition undergo a seasonal pilgrimage in which the faithful are reminded at the onset we mortals are nothing more than dust. And so we will one day return to that from whence we came. Then the traditional forty days end with the perennial re-enactment of a passion play commemorating the mortal demise of the one whom Christians even these many centuries later would profess to follow.

Many do so in the hope of some kind of immortality for themselves in some indecipherable form or other; attributing to Jesus a “resurrection” that means the same thing to them as god-like immortality; while others of us may find such imaginings to be not only reasonably implausible, but of less importance than what we take to be of greater significance and meaning in this faith tradition.

Otherwise, the vainglorious hope of immortality can become so enshrouded in our mortal fears that we become – like Lazarus in his early grave – so wrapped up in death that we fail to truly acknowledge and appreciate the gift of our mortality for what it is; nothing more, nor less.

With the certain assurance then that we are but dust and ash, we can ask ourselves if the gift of our mortality is not only enough, but more than enough? And if so, as the psalmist says, how then shall we “number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom?” (Psalm 90:12)

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Can We Measure Growth by Stages? (Part 2)

I believe there is great value in gaining some understanding of the leading developmental stage theories, and particularly how they relate to one another. This can be valuable for use for oneself as well as it is, often highly so, for working with other people who may have less insight into themselves and less knowledge of either social science findings or spiritual development than you or other “people helpers” do.

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Love and Death: When the Catfish Are Jumpin’

A Reflection for Saint Valentine’s Day

A popular football star falls in love with an online fantasy girl who doesn’t exist in real life. Unwittingly, he entrusts his heart to what is nothing more than a figment of his imagination, and the cruel hoax by those who would take advantage of his vulnerability and naiveté with an online sport known as “catfishing;” where bottom-feeding predators fabricate online identities, in order to trick people into emotional relationships, or worse. And it’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, because everybody loves somebody sometime. But when the love of his life that never existed dies, who could doubt his feelings of affection were real, despite the fact the object of those affections was not? However, for anyone who might consider love is less a feeling sometimes, and more a vested act of making someone or something else to be of more importance than one’s self, when it comes to Valentines Day, it may be helpful to remember how it all began. Read more.

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Abortion and the Unknowable God: An Attempt at a Neutral and Faithful Discussion

As a Christian, I find myself in a strange position on abortion. I am pro-choice. I have not always been as I have not always considered myself Christian. I was an atheist/deist, pro-lifer in my younger days. …

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The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War

Religion and violence—the two concepts seem incompatible given the emphasis in religion on virtue, love, forgiveness and compassion. Yet many scriptures contain martial images and stories of god-inspired military conquest. The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence confronts this …

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We Live In a Violent World

It seems to me that we live in a violent culture in a violent world that appears to be becoming more violent with time. I admit that I grew up in what was an ideal era under …

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Non-Violent Communication- A Language of Life

Do you hunger for skills to improve the quality of your relationships, to deepen your sense of personal empowerment or to simply communicate more effectively? Unfortunately, for centuries our culture has taught us to think and speak …

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We Love Our Guns More

One Progressive's Response to a Culture of Gun Violence

The lack of reasonable restrictions when it comes to guns is rooted in their obvious appeal; leading to their preponderance in staggering numbers in a culture that allows utter unreasonableness to pose under the guise of “protection of freedom” and individual rights. That’s why we will not simply legislate our way out of this one through reasonable debate, a half-baked compromise, or a better argument. As a society, we love our guns, and what they represent.

We love the cheap, readily available and disproportionate amount of personal power guns offer in the hands of everyone and anyone who wants it, for whatever reason. But to the usual rebuttal stricter gun controls will not stop the crazed among us from obtaining their Bushmaster, their bullet-proof vests and ammunition stockpiles, it is a hollow, fallacious argument. But furthermore, I don’t care. We have erred so long on the side of doing nothing, might it not be time to err instead on the side of doing something; regardless of its possible ineffectiveness?

For all of us who have heard the long-standing arguments and endless debate should know by now, one cannot change another’s mind until there is first a change of heart. In this society, it appears we still love our unrestricted right to own and carry a gun more than life itself. Bluntly put, we love our guns more than we love our children. Here is one clergy person’s experiences with potential and actual gun violence over more than three decades.

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Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh: only love can save us from climate change

http://www.guardian.co.uk Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the world’s leading spiritual teachers, is a man at great peace even as he predicts the possible collapse of civilisation within 100 years as a result of runaway climate change. …

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In the Winter of Our Discontent: What Gift Shall I Offer?

A Reflection for Twelfth Night and the Epiphany Season

The journey of the magi, and their adoration on bended knee before a newborn peasant who presumably comes to subordinate the Herod’s of this world is a quaint and fanciful tale. But this year, the real exchange of gifts in the City of Angels was a modern day epiphany that suggest we might indeed still find for ourselves new, authentic life in such an otherwise arcane myth. Now the question is whether the meaning and message of Epiphany season will truly shed new light in the bleak midwinter of our discontent.

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