As a progressive clergy person from my first day in the pulpit, thirty years ago, I always felt that everything from Lent to Easter Sunday was the most important and exciting season for Christians. It was another opportunity to teach and even to practice the path of kenosis, to move beyond our familiar boundaries of mind and body by learning to let go and change.read more
It was never fully hidden but now, for sure, the tendency of religious institutions to quash doubt and keep it under wraps has succumbed to an end-around play. People can connect cross-country and around the world, and do so anonymously if they want! This is a big, big help to many. It is only one expression of a broad and accelerating shift in the way religion and spiritual life are viewed and practiced.read more
The battle for growth is not just conceptual or “spiritual.” It is also practical – monetary, social, interpersonal, etc. “Culture wars” and the growth boundaries they often represent, are not separate from practical issues like making a living and social relationships but are intertwined with them. It is similar with religious and other belief systems.read more
The Belgian surrealist painter Magritte became famous for his painting of a pipe with words below it, in French, reading: “This is not a pipe”. His was a visual reminder that our names and definitions of things are very often, if not always, opinions. We’re entitled to our opinions, but we equate them with reality at our peril.read more
Paul endorsed the Roman status quo, politically. He made the real issue identification with a descended (divine) savior, spiritually raised and soon to return. The Jerusalem group shared the last point but emphatically not the first two of Jesus’ divinity nor acquiescence to Roman rule. Their expected Messiah (dramatically shifted after his death to a returning one) would establish peace with Jewish centrality and abolish the MILITARY dominance of other kingdoms but not the existence of other nations.read more
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)read more
When we look at the entire story of Jesus, including his teachings as well as his life, it seems clear his path always presumed a spiritual death before one could experience new life or rebirth. His hodos required a death to the old before there could be a birthto a new way of seeing, a new way of understanding and experiencing life.read more
In this startling and timely book, Pagels returns The Book of Revelation to its historical origin, written as its author John of Patmos took aim at the Roman Empire after what is now known as “the Jewish War,” in 66 CE. Militant Jews in Jerusalem, fired with religious fervor, waged an all-out war against Rome’s occupation of Judea and their defeat resulted in the desecration of Jerusalem and its Great Temple.read more
A new collection of poetry and prayer. Vosper once again gives expression to the beauty and complexity of life in ways that can touch and move us on many levels. Identifying our interconnectedness as a core principle of our common, human journey, Vosper plays with imagery and symbol, weaving us into a whole that lifts and ennobles us all.read more