The phrase, “separation of church and state,” crops up frequently in conversation these days. I hear it most often when someone wants to clinch their argument on a politicized subject. Lately, it’s been concerning one’s “right” to an abortion. “It doesn’t matter what your church says, we have separation of church and state in this country.” That phrase, though, is not in the Constitution. It was Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) who paraphrased the Constitution in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, “…building a wall of separation between church and state.”

The first part of the 1st amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” All manner of questions have been raised with this statement. What does it mean to establish a religion?  What is religion? Is religion something intrinsically good? Most Americans think of religion in terms of God. What/who is God? 

Continue reading “RELIGION, GOD, CHURCH, THE STATE, AND ABORTION by Esther Nelson”

From the Archives: And No Religion Too by Elizabeth Cunningham

This was originally posted on January 17, 2016

Religion. As a species we can’t seem to live with it or without it. There is dispute about the derivation of the word, but some scholars believe it has the same root as the word ligament, ligare, to bind or tie, to reinforce the bonds between human and divine, or perhaps the bonds between believers. The words bond and bind also have a variety of meanings and connotations. A bond can be used to tie someone up; it can be a bond of kinship, or bond given as surety.

Religion’s impulses and manifestations are just as ambiguous. Did religion arise because the world seemed so beyond human control (weather, health of crops, availability of game)? Perhaps there were gods or spirits to appeal to or propitiate? Or did it arise equally from a sense of gratitude for the earth and seas that feed us, for a sky that dazzles us, for the life that flows through us and surrounds us. Song, dance, storytelling, drama, art likely began as religious or ritual expression. No aspect of life was beyond the sacred. And so religion also went into the business of law, social control. Religion has a long, bloody, ongoing history of occasioning and/or justifying war, oppression, persecution, torture, genocide.

Continue reading “From the Archives: And No Religion Too by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Even In This: The Sacred Power of Radical Trust by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

I remember back when I worked in biology, some of the labs used animal models, like zebrafish or fruit flies, for their research. Some of my family members even worked with mice, helping to develop insulin treatments for diabetes that would mean fewer needles for children; or treatments for burn victims that directly helped the children at the Shriner’s hospital across the street. Their work really inspired me. Partly because of the ways it was helping so many people, of course. But also because of the way they talked about the mice.

I’m not here to defend or condemn experimental mouse models. What I want to talk about today is sacrifice. Because in these labs, the taking of an animal’s life is never described as killing. Every single time an animal dies, it is called a sacrifice. Every time.

Continue reading “Even In This: The Sacred Power of Radical Trust by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

The Religious Aspects of Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, by Ivy Helman.

I have been watching more television than usual.  Perhaps, the reader has too. Two weeks ago, while I was rewatching Star Trek: Discovery, I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could write something about this series?”  

After all, I want to acknowledge how grateful I am for the ways the series celebrates diversity with: women of color in leading roles; the normalization of gay relationships; and, in the latest season, the inclusion of non-binary and transgender identities. Not only that, it has strong female characters that are empowered, supported and mentored by each other and other crew members. I am also glad that it expresses ecological sustainability, the interconnectedness of life through the mycelial network, and the ethical treatment of animals.  Finally, I have appreciated the way this series questions violence and war.  Notably, it contends with the question: how does a united planetary organization committed to peace find itself in the midst of war?  The answer: war and violence are learned behaviors.  That has a very feminist ring to it, doesn’t it?

However, the show is not perfect.  It contradicts itself in one major area: Starfleet’s hierarchical ranks and the corresponding requirement to follow orders.  Captain Lorca in season 1 episode 3 reminds the crew that they are not part of a democracy.  Yet, the Federation preaches equality and freedom and often touts itself as utopian, where hunger, wants and needs no longer exist.     

Continue reading “The Religious Aspects of Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, by Ivy Helman.”

#SharetheMicNow: Social Justice and Christianity by Laurel E. Brown and Anjeanette LeBoeuf

In the midst of recent events and protests, a social media campaign entitled #sharethemicnow has emerged.  The campaign asked white people and people of influence to use their platforms, quiet their voices, and highlight, heighten, and listen to their Black counterparts. I have been honored and privileged to be a monthly contributor here at FAR for 5 years. This month’s post will be in participation with the #sharethemicnow campaign. This campaign seeks to keep the momentum for the realization and implementation of equality and just treatment for all peoples – regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I asked a dear friend of mine, whom I had the pleasure of working with at Whittier College, to write this post. Dr. Laurel Brown, whose discipline is in Social Work, shares with us some thoughts on Christianity and Social Justice in midst of our current issues.

Continue reading “#SharetheMicNow: Social Justice and Christianity by Laurel E. Brown and Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Unorthodox: How Looking for “Truth” Misses the Point by Ivy Helman.

ivy tree huggingA few weeks ago a Slovak journalist reached out to me about the new Netflix four-part series entitled Unorthodox.  In the email, the journalist wrote that they had read about my work as a Jewish feminist and wanted some insight into the new series.  Their main question was: how accurate is the portrayal of the Satmar community?

I was slightly surprised.  The journalist wasn’t looking for my opinion on Esty as a young Jewish woman who takes control over her life and works tirelessly to quite literally have her voice heard.  Rather, the questions were: is the Satmar community really like that; do they not use the internet or have smart phones; is quality education so lacking; is marriage arranged; would a woman really be that clueless about her own body; is sex like that; and, do they really have no privacy?  

Fast forward.  I did the interview.  I figured that if I could offer the article’s Slovak and Czech readers a better understanding of Jewish life, my efforts were worth it.  I tried to focus the interview toward those  goals and my feminist take on the story.  The piece was published, and somewhat proud of my efforts, I posted a link to the article on my Facebook page.  Continue reading “Unorthodox: How Looking for “Truth” Misses the Point by Ivy Helman.”

The Practice of Bearing Witness by Stephanie Arel

She looked away and stared out the window, trying to hold back the tears in her eyes. “The tents,” she said and shook her head looking down at the ground. The tears were coming, but softly. I asked her what the tents represent. She shrugged her shoulders and said into the camera phone: “The bodies I guess. They don’t have enough room for the bodies.”

In this time of the coronavirus, as in Italy and Spain, New York City has room neither in the hospitals nor the morgue for the bodies that are dying. Up from 25 a week, to 24 a day, bodies are being buried on Hart Island, or City Cemetery, where the unclaimed and unidentified have been interred for decades. Others are waiting in refrigerated trucks for friends and family members to collect them. This New Yorker along with thousands of others have seen the stark reality, one that left even Trump sick at heart.

We are witnessing a global pandemic. Evidence of the ravages of the coronavirus lies all around us. The response to the virus has made physiological, economic, and psychological impacts on our lives. We have changed our working styles, dealt with lowered income, or lost our jobs. Staying secluded at home, we have taken on new roles for which we were not prepared; many of us have become sick, and some have died. We are together witnessing a major world disaster.

What does it mean to be a witness? What will it mean to carry that witnessing forward to future generations to mark this historic event so that when something like it happens again, future generations will have the tools they need to respond more quickly, adapt more easily, recover more rapidly? For this generation, just as those who researched and learned from the Spanish Flu, we bear witness. Continue reading “The Practice of Bearing Witness by Stephanie Arel”

The Caves Beneath My Roots or Psychological Spelunking by Darla Graves Palmer

I’ve spent much of the past four years – since returning to the state of my birth after more than forty years’ intentional absence – trying to understand and make peace with a particular slice of southern culture that I avoided most of my adult life. Part of that process was a deep dive into my family roots which led me to also consider the caverns further below those roots. If landscape contributes to shaping our human nature, what might that mean for my family?

Here in the Missouri Ozarks, my roots extend a hundred and fifty years deep; my ancestors on both sides of my family are buried in the karst of the Ozark Plateau, and their bones have leached into the thousands of caves that honeycomb the area, mixing with the limestone and other minerals through the abundance of flowing water. I grew up being cautioned to watch out for sinkholes, often a sign that there was a cave system below.

Continue reading “The Caves Beneath My Roots or Psychological Spelunking by Darla Graves Palmer”

On Ki Teitzei: Rules and the Importance of Religion by Ivy Helman

imageThe Torah parshah Ki Teitzei, Deutornomy 21:10 to 25:19, contains 74 of the 613 commandments/mitzvot found in the Torah.  These mitzvot cover a wide range of topics and concerns. For example, there are mitzvot about how to sow and harvest your fields and others about aiding those in need, including animals.  Some of the mitzvot describe how and why divorces can be decreed, to whom can one charge interest, and the punishments for various crimes. There is a mitzvah concerning the requirement to erect a fence on one’s roof to prevent people from falling off, one about not wearing clothes of the opposite gender, one about returning and/or caring for lost property and another detailing from what type of material one’s clothes can be made.  

The parshah is literally one mitzvah/commandment/rule after another.  Some of the mitzvot seem logical and good for the community. For example, help an animal whose been given a load too heavy for it to carry.  Hold onto someone’s property if you find it, so you can give it to them the next time you see them. Build a fence on your roof so that no one falls off.   Continue reading “On Ki Teitzei: Rules and the Importance of Religion by Ivy Helman”

Mantra and Meditation in Buddhist Hospice Chaplaincy to Alleviate Anxiety by Karen Nelson Villanueva

Karen Nelson Villanueva has recently successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, “Invoking the Blessings of the Tibetan Buddhist Goddess Tara Through Chanting Her Mantra to Overcome Fear,”

Mantras are not just the prescribed sound formulas or sentences found in Eastern religions, but they can also be thought of as the words or phrases that we continually repeat to ourselves. The word mantra comes from Sanskrit and its roots are manas-, meaning “mind,” and -tras, which can be translated as “tool.” Thus, mantra is a tool to protect the mind.

How often do we engage in negative self-talk like “It’s my fault” or “I’m to blame for what’s happened to me” or “No one loves me”? These expressions can become mantras, as we believe their messages from constant repetition. In hospice and hospital settings, one often finds patients who have convinced themselves that “This is God’s punishment” or “Everyone has forgotten me” or “I’m so scared.” These phrases, rather than protect the mind, become what is believed by the mind and may lead to increased anxiety, stress, and depression, and consequently the need for spiritual and emotional support.

Chaplains, as members of the care team in hospice and hospitals, provide spiritual and emotional support to patients and their families. Most often, chaplains attentively listen to patients and their caregivers (often family members) about the patients’ life story, their relationships, their dreams unfulfilled, and their wishes for those whom they are leaving behind. Chaplains take part in family meetings where decisions are made about patients’ care, sometimes interjecting to ask for clarification of medical terms and to ensure that the family understands. Sometimes, the chaplain will lead prayer with the patients and their families, and at other times, the chaplain will pull other tools from her toolbox such as mantra meditation.

Continue reading “Mantra and Meditation in Buddhist Hospice Chaplaincy to Alleviate Anxiety by Karen Nelson Villanueva”

Priestesses at the Parliament by Rae Abileah, Bekah Starr & Chaplain Elizabeth Berger

During the first week of November 2018, 12 graduates and current students of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada. The Parliament is a conference with a 125-year-old history that has grown to an estimated 10,000 participants representing more than 200 spiritual traditions. To share a Jewish feminist perspective with the Parliament’s attendees, we sought to create moving experiences and  intimate spaces through a variety of invited and informal initiatives.

Priestessing Panels

Many of us were slated to speak at the Parliament, and rather than just show up and give an academic presentation on a panel, we brought the feminist spirit of Kohenet into our sessions, moving rows of chairs to create a circle, guiding participants through embodied practices rather than giving speeches, and crafting ritual. Continue reading “Priestesses at the Parliament by Rae Abileah, Bekah Starr & Chaplain Elizabeth Berger”

My Grandmother is a Gangster… a Spiritual Gangster by Valentina Khan

My grandmother is a gangster… a spiritual gangster

I recently attended a funeral for a relative-in-law. The grassy patch at the cemetery was filled with many familiar faces as well as unfamiliar. My side of the family was asked to come. My father, mother and even teeny tiny little 4 foot 9 grandmother showed up. I emphasize her height because it has nothing to do with her stature… and this is where my story begins.

My grandmother aka “Mama Shamsey” is from my maternal side. She grew up in Tehran, Iran. She was a young bride to a handsome intellectual who was French educated but a deeply spiritual and passionately religious Iranian Shia Muslim. He truly believed people should never discuss politics or religion. He knew how to be open and compassionate with people of differing opinions than his. They married, had 5 children, my mother was the eldest. When she was just entering her tender teenage years, many of her peers were flocking to Europe to be educated in Germany or France. She however had the dream of going to school in America, so in the 70’s this family of 7 made the great migration over to America.

Continue reading “My Grandmother is a Gangster… a Spiritual Gangster by Valentina Khan”

The Doubt of the Empty Tomb and the Hope for Tomorrow by Katie M. Deaver

I recently had the opportunity to travel to my undergrad institution on a student recruitment trip.  During this trip I was able to preach during the college’s weekday chapel service.  Despite the fact that I have lived, studied, and worked within a seminary community for the last seven years I had not actually written (not to mention preached!) a sermon since I was a senior at this very college… to say the least I was a bit nervous.  As it turned out the sermon writing went well, and I also felt positively about the preaching experience.  But even though the writing and preaching are over I can’t stop thinking about the topics I choose to speak about.

The scripture lesson I used was Luke chapter 24 verses 22-24 “Moreover, some women of our group astounded us.  They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

These verses offer a quick recap of the Easter story that comes earlier in chapter 24 of Luke.  The women go to the tomb with the spices that they have prepared, but when they arrive they discover that the stone has been rolled away and the body of their friend and teacher is not there.  Instead, there are two men in dazzling clothes who ask the women “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Continue reading “The Doubt of the Empty Tomb and the Hope for Tomorrow by Katie M. Deaver”

Sunday Shaming by Alison Downie

On a recent Friday, I learned that the 43 year old husband of someone I went to graduate school with, parent of four young children, died suddenly. Though I had been out of touch with my grad school friend for some years, I felt deeply for her loss, her unexpected plunge into single parenting, the way her life and the lives of her children would forever be shaped by this grievous tragedy.

I carried this family in my heart as I drove to my weekly Sunday visit with one of my adult sons, who lives about 75 miles from me. At this time, disabled by mental illness, he lives in an AA recovery house, surviving on Supplemental Security Income of $740.00/month and SNAP food allotments. Now 27, he dropped out of college after one semester, has never held a job for more than a month, and has been hospitalized three times for psychiatric care.

I usually enjoy our weekly visits, during which we sit at a coffee shop or do an errand. But I never know how he will be doing. When he is doing poorly, my own tendency to depression means that being present as best I can, even for just a few hours, to his deep suffering may utterly deplete me for the rest of the day or several days following. Continue reading “Sunday Shaming by Alison Downie”

Exploring Muslimness in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 by Stephanie Arel

In my last post, I addressed the deeply personal accounts of Haroon Moghul’s self- and religious exploration in his memoir How to be a Muslim: An American Story. This post will broaden that reading to consider an October 2017 interview with Moghul at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.

The interview echoes themes relevant to current global crises which implicate religion including how religious rhetoric circulates to support extremist violence and Islamophobia. Exploring how the events of 9/11 intertwine with such crises adds depth to understanding Moghul’s individual experience.

Continue reading “Exploring Muslimness in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 by Stephanie Arel”

Psychology and Religion Collide in the Journey of an American Muslim by Stephanie Arel

After the horrific events of September 11, 2001, Haroon Moghul, the undergraduate leader at New York University’s Islamic Center, was called upon to be a representative voice for Muslims in America even as he negotiated his own relationship with Islam. He recounts his religious journey, alongside personal encounters with suicide and bipolar disorder, in his recently published memoir: How to be a Muslim: An American Story. Recognized by Ausuma Zehanat Khan in The Washington Post as “an extraordinary gift,” the memoir offers, what Khan calls, “an authentic portrait of a vastly misunderstood American community.”

The vulnerability and honesty exemplified in Moghul’s writing actualizes a pathway for understanding his experience of Muslim life in the United States post 9/11. His personal perspective and sensitivity foster an empathic response. Emma Green of The Atlantic recognizes his focus on a more intimate encounter with religion, pinpointing how Moghul’s narrative represents “writing about Islam that’s not about terrorism or war.” Continue reading “Psychology and Religion Collide in the Journey of an American Muslim by Stephanie Arel”

Religious Studies is Too [?] for Education by Lache S.

blue-fleur.jpegSince I am teaching in a charter high school this year, this is the level of education I am speaking about. I teach college English, and often craft my writing classes in thematic ways. This semester, I did units on mindfulness and the environment. Some of my younger students were resistant to the texts that were Buddhist in tradition, and when I suggested, perhaps to take a more comparative and inclusive approach, we actually do a world religions unit for my classes next semester, the administration was very kind and supportive, yet hesitant due to the “conservative” nature of our institution. I am grateful that the administration is willing to work with me and possibly allow me to do the unit next academic year with some guidance and advisement. But, again on the younger student level, I hear “This is an English class and not a Religious Studies class” or even the question, “Can we study religion in school?”

I myself have had a mottled relationship with religion, having been introduced at a young age to an intensive, evangelistic, charismatic version of Christianity that consumed my formative years. The incredible communal space created by this version applied extreme language to relationships with others and ourselves in terms of those who followed other religions or none at all (they were confounded by that tricky devil), in terms of those who were not straight (sin is sin), and in terms of our young bodies, since self-pleasure was cheating on our future (different-sexed) spouse. Continue reading “Religious Studies is Too [?] for Education by Lache S.”

“When You Know for Yourselves” by Oxana Poberejnaia

A female friend recently posted an article by a woman writer about motherhood. The article was entitled “Children are NOT life’s flowers” (referring to a famous Russian saying which means that children are what makes life beautiful).

A number of women contributed comments under this post. The discussion revolved around the image of an ideal mother and how we real mothers should relate to it.

It is amazing that in the current atmosphere of bringing out into the open so many issues, motherhood is not much discussed. Sexuality, gender and abuse are OK to speak about and question. At the same time, it is only within medical profession that such issues as “baby blues” or post-partum depression are valid topics.

Continue reading ““When You Know for Yourselves” by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

This is a moment to drive the merchants of hate out of the Temple, as Jesus did.  But will the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) bear prophetic witness? Do they have it in them to proclaim the Gospel?

I am a Catholic from Malaysia who has lived in the United States for nearly two decades. I became an American citizen two years ago.  Every day I look for two of the Big Ideas –Catholicism and American democracy—to which I am forever tethered, to be rearticulated by new, principled leaders. And they are: not by those who command the pulpit or political power but by those who live the Gospel through their faith-inspired service to the community.  People like Sister Erica Jordan who asked House Speaker, the conspicuously Catholic Paul Ryan to explain how he translates Church teaching into health care and tax policy. He could not.

Continue reading “Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster”

The Internet and the Divine? by Ivy Helman

studyWhen my dad was in town for the wedding, he asked me a question about Prague.  I didn’t know the answer.  So, I said, “let me look on my all-knowing phone.”  I googled the question, found a reliable website and told him what it said.

I used to only mention the qualifier all-knowing, or omniscient, in relation to theology, often in discussions of theodicy: who is the divine in the midst of evil and suffering?  If we presume that G-d is all-knowing, does that mean that the divine has competition?  Perhaps that is a crass remark, but I also think there is a measure of truth to the idea.  In reality, the phone is not a divine competitor, but the internet might be.  And, maybe, then the phone is our intermediary or our way to access the divine.  Computers belong to this distinction as well.

This concept of technology taking the place of the divine is not new.  The television set has been accused of being an altar.  That is clearly not a compliment.  Continue reading “The Internet and the Divine? by Ivy Helman”

In This Fractured World, I Will Not Remain Silent by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezThe recent killing of 17 year old Nabra Hassanen is on my mind. Not only was she killed—brutally beaten with a baseball bat—but it is thought that she was raped, too. Twice. During Ramadan. By an undocumented Latino from El Salvador.

It is said to be a case of “road rage.” I am having a difficult time believing this. Maybe this man was drunk. Maybe he was angry at his partner. Maybe it was a hate crime. Maybe we’ll never know the whole truth.

What matters, however, is that Nabra—a young woman, black, and a Muslim—was killed. Do not tell me, or anyone, that these three aspects were not factors in her death. That her death had nothing to do with her being a person of color. Or that her death had nothing to do with her wearing an identifying, religious headscarf. Or that her death had nothing to do with misogyny. Because it did. All of it did. Continue reading “In This Fractured World, I Will Not Remain Silent by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

It’s About More Than Just The Ariana Grande Concert by Karen Leslie Hernandez


It’s not just about this one act of violence.

It is horrific, there is no doubt, and I am in no way belittling this act of terror, but, I am always perplexed when these things happen, and how it turns into something so horrible that we forget how many children die every day around the world from other things, including terror.

Just yesterday, dozens of toddlers drowned off the coast of Libya.

One can easily find the statistics (which do vary) – an estimated 19,000 children die every day around the world due to effects of malnutrition and disease mostly in non-descript villages. Many of these young children die alone – they are unseen and forgotten.

Trafficking of children is higher than it has ever been with approximately 400,000 children trafficked worldwide every year, with an estimated 50% of these children trafficked for sex.

Our children are dying on our streets by other children’s bullets, and they’re dying in our schools by other children’s bullets.

Our children are dying at the hands of police officers.

Four to seven children die every day in the United States at the hands of their own parents.

It is difficult to find accurate numbers, but it’s estimated that a total of at least 150,000 children have died in Iraq since 2003, and in Syria since 2011.

A record number of children were killed last year in Afghanistan.

Pakistani children have also paid with their lives in drone strikes.

No one knows exactly how many Latino children die every year trying to cross over the US border through the desert.

The targeting of children anywhere is especially heinous. What happened in Manchester is stunning, horrible, outrageous and indescribable. However, we didn’t just fail these young people and their parents in Manchester, we are failing our children everywhere in the world. Continue reading “It’s About More Than Just The Ariana Grande Concert by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Moonlight Reflections by Elise M. Edwards

As I post this, May 10, a full moon, known as the “Bright Moon” or “Flower Moon” is in the sky. This full moon occurs during a season of transition when living thing things renew and bloom. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s spring, but another transition is already underway. For many of us, spring is nearing close to summer in temperatures; in plant, animal, and insect life; and in our schedules. I am concluding a long, demanding spring semester and yearning for summer. Even though I welcome the transition, I know that like all change, it holds both opportunity and challenge. The full moon prompts me to look at the upcoming summer with clear, examining eyes

elise-edwardsAs I post this, May 10, a full moon, known as the “Bright Moon” or “Flower Moon” is in the sky.  This full moon occurs during a season of transition when living thing things renew and bloom.  For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s spring, but another transition is already underway.  For many of us, spring is nearing close to summer in temperatures; in plant, animal, and insect life; and in our schedules.  I am concluding a long, demanding spring semester and yearning for summer.  Even though I welcome the transition, I know that like all change, it holds both opportunity and challenge.  The full moon prompts me to look at the upcoming summer with clear, examining eyes.

It’s strange–perhaps downright heretical–for a Christian to talk about the power of the moon. Continue reading “Moonlight Reflections by Elise M. Edwards”

On Minimalism by Ivy Helman

untitledOne of the concerns of ecofeminism is the modern materialistic mindset of capitalism. Materialism in capitalism instills not just owning many possessions, but it also inculcates the “need” to own the newest innovation. In addition, materialism advocates a throw-it-away mentality. In other words, it is often cheaper to buy a new shirt or computer than to have them repaired. Similarly, it is not enough to have a cell phone. Rather, one must have the newest and best one! The environment pays the price.

One attempt to deny the hold of materialism is minimalism. The minimalist movement seems to run the spectrum. From the ideals of less is more, there seems to be some competition between mindful consumerism and extreme self-denial. Mindful consumerism suggests that minimalism is a journey of recycling, reusing and repairing combined with well-researched, well-considered, as-ethically-produced-as-possible purchases when necessary. Extreme self-denial advocates owning almost no material possessions. While I strive toward mindful consumerism, I have serious concerns about extreme minimalism. Continue reading “On Minimalism by Ivy Helman”

Muslims: The 5:00 P.M. Workers by Esther Nelson

esther-nelsonRecently (September 2016), the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Catholic Studies Symposium took place in the university where I teach.  The main speaker (a Roman Catholic priest) addressed the topic, “How Pope Francis is Creating a Culture of Encounter.”  There were three other participants. One delivered “A Protestant Perspective;” another “A Jewish Perspective;” and the third “A Muslim Perspective.” All of them, including the moderator (chair of the Catholic Studies program), are white men.

The central theme from the men: “Let’s all get together and talk.”  The speakers bantered about phrases such as “engagement based on dialogue” and “we do not agree with modern-day relativism, but rather an encounter of commitments.”  It all sounded familiar. It then dawned on me.  This is language that Diana Eck (b. 1945), religious studies scholar and Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, uses as she developed and continues to oversee the Pluralism Project.  See: Continue reading “Muslims: The 5:00 P.M. Workers by Esther Nelson”

The End is Nigh by John Erickson

How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.When I was a little boy I was terrified that I would live to experience the end of the world.  Whether it was by an asteroid, Y2K, or a zombie plague, I would make myself sick by picturing these horrible things that could befall me and my family.  Although I was a precocious child, the crippling fear that would lurch its way up my stomach and into my head would sometimes make it impossible to sleep at night.  While I like to think I grew out of that phase, I now sit here feeling that way again.  I’m crippled with fear that the end of the world is at hand and there may be nothing we can do to stop it.   How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.

By the time you’re reading this post, the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will have occurred and, no matter where you look, the aftermath will haunt us for weeks to come.  We will either be sitting here, coaxing in the sunlight that Clinton has, in proper fashion, just goaded Trump into revealing to the 100 or so million viewers that will have chimed in to viewing how completely dangerous he truly is, or will we be scurrying to uncover decade old bunkers that were used during the 1950s and the Cold War to take shelter from the fallout to come should, Donald Trump become the next President of the United States. Continue reading “The End is Nigh by John Erickson”

Today, I am 50. And I Know Jack-Diddly Squat by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezYou’d think after all these years I would know, right? I would be sure. I could walk comfortably, touting that I am certain, as so many others my age do. The reality is however, I still don’t know. I am very unsure. I am incredibly uncertain.

At 50, I think I have more questions now than ever before. Many times I have moments of panic that challenge what I feel deeply and truly. Moments that challenge my faith and my very understanding of my own existence. Moments where I lose faith in humanity, in my friends, in my family, and in myself.

Yet, maybe that is where the wisdom is. Because if I pretended to never be afraid or uncertain, I would never challenge what I think I know. I would sit, uncomfortably, in unauthentic belief. What a pity that would be.

What am I really thinking…? Continue reading “Today, I am 50. And I Know Jack-Diddly Squat by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

A Woman Leads: Church and Politics 2016 by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”There is no shortage of men in power. No shortage of men who are ready to issue warnings and threaten punishment for straying from the party line. No shortage of men ready to hold forth in front of cameras. And yet, and yet….It took a woman with a lot of guts, a lawyer, and a person of faith to champion healthcare for all. It took a woman to criss-cross the country, standing in solidarity with those in need, ministering to those with “broken hearts” who stand on the margins.

There was no shortage of men with institutional power and access to the pulpit, but it took a woman to speak publicly about supporting the President as he worked in the face of Republican obstructionism to make the Affordable Healthcare Act a reality for millions who had no coverage. And once again in this the craziest of elections, it has taken a woman to stand with other faith leaders to call for a Moral Agenda. Continue reading “A Woman Leads: Church and Politics 2016 by Dawn Morais Webster”

I’m Failing by John Erickson

“How is your dissertation going?”

WEHO CA (June 7, 2015)©2015 Rebecca Dru Photography All Rights Reserved

“How is your dissertation going?”

Never before has a simple question packed such a punch. Five little words strike fear into my heart as I remember I have a countless number of things to do before I get that title after my name: Ph.D.

There are so many reasons I feel like I’m failing at my dissertation and school, which I used to love. The first reason is I never have any time to write. Continue reading “I’m Failing by John Erickson”

#HillYes by John Erickson

I’m going to do something I’d never thought I’d do: fill your newsfeed with yet another article pertaining to the 2016 United States Presidential election and yes, I’m going to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (hint: I’m emphatically supporting her and I’m unapologetic about it.)

John Erickson, sports, coming out.I’m going to do something I’d never thought I’d do: fill your newsfeed with yet another article pertaining to the 2016 United States Presidential election and yes, I’m going to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (hint: I’m emphatically supporting her and I’m unapologetic about it.)

Let me start off with my central point: a vote for Hillary is a vote to change history and the world. No, not because she’ll hail in some type of new economic stimulus (although I’m sure she’ll do just fine with our economy #ThanksObama) or because she’ll save us all from the evils of the GOP (looking at you Trump/Cruz/and the “moderate” Kasich) but because she’ll do one thing that’s never been done before: become the first female President of the United States, ever.

While I have tried not to get into “it” (read: online trysts with my friends on social networks who are #FeelingtheBern) the question I beg to ask is: what’s so wrong with wanting the right woman to be the President? This is one, but not my only reason, I will cast my vote for her both in the Democratic Primary in California in June as well as in November (and, if you haven’t guessed, I do not believe or promulgate the reasoning or rhetoric that Bernie Sanders will come from behind and win the Democratic Party’s nomination because I passed 5th grade level Math.)

Hillary Clinton

Continue reading “#HillYes by John Erickson”

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