Category Religion

Religious Huckster Take-Down: Carl Sandburg’s “To a Contemporary Bunkshooter”

There will always be Billy Sundays among us. Smooth, snake-tongued preachers talking up either the gospel of prosperity that creates prosperity mostly for themselves, or else painting pictures of heavenly hereafters with which their impoverished followers will be rewarded—provided they dig deep for what is in their meagerly endowed pockets to sustain the preacher’s enterprise.

The historical Billy Sunday was the latter, a ragingly successful turn-of-the-20th century evangelist who wowed crowds with theatrical religious oratory that he embellished with long slides across or dives off the stage, stunts that called upon his former career as a major league baseball player with a penchant for stealing bases.

Sunday soothed his listeners and their hollowed out lives with promises of heavenly days everlasting even as he himself became wealthy...

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On the Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person

The gist of the headline above represents the first of seven principles that lie at the core of my Unitarian Universalist faith tradition. During my congregation’s church service this morning, I delivered the following reflection on the subject.

I have always loved the human pageant. I remember as a young man sitting in coffee shops or on park benches, admiring the passing parade, the ceaseless flux of humanity like the most gentle and warm tides. Lovers strolling slowly by, kids gamboling across the grass like lambs in spring, and over yonder, a spirited soccer game between Ecuadorian and German immigrants.

I look into those wild frightening eyes, and I ask, ‘Is there some scintilla of worth and dignity in there? Is there anything recognizably human and good within that shell of a body and a life gone so horribly wrong?’

It’s easy to feel an almost overwhelming love of humanity in such settings...

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Dylann Roof Should Die

At the risk of being crass, I typed that headline above because I needed to see how it feels in the written word. It felt important to see how it matches up with the internal rumbling I felt this morning when reading about Dylann Roof’s trial and then digging back into his confession to police and other matters pertaining to the slaughter he carried out 18 months ago at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

I’ve been against the death penalty pretty much all my life for reasons I will touch on below, so as I heard myself internally blurting, “He should die,” I noted a kind of rage and revulsion coursing through me, framed against strongly held, longtime convictions that the death penalty is fundamentally flawed, and that forgiveness is not only a primary virtue but a requirement for any human being who is flawed him- or herself.

Which is to say: every human being.

My argument against the death penalty re...

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The Moral Imperative of Hope

So the unthinkable happened. A shallow, venal, vindictive, mendacious, unprincipled demagogue has won the presidency of the United States, and many of us are disheartened and crushed and fearful and angry and just aching to emote.

So we do, and it is good and necessary. We howl to the heavens to release our outrage and frustration. Our sadness for those most vulnerable to the fiscal machinations that lie ahead—the poor, the elderly and infirm, and even the untold numbers of ‘Regular Joe” working class types who will see tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals but likely precious little flowing into anything that will benefit them.

(This will be but one of Trump’s betrayals of the working class voters who made him president...

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Curiosity, Holiness, Science: An Homage to Eve

A recent scene at my neighborhood pool: It’s closing time and the lifeguards are rolling the tarp off its big spool and laying it out across the water. A 3- or 4-year-old boy bolts away from his mother at the gate leading outside and squats down poolside, gazing intently as the tarp unfurls. His mother calls to him, “O.K., let’s go!”

All he does in response is reach his hand out so he can touch the tarp as it moves under his fingers. His mother may as well be a million miles away.

I am smiling to myself at the whole scene, don’t even realize my smile shows until I approach the gate and Mom says to me, smiling herself now, “It’s so interesting!”

“Of course it is!” I respond. “And it’s so interesting that it’s interesting to him!”

She vigorously assents to this and we both laugh, marveling at the insatiable, seemingly undiscriminating curiosity of the young.

But re...

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