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Becoming Fire!: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians by Bruce G. Epperly My rating: 3 of 5 stars This will now be my go-to introduction for spiritual practices. It is a lively discussion of spirituality rooted in Christianity but informed by spiritual practices of other faith traditions. And a handy guide for spirituality in progressive church. View all my reviews Continue reading
After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion by Anthony M. Petro My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is one of the best written non-fiction books I've read. This is the author's first book, so I look forward to reading what he writes in the future. According to his bio at Boston University his next two book projects look equally as interesting. This book is about the religious rhetoric used during the early years of the AIDS crisis and how that rhetoric shaped public policy. This is a fascinating study exploring how left, right, and center developed... Continue reading
With market fundamentalism dominating the US government, and with phantasms being paraded in the media under the sobriquet of ‘alternative facts’ that you can choose or reject, forgetfulness of the McCarthy era and the Cold War philosophy it spawned is no longer a rational option. This fascinating essay on Aeon discusses the rise of rational choice theory in the context of the anti-communism of the early Cold War and how its theory about the freedom of choice came to dominate American philosophy. I have never heard this history and was glad to read it, though it is deeply disturbing. As... Continue reading
A nice essay on the ethical and social importance of moderation. Although our democratic institutions depend on political actors exercising common sense, self-restraint and moderation, we live in a world dominated by hyperbole and ideological intransigence in which moderates have become a sort of endangered species in dire need of protection. Can we do something about that to save them from extinction? To answer this question, we should take a new look at moderation, which Edmund Burke regarded as a difficult virtue, proper only to noble and courageous minds. Continue reading
One reason I reject reductivist materialism is because it seems to be an empirically bad description of physical reality. Physical reality (as Whitehead noted long ago) is more complex than the reductivists claim. As this view about neutrinos demonstrates. Continue reading
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin My rating: 3 of 5 stars Enjoyable to read a science fiction novel where the Cultural Revolution is the background. Also one so full of actual science and not just a fantasy set in space. The long section during which the protagonist plays a video game that serves as exposition wasn't fully my cup-of-tea, but I did rush through the book, intrigued by where it was going. And I'll likely read the other two in this trilogy. View all my reviews Continue reading
Is it possible we've detected no extraterrestrial civilizations because no civilization reaches the ability to spread out into space without first destroying itself? Is climate change our species' filter? This article raises these questions. Continue reading
When I was writing my dissertation almost twenty years ago and defending a panexperientialist physicalism, I was considered to be on the wild fringes. Now it seems that an even more radical idea, panpsychism, is en vogue, according to this post by Marcelo Gleiser. Is this coherence an accident or the product of something deeper, perhaps some kind of proto-consciousness that permeates the universe and gives it purpose? This is the question many physicists, cognitive scientists and philosophers have been asking lately, leading to a sort of reawakening of panpsychism. Continue reading
I am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer My rating: 5 of 5 stars I saw this book at the Lincoln Memorial so ordered a copy for my son when I returned home. I read it yesterday and cried while reading it, moved by its story of compassion, kindness, and justice. When I ordered I discovered that it is one of an entire series, and so I ordered two more and will probably order even more of them. View all my reviews Continue reading
Roads: Driving America's Great Highways by Larry McMurtry My rating: 2 of 5 stars While there were a few portions of this book that I found interesting or enjoyable, much of it I simply found uninteresting, condescending, or even unkind. View all my reviews Continue reading
American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Ša My rating: 3 of 5 stars The first half is mostly autobiographical, narrating the author's experience of leaving the Plains for schooling in the east. The second half is a series of short stories. View all my reviews Continue reading
Red Sorghum by Mo Yan My rating: 4 of 5 stars Set in a small village surrounded by fields of red sorghum mostly during the Japanese invasion of China, this magnificent story is filled with rich characters and delightful episodes, all while detailing the horrors of war for the village people. The only reason I failed to give it five stars was because I thought the final two sections were confusingly organized (the entire book is non linear in its narrative style, which is fine until those sections) and seemed to me to get distracted by some minutiae instead of... Continue reading
An interesting essay on how Death of God theology from the 1960's was more influential than most people have realized and that much of what it predicted has come true. This rich essay concludes: Are the Church and her historical teachings therefore necessary? Only so long as the wider culture has not yet adopted its message of tolerance, pluralism, and individual freedom. Once it does, the Christian mission is complete, and secular society itself becomes the kingdom of God. In this we see the larger ambition of Death of God theology—and its enduring relevance. The Gospel forms a community that,... Continue reading
I was annoyed by the reductionistic accounts after the election that liberals don't understand the heartland or rural folk. Baloney. For one, many of us live in the heartland or are from the heartland. Plus most liberals I know go out of their way to try to understand diverse perspectives, it's part of what it means to be a liberal. Yes, I too have experienced the annoying trait of folks on the coast (both liberal and conservative) for not understanding or caring to understand the heartland, but that's a slightly different thing. What I've also experienced in the complete unwillingness... Continue reading
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On Independence Day we continued our work at the United Church of Christ General Synod, finishing early with our business sessions and spending much of the time in plenary session recognizing leaders and volunteers and celebrating the synod. The music in the closing worship inspired some dancing, and the preaching rallied our spirits. Among the final business actions, we adopted a resolution calling for a $15 minimum wage, added new specifics in our support for disability justice, and called on clergy to undergo diversity training as part of their continuing education. The morning session was deeply moved when three youth... Continue reading
The Power and Vulnerability of Love: A Theological Anthropology by Elizabeth O'Donnell Gandolfo My rating: 4 of 5 stars Gandolfo argues that vulnerability is not only a basic human trait, it is the source of anxiety that leads to suffering and causes suffering in others. After an analysis based upon maternal experience, she discusses Christian theological and spiritual responding to vulnerability and then practices of dealing with vulnerability. While I felt the first section was overly long and often redundant, sections two and three were quite good, in particular her discussion of incarnation and the natal experience of Jesus. She... Continue reading
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"You lit the fuse of dynamic, inclusive environmental change that heard all voices. This is the Lord's action," declared Aaron Mair, former president of the Sierra Club. He was referencing the impact that the UCC's 1987 study Toxic Wastes and Race had upon the environmental movement. This study coined term and first drew attention to the concept of environmental racism, the reality that there is "a direct correlation between the placement of toxic waste facilities and communities of poverty and/or color." Mair discussed how the conservationist movement of the early 20th century had ties with the eugenics movement and that... Continue reading
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Sunday morning began with hearings. Though there was more than one topic I wanted to hear about, I am most curious about the proposed changes to the constitution and bylaws, particularly the proposal to eliminate the collegium of officers and go to a model where the President and the Board determine the portfolios of the executive ministers who will report directly to the president. I have many thoughts on this topic which I will hopefully blog about in a separate post. The hearing was not as well attended as I suspected but there were those of us who raised questions... Continue reading
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"We need a shifting of the moral narrative," Rev. William Barber declared in his afternoon workshop at the United Church of Christ General Synod. His topic was taking preaching into the public square, though his actual agenda was recruiting us for a new Poor People's Campaign for the spring of 2018. “The attempt to capture Jesus for an agenda that cuts health care, that’s heresy. Voter suppression is blasphemy because you are suggesting some people are less than human, less than the image of God.” I appreciated his rising about political terminology to use the language of our faith tradition... Continue reading
Some Willimon quotes from Who Lynched Willie Earle? Race is a socially constructed, psychologically rooted attempt to name humanity through human designations. Christians defiantly believe that our identity and our human significance are bestowed upon us not by our culture, family, or skin color but rather given us in baptism. *** The origins of Southern fundamentalist Christianity have their roots in the creation of this disincarnate "empty space" sealed off from theological scrutiny. *** In a critique of how church often functions he writes "church is made into a font of positive feelings, a sabbatical for the soothing of anxiety,... Continue reading
Mark Bowden's essay for the Atlantic on how to deal with North Korea is helpful in understanding the current state of the issue, the dangers that loom, and the options we have moving forward. He confesses that there are no good options, but that the least bad one is to learn to live with a North Korea with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles (which has been the basic conclusion of every administration that's tried to grapple with the problem). He reminds us that we lived under a far more existential threat during the Cold War and learned to cope with... Continue reading
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"We have come to declare what we believe about God," so proclaimed Rev. Traci Blackmon during the opening worship of the United Church of Christ General Synod. And we were down to work to do just that. Committees gathered this afternoon in educational intensives to learn about the issues addressed in the resolutions assigned to them. This is how the theological work of the church is accomplished. I'm in committee #14 and we were assigned the resolution on studying gun violence as a public health emergency. When we arrived for our educational intensive we learned that we had also been... Continue reading