"The religious freedom laws are a fragile bulwark against a cultural change that most likely cannot be reversed. They carve out an exception to the principle of non-discrimination by sexual orientation that does not apply to race or sex. Even if few business owners take advantage of them, they could prevent future generations from remembering those who turned away gay and lesbian customers as part of the same class of people who put up ‘whites only’ signs in their shop windows."
—From "Why ‘religious freedom’ laws are doomed" by Adam Serwer
Dr. Sherwin Nuland died this week at the age of 83. He became well-known for his first book, How We Die, which won the National Book Award in 1994. For him, pondering death was a way of wondering at life — and the infinite variety of processes that maintain human life moment to moment. He reflects on the meaning of life by way of scrupulous and elegant detail about human physiology:
“Wonder is something I share with people of deep faith. They wonder at the universe that God has created, and I wonder at the universe that nature has created. This is a sense of awe that motivates the faithful, motivates me. And when I say motivates, it provides an energy for seeking. Just as the faithful will always say, ‘We are seeking,’ I am seeking.”
We remixed this interview and present it in his honor.
The last phrase of this charming memory from hallywoods is absolutely pure, “learned to appreciate the beauty and serenity of working a cultivated environment.” I suspect this applies to a world much greater than the fertile earth beneath him:
Been reminded lately about family and folks I’ve cared about who are now gone. It’s good to remember, I think.
Lillie married José at sixteen. The oldest of a large family, she was a pastor’s wife, had ten kids, lost two in infancy. The last kid she had was born when Lillie was forty. Shortly thereafter she went back to school to become a nurse, a career she then gave herself to for twenty years. Lillie had her share of shortcomings, could talk her way into (and out of) just about anything. I’m pretty sure she loved her daughter the best she knew how. Sometimes, that’s the best we can expect.
José was born in Mexico and was a talented guitar player and singer. Like most religious leaders in the charismatic Pentecostal movement, he was equal parts showman and shaman, mystic and holy man, counselor and friend. A man of passionate words behind the pulpit and few words in front of it, he had an open mind and an open heart, and willingly shared his gardening duties with me, from which I learned to appreciate the beauty and serenity of working a cultivated environment.
As a new mother this year, I have started my own quest for tradition. My partner and I are raising a child who has Hindu, Sikh, and Christian heritage. We want to pass down some aspects of our experiences as South Asian Americans. … We’ve decided to call our tree a ‘family tree’ and, instead of lights and store-bought ornaments, we put photos of relatives, loved ones, ancestors, and small items that represent our families on the branches. But we have plenty of ‘living’ and other images — my newborn nephew’s photo, an ornament made in grade school by my brother, and a set of handmade paper mâché stars bought on a family trip to Goa when I was eight years old.
What the church does with its creeds and its doctrinal tradition, it flattens out all the images and metaphors to make it fit into a nice little formulation and then it’s deathly. So we have to communicate to people, if you want a God that is healthier than that, you’re going to have to take time to sit with these images and relish them and let them become a part of your prayer life and your vocabulary and your conceptual frame. Which, again, is why the poetry is so important because the poetry just keeps opening and opening and opening whereas the doctrinal practice of the church is always to close and close and close until you’re left with nothing that has any transformative power.
His entire conversation with Krista Tippett is riveting. "The Prophetic Imagination," a good episode to listen to this time of year.
As more media outlets produce stories about me, a few points of clarification:
* I did a LOT of drugs, but I am not a drug addict. I’m an alcoholic. Booze was my undoing.
* I swear a lot, but have never dropped an F bomb in a sermon
* I did not live in a commune…I just had a lot of roommates.
* I have never said “God doesn’t have any answers” I said that we go to God for answers, but sometimes what we get is God’s presence.
* Yes, a couple times this year I have competed in Olympic-Style Weightlifting. But calling me a “competitive weightlifter” seems a stretch.
All of this has made me wonder how many times I drew conclusions or made judgements about someone I read about in the media based solely on exaggerated statements by the media outlet.
If you haven’t heard this countercultural, tatted up Lutheran pastor talk about God, faith, and life, then you really ought to listen to this On Being episode, "Seeing the Underside and Seeing God."
Hatred and non-hatred. Transforming our relationships with our own selves and those we’re at odds with. Most everybody thinks about these things during the day. But how do we do it? How do we work with our outer and inner enemies?
A few months back I picked up a book. The title, Love Our Enemies. It’s quite remarkable because of the friendship of the two authors, Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman. They ground each other in usefulness and big-picture thinking.
So I pitched them for the podcast. But only as a pairing. It worked. Brilliantly. Listen in and I guarantee they’ll bring you joy and some solutions to breaking the cycle of hurt, anger, and revenge.