I am a religious person. I believe in God, the Bible is a core touchstone of my life, and I strive to live my life in accordance with the Bible's precepts, commandments and values. I am also a left-wing, liberal, scientifically minded Jewish woman.
How people celebrate their birthdays tells us much about them. This is true not only of individuals, but even more so of countries. So, as we celebrate the 236th anniversary of our founding, it's an appropriate time to reflect.
It's not uncommon for kids to ask their parents about "that thing" on my head. In most instances, the parents look at me uncomfortably, embarrassed that I might be offended in some way. But recently I had the most amazing experience.
Believe it or not, this is a more complicated question than one might imagine. The United States has always been home to a multitude of faith traditions and, indeed, was imagined from the beginning to be a religious haven.
Religion is a low priority among voters this year, especially when compared with the economy. And both candidates are acting in ways that will make 2012 the most secular presidential campaign in years.
The American experience with war acts like a civil religion -- a way for Americans to affirm and assess national ideals for which generations have been called to give their last full measure of devotion. It is a glorious, dangerous, heroic, terrifying cross to bear.
In the religious landscape, one of the most interesting changes in our society is the growing number of "Nones" -- people who are unaffiliated religiously but may still believe in a God. Two books I've read recently are emblematic of this.
It's dicey to say, hard to hear and runs the risk of sounding flippant, yet I see it as a necessary act of truth-telling for the sake of the Church: If you're not being spiritually fed within this church's walls, please, be blessed as you seek another faith community to encourage you.
Always one to tell others that religion has been a crutch for the weak and the cause of everything abhorrent, I had to eat a little crow. I found something I was looking for in the most unlikely of places.
Like most new church planting pastors, when someone chooses to leave, no matter the reason, my heart and soul aches: I question my pastoral abilities, grieve the loss of relationships and always have an urge to do something to get them back.
While I agree in good measure with President Obama's statement and feel that our community is honored to have a heritage month of its own, I fear that such a month may reduce the religion-state separation that enabled the Jewish community to thrive in the first place.
"In this electoral year tensions are particularly high. Polarities are strong. Many people think that the future of our country ... is at stake," Miroslav Volf says. "Honoring everyone contains the promise of possibility."