For most of my life I paid little attention to Advent. I had vague childhood memories of singing melancholy hymns with minor chords. I occasionally lit candles around an Advent wreath. But one day, about 12 years ago, that changed.
The ethical teachings of Jesus long and clearly have been understood to support the poor and struggling in the world over those with means -- who remain hard of heart.
Unfortunately, in my part of the world -- the Middle East -- this idea is not too well understood. Too often, extremist versions of some religions have supported ongoing war and violence, rather than standing for peace.
My mom and dad did something that few people ever do: They walked their talk. They cut ties with their longtime church because they realized that their gay grandson wasn't welcome there. And they set out to find a truly open and affirming church. I knew how hard this was for them.
Can religion help reduce violent crime?
Some new research suggests the answer is yes, both by creating a moral climate that fosters respect among neighbors...
Since Pope Francis issued his "apostolic exhortation," Evangelii Gaudium, he is being roundly accused, by some American conservatives, of being a "liberation theologian" and a Marxist.
Artist Timothy Schmalz created a sculpture that was recently praised by Pope Francis I which reminds us that Jesus identifies with the poor.
Will neuroscience eventually be able to locate God in our neurons, and if so, should that tiny area of the brain be excised or boosted? No doubt there are arguments on both sides, depending on whether you hold that God has been good for the human race in the long run or bad.
Both traditions use prayer, gathering of family, and special foods to celebrate the miraculous providence of God to sustain a struggling community in a context of colonial oppression. Reflecting on how they differ may also help us overcome the ugly connotations of Thanksgiving.
Tonight is mid-stream Chanukah and Thanksgiving is behind us. In the end, I'm not sure the confluence of the two birthed any physical or spiritual properties for my family or me.
Though some may find it trite when their Facebook feeds fill up with posts about gratefulness, I enjoy the gentle reprieve. To hear people intentionally looking for the good when so many days it is the bad that is easier to find.
Gonna lay down my burden
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside...
Ain't gonna study war no more...
The historic city of Berlin will host an historic international conference on religious freedom this week.
I think about this scripture as we begin to celebrate the forthcoming holidays. How have we shifted the way we show honor? Is it true in spirit, bestowed to those who are deserving or have we become misaligned with the hopes of attaining a false sense of belonging?
For many years, C.S. Lewis struggled heavily with the argument for intelligent design. "One of the things that may surprise viewers," said John West, editor of The Magician's Twin, "is just how angry Lewis's atheism could be in his earlier years."
Christians claim to believe in a Jesus who spent a great deal of time reaching out to, speaking out for, advocating on behalf of "the least of these." And when his followers don't follow suit... who can blame the onlookers for questioning the whole enterprise?
The testimony of the Jewish people throughout their scriptures and history and in this season of Hanukkah reminds me, just as God told Moses in the wilderness, to stop crying and start moving forward in spite of moments of doubt, trusting in the continued light of God's presence.
But there's another idea that many of us Americans have bought into even harder: Religion. I don't mean spiritual people who strive to lead good lives by adhering to the tenets of forgiveness and compassion that are found throughout The Bible.
But for one to deny that the Church is anti-gay in one sentence and then to maintain a stance against gay marriage in the next adds injury to insult. Let's just be very clear here -- if you are against marriage equality you are anti-gay.