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May 012017

My image of Westboro Baptist Church has always been negative, and that is an understatement.  When someone sent me the link to this Ted Talk, it sat in my inbox for a long time.  I could not bring myself to click on it.  I could not convince myself that anything good could come from there.  But I trusted the person who sent it to me, so I finally did click on the link.  After listening to it I immediately thought of posting it here on Turning Around because the message was a powerful one.   But again, it sat on my To Do list for a very long time.  Did I really want to be associated in any way with Westboro Baptist Church?

But here it is.  It is here because in the end there is something very important, something even spiritual, for us to learn about how we interact with people whose beliefs are different from ours.  It applies, not only in reference to blatant cases like people from Westboro Baptist Church.  It applies also to our interactions with people in our own churches who do not believe as we do.  It applies to our political discourse today as well.  There is much for us to learn from Megan Roper’s experience. I encourage you to take the time to listen!  I encourage you to add your comments below following her advice.

At the end of this presentation Roper points to four practices that can facilitate difficult conversations:

  1. Don’t assume bad intent!
  2. Ask questions!
  3. Stay calm!
  4. Make the argument!

We could all benefit from turning those principles into personal values and applying those values, especially in our religious and political discussions, but really in most of our daily conversations with family, friends, and others.  How might that change our relationships?  What if, like her future husband, we applied those principles even when, or especially when, others were not so kind?  What if we applied those values because they were our values, in spite of the actions and reactions of others?

Aug 232014

Recently I was going through some old files and came across the following piece I wrote back in the 1970’s.  The quote is presented unedited.

Someday I would like to talk to Jesus of Nazareth.

I want to ask him if he is angry about the way his life has been portrayed.  I am!

I want to ask him if he was really God, or what seems more wondrous, a spirit filled man struggling with life.

I want to ask him if he died for my sins, or what seems more wondrous, because he tried to live life fully.

I want to ask Jesus if the God he knows was some kind of sadistic tyrant who required blood sacrifices, or what seems more wondrous, a consonant spirit who speaks in our heart, and calls us forth. Mine is!

I want to ask Jesus if he was celibate or what seems more wondrous, a passionate sexual being who made gentle and lusty love with a woman he loved.

Someday I would like to talk to Mary the mother of Jesus.

I want to ask her if she is angry about the way her life has been portrayed.  I am!

I want to ask her if her son Jesus was really conceived by the Holy Spirit, or what seems more wondrous, by a wild night of passion with her husband.

I would still like to have that conversation.  All of the questions are still valid.

Jul 082014

When Lesley Hazleton* was writing a biography of Muhammad, she was struck by something: The night he received the revelation of the Koran, according to early accounts, his first reaction was doubt, awe, even fear. And yet this experience became the bedrock of his belief. Hazleton calls for a new appreciation of doubt and questioning as the foundation of faith — and an end to fundamentalism of all kinds.**

For most of my adult life I have had an ingrained aversion to the word faith.  It always seemed to me that “having faith” attempted to get me to believe what I could not possibly know.  “Faith”, as I understood it from my church experience, also seemed rigid.  It did not allow room for new information.  It also seemed that the very things I was asked to have faith in, were themselves based on other principles that I could not know either.  I generally avoided the word like the plague.  In this Ted talk Hazleton puts it all in perspective for me.  Doubt really is essential to faith.  “doubt, awe, even fear” really are the only mature response to an encounter with the Divine.  The dogmatic “faith” often taught and practiced in religion really is at the root of fundamentalism and even terrorism.

Listen, reflect, and enjoy!



* Writer Lesley Hazleton is the author of ‘The First Muslim,’ a new look at the life of Muhammad. Full bio
** From

Aug 082012

This video is Brian Akers’ personal testimony of “What I Believe”. It describes in some detail what he believes about God, spiritual living, and the universe. Some of it may seem wrong or even heritical to us, but that is not the point I want to make here. Can each of us articulate in such detail and such depth what we believe about these topics? Can we reach past the religious language and say what we really believe in plain everyday language.  When we use religious language to express what we believe, can we articulate in plain everyday language what that religious language really means to us personally? Can we articulate how those beliefs call us to actually live our day-to-day lives? Agree with Akers or not, the video challenges each of us to think seriously about what we believe. As Akers points out, in the end no one can tell us what we do believe but us. No one can tell us what to believe either. If what we believe is to be really authentic, if it is to really change the way we actually experience and live our lives, it has to come from within each of us individually.  What do you believe?

If something Akers says raises issues and concerns for you I challenge you to stop the video, note the issue and continue the video. Pay special attention to the things you take issue with. Then take the list you develop into your spiritual practice and articulate your own “What I Believe” statement.  Don’t just rattle off the creeds of your religious or secular affiliations. I challenge you to avoid the religious language in your statement, or articulate what that language means to you personally. I encourage you to resist the temptation to criticize what he believes and let it draw out your own beliefs. You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself.

Join the conversation.  Share your beliefs with us.

Take what works.  Release what doesn’t!

You can learn more about Brian Akers on his website:
Making Spirituality Practical and Rejuvinating Faith with a Sense of “Realism”


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