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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?

Feb 132017
 

In this excellent Ted Talk, Sharon Brous, a Jewish Rabbi and mother talks about the problems of both Religious Extremism and Religious Routinism and challenges those of us who claim to be religious to deal with both.  She makes the point that we have become so used to the violence of Religious Extremism that we hardly even react to it, much less make an effort to do anything about it.  But she also makes the point that Religious Routinism has also become so common it is accepted as the norm in many religious institutions.  She encourages both our religious institutions and each of us to address both of these very serious problems.  She acknowledges that religion is a serious part of both problems and challenges religion to become a real part of the solution.

Brous points to four principles that all religions should be promoting:  Wakefulness, Hope, Mightiness,  Inter-connectedness.  Her take on these four principles is insightful and powerful.

I have to admit that this talk is one of the best “sermons” I have heard in a very long time.  Her discussion of “Routinism” perfectly describes my own experience of Religion in general and Christianity in specific.  Nobody has expressed my experience even close to that powerfully.  It moved me almost to tears, which almost never happens.

Listen, Reflect, Enjoy

 

 

I challenge each of you to add your own thoughts and comments to this post below!

Nov 072015
 

Every year my wife goes away for a week or so to visit her family.  I love my wife, but as an introvert I love being alone, so I value this alone time.  One of the things I have noticed is that for the first couple of days I tend not to actually do anything much at all.  I spend a good bit of my day just sitting, taking walks around the neighborhood, and thinking about nothing much.  To use Iyer’s language, “Going nowhere”.  Doing this time I seldom write or check my email, or even meditate.  Sometimes I have felt guilty about that.  With all of this free time one would think I would make better use of my time.  Iyer has given that “practice” a name:  “The Art of Stillness”.  In the process he has authenticated my experience.  In this video he makes the case for taking:

A few minutes out of every day
A Few days out of every season,
Or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life,
In order to sit still long enough to find out what moves, you most.
To recall where your truest happiness lies,
And to remember that making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions.

He reminds us that:

In an age of acceleration nothing can be more exhilarating that doing slow,
In an age of distraction nothing is more exhilarating than paying attention,
In an age of constant movement nothing is so urgent than sitting still.

ListenReflect

 

 

The place that travel writer Pico Iyer would most like to go? Nowhere. In a counterintuitive and lyrical meditation, Iyer takes a look at the incredible insight that comes with taking time for stillness. In our world of constant movement and distraction, he teases out strategies we all can use to take back a few minutes out of every day, or a few days out of every season. It’s the talk for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the demands for our world.*

Please add your comments and experiences below.

____________

* From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUBawr1hUwo

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!

Richard

____________

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

Oct 122013
 

My wife and my daughter have told me repeatedly that I should be more open and honest about my own beliefs and understanding about Christianity.  While I have always been honest in my writing I have avoided certain controversial subjects for fear that some would be offended.  My daughter specifically suggested that I write a series entitled “What Christianity Gets Wrong”.  There is a real sense of freedom here–a sense of finally being really authentic about something that is very important to me.  I know that many of the points made in this video are things I have said in private again and again.  I know also that these issues have alienated me from the church for most of my adult life.

John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop from Newark, N.J., was interviewed by Keith Morrison on Dateline NBC on August 13, 2006.  In this interviews Spong makes a number of  excellent points about religion in general and Christianity in specific.  It is tempting for me to comment here on each of those points, because I personally think he is dead on with each of them. At some point I may very well do that, but here I think it is best to let Spong speak for himself.

 

Join the conversation!  I would love to hear your thoughts about any and all of the issues Spong raises, both positive and negative.

Sep 162013
 

This video was excerpted from a class I taught at Walnut Grove Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, Virginia in the fall of 2012.  It is taken from Session I: The Introduction of the eight session program entitled Developing Our Practice.  In the video I tell the story of how the term “No BS Spirituality” came about, and then talk about the core concepts of No BS Spirituality.

Questions for Reflection:

Reflect on your current spiritual practice:

  1. In what ways does your practice “Quiet the inner turmoil of compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses that typically drive our lives”?  In your time apart?  In your active lives”?
  2. In what ways does your practice “Guide us in the ongoing discovery of who we most deeply are and who we are called to be as unique spiritual persons?”
  3. In what ways does your practice “Facilitate the ongoing incarnation of those discoveries into the reality of your day-to-day active lives”?
  4. In what ways does you practice fail to meet these goals?  Where does it call you to grow in these areas.

Watch, Reflect, Enjoy! Richard

 

 

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