Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Category Archives: God

Carl Jung

“One of the main functions of formalized religion is to protect people against a direct experience of God.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

“A mistake about Creation will necessarily result in a mistake about God.”

Only in the Creation — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on September 29th, 2013   Our theme for this past month has been creation, and through that theme we have explored imagination, creativity, the building of beloved community, and how it is a fine line between creativity and foolishness.  We explored the roots of human creativity as resting Read more →

Conspiracy with the Future — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on July 28th, 2013   Sermon     “Conspiracy with the Future”        Rev. David Pyle One of the dangers of being a preacher is that you tend to preach. More than a few of you have been subjected to “mini-sermons” from me, either in counseling, or in meetings, or Read more →

The Consequences of Omniscience and Omnipotence

When I was at the U.S. Army Chaplain’s School at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, there was a day in class that we were responding to hypothetical counseling situations.  One of the scenarios presented to us was that of a young woman who came to us for counseling after having been Read more →

The Real Meaning of the Thanksgiving Story

On this day, Thanksgiving Day, I think we are remembering the wrong message.   I think our society has taken the wrong meaning from the mythologized story of starving pilgrims, a coming hard winter, and Native Americans who shared.  We give thanks to God, or to some sense of the Universe Read more →

Religion and the Four Great Fears

My dear friend, Chaplain the Rev. Seanan Holland visited us this weekend, and as usual he and I got into one of our hours-long rolling discussions about Life, the Universe, and Everything.  This time in particular, we were rolling around the origin and nature of religion, the fundamental flaw in Read more →

To Live Like Jesus

Last week and this week, I have been attending some military chaplaincy training in San Antonio Texas, as a part of my continuing education as both a UU Minister and an Army Reserve Chaplain.  The first week was a wonderful course, put on by the Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker and Read more →

I’m a Liberal and I’m a Patriot who Loves God… Deal with It!

I think this topic is becoming a regular 4th of July weekend tradition of mine, mainly because I have had it with the idea that unless someone is a Fox News watching, gun toting Tea-Party Republican they are not a “Real American”.  Beyond the fact that such definitions of “Real Read more →

General Assembly Day 1: Unitarian Universalists of the Holy Spirit

As I sat in the second row, center aisle of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 General Assembly of the UUA, next to my military chaplain colleagues, what struck me most about the service was how many times the word “Spirit” came into the ceremony/celebration/worship service.  By the time I Read more →

God is the River

I almost never just post a video, but I was inspired this moring by my friend James doing so on his blog, Monkey Mind.  I have been a fan of Peter Mayer since long before his recent performance at GA, and while I love the song that James highlighted (Holy Read more →

The Liminal Space of Intentional Not-Knowing

The last month has been a liminal space for me, as I have intentionally stayed in a space of not-knowing when it comes to what the next few years will bring. Perhaps there is a key to understanding our faith tradition in such liminality. Read more →

Why I’m still a Christian

If there is anything that makes some of my fellow Unitarian Universalists more uncomfortable than my military past and probably future, it is my willingness to call myself, both in public and from the pulpit, a Christian. I remember one day in particular that a parishioner in my internship congregation Read more →

On Being a Murphyist

I have spent the last five years in the occasional study of a religious system that I believe has always existed, but has never been academically defined (except perhaps in secret by some graduate engineering students). My interest in this religious system is that my wife is an adherent, and Read more →

Dancing with Scripture

One of the aspects that I believe defines the religious liberal is the acknowledgement that we encounter the world and everything in it through our own lenses. These lenses are shaped by years of experience… by the people we meet, what we have read, and the journeys (literal and metaphorical) Read more →

Tofu Causes Dementia!

I don’t like tofu. I’ve tried to eat it and it actually makes me gag. When I was dating, I suffered through several tofu laden meals for a particular liberal-leaning young woman I was attempting to woo… until I realized that if it worked out I would have to eat Read more →

Symbols, Pre-Conceptions, and the Construction of Reality

In the discussion of a recent article of mine on the growth of the myth of a post-racial America, it became clear to me that the article depends upon a particular understanding of the nature of reality as we human beings have constructed it, and that I had never articulated Read more →

The Myth of a Post-Racial America

When I visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History over the summer, there was one transition between exhibits that disturbed me deeply. It was not the content of either of the exhibits, but rather that one led directly into the other. As I was coming out of the exhibit on Read more →

A New Deism for a New World

It is an interesting experience for me to intentionally write an article about Deism, a bit of a “return to my roots” you might say. For the last several years I have not primarily identified as a Deist, although my understanding of God has always been a Deistic one. Deism Read more →

The Idolatry of Identity Part 1: Wondrous Not-Knowing and Magical Boxes

At the beginning o Shakespeare’s Henry V, many of the characters are struggling with what they perceive to be the transformation of young, wild, party-boy Prince Harry into the warrior-king they are now encountering. One of the characters expresses that tension to the Prince Dolphin of France in this way: Read more →

The Theological Context of My Ministry

One part of preparing to see the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA is to write a paper detailing the Theological Context of my Ministry (in 2 pages… you try it sometime!).  Not only have I shared this paper privately with some mentors and colleagues, but I also shared it Read more →

Unitarian of the Holy Spirit

It has been said that how we express the chosen faith of our adulthood greatly depends on attitudes and concepts that hold deep meaning for us as children. We often form our adult faiths in rejection of those childhood forms, or we transform them into new and deeper meanings. The Read more →

Unitarian Universalism as a Postmodern Religious Faith

There are many different “models” we use to try to describe and understand this living, growing religious faith we call Unitarian Universalism. The most common one is to describe us as a “non-creedal” faith, saying that we are a church that sets no creed or dogma for membership. While that Read more →

Why We Should Engage With Conservative Christians

Recently, I have had a wonderful conversation through blog postings with an old friend of mine who is a conservative Christian minister. Now, if you read that conversation, it might not seem so wonderful to you, but it has been to me. Over the last three years as a military Read more →

The Creation as the Word of God

Many of you know that I do not accept the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible. What I may not have said before is that I also do not accept that the Bible is the “Word of God”, at least not in its fullness. Nor, for me, is the Read more →

No Atheists in Foxholes?

I came across this article reference while reading a 1946 Master’s thesis on the effect War has on religious and moral beliefs, and I fell in love. The Power of this tendency to create myths has recently been demonstrated in the famous assurance that “there are no atheists in foxholes”. Read more →

Defining Fundamentalism (for Celestial Lands)

I am well aware that there are those who view the term “Fundamentalist” as a positive label, and that they often are confused by the way that I use the term, and so it is probably appropriate that I be clear about what I mean by a fundamentalist. I have Read more →

Biblical Literalism and Out of Context Scripture

When I first learned of reports that certain high level government reports from soon after 9/11 had been framed using Judeao-Christian scripture, I was neither surprised nor outraged. Perhaps I have become desensitized, but it is little more than I have come to expect from that time in our nation’s Read more →

Theodicy and a God who is One

Recently several ministerial colleagues of different denominations have shared stories with me about their struggles with the “Theodicy Question”. Theodicy is the big seminarian word for a series of questions that circle around how a God who is good could allow evil to exist in the world. In more interventionist Read more →

The Prejudices around a Personal God

If there is any issue about my personal faith where I have found others have both the most assumptions and the most confusion, it has been around my theological stance of having a personal relationship with God when God does not have a personal relationship with you. I believe I Read more →

The Danger of Progress as a Source of Meaning

In a conversation with a fellow seminarian who had read my article “Why I’m not a progressive”, it became clear to me that though I laid out the reasons why I call myself a Liberal and not a progressive, I did not highlight what problem I have with the word Read more →

Can a Deist find a Home in Unitarian Universalism?

From time to time someone asks me about the relationship between Deism and Unitarian Universalism. For many years I was considered something of a “leader” (as much as Deists have leaders) in several attempts to organize Deists around the world… from the United Deist Church to the Deist Alliance. For Read more →

The Problem with being Lambs

Recently in an email someone said to me that they were still a “lamb of God”, even though they were working through some issues in their faith. As Jacob once did, they have been “wrestling with God”. I remember the metaphor “be ye lambs of God”. I remember those words Read more →

How my Theological Framework affects my Worldview

As January has arrived, so has January Intensives at the Meadville Lombard Theological School.  As such, much of my attention and writing will be focused on the insantiy of Master’s level courses conducted in just one week  (not including preparation and post-class writing assignments).  I began my time at Meadville taking January intensives, and Read more →

Ministry and the Moral Implications of Combat

As I was researching for a speech I am giving this weekend, I came across this short essay I wrote on my theology of war and of military ministry when I was at the Chaplain School.  It is an attempt not only to define where I stand on the moral implications of Read more →

Rejectionist Theology

If I had to describe my own faith journey over the last fifteen years in one sentence, it might be that I moved from understanding my faith only in terms of what I was against, to building a faith based upon what I am for. For years, whenever someone would Read more →

A Personal Relationship with God

I am always amazed by how the spirit moves when I am in the pulpit. This past Sunday, during a sermon about the religious thought of Albert Einstein, I was moved to do several “drop-ins”, or to say a few things in the moment that were not in my text. Read more →

Connected to the History

There is a joke I have heard told among Christian ministers. At an interdenominational seminary, a new Presbyterian professor of Church History gave an assignment for the first day of class, for each student to come to the course with a three page paper on what they knew of “Church Read more →

Defining Religious Language: God

Some words have so many meanings that they become near incomprehensible, and almost unusable. When I use the generic word “meditation”, I usually mean Zazen meditation, or sitting on a cushion and following my breath. But “meditation” means about a thousand different things, from concentration on a passage of scripture Read more →

Many Mere Christianities

As I was walking into a store a few nights ago here on the South Side of Chicago, a woman was yelling at a homeless man who had obviously just asked her to spare some change. She yelled “I don’t give money to beggars because I’m a Christian!” She then Read more →

Models of God

This past summer I had a conversation with a very conservative Christian pastor at the U.S. Army Chaplain School, in which I, a Unitarian Universalist, had the audacity to use the word “God”. He looked at me with an angry eye and said “So who’s your God, Mammon?!?” I have Read more →