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

Tag Archives: Religion

A Dream of Rationality

We have a dream in America of rationality. What I mean by that is that we have imbued our country with an ideal of rational discourse being the primary form of interaction between human beings. That if we can make the right argument, it will persuade people to our (meaning Read more →

Institutional Resistance To Change — Homily by the Rev. David Pyle

Last Preached on January 19, 2014   The Rev. Dan Hotchkiss, fellow Unitarian Universalist Minister and the author of a book that has been an inspiration for one of our own congregation’s efforts at transformation, has observed the inherent paradox in the phrase “Organized Religion”. Religion is about transformation. It Read more →

Free Speech, Responsibility, and Religious Violence

Freedom is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the United States, and perhaps in the world.  Be it Religious Freedom, or Freedom of Speech, or the Freedom of the Press, the Freedom of Association, or any of the common conceptions of freedom that we experience in the United States, Read more →

The Transition of Ordination

It has now been over 2 years since I was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist Minister, and each of those years I have spent in more than full time ministry as a minister in our congregations, as well as a reserve military chaplain.  Prior to that was a little over Read more →

Truth: The Greatest Adaptive Problem of Humanity

In the last few months, I have been wrestling with one particular set of theological and epistemological questions… and I’m not done with them yet.  That has been part of the reason for the fall-off of writing here at Celestial Lands.  Unsure of where I was flowing around the issue, Read more →

Prejudice is Part of Human Nature

We human beings have many times many different prejudices.  I’m not trying to make a value statement in saying that, just naming something that I believe is an inherent aspect of human nature.  We are deeply prejudiced beings.  It is impossible that this not be the case.  I have never Read more →

To Write or Not to Write… A Systemic Theology Book

One of the aspects of a Clinical Pastoral Education Residency that was most valuable to me was spending a year with ministers from other religious traditions, being required to have deep discussions about theology, about pastoral care, and about our life experiences.  It not only helped me to broaden my Read more →

What Would a UU Religious Order Look Like?

One of the first essays I ever wrote in seminary, and the first essay I ever had published, was on the need for Unitarian Universalism to develop integrated spiritual practices that can be shared and engaged by large groups of Unitarian Universalists.  In that essay, I make the case that Read more →

I’m Sick Unto Death of Hearing about Protecting the Religious Liberty of Military Chaplains

I remember something that my Drill Sergeant said to me, my first day of Basic Training some 20 years ago, when I was an 18 year old private at Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri.  We were all in one of our first formations, and he asked us if any of us Read more →

The Center of a Liberal Faith Movement

What it means to be a Unitarian Universalist has been on my heart this last week.  Not surprisingly, considering that many UU’s are currently thinking about similar things in reaction to the recent white paper from Rev. Peter Morales titled “Congregations and Beyond”.  I know there is a lot behind Read more →

Our Responsibility to those Beyond Our Walls

Break not that circle of enabling love, Where people grow, forgiven and forgiving, Break not that circle, make it wider still, Till it includes, embraces all the living. –Hymn 323, Singing the Living Tradition Recently, the conversation has begun again about what makes a Unitarian Universalist.  Are you only a Read more →

UU Military Chaplains and the Cross

Unitarian Universalists are almost always surprised when they see me wearing the Christian Cross on my Army Chaplain uniform.  Perhaps they should not be, given the Christian ancestry of our two founding denominations, but they are.  Reactions have ranged from mild curiosity to outrage to some deep pastoral need.  On 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 →

Is the Constitutionality of Military Chaplaincy in Danger?

This week, I received an email from an organization I track, known as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  It is an organization that advocates both legally and in the media, for the protection of the Free Exercise of Religion in the military, often with more passion than restraint. Yet, over Read more →

The Honor of Being on “Smiley and West”

This weekend I will be on a short segment of the Public Radio International program “Smiley and West” with Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West.  It was recorded today, to be aired this weekend.  It was an honor to have a letter I sent to the program selected for the Read more →

My Seminary Graduation Gift: A Year with Honor Harrington

I was determined to give myself a gift at the end of 5 years of seminary, church internship, military chaplain basic training, hospital internship and hospice residency… and I did not know what I wanted.  Could I be craving a vacation on a beach in the Caribbean?  Well, always… but 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 4: Universalism, Compassion, Spiritual Practice and Salvation

My experience of the fourth day of the 2011 General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, was framed around two lectures… the Murray Street Address by the Rev. Bill Sinkford… and the Ware Lecture by Karen Armstrong.  For me, these two lectures swam in my personal pond through waters that have been 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 →

Blogging the UUA General Assembly

As I did last year, I once again intend to write an article here at Celestial Lands for each day of the General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Sandy and I are here in Charlotte, checked into the hotel suite of rooms we annually share with the Rev. Katie Norris Read more →

A Tribute to the Rev. Barbara Pescan

The following were my words at the Tribute and Celebration of the ministry of Rev. Barbara Pescan, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, on June 4th, 2011… I remember a day at General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale in 2008.  A few weeks after Barbara had sprinkled some pixie dust on Read more →

The Church and Leadership Development

One of my developing ecclesiological theories is that the church, especially the liberal church, serves among its many purposes as the laboratory for being a whole, full, and religious human being.  The liberal congregation is the container, the laboratory where we are able to learn how to engage one another Read more →

Unionized Ministry

Recently, I had the honor and privilege to meet Rev. Don Southworth, the current Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), at the Spring Minister’s Retreat for the Heartland Chapter of the UUMA. This is my first year as a “regular member” and not a student member of Read more →

What Turned a Conservative into a Liberal?

I regularly have conversations with conservatives, both political and religious conservatives. Sometimes that is through my work as an Army Chaplain, sometimes through my work as a liberal minister in a fairly conservative town, and sometimes it is through people from my past who seek me out to ask me Read more →

Generations of Ministerial Colleagues

Last week I attended the First Year Minister’s Seminar at the UUA Headquarters at 25 Beacon Street in Boston. The program was great… it was good to hear directly from the many different UUA staff offices, and the conversation I had about my theory of social justice with a senior UU Read more →

Faith is Hard… and Liberal Religion Needs Some

One of the earliest articles I wrote here at Celestial Lands is one where I seek to define, for myself, the meaning of faith (that faith is not belief, it is “sacred trust”). I sometimes think we Unitarian Universalists and others of Liberal Religion have a harder time coping with Read more →

“Government-Paid Missionaries for Christ”

Recently I received a letter from a fellow Unitarian Universalist who is very concerned by incidents and attitudes he perceives among some military chaplains, where they seem to understand themselves as “government-paid missionaries for Christ”. The letter details some of his own research into the issue of some chaplains who Read more →

Commonalities in Liberal Faith

This summer I had the privledge to preach a four part summer sermon series at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL, that has explored what some of the ties between us as Unitarian Universalists may be.  I specifically sought to name some things that are rarely said, and to make 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 →

Opening Day: GA 2010 Day 1

Reflections on the First Day of General Assembly 2010: Seeing colleagues and friends, and the most Freudian Chalice Lighting of All Time! Read more →

Moving out of Liminality, and Into New Ministries

As I move out of my space of liminality and into the ministries I will carry in the coming year, the expeirence of intentional creative not-knowing has been incredible. 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 →

Long Robes and Titles – Reflection Upon my Upcoming Ordination

What does it mean when someone calls a minister “Reverend”? Is it an honorific, or is it perhaps something else. Not an academic question for me anymore… Read more →

Religions of Differentiation

At around 18 years old I decided I was no longer a Southern Baptist. There were many reasons for that decision. At the time I would have said that I just could no longer accept the contradictions inherent in accepting the Bible as literal truth, or that the hypocrisy I Read more →

The Commoditization of Religion

The recent media attention that Fox News personality Brit Hume drew for himself by suggesting that Tiger Woods find his way out of his current marital and image problems by converting from Buddhism to Christianity, because Christianity offers a “better” (perhaps easier) form of forgiveness, has gotten me thinking about 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 →

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 →