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

Tag Archives: Theology

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 →

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 →

Is This Really Where We Are? — A Psalm of Lament

Oh Lord, Is this really where we are?  A man once said, “I believe, but help my unbelief”. I’m not sure I ever understood, until I myself had to cry out to you, Is this really where we are, oh Lord. Are we really as far from the Kingdom of Read more →

American Exceptionalism and American Irrelevance

One of the genre’s of Science Fiction that I love is what is called “near future Sci-Fi”.  These are stories set to occur in the next 200 years or so.  What I love about them is that they “forecast” out not into some far off fantastic future, but into the 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 →

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 →

Introspection and the “Set Apart” Life of Ministry

There are times where the internal shifts necessary to be in a life of ministry in our liberal faith tradition are more obvious than others.  As Unitarian Universalist ministers, we often emphasize a radical leveling in our ministries, and many UU ministers react against the classical understanding that ministers should Read more →

The Fluidity of Identity and the Created Self

There are many amazing aspects about the process of meeting a new church.  Of course there are the challenges of moving into a system that is already well established, of becoming subject to traditions and power-lines that are long established, and to engage congregational dynamics as they flow and shift.  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 →

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 →

General Assembly Day 5: Passionate Arguments for Our Faith’s Center

I want to say on Celestial Lands what I said in person to many people about the overall “theme” for this General Assembly.  In my most humble opinion, the overall theme was not the 50th Anniversary of the UUA.  It was not where we will be as a religion in 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 →

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 Purpose of Religious Communities

I always know I’m onto something when I can get a congregant to look at me cross-eyed. A few months ago I was having a conversation with a dear congregant from a corporate background about how our Fellowship here in Midland “did things”. How our committees and teams function, how 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 →

On Why I Write

Every year around the New Year I take a retrospective look at my writings of the past year… not just here at Celestial Lands, but my sermons, newsletter articles, and assorted other writings. I write a lot… it is part of my spiritual practice to do reflection upon life, the Read more →

Glowing Coal

Something that regular readers of the Celestial Lands might have picked up on… and something that anyone who has been in a congregation I have served as a minister probably could not have missed… is that I love our congregations. I love the congregations of this Liberal Faith Tradition we 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 →

Bridging Day becomes Car Repair Day becomes Baby Day: General Assembly 2010 Day 3

Day 3 of General Assembly for me went all off kilter, but became a time of relationship building, maintining, and creating. 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 →

Emotion, Reason, and Pastoral Care

I want to posit a few aspects of my theory of the primacy of human emotion. The purpose for this article is that I am currently developing, as a part of my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency, both a theory and theology of Pastoral Care. I am well aware that this project is 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 →

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 →

The Space Between Experiencing and Knowing

I love it when the responses to an article prompt me to another article. One of my most respected teachers, Joshin Roshi, responded to my last article on the symbolic construction of reality by reminding me not to miss the forest for the trees… to not discount the direct experience Read more →

In Each Ending there is a Beginning

We have closed another year here at Celestial Lands, and I want to thank all of those who read and send me comments, both in public through the blog and in private through my email. I keep this website because it is important to me… it is a place for 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 →

Books for a UU RE Class on Theology in Science Fiction?

There has been wonderful response, (on the blog, in person, and through email) to my post on Theology in Science Fiction, and so I have a challenge for you.  If I were to teach a class on Theology in Science Fiction, what books do you think accutane should be in Read more →

Theology in Science Fiction

Since I was 9 years old, Science Fiction has played an amazingly important role in my life. I am secure enough in my identity that I do not mind admitting my personal geekdom. In truth, I credit a decent amount of who I have become to my encounter with science fiction 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 →

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 →

On the Origin and Nature of Evil

It is surprising to me when someone one asks me whether or not I believe in evil. I can see how someone can begin to learn about my theology and come to that question, but it surprises me every time. It is surprising to me because I know exactly how 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 →

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 →