The Religious Counterculture: An Open Letter to Religious Liberals

This is an interesting article that I have mixed feelings about.  On the one hand, I am fully with the author in her call for a radical, committed, active, counter-cultural, and fully liberal practice of faith.  Those of us who go by this label absolutely have to get away from the idea of diluted civil religion that only serves as the chaplain to the dominant society.  We have to get away from defining ourselves by what we don’t believe.  We have to re-engage with our traditions, our sacred texts, regular spiritual practice, and active involvement in our faith communities.

On the other hand, the author seems to be calling for the kind of rigid legalism that caused many of us to flee from more conservative expressions of faith.  Am I to believe that liberal religion should now mean pulpit-pounding, rule-making, and fear-mongering over issues environmental rather than pelvic?  No thank you.  As one who has endured the guilt and fear within fundamentalism, I can testify that it doesn’t work.  It creates self-righteous, Pharisaical bigots.  We would become the mirror image of the fundamentalisms we judge: compromising compassion and integrity for the sake of our own narrow-minded agenda.

What’s more is that the author’s stated end for these means is the increase of “political power” and “butts in the pews”.  I don’t share these goals.  An increase in attendance might be a by-product of a community’s spiritual growth, but it should never be an end in itself.  The loss of political dominance in society is a blessing, in my opinion.  It seems that almost all religious communities tend to be at their worst when they are on top of the heap.  That’s when they tend to stagnate, persecute others, and generally sow the seeds of their own destruction.  The marginalization of liberal religion has placed us in a position to actualize James Luther Adams’ vision of “the prophethood of all believers.”  Small, committed communities of believers working in solidarity with each other have the power to change the world at the grassroots level.

What we need, in my opinion, is a fundamentally different way of relating to the Sacred.  We must start from the place of radical grace and acceptance that extends from the inside out to include all beings (even fundamentalists).  This, I believe, is the good news of liberal religion that has the power to transform and liberate.

That being said, the author’s core point is one that I’m on-board with.  This article is very much worth the read, even where one disagrees with it.

Reblogged from Huffington Post:

by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons

If you look at any of the traditional markers of religiosity, we religious liberals are less religious than the conservative or orthodox. Liberal Jews tend to not keep kosher; liberal Muslims tend to not pray five times a day; liberal Christians have been known to have premarital sex. As religions have liberalized and modernized over the years, communal religious practices have fallen away and religious fervor has cooled. This may seem obvious and inevitable, but when you think about it, there is no necessary correlation between the substance of a person’s theology and the amplitude of her religiosity. We religious liberals have erroneously forged this correlation and, beyond just making us the butt of jokes, this has really cost us.

Click here to read the full article

The Most Important Lessons I Have Learned From 37 Years as a Rabbi (Reblog)

One of the best summaries I’ve ever read on what it means to be a person of faith, a member of the clergy, and most importantly, a human being…

Reblogged from Huffington Post:

All of the lessons I have learned might be summed up in the story of the young man who felt so overcome by a sense of despair when he thought of all the injustice, pain and cruelty in the world, that he lifted up his voice to God in anger and sorrow and said, “Dear God, how can you allow all this injustice, pain, and cruelty in the world and do nothing?” Then he heard the gentle, inner voice of the divine whispering in his heart, “I didn’t do nothing. I made you.”

Click here to read the full article

Parenting in Real Life

This guy is speaking my language…

By Steve Wiens

Reblogged from Huffington Post:

There are people who say this to me:

“You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!”

I usually smile and give some sort of guffaw, but inside, I secretly want to hold them under water. Just for a minute or so. Just until they panic a little.

If you have friends with small children — especially if your children are now teenagers or if they’re grown — please vow to me right now that you will never say this to them. Not because it’s not true, but because it really, really doesn’t help.

We know it’s true that they grow up too fast. But feeling like I have to enjoy every moment doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels like one more thing that is impossible to do, and right now, that list is way too long. Not every moment is enjoyable as a parent; it wasn’t for you, and it isn’t for me. You just have obviously forgotten. I can forgive you for that. But if you tell me to enjoy every moment one more time, I will need to break up with you.

Click here to read the full article

One Example of a Common Sense Liberal

Today’s post and yesterday’s (Why Liberal?  Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical) started as one, but my introduction mutated into a post in its own right.  Funny how that tends to happen when you’ve got ADD.

As I’ve said before, there is no such thing as a monopoly on common sense and family values.  Liberals in both the political and religious realms have a justly earned reputation for being elitist and overly academic.  however, I think it’s time we got to work on correcting that, especially if we hope to engage with the hearts and minds of people off-campus.  I don’t mean that we dumb it down or reject the contributions of scholarship; I mean that we communicate what we believe in ways that are more simple and direct.

One person who is already doing an amazing job at this is an older guy in Georgia who owns a peanut farm, volunteers with Habitat For Humanity, and teaches Sunday School at his Baptist Church.  By the way, he is also a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and served a term as President of the United States.

It’s Jimmy Carter.

Say what you will about his presidency and policies (I have beef with both), but Jimmy, more than any other living president, embodies a sense of personal wisdom and human decency that is rarely found among national politicians.  Perhaps that contributed to the fact that he did not serve a second term.  My wife says that Jimmy Carter is living proof that personal integrity doesn’t always make for the best presidents.

This former-president’s most recent project is the production of a study Bible with his own notes and reflections on the text.  This may be a bit ambitious on my part, but I would hope that a project of this magnitude might find its place in history alongside the famous Jefferson Bible.

You can see and/or order Carter’s Lessons from Life Bible at by clicking here.

In order to promote this new publication, Carter gave an interview to folks at the Huffington Post.  I provide a link and invite you to read the interview as an example of one Common Sense Liberal Christian speaking his mind about the faith of his heart.  On a human level, here is an example of how one can be an open-minded, open-hearted, and faithful Christian.


President Jimmy Carter Authors New Bible Book, Answers Hard Biblical Questions