This summer, I had the honor of preaching a sermon on interfaith engagement to eight different Unitarian Universalist congregations in Illinois and Wisconsin. The sermon was entitled, “Acts of Faith: Interreligious Engagement as Spiritual Practice,” and won the District Sermon Contest Award in my faith tradition.
Based on the themes found within Eboo Patel’s book, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, The Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, my experiences delivering this sermon for two straight months gave me an opportunity to reflect on not only the place of interfaith engagement within the spiritual formations of individuals within my own religious tradition, but also on the art of homiletics. Read the rest of this entry
As the 2012 presidential campaign season heats up, race is once again slowly seeping into the unhealed wounds of this country’s troubling history. President Barack Obama will face a Republican Party that has been salivating at the thoughts of dethroning him from what they have considered an illegitimate presidency since Day 1. And while there are certainly some issues that need to be worked out regarding who the republican opponent will be in November, the groundwork for a nasty political season is already being laid.
Race was clearly a prominent issue in the 2008 presidential election, when conservative groups and even politicians implicitly and explicitly targeted Obama’s multiracial identity for malevolent purposes. Whether through the Birther movement, racist poster signs, or linking then Senator Obama’s character to his relationship to his predominantly black religious community on the south side of Chicago, it is evident that this country is by no means in a post-racial age. However, when considering the racial issues that may arise or may continue beyond the election regarding unresolved racial issues, I think it is towards a different demographic that we should look that is equally, if not more, perpetuating the racism that plagues both this campaign and country, in general. Read the rest of this entry
Unitarian Universalism is a religious tradition with roots in Christianity, but has since taken a strong stance regarding religious freedom in every person’s spiritual formation. This may be characterized as a non-creedal religious tradition, which is arguably shared with some mainline protestant traditions and other traditions altogether. However, Unitarian Universalism reaches a step further by eliminating a theological centrality (i.e., monotheism, Trinitarianism, etc.). The embodiment of our understanding of religious freedom is found within our 4th Principle: we promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning for every person.
This Principle, however, receives a lot of misunderstanding and distortion. Ironically, the majority of the people who perpetuate this distortion are Unitarian Universalists. The misinterpretation of this Principle goes something like this: “We as Unitarian Universalists believe in religious freedom, which means that we can believe whatever we want…” Unfortunately, this fails to understand the true complexity and beauty of this Principle. We do not promote religious freedom, alone; we promote freedom and responsibility in our search for truth and meaning. The religious freedom is met with theological responsibility. But, what is theological responsibility and how does it either hinder or enhance religious freedom? Read the rest of this entry
As we enter the second week of Ramadan, hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world continue to fast as a prescribed spiritual practice in the Islamic faith tradition. Last year, as a part of an ongoing journey within the interfaith movement and my own spiritual formation, I chose to participate in this month long act of spiritual observance. This year I chose to follow the practice again because of the powerful affect it had on me. Only this year, something feels different about the experience. Something feels off, unnatural, and confusing. So, on Sunday night, I decided to stop my observance of Ramadan. But, why? What changed?
By highlighting the benefits of my experience with Ramadan from last year and the subsequent changes it brought about it my life throughout the last year, I may begin to arrive at an answer. Ramadan profoundly changed my life last year. It has been by far the most powerful spiritual month of my life. It taught me about the relationship between food and drink and spirituality. It gave me the tools to eat more ethically and compassionately. This month also gave me a greater reverence for the mystery and beauty of the divine, the sacred source of all life. Read the rest of this entry
I returned Wednesday evening from a three-day ministerial career assessment in Westchester, IL. A requirement for ministerial credentialing in the UUA, this time was meant to give me space for reflection and analysis of where my life is now, where it is headed, and how a career in ministry is or is not along my journey forward. The experience was very formative and gave me a lot of great things to think about. While the discussions and events throughout these three days are confidential because of the agreement I made with other ministerial candidates, I wanted to share one salient point that has remained on my heart.
The last activity before the five of us returned to our separate lives was an opportunity to give presents to one another. These presents were not tangible, they were spiritual. There purpose were to be tools and reminders of certain things that will help us along our travels towards ministry. While I cherish each of my gifts, there was one that stuck out to me that I wanted to lift up today: the breath of life. Read the rest of this entry