“I Found a Book”



Some religions begin with fairly common people discovering a book out in the wilds.  Moses gets stone tablets; Jesus gets a “gospel”; Muhammad gets something to recite (a “qur’an”); Joseph Smith gets something to read with big (invisible) spectacles.

It all becomes quite predictable, doesn’t it?  “See what God gave me!”  “See what I found!”

With this long history of “Gift Books” in mind, I offer this refreshing piece of secular wisdom from the great naturalist, John Muir.  These are the opening lines from his first published article (New York Tribune, December 5, 1871):

YOSEMITE VALLEY September 28th, 1871. Two years ago, when picking flowers in the mountains back of Yosemite Valley, I found a book. It was blotted and storm-beaten; all of its outer pages were mealy and crumbly, the paper seemed to dissolve like the snow beneath which it had been buried; but many of the inner pages were well preserved, and though all were more or less stained and torn, whole chapters were easily readable. In this condition is the great open book of Yosemite glaciers today; its granite pages have been torn and blurred by the same storms that wasted the castaway book. The grand central chapters of the Hoffman, and Tenaya, and Nevada glaciers are stained and corroded by the frosts and rains, yet, nevertheless, they contain scarce one unreadable page; but the outer chapters of the Pohono, and the Illilouette, and the Yosemite Creek, and Ribbon, and Cascade glaciers, are all dimmed and eaten away on the bottom, though the tops of their pages have not been so long exposed, and still proclaim in splendid characters the glorious actions of their departed ice.

Now, doesn’t this make you want to go, to see, to learn more about the beauty of our world?

Doesn’t this call you and call me out to the wilds beyond the ancient Sinais and Judean deserts, Arabian caves and farmland hills of New York?

There are countless books to be found, and read. . .out there.

Interfaith or Outafaith?

open circle of stones

Having “chaplained” for years in the interfaith circles, and continuing to have relationships–professional and personal–with the “interfaithians”. . .  I answered the phone spontaneously the other day:


That got a laugh. . .a surprised and supporting laugh.

I think I’m onto something.

What say you?

Is Good God, or, God Good?


Wise words from the Roman Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus (1st Century):

God is beneficent.  But the Good also is beneficent.  It should seem then that where the real nature of God is, there too is to be found the real nature of the Good.  What then is the real nature of God?–Intelligence, Knowledge, Right Reason.  Here then. . .seek the real nature of the Good.”

(The Golden Sayings, 59)

Is this the common ground sought by believers and nonbelievers?

Humanist Chaplain in “Ministry”


Bart Campolo, Humanist Chaplain at USC, came out as an agnostic to Tony, his famous Evangelical father.

Now, he’s doing a new kind of “ministry” that builds on the idea that non-theists need community too.

“[He] wants to create a humanist community that Christian people can celebrate — what he calls “a church for people who don’t believe in God.” He wants to create experiences with inspirational talks, uplifting music, service opportunities, and perhaps even potluck suppers.

“One thing I learned from Jesus was that if you want to gain your life, you have to lose it for the sake of the gospel,” Bart said. “I may have a different gospel now, but I want to give my life to it. I still have good news to share.”

This is one good example of why I sometimes think Secular Chaplaincy is the future of ANY Chaplaincy.  If a Chaplain only represents one faith, and doesn’t move through Interfaith Chaplaincy to a No More Borders kind of Chaplaincy, I think their ministry misses out on the radical inclusiveness that gives a depth and deeper relevance to the whole meaning of Chaplaincy.


Faith and Social Justice

hong kong shrine

I find this kind of story fascinating.  In Hong Kong, protesters seeking democracy are turned to God. . .but which one?

“A Surprising Tie that Binds Hong Kong’s Protesters:  Faith” (NPR)

Christianity isn’t the only belief system that has a presence in the protest movement. In Mong Kok, a neighborhood known for gangsters and mainland shoppers, protesters have built on a bamboo and metal barricade a shrine to an ancient Chinese general some refer to as Guan Gong.

“He’s kind of a god for war and loyalty and brotherhood,” says Kevin Tsang, a nurse and one of hundreds protesting in the neighborhood Thursday.

If that doesn’t work, protesters have built another shrine at another barricade two blocks away, this one with a picture of Jesus and an open Bible.

When I was a Christian, social justice was central and critical to my faith.  This story affirms that, and opens up many more questions about spiritual beliefs used for secular causes.  In other words, the bottom line is the same, no matter if you believe, no matter what faith, no matter if you do not believe. . .the goal is the same:  Justice for All.

Are You a [Blank] or Something Greater?

world citizen

Came across this famous thought from the Roman Slave and Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus (Golden Sayings, 15):

“If what philosophers say of the kinship of God and [Humans] be true, what remains for us to do but [what] Socrates did–never, when asked one’s country, to answer, ‘I am an Athenian or a Corinthian,’ but ‘I am a citizen of the world.’ “

What would YOU answer when asked about your (greater) citizenship?

What would YOU answer when asked about your (greater) beliefs?

Are YOU a _______________ or a _______________, or a Citizen of the World?

{Revolutionary Thomas Paine made a similar statement:  “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”  The Rights of Man, Part II}