Honor Thy Teachers


In the July 2015 edition of National Geographic, Ela Bhatt, leader of a women’s cooperative in India, is quoted:

“I am not a Gandhi scholar, nor a devotee.  I am a Gandhi practitioner.”

Isn’t that refreshing to hear?

Not another “guru groupie” or faithful fanatic who elevates someone to “Great Soul.”  Some people simply hear the message, get the point, and get to work.

Rather than turn great teachers into icons, make them the “voices of God” or worship them, what do you suppose would happen if people simply practiced any wisdom they heard in those words?

Can you imagine?

As a teacher myself, I would feel much more honored by someone putting something good that I said or did into practice, than for great titles or great words.

Know any “practitioners”?

How do you honor them?

“Religious Freedom” for Whom?

religious freedom

In the righteous outcry from the religious cry-babies about the Supreme Court ruling on Same-Sex Marriage, we hear things like:

“No Texan is required. . .to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.” (Gov. Greg Abbott)

“[This court decision] will pave the way for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree.”  (“Jesus’ Governor,” Bobby Jindal)

And that’s just from a few Governors!

Focus on Our Family and Not Your Family the Family president Jim Daly says he’s afraid there will be “prejudice and persecution” of his family of believers with this new law.

Then there’s the Chief Justice of the United States (yes, you read that right), John “Jesus’ Judge” Roberts, who turned red in the face with clenched fists (we can imagine) when he wrote:

“People of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”

I’ll leave off Justice Scalia’s rants and raves about “the Court’s threat to American Democracy” (oh, I guess I didn’t leave it out).

So, there you have it.  The Self-Appointed Defenders of Faith across the land doing what they do best. . .not sure what that is, but Leadership is apparently not their best.

Here’s something these and many other “Faith Defenders” conveniently forget:

Millions of People of Faith in the United States actually Support Marriage Equality!  What about THEIR “religious liberty”?


Source:  The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)

Even 28% of White Evangelicals support it!

So, what do our Preacher Politicians and Judges for Jesus say about the religious freedom of THOSE unAmerican Liberal believers who choose to believe differently. . .whose faith leads them to show compassion and justice without discrimination?  And what if THEY are GAY?!  Do THEY have rights and freedoms and liberties too?

We’re waiting to hear what God’s Defenders have to say to the OTHER millions of American citizens who have freedoms to defend, such as the freedom to NOT believe. . .

I repeat what I have said for a very long time:

Those who want a United (or Divided) States of Jesus with the Bible for their Constitution and Prayer and Crosses in every public place. . .PLEASE Go Find That Place!  I support a Republic of Jesus and Country of Christ somewhere in the world.  I really do!  I can’t wait for that Exceptional Holy Land with universal Christian Religious Freedom to show the rest of us what a Godly Nation can Really Do!  Have a good time with that, Mr. Scalia.

(I do not mean to imply this Christian State–CS–would have ANYTHING in common with the Islamic State–IS–or the Taliban or Iran or any other Faith-Based Nation. . .I would never imply such a thing!)

Proud to be American Today


I’m not a flag-waver or “America is the Greatest” kind of person.

The U.S. has big problems and much of its military and economic policy around the world is highly questionable if not detestable.  We’re no moral compass for the world!

But on a day like today. . .it’s good to be American.

The Supreme Court of the United States, after major healthcare and housing decisions, made a historic decision today allowing Same-Sex Marriage across the country.

To our friends in the LGBTQ Community:  Congratulations!  We celebrate with you!  GOOD be With You!

This Human Rights Issue is just that. . .a Right; a Justice Issue; an Ethical Issue.

As some of us have said all along:  If it wasn’t for the Religious arguments against these Human Rights issues, society would evolve much faster.

Religion is the Boulder in the Stream of Progress.

So, we go around. . .the stream flows forward.

Millions in the Faith Community support Marriage Equality and for them we can be grateful.  In fact, many in faith communities ARE gay and lesbian, or have family members who are.  Yet, millions more stand in the way. . .or try to–in the Name of their God.

And, unfortunately, millions (including some Supreme Court Judges) think that a free and pluralistic, secular nation, built upon a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, a Declaration of Independence, should be guided by ancient laws from ancient scriptures.  They would replace the Constitution, override it, with the Bible.

This should never happen.

So, on this historic day, I am overjoyed for my Gay and Lesbian friends, and very proud to live in This Secular Nation!

Oh, one more thing. . .as I’ve also said all along this journey to justice. . .

IF you do NOT support this fundamental human right, I would ask, What do YOUR Gay and Lesbian friends or family say about that?

You don’t have any Gay or Lesbian friends or family?


Then, before you stand against other people, maybe you need to meet them, get to know them, so they aren’t “them” any more?

{by the way, for years I’ve asked this same question about poor or homeless people too–Do you KNOW any personally?  If not, before you judge, maybe it’s time}

The Nun and the None

Marion and Chris
Marion and Chris

Every time I see Sister Marion at some party or event her face lights up and I get a big smack on the lips.  What is it about this connection across the usually well-defended lines between the faithful and the faithless?

At a recent going away party for an Episcopal Priest we both grabbed a beer and pulled our chairs together on the sunny deck.  I asked her about her amazing strength to walk many miles each week and she asked about my teaching and managing work.  A couple of ministers, priests, children and dogs gathered near to us and we all laughed and shared good stories and lamented the injustices of the world and other happy topics.

What Marion and I share is a delight in the next generation of youth who are planning diverse events together.  We share backgrounds in compassion and justice work.  We share roots in the religious community (and a sharp sense of the value of heresy).  We simply share our common humanity and. . .dammit. . .we just LIKE each other!

With a hug, a kiss and a “take care and see you soon” we parted again that evening, knowing that soon we would meet up again to share a beer in the demilitarized zone between faith and no faith (Battlefields be Damned!).  Nun with None.  Holding hands.  Smiling in the joy; shaking our heads in serious conversation.  Both rebels. . .in our own way.  One with God; one without.  Both with Good.

I love My Sister Marion!

{oh, in case you’re wondering:  My wife Carol took the photo of our sister and her “boyfriend”}

Maybe There is No Soul, But There is a Self

It's just a pancake
It’s just a pancake

I’m wondering if Religion’s “Great Distraction Machine” (GDM:  constructed of Theology and Creed, operated by Clergy using Ancient Manuals written on Crumbling Papyrus) has given us a “stone instead of a fish” for all this time.

Where Psychology speaks of a “self,” Religion has spiritualized us into “souls.”

I wonder.

The mystery and beauty of the Human Person has been devalued by an invented something called a “Soul.”

{cue the “Soul Music”}

It may take a poet to shake us awake.  Poetry might help us understand that we need to Unplug the GDM.

Walt Whitman gave us hints that might help. . .

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air. . . .”

Beautiful.  Wonderful enough.  This Self, this Me, this You!

Isn’t it time to unplug the GDM?

Memorials without God

Palomarin 05 010 - Version 2

Our local interfaith council referred a family to me.  They were looking for someone to lead a memorial service for their father who just passed away at 100 years old.  They said “Ted,” a well-known designer, wasn’t really religious but loved nature and considered himself “eco-spiritual.”  I explained that I am not religious either, that I am also nature-oriented, and I have led many memorials.  The family was happy to find someone like me.

Here is what a Memorial can be like without God:

-About 20 family and friends gathered in the family home designed by Ted.

-I stood with my back to the large window overlooking the sunny yard with green grass, oaks and the hills beyond.  Everyone could enjoy the view of Ted’s “sanctuary.”

-We took some deep breaths as I gently explained we were there to “celebrate one life:  Ted’s life. . .and LIFE itself–our lives.”  I said that the day was good because life was good, even with the grief that shouldn’t be denied or avoided–it was ok to cry.  I said we throw too many words at the mysteries of life, especially death, when we really don’t know what to say.  This was one reason the memorial was brief.  They could all tell more stories over the meal later.

-I asked the circle to close their eyes and whisper the name they called “Ted.”  Then to open their eyes and speak that name (dad, grandpa, etc) looking at others.  A sweet moment.

-I quoted a line from Ted where he spoke of his drawing board.  We smiled to consider Life’s drawing boards.  I spoke of his “eco-spirituality.”  Since he was an architectural designer I said “eco” was an ancient word for “house or home.”  People were pleasantly surprised by that.

-I quoted a line from John Muir (who died about the time Ted was born 100 years ago).  Muir spoke of nature being a part and parent of us and that Beauty was the best word for God.  People really seemed to like that.

-I invited anyone to say a few words or tell a story (why call it “eulogies”?).  This was of course the heart of our time together.  Many laughs, smiles and tears.

-I encouraged everyone to hold on to the special name they called Ted, and to hold on to the stories and lessons of his life.  “You will learn from him for a very long time. . .maybe 100 years!”

-We ended with my reading the last lines of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” with the famous line, “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” and “I stop somewhere waiting for you.”  Many smiles at the reference to homes and roofs–Ted’s drawing board.

-They played a piece of music “Ted” enjoyed.  That brought many to tears.

Everyone thanked me very much afterward with handshakes and hugs.  The daughter gave me a bag of fresh vegetables from the garden.  The son handed me a check for more than I asked for.   There was great appreciation.

It is not only possible to hold a memorial without religion.  We need to actively offer these as “live options” for families.  No Gods. . .but lots of Good. 

But let me also say, no doubt there were people of faith in the room.  Among the family and friends there were surely a few who were believers.  They were welcome.  They could have offered a brief scripture or prayer or mention of God.  But none did that.  They were respecting the wishes of Ted and his widow “Beth” to have a non-religious ceremony.

That’s the nice thing about Secular Ceremonies.  They are inclusive in a way religious ceremonies can never be.  The moment you call upon One God from One Tradition, you exclude everyone else.  No matter how much a leader intends to be inclusive, that can’t really be possible in these deeply meaningful and emotional times.  And most importantly:  families are usually pretty diverse in beliefs, so why not simply guide them through a close experience of death by “celebrating life” allowing each one to handle their grief with whatever beliefs they choose?  As with Marriage Ceremonies, why inject specified religious beliefs into the celebration (also a Celebration of Life!).  God is not necessary to celebrate the Good.  Religion is simply not necessary to create relevant, meaningful gatherings.

This is why I think we need more Secular Ceremonies to truly honor the diversity of our contemporary communities.  I have seen for myself how very much appreciated this approach can be.

On last thing.  Near the end of the gathering, Ted’s widow Beth told us how Ted would sometimes look up at the trees and the hills beyond and say, “That’s my prayer and I know it will be answered.”  A very natural expression of his hopes, rooted to the land where he lived, and the family he loved.

Thank you for the gift of your life, Ted.

A Message for Christians Who Pray in Public (from Someone You May Know)


. . .or at least a message from Someone you think you know. . .

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the super-believers; for they LOVE to stand and pray in their Churches and in the Public Square, so that they may be seen by others. . .

Whenever YOU pray, go to a private place, shut the door and secretly speak with the God you believe in. . . .  That will be rewarding for you.

Oh, and when you’re praying, don’t throw out a lot of meaningless theological gibberish like some do; they think they’ll be heard because of all their impressive “spiritual” words.  Don’t be like them.  Don’t you suppose The Great One already knows what you want and need?” 

-Message on the Mountain.  Matthew 6.  

(CBV:  Clear-as-a-Bell Version)

We see Christians all over scrambling to assert their “religious freedom” to pray anytime, anywhere so all the rest of us have to hear them and see what great faith they have (they’re SO exceptional, aren’t they?).  How many Graduates had to sit through prayers in high schools and colleges this year?  How many Preacher Politicians do we see praying and parading their faith?

Then along comes this apparently overlooked verse!  DAMN!  NOW, what will they do!  Ah, we know.  Ignore it, along with the rest of the Mountain Message that says disturbing things like “Blessed are the poor and the meek and the peacemakers” and “Beware of practicing your piety before others.”  You know, little “gospel nuggets” like these?

As I like to say, the Good News isn’t much Good News for those who pride themselves in being Good News People.

Don’t you just hate it when a nonbeliever quotes from the one who has been so GODified by “His faithful followers” that his actual message needs to be quoted by a nonbeliever and it still won’t be taken seriously?

Imagine. . .

Wouldn’t this be wonderful to see: the next time some City Council or School Board or Court or Congress or President stands to say a prayer, the local Secular Chaplain simply stands up, quotes the verse above, and invites everyone to take a big breath, take the words to heart, and sit back down and get to work?

I’d like to see that.

Nature is Enough: The End of Spirituality (New Book Free for Reviewers!)

Nature is Enough cover

Actually, this book is FREE for anyone, but I’d like to invite comments on the essay collection I published recently on iBooks.

Nature is Enough:  The End of Spirituality and Other Essays

You’ll need a Mac or iPad, but if you don’t have an iDevice. . .

you can read excerpts on my blog

Nature is Enough

I will post thoughtful reviews on Secular Chaplain.

(and happy to have reviews on iBooks too)

Thanks for reading!

Why Pray? Just Start the Meeting

Long may it wave. . .that leaf of common sense
Long may it wave. . .that leaf of common sense

Canada is Great.  I grew up near the border and always enjoyed visiting our “neighbors to the North.”

And, Canada is Funny (well, to be honest, America is pretty funny too. . .often in very strange ways)

They did a poll of Canadians to ask if they agreed with their Supreme Court decision Not to Allow Prayer in Public Meetings (wow, I like their Supremes!).

Here’s what one poll revealed:

Canada Dry on Religion

That’s Great!  Most people across Canada say they would rather have their leaders Just Start the Meetings, rather than pray or do a dance or stand on their hands!  Love that!

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision was something the U.S. Supremes could learn from:

The Supreme Court said Canadian society has evolved and given rise to a “concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs.”

“The state must instead remain neutral in this regard,” the judgment said.

“This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.

“When all is said and done, the state’s duty to protect every person’s freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non-believers in public life to the detriment of others.”

Amazing.  Such common sense from a High Court.

I think I’ll visit Canada again soon.