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The Princess Festival – 2/24/2013

Most of you know that I am a father. When I was first anticipating the arrival of my daughter, I imagined many things that I would have to look forward to: changing diapers and singing lullabies, tying shoe laces and practicing multiplication tables, and reading favorite books with her like the Borrowers and the Wizard of Oz. I thought about all the things I wanted to teach her: the songs and the games and the lessons about being human in this world.

Of course, no one ever knows much about being a parent until they become one, or at least that was how it was for me. And among the many, many things that I did not anticipate, that I could not imagine might come from being the father of a daughter was all that princess stuff. Crowns and circlets and tiaras, gowns and dresses, all manner of things sparkly, pastel and mostly pink. Somehow it managed to make its way into my house, into the life of my family, into the imagination of my 4-year old without my partner or I ever desiring or intending it. So that now when one of us comes across a deposit of glitter between couch cushions or in the linen closet, we hardly shrug. Even if we found some inside of a sealed box we thought had been closed since before she was born, I doubt we would be surprised.

This is not an interest unique to my particular child, I know. One or two of you out there this morning are nodding along thinking, “Yes, I have lived this story before, or am living it now.” The cultural and economic power of the royal fascination led Peggy Orenstein to give it the label of the “princess-industrial complex” in her book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” Sesame Street recently felt the need to comment on this issue by having Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor on the program to explain to female muppet Abby Cadabby that dressing up like a princess might be fun, but being planning to become a princess is not a career like teacher, doctor or engineer.[i] The mainstream, big name princesses have a few laudable traits between them, of course: kindheartedness, a surprisingly strong work ethic and an almost saintly refusal to hold grudges or seek revenge. But as a parent, and in particular as a Unitarian Universalist parent, princess-dom is associated with a number of themes and habits that I would not wish for my child or any child, for that matter: passivity, dependence, entitlement and a shallow over-valuing of unrealistic beauty standards.

Now, we Unitarian Universalists have had a profound evolution over the course of our history in our attitudes towards scripture. If you had come to worship with this congregation 340 years ago, shortly after its founding, you would have seen the public reading of the Christian bible at the center of the service. In the Universalist branch of our history, a thorough, detailed, near encyclopedic knowledge of the bible was expected of our ministers, who had to be ready to answer accusations of heresy by quoting scores of biblical passages as evidence that a God whose nature was perfect love could not and would not damn any person to Hell.

200 years or so ago, some of our ancestors began to expand the seat of revelation and spiritual authority beyond the pages of the bible to potentially include profound personal experiences and insights, and other writings, both sacred and secular. Originally this meant bringing the same reverence and respect that had been reserved for this one document to everything that might offer us insight into how to live with meaning, purpose, and holiness.

Particularly in the last 100 years, however, this attitude has shifted for some of us to read something like this: Since life-giving wisdom and spiritual sustenance can be found anywhere, any story or ritual or practice that seems at first contrary to that can safely be discarded. Pieces of the bible or any element of the religion we inherited that trouble us or appear to run against the themes of love, justice, and connectedness which define our faith can just be replaced with other material from other sources. Explicitly or implicitly, that’s a relatively common attitude among us. But our deep religious commitment not to discard people, not to hold anyone irredeemable, not to deny the worth inherent in every person, ought also to counsel us to be almost as unwilling to throw away a story or idea only because it poses problems. Every source of meaning offers possibilities and limitations, and we have a responsibility to use whatever tools we have, and every tool we have to craft a world together that is more just, more hope-filled, and more abundant with life.

What does all this have to do with the princess phenomenon, you ask? Just like one of the bloodier or more narrow-minded passages from the bible, there is so much troubling stuff tied up in the princess mystique that it would be tempting to just say it should be done away with altogether. But that would ignore the creative potential that lies inside of it. If a child dons a pink satin gown and goes out to run and jump and throw a ball and play with her friends, that dress is not necessarily getting in the way of her becoming fully herself. One of my favorite images from the congregation where I did my ministerial internship was of a young boy who came to worship with his sister, each in their own princess dresses having decided to get fancy together for church that Sunday.

One of the approaches to reconciling a passage from scripture with a larger spiritual generosity which it seems to contradict, is by reading it against the grain. David betrays Uriah to steal his wife; Paul forbids women from speaking and church, and instructs slaves to obey their earthly masters – I read those things and my conscience rebels. And that, itself, is an instruction. So that a child who is deeply interested in princesses may also be introduced, eventually, to the deep questions that the princess lifestyle raises. Just how is all this luxury and fine apparel being produced? How many serfs had to struggle to support just one real-life princess, and what were their unglamorous lives like? Even if your beautiful gown was made for you by enchanted mice or magical blue birds, were they fairly compensated for their labor?

Most of all, if we are going to find some life-giving, meaning-making, justice-fostering potential in princess mythology, then we will need to start looking for some more inspiring princesses. Princess Leia, from the Star Wars franchise is a more powerful and capable figure than Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, being a successful politician and leader of the galactic rebellion. She does have the unfortunately stereo-typical princess habit of being captured, however. There are also real-life figures like Pingyang, who became a literally self-made princess 1400 years ago in China. She raised her own army to help her father overturn the ruling dynasty, and their disciplined, respectful treatment of the common folk won them favor over the cruel and destructive ruling forces. At her death, Princess Pingyang was buried with military honors befitting a general including a military band, something unheard of for a woman at the time.[ii]

In this vein I want to spend a little time with a particular princess story, one that happens to come from the bible. Today happens to be the festival of Purim in the Jewish tradition, which celebrates the story of the book of Esther. As we walk through the story together, I want to ask you to imagine yourself as Esther, think about the challenges of her life and how they might apply to the challenges of your own. In order to help set the mood a bit, my daughter Miriam has graciously loaned me this crown. And with that, we can begin.

Esther is normally referred to as a queen, but her story has a certain likeness to common princess fairytales as you’ll see. Her book begins in ancient Persia, when the king, Ahasuerus, ruled an empire from India to Ethiopia. Among the many people of this empire were Jews who had been taken into exile by the Babylonians and passed into the authority of Persia after Babylon fell. King Ahasuerus paid no attention to running his government and spent his days enjoying himself with parties and feasts. At one of these parties he called on his wife Vashti to come forward and display her beauty to his guests, with lewd implications to the request. Vashti refused the king, making her a heroic biblical feminist, and resulting in Ahasuerus’ divorcing and banishing her from the rest of the story.

A new wife was sought for the king, and it was commanded that the most beautiful maidens in his empire should be assembled, and he would choose amongst these. Esther was one of these women summoned to the palace. She was an orphan who had been adopted by her older cousin, Mordecai. The beauty contest took a long time to complete, and each day Mordecai paced in front of the palace gate, hoping to learn how Esther was doing. Even without fancy makeup, clothes, or jewelry, Ahasuerus found Esther to be the most beautiful of all, and chose her to take Vashti’s place. Neither he, nor anyone at the palace knew that Esther was a Jew; she had told no one, as Mordecai had warned her not to.

We have an orphaned heroine, a common theme in princess tales, but in Esther’s case her adoptive parent is compassionate rather than cruel like Cinderella’s ‘wicked stepmother’. Like Snow White, Esther is found to be the ‘fairest in the land,’ winning a royal husband just like Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and nearly every other fairy tale princess. This is the point at which one of those stories would normally end – just in time for a happily ever after.

But this story is only beginning. For King Ahasuerus, besides being generally incompetent and misogynistic, had a villainous prime minister – another fairy tale trope – named Haman. As Mordecai spent his days outside the palace gates, he encountered Haman and ran afoul of him when he refused to bow to the pompous minister. In a scene-chewingly evil turn, Haman spun his grudge against Mordecai into a universal hatred of his people. Using his influence over the foolish king, Haman convinced him to order the destruction of all the Jews in his empire at a certain date several months away.

When Mordecai learned of the plot, he sent word to Esther that she needed to convince Ahasuerus to rescind the edict and save her people. But hers was not a marriage in the modern sense: there was nothing like equality between her and the king, and monogamy was not something he concerned himself with. Esther saw the Ahasuerus only when he summoned her, and at that time she had not seen him for a month. If she, or anyone else, went to see the king without his invitation, the punishment was death. “Do not imagine,” replied Mordecai, “that you of all the Jews will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace…And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.”[iii]

There are times and places where it is dangerous or costly to reveal the fullness of who you are. In Phillip Roth’s novel, The Human Stain, the character Coleman Silk leads a life built out of the secret that he is an African American living as a white Jew. In the formative period of the movement for Gay and Lesbian rights in this country, and particularly after the outbreak of the AIDS pandemic, activists called upon same-sex-attracted men and women of power and influence who were living in the closet to use their resources in defense of the community. And there were some, perhaps very many, who would not do so, afraid that it would reveal the truth of who they were and whom they loved.

“Your silence will not protect you,”[iv] wrote the poet and activist Audre Lorde in a sentence almost paraphrasing Mordecai. This was the position that Esther found herself in: great personal risk over a great personal secret, and the certainty that if she did nothing, a great many people without the privilege to keep themselves secret in the same way would suffer greatly. If we imagine ourselves for the moment as Esther we must answer ourselves honestly as to which course we would choose. It may also be, for some of us, that we have already faced a moment in which danger would come from revealing ourselves, when some good was possible from it as well.

Esther answered Mordecai, “I shall go to see the king, though it is against the law, and if I die, I die.” The story does get its happy ending; the scheduled destruction of the Jews is averted, Haman gets his comeuppance, and Mordecai is even named prime minister instead, but this is the moment on which all of that turns: “I shall go to see the king, though it is against the law, and if I die, I die.”

There is no escaping the fact that the princess fantasy is about privilege: privilege of wealth and social station, of power and conventional beauty. And our faith calls on us to confront and struggle against systems of injustice that create privilege for some and oppression for others. But we also find ourselves in the imperfect, imbalanced world as it is, and so some of us are possessed, from moment to moment and situation to situation, of privilege that gives us power over or greater opportunity than others. What this particular princess story has to teach us, is the responsibility to use the opportunities we encounter in life to do what we can in the service of justice and life, even if it means risking ourselves to do it. Now that is an inspiring princess lesson, and teaching our children or ourselves to follow it is worth all the plastic crowns and polyester dresses in the world.




[iii] Esther 4:13-14

[iv] From “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action”, a talk printed in The Cancer Journals, 1980.

[v] Esther 4:16

Notes On Love – 2/10/2013

There is a famous passage in the first letter attributed to John, one of the books of the Christian bible, that contains the line, “We love because He first loved us.”[i] The ‘He’ in this case is God. Now here in this place we have a variety of different views on the bible, not all of us consider ourselves to be Christians, not all of us believe in God. And yet, these words contain a powerful insight that all of us need to remember.

Love begets love. We learn how to love from other people loving us. Love yearns to grow and to spread, so that the love we feel for anyone else – our parents, our siblings, our children, our friends, our selves – that love becomes a training ground. How we treat the people we care most about should be our practice for how we treat everyone else as well. But hate and fear and indifference also have the same ability to expand in our hearts, so that we need to be constantly moving our relationships in a loving direction.

Now, that word, love, is among the most worn-out and over-used in our society, so that it is all-too easy for people to just ignore it when they hear it. It is simple enough to pretend that it has no real meaning because it has been used in so many different ways to mean so many different things. But I want to tell you that love – the real

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stuff, the good stuff – has four dimensions to it. There are four pieces that make up what love really is, and they are: compassion, connection, appreciation and commitment.

Compassion I would think would be a pretty obvious one. It just means being able to care about and appreciate how someone feels. You can’t love someone and have no understanding of or concern for their feelings, and when you do love somebody, it can be frightening how strongly you feel their happiness and sadness along with them. When you’re sick in bed and you feel lousy and your dog comes over and jumps up on the bed with you and just wants to lie there like her tummy is hurting too; that’s compassion.

The second part of love, connection, is very similar, and the two often go together. Connection is the awareness that what happens to the other person will also affect you. Your stories weave together to the point that you are actually sharing the same story. You can’t ignore them, and they can’t ignore you. I said that this is very similar to compassion, but it isn’t quite the same. Compassion without connection just leads to pity or distant charity: you know how the other person feels, you might even care a little bit, but the depths of what they’re experiencing don’t create the same deep feelings in you. And of course, connection without compassion can most easily be summarized in the way most Red Sox fans feel about the New York Yankees. There is a profound personal interest in what happens to them, but that does not mean that they are rooting for the other team to succeed.

Connection and compassion paired together are powerful, but that’s not everything that makes up love. Because loving someone means more than just caring about them – it means appreciating them. It means that you can find in them things to celebrate, to cherish, and to learn from. In your daughter’s dance recital, your uncle’s highly doubtable fishing stories, your best friend’s dream of releasing a country western album – in all of these things you can find surprising wonder and gladness when viewed through loving eyes.

The final requirement for love – the thing that lets you know that it is not some other combination of emotions at work – is commitment. Love endures, it lasts. Over time it can change and it can be defeated here and there if it is treated badly enough. But it takes a long time, and while love is felt, it is not a casual, passive force. It guides the way we act, and the way we are in the world, so it is not easily exchanged for something else and it is not a short term thing. As the poet said, even just last week, “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.”

Each week, in this sanctuary, we remind each other that love is the spirit of this church. It is a sentiment we get from the larger movement of which we are a part, our faith whose national social justice campaign is called, ‘Standing on the Side of Love’. That loyalty is, for us, supposed to be greater than any other. But we weren’t born on the finish line – it takes work. It takes attention to each of the relationships in our lives so that every one of them can be defined less and less by fear or expedience or our own ego, and more and more by love.

This makes for many challenges: being kind and gentle towards our own selves and towards those closest to us. Finding things to value in people who frustrate or frighten us, or who are simply different than we are. And holding on to the sense of connection we have, expanding it as wide as we can and letting it guide us even and especially when the going gets tough. We love because someone – a great many someones, in most of our cases – loved us first. It is up to us to continue that great chain of compassion, connection, affection and commitment. To learn to love one another and ourselves as best we can, and to pass that learning on to as many people in this world as possible.

[i] 1 John 4:19

We Who Believe In Freedom Cannot Rest

Unitarian Universalists have a long history of advocacy and action in pursuit of a more just world. Growing up, I was taught about this, and about the great figures from our past who struggled for change. Susan B. Anthony fighting for women’s suffrage, casting a ballot and then demanding to be arrested for it. Theodore Parker, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, writing his sermons with a gun close at hand to defend the refugee former slaves he was protecting in his house. Henry David Thoreau accepting a jail cell rather than pay a tax to fund a war he considered immoral, and the classic exchange with Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Henry, why are you here?”/”Waldo, why are you not?”.

I had an understanding from early in life that the world was not as it should be. There was still much work to be done

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to make sure that human beings treated other human beings humanely. So I came into my adult self with a justice-consciousness already in place and with a sense of my responsibility to act in the face of what I knew to be wrong. Cultivating those qualities is a basic goal of a Unitarian Universalist religious education – a critical part of forming a Unitarian Universalist of any age. But even once you’ve established an attention to what is right and what is wrong, what is harmful and what is helpful, and once you’ve begun to feel that pull that won’t let you hide yourself from the problem and makes you want to be a part of the solution; even then, there’s much more growing to do.

In my case, I came to a point where I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the evils afflicting my society. I felt like I basically knew what was wrong; the work could then be reserved for trying to help lesson or correct those wrongs. All that it took to prove me wrong, though, was one person to tell me (bravely) that I had injured them without knowing it. That I was a part, without having imagined or understood it, of some force, some structure that was harmful to people who shared their identity.

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest,” sing Sweet Honey In The Rock (and you can listen to them sing it here), and that not resting is not just about how much work there is to do. It’s about our responsibility to keep growing in our understanding; to keep feeding our justice-consciousness. Because even when we think we know injustice and oppression, we still have more to learn, and that learning is what will make it possible for us to confront evil with justice and love.

As part of my own learning in this area, I’ve been reading The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. The author lays out how the American prison system, in partnership with the war on drugs, has counteracted many of the civil rights gains of the 1960s through the massive incarceration rate of African American men, and the numerous barriers to working and living in society after spending time in prison. This book has been named by our association of congregations as this year’s ‘congregational read’: a book we are all invited to read, reflect on, and discuss amongst ourselves. I encourage you to read and consider it – the book is in print, and you can also find it at the library. Beginning on Thursday, February 7th, I will be leading a short, three-session course at the church exploring and expanding on The New Jim Crow and its subject (see the notice later in this issue). I hope to see some of you there.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

The Work of the Soul – 2/3/2013

In the late 1700s, there was a mechanical curiosity that toured Europe and later North America. It was a large wooden cabinet set with a chess board, attached to a manikin wearing a turban. The device was called, “The Turk”. In its public displays, spectators would be invited to sit down and challenge the automaton – a human-like machine – to a game of chess. The Turk would move its pieces about the board with a clockwork arm was able to win nearly all of the games it played. People were fascinated, and several famous figures are said to have challenged the Turk and lost, including Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte. There was much debate and theory as to how the machine could possibly work, but its owners refused to reveal the secret.

That secret turned out to be a deceptively simple one. The Turk was not an artifact of time-travel, or an advanced chess-playing computer two-hundred years ahead of its time. The machine was able to put on its impressive displays because hidden inside its cabinet was an actual human being. Various chess masters rode along inside the body of the Turk during its tours and played its matches, keeping track of the pieces on the table above with special pegboard. The only mechanical accomplishment of the Turk was a clever, but still fairly simple, system of gears to allow its arm to make the hidden chess player’s moves.

This is a historical curiosity that happens to illustrate an important theological idea in most of Western religion: that of the human soul. The understanding of the soul in both Judaism and Christianity is as an animating force, the intangible yet essential element of any living human. It goes back to the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, in which the first human being is formed from mud and then is filled with the ‘breath of life’. This breath makes a person a person and more than just an empty vessel or a powerless machine. According to this understanding, our bodies are like the Turk – complicated and impressive, but functionless without the presence of a secret passenger to give us thought and volition.

There was a movie that came out several years ago called Dark City. Did anyone see it? No? That’s not surprising; almost nobody did, because it came out when Titanic was still #1 at the box office. The film is about a society of sinister aliens who have built a city and filled it with humans in order to search for the human soul. Every so often, they put everyone in the city to sleep and swap their lives and roles around. Go to sleep a doctor, wake up a fry cook. Go to sleep a homemaker, wake up a lounge singer. Wake up in a different place, with a different name and a different set of memories. Given the same (false) history and current context, will different people make the same decisions? Are humans anything more than the sum of their memories? If the answer is ‘yes’, then the difference would seem to be something invisible, immaterial and unquantifiable: a soul.

The soul has an added level of meaning in Jewish and Christian theology as the eternal (or at least very long-lived) dimension of ourselves. So that it is the soul that experiences the afterlife, whatever shape that might take, after the body has died. (Depending on whose idea of the afterlife we’re talking about, the soul might be given a new body, or it might go on to exist on some purely spiritual plane.) In fact, although most of us think about reincarnation – where after we die our soul lives on to be reborn and live out further lives – although we think of that as being an idea specific to the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism, it also has its presence in the West. Early church leaders, and a variety of Christian heresies have affirmed the transmigration of souls, which is the fancy term for reincarnation. And some strands of Jewish mysticism entertain the idea that one person’s soul may divide into many parts after death, so that several different people at once may share the same reincarnate soul, and that these fragments can even move around as people live, so that you might spend some days as the incarnation of one person, and others with the soul of someone else.

I mention all of this because we Unitarian Universalists have a theological vocabulary that is shaped both by inheritance – we are descendents of heretical Christians, though not all of us still use that label – and by proximity. We live in a society where the spiritual language of Christianity is all around us, so we tend to speak about religion using words from that language. But we are a particular group of people with a particular set of values and ideas, and a particularly vast diversity of ideas about God and the afterlife and other matters that most religions at least pretend to have only one position on. So I want to offer us a few working definitions of important terms, and the first, the one for this morning, will be for soul. These won’t be the only thing we can mean by these words, but I believe they’ll touch on the sort of meaning we often tend to mean, based on our tradition and where we are today as a movement.

So here goes: our souls are the potential within us to share love, feel awe and joy, create beauty, struggle for justice and mourn what has been lost. The word soul might mean more than that; the ‘breath of life’ understanding might still appeal to some of us – but our soul is at least the sum of our potential to bless the world by being in it. I gather this definition from William Ellery Channing, the godfather of American Unitarianism in much the same way that James Brown is the godfather of Soul. Channing was far from the first preacher to espouse Unitarianism, just as James Brown was not a founder but an early exemplar of his genre. Yet, they both popularized their respective styles and philosophies, and inspired subsequent generations to follow in their footsteps.

In 1828, William Ellery Channing delivered a sermon entitled, “Likeness to God”. In it he put forth the idea that the most important quality of human beings is our likeness to God; our capacities for love, justice, mercy and creativity that mirror, in a greatly reduced form, those ascribed to the God of the Hebrew and Christian bibles. So that practicing and cultivating these capacities is the mission of every human life. “Our proper work,” Channing wrote, “is to approach God by the free and natural unfolding of our highest powers, of understanding, conscience, love, and the moral will.” This message clarified thinking that was already present among Unitarians at the time, and it has come to be central to how we understand humanity as Unitarian Universalists, more important, even, than the belief in God on which Channing based his original idea. The most essential quality of being human is, to us, the capacity for love and compassion, creation and exploration.

Meaningful theology is about more than theory, however. It follows from lived experience and addresses real problems. Most of you know already how important science fiction is to me as a means for thinking about life’s great questions. And that genre is full of stories about people who are other than human – aliens, robots, thinking computers – and the lingering question of whether or not such things have souls. Those imagined realities reflect a similar and dangerous question in our own world. For as long as there have been theologies of the soul, there have been those who have tried to argue that certain human beings were literally soulless,

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either because of their ethnic origins or because they had lost that most basic human quality as the result of some heinous crime. But our understanding of the soul as Unitarian Universalists must apply equally and universally, and the sense that it is the sum of our potential to do what is right meets that requirement.

Another of our ancestors, Henry David Thoreau, once wrote in his journal, “Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other. Let them not call hard names, nor know a divided interest.”[i] The longstanding Western reverence for the soul has come at the expense of the body; the two have been seen as separate things, with the body at best the bit player against the leading role of the soul. The human form was seen as so unimportant, or even adversarial, to the noble spiritual life that a few hundred years ago a primary qualification for the ministry would have been a morbid constitution. So that those who struggled with their physical health were strongly encouraged to take up the religious vocation. As someone who might at times have been described as an ‘indoor kid’ growing up, I can acknowledge a twinge of sympathy here. But our definition of the soul need not succumb to this particular weakness. A special spiritual dimension separate from the physical, though perhaps possible, is not necessary. Our potential to feel and express loving kindness includes our bodies as much as any other aspect of ourselves.

Evil is whatever diminishes the soul’s capacities. You see, I promised a meaning for the soul, you get a definition of evil for free. Obviously, killing destroys this potential, but a variety of sorts of physical and mental harm can shorten a person’s opportunities and abilities for engaged creativity and love. Graciously, however, the soul is a resilient thing, and can grow to do more good disabled than it could when able-bodied. Institutional and structural evils also chip away at and constrain the power of human souls. Racism, heterosexism and a variety of other bigotries can narrow the possibilities of certain lives and grind away at their sense of self worth. Again, however, the possibility of radial love endures, and the most creative forms of resistance to systems of injustice tend to come from those most directly targeted by them. Evil is whatever damages the soul, but that sacred potential in each of us can be magnified as well.

This era is a time that should be magnifying our souls. We are possessed of phenomenal wonders of technology, the ability to travel and send messages at vast speeds, to scour the globe with satellites and search engines and to produce more food than at any previous time in human history. But it is not as simple as all that. All that technology also comes with a vast capacity to harm – and not only a capacity to harm, but really a built in requirement. The fossil fuels used to power our cars, fire our furnaces and run our electrical plants are hewn from the earth in more and more costly ways, at the price of lakes and streams and mountains and plains and at the expense of the lives and wellbeing of people in resource-rich countries all over the world. The high-priced metals in our smart phones are mined by workers in unsafe, unjust conditions, and when we eventually throw them away they will eventually be salvaged by workers even less just and safe circumstances so some of those same metals can be reextracted. Resolving the contradiction between our power to help and the innate harm built into it is the great work of the soul in this age.

One of the things about the old, all or nothing view of the soul that has never worked for me is what it says about the moment of death. If the soul is a spiritual attribute that defines life, there must be a clean moment in which it departs the body, and marks the barrier between living and dying. As a chaplain and as a minister, I have sat beside people as they passed f


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