Category: State of the World

On pretty pictures and dialogue.

Main Street Café is where I come to write. Here in Massachusetts, I live in the attic of  a house with nine people, and from the boiling life of a large family I withdraw with my laptop and some books to my favorite table by the counter, my bottomless mug of coffee, and a casual …

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On why bad things don’t happen to all good people.

I have a dear friend who recently shared with me a worry that her life has been too smooth, too free of pain and strife. She is a wonderful person—kind, deeply caring, with a heart so large that she feels the pain of others as her own. She’s had a long and profoundly good life …

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On why we teach.

Leonard Swidler has been a teacher for over 50 years. He is a religion scholar, one of the founders of the very field of interreligious dialogue — but whatever he’s done, from the day he stepped into graduate school and until this day, he has taught in a classroom. Sometimes, out of it. Usually, both. …

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On how to make a lonely culture.

We are a complex culture, no doubt. Like most developed societies, we are rather varied, and you may encounter within an earshot hurt and consolation, justice and prejudice, willful ignorance and playful brilliance, manifestos of communal and individualistic lifestyles in their most radical forms. I can go on listing extremes, but no need. I am …

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On otherness and sameness, and the degrees of dialogue.

This was another one of those thoughts that are too obvious, too simple to be formulated without prompting. It was born of a conversation with my best friend about how, even though we are so different, we love each other nonetheless. And as we talked, my friend seemed to suggest that some people are able …

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On indiscriminate care.

Every Advent, early in the season, my parish has a “wishing tree” standing in the back of the church. It’s a Christmas tree with little tags hanging on it, like ornaments, and each has the first name of a child, gender and age, and a wish that child wrote down for a Christmas present. These …

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On taking them seriously.

It so happened that I live much of my time at intersections of theistic faiths—but especially in that mine field that is the space between people of religion and people without one. My regular readers know that I grew up atheist, in an atheist state, in a secular Jewish family, that I spent my professional …

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On animal liberation and falling off the edge of the world. Part II.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax …

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On the measure of souls and animal liberation. Part I.

“What you do to the least of these, you do to me,” says the Son of Man, the ultimate Judge and Abiding Presence of the Christian scripture. “By me is this entire universe pervaded. All things are in Me, and I in them,” declares Lord Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu himself in the Bhagavat Gita …

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On watchful waiting, or Last Day versus the World.

The first generation of Christians expected the Son of Man to come back in their lifetimes, literally any day. They were an apocalyptic Jewish sect, whose Messiah had come and saved and risen in triumph over death—and promised to come back soon to finish the job. And for Jewish apocalyptics, finishing the job meant ending …

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