a new perspective on faith for a crazy world

HandsInBoxHeard the old expression “putting people in boxes”? Unfortunately, another thing that gets put into boxes a lot is faith.

Through the centuries, bloody wars have been fought over religious beliefs and differences. To their credit, there have been groups, organizations, and even some political entities (like states or countries) that came together to demonstrate it doesn’t have to be that way. One can gain much more by recognizing and appreciating our differences rather than fearing them or making them the cause of conflicts and bloodshed.

We won’t name names of people who have been doing it wrong — or right — you all know who you are.  Actually, come to think of it, perhaps even drawing lines in the sand like that is all part of the problem. If we’d only try to be more comfortable with living in the “gray area,” that place where there are no black & white wrongs or rights, we might all be much better off.

Recently, the people of Denmark were privileged to view a TV commercial that expressed that very same thought. It dramatically illustrated the problem with putting people in boxes.


More than that, it suggested the beautiful, encouraging, inspiring alternative.

Wouldn’t you rather live in a world like this?


MosesOrangeFor those raised in religious traditions that obsessed over following the letter of the law, crossing every “T” and dotting every “i” when it comes to obeying all those carved-in-stone commandments, here’s some good news. The reason for our suffering is not some vengeful, drill sergeant God who wants us to “get it right,” every single time. Sure, there are good reasons for all those laws and commandments. But it’s not because God wanted to make our lives miserable.

No, actually, the problem is due to a very understandable situation that had nothing to do with God — it’s called “human error.” Somebody MISTRANSLATED a key passage in the Bible!

And once that mistranslation starting making the rounds, and others in the church hierarchy began adopting the idea as their own… even expanding on it, and making it ten times more awful than the original mistake… that’s when all the trouble started.

The passage in question comes from the New Testament, from the gospel of Matthew: “Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (5:48, if you want to look it up).

The famous Episcopal scholar, author, and creation spirituality guru Matthew Fox points out that the Greek word (in the original Biblical text) that had been misleadingly translated as “be perfect” is teleioi. Fox explains that a more accurate meaning is “be full grown, be adult, be complete and whole” — not “BE PERFECT!”

A parallel passage in Luke’s gospel (the equivalent of another eyewitness giving his own take on what he heard in the same sermon from Jesus) comes much closer to the original intent, in Fox’s opinion: “Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.”

So there you have it. God didn’t intend holiness to be equated with perfectionism. Rather, in Fox’s thinking, our goal in this life is to “expand” or to “ripen,” to grow towards and into the pursuit of greater compassion for our fellow human beings and other creatures on this earth.

“Imperfection is not a sign of the absence of God,” says Fox.”It is a sign that the ongoing creation is no easy thing. We all bear scars from this rugged process. We can — and must — celebrate the scars.” The alternative, he adds, would be to opt out of the ongoing work of creation, in which we are all serving as partners along with God.

Simply put, questing for perfection is destructive, in so many different ways — while seeking to grow in faith by becoming more compassionate is much more CONSTRUCTIVE and ultimately more kind, more caring for all concerned.

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief! There are actually people out there trying to make our faith less fearsome.

matthewfoxOne of them, Matthew Fox, has been at it for over 40 years. His approach? Changing from the all-too-common, patriarchal, guilt-based “original sin” obsession to something that is less punitive, more freeing, user-friendly, and uplifting: “Creation Spirituality,” which focuses on the “original blessing” received when we’re born, not on some inherited curse.

Fox’s own faith journey was an unusual one — he started out in the Dominican Order, but his liberal ideas eventually got him in trouble, especially during the days of Pope Benedict XVI. After developing (and teaching) new academic programs on creation spirituality in Chicago and California, he was silenced by Pope Benedict and later expelled from the order. His “sins”? Being a “feminist” theologian; associating too closely with Native Americans; not condemning homosexuals; and lifting up the idea of “Original Blessing” over “Original Sin” (the notion that Adam and Eve’s actions condemned us all).

Now an Episcopalian, he has devoted his life to facilitating a “New Reformation” of faith that will offer hope, not condemnation; stand for social and ecological justice; be more universal and all-embracing of diverse faiths, both eastern and western; promote interfaith understanding, rather than creating divisiveness, hate, and hostility between different traditions; and create a belief system that does not demand an “either/or,” take-it-or-leave-it opposition between science and faith.

As one way of expressing what Creation Spirituality is all about, Fox came up with his own “95 Theses” (Hundreds of years earlier, Protestant reformer Martin Luther became famous for his original 95 Theses that led to the split with Catholicism.) Here are just a few of Fox’s new theses:

  • God is both Mother and Father.
  • Theism (the idea that God is “out there” or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (this is called panentheism).
  • God loves all of creation, and science can help us more deeply penetrate and appreciate the mysteries and wisdom of God in creation. Science is no enemy of true religion.
  • Spirituality and religion are not the same, any more than education and learning, law and justice, or commerce and stewardship are the same.
  • Economic justice requires the work of creativity to birth a system of economics that is global, respectful of the health and wealth of the earth systems, and that works for all.
  • Loyalty and obedience are never greater virtues than conscience and justice.
  • Original Sin is an ultimate expression of a Punitive Father God and is not a biblical teaching. But Original Blessing (goodness and grace) is biblical.

Want to know more about Matthew Fox? Check out his website at http://www.matthewfox.org/

A friend just shared a link to a Vimeo production on “being a mensch”, which is an old tradition that is actually so extremely applicable to what we’re going through today.

The Making of a Mensch from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

It’s a New Cloud Film from the Let It Ripple Film Series — a message which is insightful, inspirational, helpful, playful, thought-provoking, and entertaining, and needs to be shared with more people (no matter what faith you profess, wherever you are, and whoever you are becoming in this journey of life).

This new 11 minute film and accompanying discussion kit takes the science that was explored in a previous film, “The Science of Character,” and reframes it through the lens of the ancient Jewish teachings of “Mussar.” The film and discussion materials are an opportunity to revitalize these teachings around character development that date back to the 10th century, and reengage us all in how these Jewish tools are applicable to our 21st century lives.

And, yes, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate this. Honestly, if more of us who weren’t could take steps towards becoming part of this growing movement of “mensch” development, regardless of our denomination (or belief system), the world would be in much better shape to fight the evils facing us today.

The world’s gone mad?

Hard to believe…the last blog posting here in “noofaith” was back around the time of the Boston Marathon bombing, a few years ago.

And now, the world appears to have turned upside down, all over again! A change in leadership in the United States has many people worried about their safety, their health, their future, and even the precarious state of the world.

cropped-squigglerainbow.jpg Oddly, this brings to mind an old symbol that is a perfect description of what we’re all going through. Many would prefer to describe a life journey as rather conventional, point A to point B, in a very straight line.

spiralHowever, the more we experience “real life,” the more we realize that life doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t even resemble an orderly spiral.

Actually, it’s much more like a disorganized doodle or squiggle. Because with all the twists and turns, detours and switchbacks, unexpected stops and starts — nothing at all is predictable, traditional, or normal. And to be honest, it probably never was. But it’s even more crazy today.

We can ask ourselves, “So what do we do about it?” Some have chosen to march, to protest, to let out a wide range of feelings, at every point on the spectrum. Anger. Depression. Fear. A sense of betrayal. A deep-seated need to bring about change — NOW!

Others turn inward, exploring their spirituality in a different way. Meditating. Praying. Getting in touch with our inner child. Or simply vegging out. Sometimes our outlets might be the expression of feelings through the creative arts… drawing, sculpture, music, writing, performance, visual images, design. Other times we may turn our energies towards caring for others.

One truth about our world is the fact that there are as many different people (and talents and gifts and attitudes and feelings and styles of learning or communication) as there are colors in a rainbow. And so it is with faith. Building walls around others who look, act, or believe differently is counterproductive in the long run. Because to cut out even one part of this incredible mosaic of human life is to diminish each of us a hundredfold, since we would no longer have that particular “difference” as part of our collective experience.

Imagine saying, “I don’t like purple,” and eliminating it entirely. We’d be that much poorer for one less color in our daily lives.

I might not share the political opinion of my neighbor. But his or her presence is a vital and necessary part of our common life here on Earth. And together — ONLY TOGETHER — can we go forward, righting the wrongs, addressing the hurts, and reclaiming what we know to be the true path to peace: love and compassion for one another, not hatred, bitterness, divisiveness, injustice, and suspicion.


Here it is, almost 25 days after the Boston Marathon tragedy, and most of the stories in the news have to do with where the suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev is going to be buried.  The latest is that it’s at an undisclosed location, outside of Massachusetts.

The bigger question is, what is everybody doing to help the victims?  There’s a website that has five ways to help people affected by the bombing.  There’s also a slide show about the five ways, that would make a good audiovisual to pass around or use when talking with friends.

One of the ways people can help is contributing to organizations like OneFund, which are raising money to pay for victims’ healthcare and therapy costs.   Unfortunately, according to the latest updates, the fund has a long, long way to go.  The estimate is that it won’t even begin to cover a large number of the victims out there.  So they’re prioritizing or doing triage on a “need” basis — much like the doctors in the emergency rooms after the bombing.

It seems like the big challenge of one’s faith right now is how to respond to this situation.  We can’t just let things go back to “normal,” business as usual.  If they tell us money is short, then we all need to make a concerted effort to put our faith where our mouth is, and get out there to raise more funds to care for the victims.


Get a noo outlook on faith

noo perspectives on faith include both science and spirituality

Welcome to noofaith – a noo perspective on spirituality, faith, and the role of the spirit in the lives of millenials, Gen X-ers, baby boomers, whatever you are and wherever you are on your life journey.

noofaith can be expressed through music, art, words, outdoor experiences, and the deep, mysterious aspects of our contemporary world, among other ways.

and sometimes even traditional or mainline religious forms, if you know what we mean.

so sit down, pull up a keyboard, and explore the realm of noofaith with us.   Open yourself up for a long-overdue change in perspective on what it means to be alive and doing the best we can to bring goodness and hope into our world.