Love Beyond Belief: Finding the Access Point to Spiritual Awareness
Salem, OR: Polebridge Press (September 4, 2018)
“Love Beyond Belief is a hope-filled book reminding us in historical and contemporary terms that we are loved always, even when we feel lost and alone.” –Desmond Tutu
Using insights from the brain science of emotions, Love Beyond Belief: Finding the Access Point to Spiritual Awareness narrates two millennia of lost-and-found stories about love beyond belief as the access point to the heart and soul of spiritual life. Many of today’s “spiritual but not religious” people – one in four US adults – have found the access point to spiritual experience that Western Christianity lost: unconditional love. Love Beyond Belief tracks the history of this lost emotion.
Thandeka has written Love Beyond Belief with two goals in mind: to resolve the emotional-deficit problem in so many “corpse cold” (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words) mainline congregations today; and to offer a primer for “spiritual but not religious” people to build up and network their spiritual communities.
Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America
Continuum (November 1, 2000)
The Embodied Self: Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Solution to Kant’s Problem of the Empirical Self
State University of New York Press (July 31, 1995)
Unitarian Universalist Theology Series
What Moves Us: Unitarian Universalist Theology
A Tapestry of Faith Program for Adults
Providing a framework for deep and longtime Unitarian Universalists to engage in theological reflection, not as an intellectual exercise, but as a process of meaning-making that equips one for living in the world as a Unitarian Universalist person of faith, this program explores the life experiences of both historic and contemporary Unitarian Universalist theologians, highlighting that which caused in them a change of heart, a new direction, new hope, and a deeper understanding of their own liberal faith. These workshops offer participants a chance to engage with and bring their personal experiences to bear on the very questions explored by each theologian in turn. The program offers a pathway for developing not only one’s own personal theology but also one’s deep understanding of the threads of our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist theological heritage.
Articles & Essays
Whites: Made In America, Advancing American Philosophers’ Discourse on Race
The Pluralist: The Journal of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy 13:1 (Spring 2018)
Creating a Spiritual Practice to Heal and Transform the World: An Invitation
Tikkun Magazine (Winter/Spring 2018)
Neurobiology, Emotions and Faith: From White Self-Destruction to Healing through Contemporary Affect Theology
by Thandeka & Darcia Narvaez, Ethics and Religion: In Public and Political Life – October 31, 2017, Ed. Daniel J. Fleming.
A Letter to His Holiness Pope Francis
For Our Common Home: Process-Relational Responses to Laudato Si’, Eds. John B. Cobb, Jr. and Ignacio Castuera (Anoka, Minnesota; Process Century Press, 2015)
The Demon in Darren Wilson’s Head
Tikkun Magazine, December 2014
It’s almost Armageddon time. The premeditated slaying of two New York Police Officers by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, followed by the fatal shooting of yet another black teenager by police in Missouri, has brought us to the brink of urban chaos and race riots. We may be headed toward a world in which racists turn our streets into killing fields, cops go on killing sprees beyond their current rate of killing one black American every twenty-eight hours, and more cops are slayed by avenging black men. To avert mass bloodshed we must start peeling back the colors that hide aggrieved feelings…
America’s New Spiritual Pioneers: An Unfolding Political Story About Emotions Lost and Found
Tikkun Magazine, October 2014
We are at the dawn of a new era in progressive faith and politics in America. This new era has not yet emerged because most of its members – millions strong – are spiritually leaderless and do not have a shared identity. Moreover, they lack the institutional gravitas of sanctuaries networked together to create a force field in American politics.
Affect Theology: A Road Map for the Continental Gathering of Unitarian Universalist Seminarians
This essay serves as a formal introduction to affect theology for the Continental Gathering of Unitarian Universalist Seminarians. I will highlight the history of affect theology as an academic field and show how a foundational deficiency in liberal theology can not only be explained by this history, but also corrected by introducing affective theological studies as a new field of inquiry for liberal ministry today.
Future Designs for American Liberal Theology
American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, January 2009
Friedrich Schleiermacher gave liberal theology a foundation no one could find. He accomplished this amazing feat by making a neurological fact of consciousness the foundational referent for his new theological system. Schleiermacher called this neural material Affekt [affect] and defined it as the product of stimulated “nerves or whatever else is the first ground and seat of motions in the human body.”1 But the science needed to find this neurological fact of consciousness was established two centuries later…
Obama’s Religious Roots
UU World, Fall 2012
Despite his childhood exposure to Unitarian Universalism, Barack Obama found his religious home elsewhere, just as too many of our young people do.
East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington, was too good a deal to pass up for Stanley Dunham, a freethinking bargain hunter for religious ideas. So in the early 1950s he enrolled his family in the church and sent his daughter, Stanley Ann, to the Sunday school.
“It’s like you get five religions in one,” Dunham liked to say. His wife, Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, shot back, “For Christ’s sake, Stanley, religion is not supposed to be like buying breakfast cereal.”
So their grandson, Barack Obama, recalled about his grandfather’s “only skirmish into organized religion” in his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance…
Why Anti-Racism Will Fail
Two events compel me to make a public statement against the anti-racist theology and programs of our association. The first event occurred two years ago, when General Assembly passed a resolution calling upon the Unitarian Universalist Association, its congregations, and its community organizations to become anti-racist, multi-cultural institutions – terms that have a special meaning and history in our Unitarian Universalist context. To this end, the UUA Board of Trustees was urged to establish a committee to monitor and assess this process. The second event occurred last spring…
Schleiermacher’s Brain Science: A Translation Project
Interpreting Religion: The Significance of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Reden über die Religion for Religious Studies and Theology, Eds. Dietrich Korsch and Amber L. Griffioen, Tübingen:Mohr Siebeck, 2011
The term religion is indispensable to the subject matter of both religious studies and theology. Many approaches attempt a reductive , essentialist, functionalist, or other type of unifying definition, but these approaches tend to rest on various, often controversial sets of presuppositions. Indeed, it seems impossible to overcome the vast plurality of understandings of religion as the academic fields that deal with religion splinter and proliferate, thereby inhibiting the rational treatment of a very important dimension of modern society…
Feminism, Inc.: North American Feminist Theologies and Globalization
The Oxford University Handbook of Feminist Theology: Essays on Feminist Theology and Globalization, Eds. Sheila Briggs and Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011
Today, 58% of women executives voluntarily choose flexible work options or a variety of other nontraditional career paths that take them far afield from the traditional, male, linear ascent to corporate power and success, and 37% of these highly qualified women voluntarily leave their careers for some period of time. They leave to have babies, to take care of aging parents, or for other such gender-based roles, and one-fourth do not return to their previous jobs. The collective impact of these individual, gender-based decisions made by women has created a near panic among US corporations…
LECTURE AT HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL (March 2006)
A talk by Thandeka, Visiting Associate Professor of Theology at HDS, Senior Research Professor at Meadville Lombard Theological School, with respondents Ilene Stanford (ThD student in Religion, Gender, and Culture) and Stephanie May (ThD student in Religion, Gender, and Culture).
The Study of Women and Gender in Religion Forum is organized by Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies, who introduces this talk.
Schleiermacher, Feminism, and Liberation Theologies: A Key
The Cambridge Companion to Friedrich Schleiermacher, Ed. Jacqueline Marina, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005
To explain the current impasse in scholarship on Schleiermacher and feminism, a key is needed. Contradictory conclusions have hindered the advance of Schleiermacher research in this area. For example, some scholars emphasize Schleiermacher’s high valuation of women’s moral and religious character and his 1798 “Idee zu einem Katechismus der Vernunft für edle Frauen”…
Small group ministry creates a sacred time where the stories of our lives are heard.
Recall a time when you were filled with joy. Where were you? At home? At a concert? A party? Maybe you were in a religious service or on vacation. Perhaps you were on a hike or seated on the sand at a beach, watching the tide roll in. Were you alone or was someone with you? Maybe you were making love, gardening, telling a joke, or jogging.
Now pay attention to how you recalled this time. You found things: memories, sensations, experiences. You gathered them together and by so doing filled a moment of time. You packed it full of thoughts and feelings, places and things, and bound them together as yours…
Ministering to Anxiety
Tikkun Magazine, May/June 2005
After she heard the heartbeat, she couldn’t do it. That’s how Andrea Brown, an unmarried pregnant woman, explained her decision not to have an abortion. “When I had the sonogram and heard the heartbeat—and for me a heartbeat symbolizes life—after that there was no way I could do it.” As for Andrea, so also for thousands of women like her, who are targets of the latest strategy by conservative church groups to stop abortions (New York Times, February 2, 2005). When these women hear the heart and see images of their fetus, they are often flooded with feelings of grief, guilt, and shame about what they were going to do. Deciding not to have an abortion is one way they can feel good about themselves again…
The Confidence Man
Tikkun Magazine, May/June 2004
Unless John Kerry can make human emotion rather than political platforms the center of his campaign, George Bush will win the presidential election by the end of June. Kerry won’t know what hit him until it’s too late.
Here’s how Kerry will lose. When Kerry clinched the democratic nomination of March 2, most voters did not know much of anything about him. A window of opportunity opened up for voter education. However, the factual information the Kerry campaign is trying to shove through this window will not shape voters’ political judgment-their emotional responses will. As political scientists Richard Nacleau, Richard G. Niemi, and Timothy Amato have trenchantly argued in their essay “Emotions, Issue Importance, and Political Learning,” voters may forget the information they initially learned about the candidate, but they will hold onto their emotional attitudes…
The Cost of Whiteness
Most white Americans believe they were born white. Yet their own stories of early racial experiences describe persons who were bred white. Which is it-nature or nurture? Neither. The social process that creates whites produces persons who must think of their whiteness as a biological fact.
The process begins with a rebuke. A parent or authority figure reprimands the child because it’s not yet white. The language used by the adult is racial, but the content of the message pertains to the child’s own feelings and what the child must do with feelings the adult doesn’t like. Stifle them. Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, in her book Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, tells how she learned to do this as a child being taught to be white…
Tikkun Magazine, January/February 2000
When God began to recreate the heavens and the earth in the year 2000 CE, darkness was everywhere in the United States. Most Americans worked long hours at demeaning jobs that destroyed the environment. Personal debt was endemic and a pervasive feeling of failure and despair engulfed every heart…
Middle-Class Poverty: Race- and Class-Passing Within White America
UU World, September/October 1999
Most middle-class Americans are class-passing by pretending to be what they’re not: well-off. They live in houses they can’t afford, drive cars they don’t own, and wear clothes they’ve bought on credit. Worse yet, toward the end of each pay period, many use their charge cards to buy food. My term for their condition is middle-class poverty. This late-20th century phenomenon has crippled the American soul…
A one-act play about job loss as an invitation to congregations to create and role play the next act of the play – i.e., to dramatize what happens when Job goes to talk to his minister and to the members of his congregation.
Rich Man’s War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower Chattahoochee Valley
by David Williams
UU World, November/December 1999
The importance of David Williams’s new book, Rich Man’s War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower Chattahoochee Valley, cannot be overestimated. Without setting out to do so, it gives us the historical background we need to understand why white hate groups in America today are filled with people who see themselves as race victims of their government’s social policies. Williams accomplishes this stunning feat by studying the socioeconomic factors in the South that led first to the Civil War and then to the defeat of the Confederacy, focusing primarily on the thriving industrial center of Columbus, Georgia, and its surrounding area, which by 1860 was producing almost a quarter million cotton bales annually…