“Religion is an agreement between a group of people about what G-d is.
Spirituality is a one-on-one relationship.”
~ Conscious Way Magazine
It was the 1960’s and I went to the right rather than to the left.
Someone gave me a copy of Atlas Shrugged and I swallowed it whole. Especially the part about altruism and religion being irrational and atheism being the only intellectual alternative.
As a follower of Ayn Rand and Objectivism and a Republican-for-Goldwater, I rejected my Jewish heritage and announced that I had become an atheist at a family dinner.
My mother cringed and asked, “What about the children?” (I had sons ages four and six at the time.)
My father looked at my mother and said, “She’ll get over it.”
He was right.
But the reason I returned to Judaism was not a deep-seated belief in G-d. It was Judaism’s conviction that being Jewish could not be denied. No matter what, I could not be excommunicated. I could question whatever I wanted and still be “kosher.” Denying G-d in front of the altar in the synagogue, blaspheming the Torah, refusing to have my boys circumcised, would not release me.
I was Jewish, and once a Jew, always a Jew.
Why? Because now and forever Jews have had to adapt to change. As we moved from society to society, the community integrated some customs in their new home and rejected others. Certainly the Spanish Inquisition is the prefect example. Jews had to choose between being burned at the stake or converting to Catholicism, so they became secret Jews, lighting the Sabbath candles in wine cellars and basements and praying secretly on the holidays. Called Maranos or Crypto Jews, they developed their own hidden culture. Like their ancestors, they re-adapted to Spanish society where acceptance was conditional at best.
Yet Judaism grew in each new circumstance. The most sacred music was created during the Inquisition. Once a year on Yom Kippur, Kol Nidre – All Vows – sings the musical withdrawal of the covenant that forced them to become Christian. Their individual survival demanded that the vow be made, but the survival of Judaism accommodated this necessity with a heroic statement that is now sung in every synagogue in the world to reaffirm commitment to Judaism—no matter what.
Once a Jew, always a Jew.
So what became of my vow to become an atheist? I found that, where Judaism obligated me to ask questions and discover my own brand of spirituality, Objectivism did not. It was rigid, dictatorial, defined on only one level of human experience. It failed to support curious minds, human kindness, and intellectual growth.
In Judaism I found ways to explore everything from orthodoxy to Humanistic Judaism in which G-d plays no part.
Where did I land? I’m still in process. But my connection with G-d is clear. I feel it every time I meditate, every time I pray, in every walk in the woods and in the eyes of each person I meet. G-d’s energy is with me and with all creation. I feel it, experience it and have no doubt that it exists.
The new book Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels, to which I contributed a chapter, offered us authors the opportunity to explore our beliefs out loud. And to listen louder to each other. It explores the essence of religious freedom that allows us to express our spirituality as a one-on-one relationship without boundaries or restrictions.
Disquiet Time has created a sacred space between all of its contributors and you, our readers.
Thanks for listening,
Ina Albert is co-author of Write Your Self Well…Journal Your Self to Health, finds that listening is her most valuable quality as she grows older. Her new children’s book, Granny Greeny Says…Listen Louder, tells us how it’s done.
A life transitions coach, certified Age-ing to Sage-ing® seminar leader, and adjunct instructor at Flathead Valley Community College, Ina has logged 40 years as a healthcare communications professional. She shares 78 years of life experience with clients and readers of her monthly column in Montana Woman Magazine. She is published in Second Journey, Beliefnet.com, Jewish Magazine, Elder Woman Newsletter and various other publications, including a chapter in The Art of Grief edited by J. Earl Rogers for Routledge Press. Ina’s “A Letter On Behalf of Myself,” was selected by University of Portsmouth (United Kingdom) for their anthology, Borderlines.
Ina and her husband, Rabbi Allen Secher, are God Girl’s adopted spiritual parents. They live in western Montana with their Kugel the Wonder Schnauzer.
I’m very excited to announce that next week (on Tuesday 10/21), my latest book, DISQUIET TIME: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels hits bookstores everywhere.
Let me tell you a bit about the book, which is quite different from anything I’ve done in the past. First of all, I didn’t write the whole thing. Along with one of my best friends, Jennifer Grant, I acted as co-editor of the book and contributed two chapters to it as well. Jen and I asked several dozen of our cleverest, funniest, most honest and deep-thinking friends (many of whom are writers whose names you’ll recognize) to contribute an essay to the book. The assignment seemed simple but turned out to be anything but for most of us who chose to accept it:
We’ve asked people to write about verses/passages/ideas in the Bible that:
~ most confounds them,
~ they wish weren’t in there,
~ are their guilty pleasure,
~ are a solace in hard times,
~ for those who once embraced the Bible in their journey but no longer do – what is the verse or passage or idea that they still return to, that still has meaning for them when the rest of it doesn’t,
~ for those who once embraced the Bible but no longer do, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back? was there a verse/passage/concept that sent you packing? if so, why?
~they love most or hold most dear,
~ makes them laugh or cringe or invariably brings a tear to their eye.
The tone is conversational, humor is welcome, language needn’t be pious or PG-rated. Have no fear of being censored. … In other words, just go for it. Just be as honest and as fearless as you can be.
DISQUIET TIME contains more than 40 essays by our brave, marvelous friends who took off their kid gloves and took on the Bible to honestly (and often with great humor) talk about what bothers/elates/annoys/amuses or leaves them in awe about the “Good Book.” They are men and women; young, middle-aged, and sage-aged; Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and none-of-the-above; evangelical, post-evangelical, Episcopal, Catholic, mainline, orthodox, nondenominational, spiritual-but-not-religious, and “nones”; emergent, emerging, and fully emerged. They are black, white, Hispanic, Asian-American, and none-of-the above; conservative, liberal, libertarian, Democrat, Republican, middle-of-the-road, and with occasional anarchistic tendencies; married, single, divorced, gay, straight, bisexual, parents, and singletons. They are faithful, skeptical, and the odd scoundrel (or dozen).
The result is a chorus unlike any I’ve heard (or read) before. You won’t agree with everything you read in DISQUIET TIME, but you will find something — a gem or two or dozen — that click with, challenge, or inspire you.
Beginning tomorrow and running through November, we’re launching the DISQUIET TIME DISQUIETING BLOG TOUR, where you’ll hear from many of the authors included in the book and a few of our friends who aren’t. Check back here for updates and links to each day’s blog or visit www.DisquietTime.com where each of them will be cross-posted.
We’ve also created a few fun bells and whistles to help share the DISQUIET TIME love.
- Take the DISQUIETING BIBLE QUIZ: Are you Skeptical, Faithful, or A Scoundrel
- If you have an Android phone, download the DISQUIET TIME APP for FREE!
- Interested in reviewing or writing about DISQUIET TIME? Request a digital copy via NetGalley.
I wanted to give you a little taste of what DISQUIET TIME is all about by sharing the book’s introduction. Please take it as an invitation to you personally.
As ever, thank you for all of your support and enthusiasm for my continuing work. It means the world to me.
Hugs and kisses,
WELCOME TO THE LAND OF MISFIT TOYS
An ethicist who can’t make the right choices.
A yogi who’s tempted to pray the Jesus prayer over her children.
A poet at the helm of a global corporation.
A buttoned-up suburban parent with a penchant for Eminem.
A Hollywood producer who dons a superhero costume and proclaims, “Sola Scriptura!”
A female professor at one of the nation’s most religiously conservative schools who has a passion for tattoos and scatological literature.
These are but a few of the souls you will hear from in the pages that follow.
The voices collected in this book are those of nonconformists and oddballs—not-too-distant cousins, perhaps, to the denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys from the classic Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Not unlike the tiny cowboy who rides an ostrich instead of a horse, the toy train with square wheels on its caboose, and Hermey the Elf―who would rather pursue a career in dentistry than make toys in Santa’s workshop―most of us are well acquainted with the itchy, out-of-place feelings wrought by the spiritual subcultures in which we have sometimes found ourselves.
Some of us self-identify as orthodox (with a small o) Christians, while others feel a flush of pride when called liberal, mainstream, or conservative. Some of us used to identify as Christians or Jews, but now answer “none of the above” (or “all of the above,” as the case may be) when asked to choose a religious label. Whatever our spiritual predilections, each of us seeks an end to the divisiveness and name-calling that too often surround discussions of the Bible.
As diverse as our voices are, they harmonize; and we hear echoes of our own stories in those of the “other.” We learn something new when we hear how a particular biblical passage sustains some people, while other folks continually stumble over (or are repulsed by) the same passage.
We see God’s spirit shining through each other’s eyes as we grant ourselves permission and a safe space to, as Edgar says in King Lear, “speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”―even (and especially) when it’s messy.
All the contributors to this book are personally connected to one or both of us. You’ll meet our pastors, professors, mentors, chosen families, and some of our dearest friends, as well as thinkers and artists who have long inspired us.
While we like to say that Disquiet Time is “not your mama’s Our Daily Bread,” we do hope it nourishes, sustains, and even invigorates you as you encounter the full array of these diverse writers’ authentic experiences with holy writ.
Please consider this book an invitation to join a conversation that has been going on for millennia―one that asks only for you to listen and respond with an open heart. We pray that, through reading it, you will grant yourself permission to express your own faith and doubts about the Good Book, honestly and without caveat.
Remember: even if you end up feeling like a cowboy riding an ostrich into the sunset, you are not alone in this. And when it comes to the greatest concerns, biggest questions, and gravest doubts about the Bible, you have the right and freedom to voice them.
God can take it.
OK KIDS — TIME TO GROW UP, GET UP AND GET TO WORK
President Obama’s inaugural address might not have been one for the ages.
But it certainly was the right one for the moment.
Somber, sober and almost stern, our new president placed a mantle before the nation — We, the people — and gave us a gentle, but clear, kick in the collective pants.
“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America,” he said. “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
“We remain a young nation,” Obama said, “but, in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”
He was quoting from the New Testament — 1 Corinthians 13: 11 — St. Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, Greece.
I was struck by the implications of this choice of Scripture, in a speech in which the president explicitly reached out to the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and non-believing populations as well as to his own Christian community.
Most people, if they are familiar with this particular Bible passage, probably have heard it read at a wedding. This is the “love chapter” — verses that come before and after the one the president quoted — speak eloquently about true love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails,” it says.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
When St. Paul wrote his letter to the church in Corinth, he began by addressing the problems it faced. The church was beset by infighting and divisions, and threatened by immoral influences from the surrounding community, where, for instance, 1,000 priestesses engaged in prostitution at the Temple of Venus in the name of worship.
Corinth was a young city, and the church there was a young church, just as we are a young nation. Teenagers, if you will.
St. Paul delivered a stern, yet loving, reproach to the Corinthians, telling them, essentially, to quit their bickering, grow up and get busy with what they were called to do in the first place: Love.
Love one another. Love their neighbors. Be God’s love in the world — the light of the world and a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden, as St. Matthew says in his gospel.
Be love with arms and legs — feeding the poor, comforting the sick, visiting the prisoners, sheltering the homeless.
How interesting that the Bible passage about growing up and putting away childish things (in the name of love) was chosen by our 47-year-old president and his 27-year-old chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau — perhaps the youngest team ever to craft a U.S. presidential inaugural address.
I wonder whether they chose the passage from 1 Corinthians in part to evoke another letter written by St. Paul. In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul writes to his young friend Timothy, an evangelist in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor.
“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young,” St. Paul told Timothy, “but be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity.”
Favreau also helped Obama craft his famous victory speech after the Iowa caucuses where he said, in part:
“You know, they said this day would never come … They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”
“Years from now,” he said, “you’ll look back, and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope . . . Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”
In his timely inauguration speech, Obama gave us marching orders anchored in a conspiracy of hope and a love that never fails.
This is it, kids. The big show.
This is when we put our American ideals into action.
Today, our ideology meets reality.
So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Obama’s first full day in office begins with prayer
President Obama attended a prayer service for the nation at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. this morning. (Click HERE to watch the service LIVE)
Among those participating in the sevice were:
The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III
Dean of Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane
Episcopal Bishop of Washington, DC
The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale
Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Decatur, Georgia
The Rev. Andy Stanley
Founding Pastor, North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia
Rabbi David N. Saperstein
Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, DC
The Most Rev. Francisco González
Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, DC
Archbishop Demetrios of America
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
Dr. Ingrid Mattson
President, Islamic Society of North America and Director of Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, New York City
The Rev. Jim Wallis
President and Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners, Washington, DC
Dr. Uma Mysorekar
Hindu Temple Society of North America, Queens, New York
The Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook
Senior Pastor, Believers Christian Fellowship Church, New York City
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein
Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
The Rev. Canon Carol L. Wade
Precentor, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell
Senior Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas
Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl
Roman Catholic Archibishop of Washington, DC
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church USA
The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary, Reformed Church in America