The President and the Apostle

Today I want to talk about someone who is known for being temperamental, authoritarian, bombastic, mercurial, combative, hypersensitive, vindictive, pejorative, self-promotional, insensitive–and- no, I am not talking about the President of the United States. I am talking about the apostle Paul.

Love him or hate him, the apostle Paul has a larger than life personality. He commands our attention. He sucks up all the air in the room. Almost two thousand years after his death Paul is impossible to ignore.

Paul’s personality is so powerful that it can overpower the life and teachings of Jesus. In the New Testament there are 4 gospels about Jesus whereas there are 13 letters attributed to Paul.

Jesus was an oral teacher who never wrote his teachings down on paper. Paul spread his message through letters that could be duplicated for mass distribution.

Just as today a shoe leather politician who campaigns door-to-door can be kicked to the curb by another politician with a Twitter account so too the oral teachings of Jesus find it difficult to compete with the mass communication techniques of Paul. Jesus was called the Christ but many believe it is Paul, who never met Jesus, who has defined Christianity.

I imagine that if Jesus and Paul had ever shared the same stage for a debate Paul would have interrupted Jesus over and over again.

Before I get into some of the more troubling passages of the writing attributed to Paul let me say there are some very beautiful passages in the letters of Paul. The passages of Paul that speak to me most profoundly are those where he tells us that love is more powerful than law.

In the Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes, “The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”a and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

When we read this passage we can see why Saint Augustine once summarized the message of the scriptures in the sentence, “Love, then do what you like.”

It is ironic that many religious leaders have used Paul’s words to impose a form of religious legalism over others because in his second letter to the Corinthians, a document our president once called “2 Corinthians,” Paul invites us to become “ministers of a new covenant— not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”

However, the letter of Paul’s writings has often been more dominate in our culture than the Spirit. This week I came across a website called, “Scriptures that Turn Believers into Atheists.” While many of Paul’s teachings are on this website including the following.

“Wives, obey your husbands. This is the right way to live when you belong to the Lord,” Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, “Slaves obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” Another verse, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission.” He goes on to say that if women have any questions about church they can simply ask their husbands about it later. He also told women they needed to cover their heads in church but he told men they did not have to because “men are the glory of God and women the glory of man.”

Suffice it to say that if the apostle Paul were to run for office today he might inspire a Million Woman March. And if he were to try to implement the teaching about slaves obeying their masters then civil rights leaders would not recognize his legitimacy. You can see how the legalistic interpretation of Paul could lead a young woman to pick up a sign that says, “A woman’s place is in the revolution.”

A while back I was talking with a friend who was struggling with forgiveness and he said to me, “I picked up this book about forgiveness but I couldn’t get through it. It had a whole lot of teachings of the apostle Paul.” I understood his dilemma because let’s be honest the apostle Paul can be very difficult to forgive.

So if you’ve been hit over the head with his teachings one too many times I get where you are coming from. If Paul is not your favorite biblical writer I will cut you some slack.

However, one of the strange paradoxes about Paul is his tendency to contradict himself. One moment he is for the submission of women and the obedience of slaves and in another he writes one of the most eloquent Christian arguments against racism and sexism and for human equality ever written.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female but all are one in Christ Jesus.”

This scripture was the central text used by abolitionist in their campaign against slavery and by the first generation of women who broke through the stain glass ceiling in the 19th century in order to become ordained ministers all of whom preached the gospel with their heads held high and their heads uncovered.

And to make matters even more complicated there are passages in Paul’s letter where he praises women for their leadership in the early church – Prisca, Priscilla, Aquila . Mary, Phoebe, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Junia, Chloe, Euodia , Syntyce and Julia using terms of equality calling them co-workers, fellow laborers and in the case of Junia an apostle.

Trying to understand Paul can be quite confusing and even maddening. One minute he is speaking emphatically for one thing and the next he is doing the opposite. In the early days of the church when many people felt it was a small fledgling faith against a hostile world he was combative and would pick fights with other leaders of the church. Trying to understand him can be a very frustrating experience.

Part of the problem is he had a way of adapting his message to different audiences saying, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

So here is an idea that can help make Paul more comprehensible. Recently, I heard a political scientist say something about our new president that I have heard biblical scholars say about the apostle Paul, “Take him seriously but not literally.” When we try to take him literally nothing adds up and confusion reigns. When we try to take him seriously then new avenues of thought become possible.

Now don’t get me wrong taking him seriously and not literally is not going to address all of our concerns but it could set us on a course that lends itself to more personal sanity. Sometimes a personality is so much larger than life that he can work his way into our heads.

It is sort of like the situation with Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, he has a way of working his way into every conversation and every head.

At the risk of TMI – Too much information, the other night I had a dream that my wife Suzanne and I were in the bedroom and Donald Trump was trying to move in with us, moving our bed over to make more room for his bed. Now that is a larger than life personality when someone can work his way into my head like that. It’s crazy making.

And as I look out at the congregation today I think I can see more than a few people who would not want to see the apostle Paul move into their bedrooms not even in your dreams. One verse that has been used to beat people up over the years comes from his letter to the Corinthians; words that have often been hurled at members of the GLBT community.

“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God”

These words have been used to try to stymie the cause of gay rights for many centuries even though biblical scholars disagree over whether the word translated as homosexual is accurate. Right now there are legalists in our state legislature who are trying undo the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality by ensuring that words husband and wife in Tennessee law are interpreted literally so they don’t have to take the Supreme Court decision seriously.

However, I have always been partial to the words Paul wrote that are an affront to every form of legalism and any kind of legalist religion, “wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.” Wherever the Spirit is there is freedom. During the civil rights movement, activists evoked the memory of the apostle Paul as they marched for freedom singing,

Paul and Silas bound in jail
Had no money to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

And after the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality and the euphoric rallies where the signs read, “Love Wins,” I began to hear the words of Paul in a different way, words which are so often used in weddings, words that challenge every form of legalism empty of love.

‘If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.’

And as we remind each other every Sunday – it is the truth that sets us free.

Love is the spirit of this church

Love is the fulfillment of the law.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Love wins.

(This sermon was preached at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday January 29, 2017 by Rev. Chris Buice.)

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Anger: To Build a Bridge or Burn it Down

The other day I saw a sample ballot on the Internet where you could check a box if you are a Republican or a Democrat or Pissed off. Of course, whoever designed this ballot also provided their personal answer.

This morning I want to talk about anger because there seems to be a lot of anger in the air these days. In Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step programs they have a way of describing those moments when we should pause before doing something stupid. We should pause when we are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, H-A-L-T halt.

We’ve just been through a very angry election season and this weekend we’ve experienced the inauguration of a new president, a moment marked by both ceremony and protest, both of which had elements of anger. So it occurs to me that now might be a good time for America to halt, or pause before we do something stupid.

We live in an age of polarization, a time when we have to make a choice; shall we build a bridge or burn it down? Let’s at least pause before we make that decision.

Anger has always been a powerful emotion but we live in an age when anger can be amplified. With the invention of the Internet anger has found a major megaphone. It is so powerful it sometimes feels like anger can overpower all other emotions. For instance, recently the Defense Minister of Pakistan got so angry over a fake news story he read on the internet that he threatened nuclear war on Israel. For this reason, we might be tempted to paraphrase the words of the poet T.S. Eliot,

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper but with a tweet.”

 However, anger and the Internet have this in common, they can be used for good or ill.

In many ways anger is like fire. Fire can be used to warm a home, prepare a meal, feed a family, illuminate the darkness or it can become a raging out of control conflagration that devastates an entire community.

Anger can help us meet opportunities or miss opportunities. It can help us build a bridge or burn it down. So as we pause or halt, let’s consider some of the ways that anger can lead us off course and make us miss opportunities.

This week I saw a picture of someone on Facebook who described herself The Passive Aggressive Witch. Her post read, “I don’t curse anyone, I just bless everyone else around them.” I think we’ve all met someone like that and maybe we can all be that way sometimes as well.

One way to deal with our anger is to repress it but when we do this we miss the opportunity to be authentic. Honestly is always the first step to spiritual growth.

Here in the South we know that a great deal of aggression and anger can be disguised by good manners. A good friend from a congregation I served in South Carolina who once said to me, “In the South we love you, we love you, we love you, UNTIL WE HATE YOU!”

Since I am a Southerner you will not hear me say an unkind word about good manners but I will say this, it is better for all concerned if we do not use politeness to let anger build up until the point of explosion.

At this point I do want to apologize to the environmentalists among us because I am aware that when I describe anger as a fire I am not using a carbon neutral metaphor, and to make matters even worse, I am going to say we can also compare anger to the workings of a internal combustion engine. Anger can either be an uncontrolled explosion that blows up the entire car or it can be controlled explosion that moves the car forward and helps a driver arrive at a desired destination.

However, as global climate change science reveals, even a controlled explosion can have damaging consequences that are not immediately apparent. Just as there are climate change deniers there are also anger deniers. We may think we have our anger under control but everyone else can see that our polar ice caps are melting and our sea levels are rising. Anger is hard to hide.

Anger can be damaging to both our bodies and our spirits. Anger can lead to increased stress, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Our anger, more often than not, damages us more than it damages anybody else. This is why I say during every election cycle, “If you don’t like a particular political candidate don’t let your emotions put you in the hospital.”

Anger can be damaging to the spirit. Anger can make us magnify the faults of another while minimizing our own.

Recently I was reminded of a line from the 1973 movie the Exorcist where two priests are about to deliver a young girl from demon possession, and the older priest says to the novice, it is especially important “…to avoid conversations with the demon… The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological…and powerful. So don’t listen to him…do not listen.”

While these words were meant to describe the exorcism of a demon they also sounded like a lot of rhetoric surrounding Election 2016, where the primary difference between opposing camps seemed to be a disagreement over whether the demon was a he or a she or could be described using gender neutral pronouns.

The only response I know to the politics of demonization is what we might call the politics of humanization. Bill Sinkford, a former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, has said that in order to understand the anger in our culture we need look for the hurt beneath the hate because it is hard to hate someone after we’ve listened to their story.

This applies to self care as well. Zen Buddhism teaches that anger is a very destructive emotion but also teaches that instead of repressing our anger we should look at our anger the way a mother looks after her child. In other words when we become angry we need to look within ourselves for the hurt behind the hate; to soothe the angry and hurt child within us.

This is why the civil rights activist and social gospel theologian Ruby Sales tells us that the most important theological question for our time is not, “What do you believe?” but “Where are you hurting?” Anger is often a secondary emotion. We must look for the hurt behind the hate, the vulnerability behind the vitriol.

Ruby Sales is African American and a left of center activist but she argues that one reason that the Trump campaign had so much power is because he spoke to people’s pain. He did not try to speak the language of the academy or of policy institutes but the language of emotion and outrage. He spoke to where people were hurting.

The slogan for the Trump campaign was “Make America Great Again” but perhaps we need another slogan that will speak to all of us across a broad political spectrum, “Make America Safe Again.”

Make America safe for the transgender kid who needs to go to the bathroom and the young adult in Appalachia who is watching all the good jobs go away.

Make America safe for Black Lives – for nonviolent citizens pulled over by the police -but also make America safe for the police officers, 12% of whom are black and 87% of whom will never ever draw a weapon in the line of duty.

Make America safe for women from verbal abuse, harassment, sexual assault and a heavily fortified testosterone poisoned glass ceiling and make America safe for young men like Zaevion Dobson and his cousin Jujuan Latham through the Save Our Sons movement.

Make America safe for the native and the immigrant, for healthcare providers and those who desperately need their services.

Make America safe for this generation looking for jobs and for future generations who will depend on a good environment.

So let’s make America great by making America safe and secure and filled with mutual respect so that we can live out the full meaning found in the Pledge of Allegiance that there will be liberty and justice for all.

Anger can be spur to action or it can be a pathway to Armageddon. Our anger can be a slow burning fire or it can consume us. Being angry over injustice is not a bad thing. We want that fire to illuminate the world, illuminate our understanding of justice, illuminate our conscience. We want a refining fire that will refine us like silver is refined and gold is tested.

This is why Ruby Sales says we need to learn to make a distinction between redemptive and nonredemptive anger. To bring her concept close to home let me say that when we say “love is the spirit of this church” on Sunday morning it needs to be love that leads to outrage so that we will be outraged by injustice, outraged by cruelty, outraged by bigotry, outraged by all the of hurts in our world that can so easily turn to hate.

Lately, I have been meditating on the life and example of Nelson Mandela in South Africa who could emerge from 27 years in prison without bitterness, resentment or uncontrollable rage but with a clear vision of the good of the country and a willingness to build bridges with others when it would have been just as easy to burn them down. I don’t think I can be that good. Anyone who’s seen my Facebook page knows I am capable of counterproductive snarkiness. But I can aspire to be that good. There is no question that Nelson Mandela had a creative relationship with his anger and everyone is his country and the world benefited from his refined fire.

Anger can empower us. Even so anger can be compared to that prescription you heard about on television. The prescription that offers a cure to a disease but also comes with a long list of side effects. Somewhere in my imagination I can hear the TV announcer say, “Anger: It can empower us to work for justice. Side effects may include nausea and vomiting, feeling tired, drowsy, irritability, high blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, loss of appetite, lack of sleep, insomnia etc. etc. etc.”

So let me say to you, whenever you hear me speak about redemptive anger, whenever you hear me give that prescription – remember to first consult your doctor. For I want you to make the best decisions for your life, your body, your mind and your spirit.

I went to the Women’s March on the campus of the University of Tennessee on Friday and to the one on Market Square on Saturday. I marched not because I want us to re-litigate the past but because I want us to re-imagine and re-envision our future.

Someone was handing out signs that said “Why I March” where you could fill in your own reasons for marching. I realized in explaining “Why I March” I could write a long detailed treatise in very small print or I could answer in one word – Mom.

My mom knew how to be angry. But she did not always use that word. She was a Southern woman who knew how to be gracious and polite but on more than one occasion I remember her using the term “pissed off.”

But she got angry about the right things. She got angry about injustice, angry about oppression, angry about unnecessary war, angry about poverty, angry about misogyny and racism. And let’ be honest sometimes she was angry with me. But hers was an anger filled with love – the love that leads to outrage. And this weekend I knew if she were alive today she would be marching just I marched in Knoxville and her granddaughter Sally marched in Washington DC in one unbroken circle of commitment to social change.

Anger is a powerful emotion. Anger is a fire like the Holy Spirit is a fire. I could write a long treatise about anger but if my mom were alive today she might summarize this entire sermon in one word – love – and that’s why we march just like the suffragists marched at the inauguration of a Democratic president in 1913 and so many women marched at the inauguration of a Republican president this weekend because the work of democracy is unfinished and no one can be free until everyone is free. So let’s remember the suffragists. Let’s remember our mothers. Let’s remember our sisters. Let’s remember all the other activists of blessed memory and faithfully continue their work. Presidents come, presidents go, the work of love continues. Let’s build a bridge illuminated by an unforgettable fire.

(This sermon was preached at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday June 22, 2017 by the Rev. Chris Buice)

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Soul Force: Life Lessons from MLK and the Chicago Cubs

When the Unitarian minister Edward Everett Hale was chaplain of the United States Senate he was asked the question, “Do you pray for the Senators?” and the Reverend Hale replied, “No, I look at the Senators and I pray for the country.”

This week the Senate was sworn in but Hale’s statement made all the way back in the 19th century reminds us that regardless of the winners or losers in any given election cycle of any given year we often have ample reason to pray for the country.

We live in polarized times. The politics of demonization mean that one person’s candidate is another person’s devil. One person’s hero is another person’s villain. Is there anyone we can all admire and respect? This week I was in Chicago for a conference pondering this question when an answer dawned on me – the Chicago Cubs.

This year the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years ending one of baseballs longest losing streaks. Up until this year the Cubs were most famous for losing. Somehow they managed to keep their fans thus becoming known as the lovable losers. Everyone loves an underdog so I suspect there were even some Cleveland fans who felt a certain satisfaction in seeing the Cubs win the World Series.

Human beings need hope to survive. This week I was scrolling the Internet when I saw a list of things to give everyone hope in hopeless times and prominent on the list were the words: Remember the Cubs!

Let’s say that together: Remember the Cubs!

So sports fans (or even if you don’t like sports) in this age where groups are often pitted against each other, and society is divided into winners and losers, let us remember the example of a team who know how to be lovable losers and gracious winners.

Walking around Chicago I thought of another person who can inspire us all Dr. King, who was often reviled in his lifetime but is rightly honored in our time, a man who had rocks thrown at him in Chicago, was stabbed in New York, assaulted in Alabama and shot in Memphis, a man who taught us not only to pray for our country but to put our prayers into action overcoming evil with good, hatred with love, physical force with soul force.

Dr. King’s nonviolent approach has always had skeptics. Many of his critics consider Dr. King a mere dreamer, a hopeless idealist. For this reason this morning I want to offer a cynic’s case for nonviolence. So if you are angry, cynical, jaded or bitter then all I can say about this sermon is– this one’s for you.

I am the youngest of five kids. Are there any other youngest children here today? I thought there might be. Being the youngest meant I was always the smallest and weakest member of the family. For this reason I learned how to speak up for myself, state my case, advocate for my cause, but also minimize the chance that someone was going to beat me up.

My older brother Bill was a football player in high school. I tell people that I really enjoyed watching my brother play football because it was refreshing to watch him do violence to other people. Call me a cynic but having an older brother who played football helped me to become a strong believer in nonviolence.

Unlike my brother I was a kid who read comic books and watch sci-fi TV shows. Believe it or not, this is one of the reasons I felt at home in the Unitarian Universalist church when I found it. Whenever I am asked to explain my faith to others I will sometimes say, “In the world of religion Unitarian Universalism is closest thing you will find to a Star Trek convention. We are the nerds. We are the geeks. We are the ones you picked on in high school. And while we may not always turn the other cheek – we are almost always willing to set our phasers on stun.”

Since I did not have a workable phaser with a stun setting as a child I had to rely on diplomacy. If my brother ever proposed a violent solution to a problem it fell to me to come up with a nonviolent alternatives, to say as A J Muste said, “There is no way to peace –peace is the way.” This wasn’t idealism. It was self-interest.

So I know from personal experience that you do not have to be an idealist to champion nonviolence. All you have to be is the runt of the litter. If you know anything about the world of nature and animals then you know that runts have it hard. The runt is the smallest, weakest member of the siblings. This means in any competition for scarce resources the runt will be the loser. Often this is question of life or death.

The runts of the litter are not popular in our time. We live in an age that glorifies the Alpha Male, the guy on top, the person who is the highest in the pecking order. Jesus, on the other hand, offered a different message in his time. Jesus identified with the runts of the litter. Rather than basking in the light that always shines on the man in charge Jesus chose to shine the light on the blind, the lame, the lepers, the widows, the orphans and the outcasts saying, “What you do to the least of these you do also unto me.”

We are told that working for peace is idealistic but the truth is war is even more idealistic. As William Sloane Coffin once said, “All wars are fought for self-interest or national interest but justified in the name of ideals like freedom or justice.”

This week I went to Chicago Art Institute where we saw an exhibit on military and political propaganda in which there was a picture of very young children dress in surprisingly realistic military garb alongside a quote from a World War II era Japanese newspaper, “Even three year old children must when they play war, be taught how to use guns and sabres and be instilled with the feeling that war is pleasant and that one must love war.” We call the peacemakers of the world romantics but I believe it is those who teach children to love war who are the purveyors of a most destructive form of romanticism.

This is the Sunday before the inauguration and we have just been through an extremely divisive election. There are times when our current culture wars begin to feel like a civil war and we are reminded of the words that Abraham Lincoln spoke in his inaugural addresses, words that remind us to bind up the wounds of our nation, to bear malice toward none and charity for all, to return to the better angels of our nature.

But how shall we do this? During the last Presidential Debate each candidate was asked to name something they admired about the other. …It was an awkward moment. Donald Trump said the thing he admired about Hillary Clinton was that the fact that she is a fighter. She never quits and she never gives up and that is something he respects. Hillary Clinton said she admired Donald Trump’s children and felt their abilities and commitments reflected well on their father. Perhaps these statements can help us know how to move forward as a nation.

If fighting for what we believe is admirable then let’s do admirable things. If raising our children to be good people is admirable then lets be admirable. In the days ahead we can fight physical, political and economic force with soul force knowing that the power in you and the power in me is greater than any power we will encounter in the world.

This week our country will witness the inauguration of new President. When comedian Chris Rock played the President of the United States in a movie called Head of State he would sign off his speeches by saying “God bless America and nobody else.” The President of the United States is often called the leader of the free world – but this title hasn’t always been accurate.

When Harriet Tubman led the Underground Railroad she was the leader of the free world. When Sojourner Truth spoke out for the abolition of slavery and the rights of women she was the leader of the free world. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus challenging segregation laws she was the leader of the free world. When Fannie Lou Hammer organized sharecroppers in Mississippi and delegates for a national political convention in Atlantic City she was the leader of the free world. When John Lewis stood at the front of the line on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a face-off with the Alabama National Guard he was the leader of the free world. When Martin Luther King wrote the Letter from a Birmingham Jail he was sitting in a prison but he was the leader of the free world.

So as we go forth from this church today remember to pray for our country, remember to pray for our world, remember to pray with our actions but also …remember the Cubs.

Remember the Cubs. Remember the underdogs. Remember the runts of the litter. Remember that life is full of upsets and surprises -and remember, whenever President of the United States does not want the job- we, the people, can be the leaders of the free world.

(This sermon was delivered at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday January 15, 2017)

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A New Conspiracy Theory for a New Year

My latest conspiracy theory is that feng shui was invented to trick Sensitive New Age Partners into moving furniture. Some spouses need a little nudge to set aside the latest spiritual self-help book and engage in manual labor. Statements like “Honey, we need to move the couch,” do not sound like nagging when you add, “… so the room will have good feng shui.” Rather than balking at another mindless household chore most of us are inclined to say, “Who am I to stand in the way of metaphysical peace and harmony?”

I have to confess I am one of those partners who need incentives to do the drudgework of life. Tell me that Zen Buddhism teaches that inner peace can be found while doing the dishes and I will do the dishes. Tell me that medieval monks taught we must practice the presence of God while sweeping and mopping the floor and I will pick up the broom and follow up with the mop. I am like the method actor who is always asking the question, “What’s my motivation?” Give me some inspiration and I’ll get ‘er done.

The philosopher William James taught that the most important question about religion is not, “Is it true?” but “Is it useful?” which is why his philosophy is called pragmatism. So if we adopt this mode of thinking we won’t need any conspiracy theories about feng shui or reductionist explanations for Zen meditation or contemplative living. We can simply ask, “Is it useful? Does it help our relationships? Do we feel greater peace and harmony in our lives?” If our answer to these questions is “Yes,” then we are definitely on to a good thing.

Even so, I have a little bit of a rebel in me. If I ever start a rock n’ roll band (which I occasionally threaten to do) I am going to call it Bad Feng Shui. My idea is that the band will open up our shows by striking a defiant pose on a stage full of poorly arranged furniture. We will wear dark sunglasses that convey our complete indifference to the tabletops, counters and open closets full of clutter. The expression on our face will say, “spirituality be damned.” In my imagination our audience will scream with delirium as crowds so often do for anti-authoritarian rock stars. Beatlemania will seem like a tempest in a teapot compared to Badfengshuimania!

This is my pipe dream. When it comes to day-to-day reality I am more of a pragmatist. I think I will keep moving furniture, mopping, sweeping, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, folding the laundry, running errands and all the other usual drudgery. It is good for my relationships. It makes for greater peace and harmony in my home. For a lack of a better term I am going to call it good feng shui.

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