Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called 'leaves') imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic." 

--Carl Sagan

Friday, May 18, 2018

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Winning power was the goal of Judas, not Jesus."

--Dr. Mark Labberton, President, Fuller Theological Seminary

Political Dealing: The Crisis of Evangelicalism

Friday, March 30, 2018

It's Good Friday. So here's to the holy rebels, the godly heretics, the troublemakers who speak truth to power, the compassionate crossers of boundaries and breakers of taboos, the peaceful social justice warriors, the challengers of oppressive systems, the upsetters of the status quo. Here's to the ones who get bruised and beaten and crushed and crucified by authorities who sense their threat. The message can never be buried for long. Here's to the ones who don't merely worship Jesus; they follow him.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"…I have a deep affinity and respect for Buddhism, and I think that I am as much a Chinese Buddhist in temperament and spirit as I am a Christian…. I think one can certainly believe in the revealed truths of Christianity and follow Christ, while at the same time having a Buddhist outlook on life and nature…. A certain element of Buddhism in culture and spirituality is by no means incompatible with Christian belief….”

--Thomas Merton

Monday, February 26, 2018

When I was a kid we had a lesson in school about advertising and propaganda. I still remember much of it because I found it so fascinating--the various tactics used by advertisers and propagandists to shape people's perceptions and motivate them to action (such as buying a product or voting a certain way or slaughtering their neighbors). Throughout my life I've informally studied propaganda. And to this day, since that childhood educational experience, when I see an advertisement I can't help but analyze it to see where the motivational hooks are: Is it appealing to a need for prestige or a desire to belong? Is it playing on fear? Is it implicitly promising success with sex/mating? Etc.

One of the things I've learned about the most heinous applications of propaganda--those used to foment things like genocide and fascism and violent revolution--is that they intentionally dehumanize a target group. Nazis referred to Jews as parasites, as plague-ridden rats. European colonialists in 18th-century America referred to the indigenous people as "merciless savages" (it's right there in the U.S. Constitution) and in the 20th-century depicted Japanese people, including Japanese-Americans, as dirty, sneaky, ruthless, murderous, nihilistic and fanatical bucktoothed caricatures (making it much easier to round up one's neighbors and put them in internment camps or explode atomic bombs over a couple of their cities). During the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, radio broadcasts played an important role in inciting ordinary Hutu citizens to take part in the massacres of their Tutsi neighbors. Tutsis were referred to by the radio propagandists as "cockroaches" and "a disease" and "snakes." There are, sadly, a plethora of other examples from history of this dehumanizing rhetoric about "the other" easing the way toward cruelty and atrocity.

Which brings me to something I saw last week that chilled my blood: Speaking at CPAC, the political conservative gathering, U.S. President Donald Trump recited a poem which he prefaced as being about "immigration" (not "illegal immigration" but simply "immigration"--I assume from "shithole countries") Apparently, he has read this poem aloud before at some of his rallies. The poem (actually lyrics to a song based upon one of Aesop's fables), is called "The Snake."

Here is a video of Trump reading The Snake at CPAC:

If you don't find it disturbing, you probably need to spend some time studying the historical role and consequences of propaganda.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

On writing a book...

Writing a book and having it published has been a tremendously eye-opening experience for me.

One spends a couple of years in hard intellectual labor: pondering, researching, gathering, sorting, clarifying, outlining, writing, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing, fine-tuning, tweaking, checking, re-checking, fixing, re-checking, fixing, working with the publisher on matters ranging from contract negotiation to grammatical and editorial choices to font selection to book cover design (and being humbled and gratified by the publisher's deep knowledge on these matters).

Then, finally, the book is completed and released into the world. And one faces the harsh reality that a million books are released into the world each year and this one is just a drop in the ocean. But still, something that didn't exist before now exists due to one's hard work. Then comes promotion: trying to overcome the inertia of the world's indifference to what one has produced. And occasionally a kind angel with a blog or podcast swoops in and takes the book under their wing and champions it to their audience. And then periodically an email comes in from a reader expressing how helpful the book has been to them on their journey. And every now and then a review appears online reminding you that your book really does have value. The royalty check arrives in the mail and reminds you that you won't be quitting your day job anytime soon.

And after a while things taper off. The labor involved was more sustained than you had anticipated at the beginning and you're a bit spent. You move on to the next things--after all, it's been 2 or 3 years since the process of writing your book began.

Then, for some reason--maybe an interview request or an invitation to conduct a workshop--you pick up your book and read through it again. And you think, "This is good. I'm happy with this." And you also realize that you thought you were providing answers but really you were exploring your own questions. And the questioning and searching for meaning continues. And maybe that means you'll do it all over again. 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Another school shooting...

We have acclimated to atrocity in our midst and accepted it as a "fair price" to pay for our "freedoms." It makes me think of Shirley Jackson's classic short-story The Lottery, in which an American town selects at random once per year a resident to be stoned to death in order to insure a good harvest. We all, residents of the United States, are now participants in a deadly lottery.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

"Presence and Process does a concise job of introducing and distilling thoughts and concepts that are usually confined to academic circles. Coleman’s thorough research and careful gleaning of a wide variety of quotes from monks, nuns and masters throughout the ages offer lay readers lots of helpful nuggets of truth and could whet a reader’s appetite for deeper exploration." 

--Josina Guess, The Englewood Review of Books

Thursday, February 01, 2018

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."
--Jesus (Gospel of Luke 16:10)

Last night Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address since becoming President of the United States.  According to the Nielsen ratings organization 45.6 million viewers watched.  In terms of ratings this puts viewership of Trump's State of the Union at sixth place because State of the Union addresses given by Bill Clinton (1994), Barack Obama (2010), George W. Bush (2002), Bill Clinton (1998) and George W. Bush (2003). 

Today Donald Trump has falsely claimed--despite indisputable data to the contrary--that "the highest number in history" watched his State of the Union address. No one seems particularly surprised that he has claimed this. We roll our eyes. His supporters will brush it off as no big deal, or maybe even choose to believe him.

In making this ridiculous claim, was Trump intentionally telling a cynical lie to try to shape perceptions or does he actually believe this to be true because his ego requires it? Does it really matter? Either way it is a denial of basic reality, of facts, of truth. If the President of the United States will not or cannot embrace reality on such a public matter as this, how can we have any faith that he can grasp reality, or communicate truth to the American people, on any matter, large or small?

In other words, we simply cannot believe a single word Donald Trump says, nor can we assume that he is functioning with anything resembling a clear understanding of what is real and true.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

My interview with Steve Wiens for his 'This Good Word' podcast has just been posted. This was a really fun conversation, digging into my book 'Presence and Process'.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Politics doesn't exist in a vacuum. Neither does religion. In fact, politics (how we manage our societies) and religion (our understanding of divinity and our relation to divinity and thus to one another) are two of the most fundamental things that impact our lives and our society and the world at large. History is told from the perspective of how politics and religion shaped events. Politics and religion are almost always intertwined in some way or other.

This leads me one of Donald Trump's tweets yesterday, in which he stated "if there is no Wall, there is no DACA." This is the Wall (he capitalizes it) that, according to the Department of Homeland Security, will cost $21.6 billion (about the cost of one and a half aircraft carriers) to build and its efficacy is greatly disputed. This is the Wall that Trump said over and over again that Mexico would pay for. Now he wants you and I--Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer--to pay for it. But he's not asking us, he is demanding it and, essentially holding 800,000 people (the DACA "Dreamers") hostage in order to have his demands met.

Trump, by way of executive order, eliminated the DACA protections for these hundreds of thousands of young adults who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children--through no fault of their own--and who have been contributing to American society ever since. Trump then (in the infamous "shithole" meeting) torpedoed a bipartisan deal to reinstitute DACA legislatively. Now he appears to be running an old-fashioned mafia-style protection racket: "It would be a real shame if something bad were to happen to those Dreamers. Give me $21.6 billion and I'll make sure nothing bad happens." Now he has made clear his intention: to use the dreamers, and each of their futures, as leverage to get his Wall. This is despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that both Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly support DACA, as do 70-80% of Americans.

So here's where the religion part comes into the mix. 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump. But Christianity teaches that we should take care of the powerless in our midst: the marginalized, the poor, the immigrant, etc. Jesus confronted the powers of his day (the legalistic Pharisees, the opportunistic Sadducees, Herod and his administration, the Roman empire) by nonviolently but boldly exposing their hypocrisy and oppressiveness.

So why are so many Christians silent today about what Trump is doing to 800,000 DACA Dreamers? One would expect a deafening outcry from the followers of Jesus. Why isn't Trump's white evangelical Christian base--who he supposedly listens to--telling him that this is not acceptable?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

I Am a U.S. Citizen Thanks to Chain Migration

I am an American citizen because of "chain migration." 

"Chain migration," which Donald Trump calls "horrible," is the process whereby immigrants already legally residing in the U.S. can petition the Immigration Service to allow their extended family to immigrate (if they meet the requirements). In other words, it is designed to foster family reunification--a long U.S. immigration tradition. For example, in 1885, 16-year old Friedrich Trump (Donald Trump’s grandfather)--who spoke little English and had no career skills--immigrated from Germany to join his oldest sister in the U.S. The tale of the United States--a nation of immigrants--is one of "chain migration."

My parents, my sister and I immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1960's. In our case we were able to immigrate because my father's cousin, who had previously immigrated to the U.S., petitioned on our behalf. The entire application process took about a year. Another requirement for immigration at that time was that my parents had to have at least $1,000.00 in the bank (that was in 1967-68, so it would be about $7,500.00 in today's dollars). My parent's were young working-class adults with two kids at the time and so were pretty broke, but a family member put $1,000.00 into my parent's bank account and let it sit there in order to meet this requirement. After we had settled in the U.S. the money was withdrawn from the account and returned to the family member.

Upon moving to the U.S., my dad worked as a printer and my mom initially made money "under the table" providing daycare in our apartment. Ultimately my dad worked for 25 years at a major newspaper and my mom worked as a secretary for many years (first for a lawyer and then for a city government agency). Despite lacking college educations, my parents worked hard and fulfilled the American dream, buying houses and cars and paying taxes and contributing to society and living a comfortable middle-class existence and providing opportunities for their progeny that they never had for themselves. Their children both earned Master's degrees and made higher salaries than their parents. One grandchild is earning a doctorate in physics while the other is in college to become a computer animator. That's what "chain migration" enabled the Coleman's to accomplish in the United States. 

So when I hear Donald Trump and Republican politicians/pundits and their supporters railing against "chain migration," I hear them railing against me and my family.

We didn't enter the U.S. through Ellis Island, as so many immigrants before us did, but it is interestingly symbolic that on the one year anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are closed.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Once when I was off on a Zen retreat in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, I was very surprised to see another Westerner there—in fact he was a Roman Catholic priest doing Zen practice—and we became friends. His name was Father William Johnston. He’s written many books and he broadened my perspective considerably. As a Christian, he had learned a lot from the techniques of meditation that come from the Buddhist tradition, and it had allowed him to deepen his Christianity. Through him I learned that the experiences that I was having in doing Buddhist meditation were part of a much broader worldwide phenomenon: that meditation, in fact, existed in Christianity, Judaism, Islam. That it was, in a slightly different form, central in the shamanic practices of our tribal ancestors. That it is indeed a global and universal thing, and that although the particular customs and doctrinal systems—the belief systems—of the various world religions differ dramatically, the contemplative or meditative core is virtually universal. Father Johnston had a vast library of comparative mysticism—the writings of the meditation masters of the world—and he let me read in that library. So I got to see what I was doing in Buddhist meditation in a much broader context. He also got me interested in the scientific study of meditative states. He had friends at a Buddhist university who were studying the brainwaves of Zen meditators, and he took me to their research lab. They hooked us both up to their equipment and were utterly amazed to see that a Roman Catholic priest produced the same kind of brainwaves as a 30-year Zen meditator. But of course it’s not surprising at all, given the universal nature of the meditative experience."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Fortunately today we can learn ways to meditate from many different traditions. We can come to silence by practicing one of several Buddhist paths, or through Christian contemplative prayer, as well as through Jewish, Sufi and Taoist disciplines. … Whichever path brings us to practice, at the center there is silence—perennial, universal, inclusive, and radiant."
--Gunilla Norris, Inviting Silence

Saturday, January 06, 2018

"To reduce suffering, to elevate fulfillment, to have some peacefulness in our life, to have concentration—these are some of the reasons that we practice meditation. Beyond that, there is the spiritual dimension. All over the world meditation is the main vehicle for deepening one’s spiritual life. People have different beliefs, they have different spiritual paths, there are different religions in the world; there are different philosophies. I compare these to software; different kinds of computer programs—different ideas that people have about the spiritual nature of things. Meditation is not another piece of software that competes with existing religions, like Christianity or Judaism. Meditation is hardware. It’s something that you can use to implement whatever your particular philosophy or religion may be; to implement it at a vastly deeper level than you would have ever thought possible."

--Shinzen Young, The Science of Enlightenment

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Monday, January 01, 2018

Anthem by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they've summoned up
A thundercloud
And they're going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
You won't have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart to love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"A Christian can realize himself called by God to periods of silence, reflection, meditation, and 'listening'. We are perhaps too talkative, too activistic, in our conception of the Christian life. Our service of God and of the Church does not consists only in talking and doing. It can also
Consist in periods of silence, listening, waiting. Perhaps it is very important, in our era of violence and unrest, to rediscover meditation, silent inner unitive prayer, and creative Christian silence."

--Thomas Merton, On Christian Contemplation

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

-Howard Thurman

Friday, December 22, 2017

“By means of all created things, without exception,
The Divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us.
We imagine it as distant and inaccessible.
In fact, we live steeped in its burning layers.”

-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The True Christmas Story

Although it's a little bit cheesy, and was produced by Focus on the Family several years ago, I still think this video by Ray Vander Laan about The True Christmas Story is terrific (and very applicable to the current state of things).

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Look closely...

 Jose y Maria by Everett Patterson

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Happy Holidays

Here's why I, as a Christian, intentionally say "Happy Holidays"...

We no longer live in a provincial land where one culture or religion dominates and dictates. The reality is that the world is becoming more diverse and mixed and multicultural. That's a beautiful thing; not a reason to retreat into monocultural ghettos. The more I learn about other faiths and other cultures the more I appreciate them as well as my own as pieces of a wonderful mosaic of human aspiration. 

My neighbors come from various Asian backgrounds, are African-American, are Middle Eastern, originate from south of the border, emigrated from India, are Native American, and some--like me--are descended from European immigrants. We're all in this together.
So I respect their holy days and appreciate when they respect mine.

Here are some of the holy days, in addition to the various Christian ones, that occur in December and January:

Ashura (Sunni Muslim)
Bodhi Day (Buddhist)
Pancha Ganapati (Hindu)
Saturnalia (Pagan)
Yule (Scandinavian/Pagan)
Winter Solstice (Pagan)
Hanukkah (Jewish)
Kwanzaa (African-American)
Guru Gobindh Singh’s Birthday (Sikh)
Lunar New Year (Asian)
Eid Milad UnNabi (Islam)
Sadeh (Zoroastrian/Persian)
Chahar Shanbeth Suri (Zoroastrian/Persian)
Gantan Sai/Shogatu (Shinto)
Magahi (Sikh)
Makar Sankranti (Hindu)


"A consciousness grows in silence that allows recognition and response to the deepest spiritual truths.  For this reason meditation strengthens whatever genuine religious beliefs the meditator already has.  Clarifying one’s intention in meditation determines the course of the journey.  Christians approach self-emptying with the aim of saying with St. Paul, ‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.’  Buddhists sit with the intention of encountering the Buddha nature that is at one with the cosmos.  Both can find in their personal encounter with silence a spiritual renewal at the heart of their human experience."

--Patricia Hart Clifford, Sitting Still: An Encounter with Christian Zen

Monday, December 18, 2017