Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Window

window to the world –
simple visions elicit
hope within the heart


Photo by Laura Makabresku


Friday, December 29, 2017

Ring out the Old, Ring in the New

If we could truly ring out the old and ring in the new, as proclaimed in Tennyson’s poem, my wish for the new year would be to let go of the white supremacist views that have for too long held the course in this country, and which could bring on more sorrow if we cannot renounce it.

The first step in renouncing white supremacy is for us to acknowledge it. Even though I have written essays on racial inequality on numerous occasions on this blog, I must acknowledge that today I participate in white privilege just by waking up and getting out of the house each day. I continue to enjoy many perks of white privilege, such as having no fear of being stopped by the police on my way to the shopping mall or on a road trip. I received a good education in the public school system, but inequities still remain there. Even after the civil rights struggle and hard-won gains in the system, our schools and neighborhoods are still, by and large, segregated.

The two videos below illustrate how entrenched white supremacy and white privilege are in our culture. In the first video, political pollster Frank Lutz interviews a focus group of Roy Moore supporters in my home state of Alabama. You will hear one lady make the astounding statement that Alabama did not any racial problems until Obama was elected. That is an astounding statement for me as an Alabama resident, yet there are many across the country who hold similar views of President Obama. (to see the full 7 minute discussion go here)

In the next video, Bill Moyers and four historians dissect the big lie Trump rode to power: the Birther lie. Nell Painter, historian and Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University; Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School; Christopher Lebron, assistant professor of African-American studies and philosophy at Yale University; and Philip Klinkner, James S. Sherman Professor of Government, Hamilton College discuss the fertile ground on which the birther lie was sown: our nation’s history of white supremacy.

One significant quote from the video:

“Donald Trump did us a favor, because he shows us how active and significant white supremacy is in this country. I mean, we needed to know it. We needed to see it. We needed to punch a hole in the mythology of post-racialism, because we need to deal with it. I mean, we think about an oncologist — we don’t want our oncologist telling us a little lie that we don’t really have cancer.”

~ Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School

To read a transcript of the video, go here.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The World's Most Enlightening Region

My friend, Dr. N.S. Xavier has a wonderful documentary about a region in India where Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews have historically dwelt in peace and flourished. Dr. Xavier beautifully presents this unique region of the world to us and offers some broader lessons for all of us.

The documentary will be shown on Alabama Public Television this coming Friday and the following Sunday. (See more at Finding a Healthy Religious Practice)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday Music: Of the Father's Love Begotten

One of my favorite Christmas hymns, Of the Father's Love Begotten, sung by the St Martin's Chamber Choir. The hymn is by the fourth century Roman Christian poet, Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius.


Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, "The Christian Pindar" was born in northern Spain, a magistrate whose religious convictions came late in life. His subsequent sacred poems were literary and personal, not, like those of St. Ambrose, designed for singing. Selections from them soon entered the Mozarabic rite, however, and have since remained exquisite treasures of the Western churches.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Greetings from Birmingham

Photo by Rachael Callahan @objectivityrach
A view from Railroad Park of Downtown Birmingham at Christmas time


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Moonlight Journey

a nighttime journey
offers travelers peace of mind
when graced by moonlight


Image: "Moonlight," woodcut
Artist: Shiro Kasamatsu (1898-1991), Japan
Found on Pinterest at


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Finding Christmas

I enjoy the Christmas season and when I discovered the liturgical season of Advent as an adult, that sacred time of waiting gave the season even more meaning for me. At the same time, I realize that there are many who have difficulty participating in the festive season. Some have painful memories from the past; some have been hardened by life and cannot make their way back to hope. Others have either lost faith, were nurtured in a different faith, or were raised without a strong faith tradition.

My hope is that everyone can find reason to celebrate the season and that we all can have hope for the days ahead. The following essay is one that was first posted in December of 2010. It was first written and presented at the request of Rev. Karen Matteson, a Unitarian Minister. She wanted me to take part in a Sunday morning service in preparation for Christmas. Many in that Unitarian congregation felt that it was very important to have a big Christmas Eve celebration. Others had a problem with Christmas because they came from different backgrounds, and most had a problem with affirming the divinity of Christ. The minister wanted to have a service to help bring everyone in to the celebration of the season while acknowledging the different places that many were coming from. "Finding Christmas" was my contribution to that service which I was honored to take part in.

   Finding Christmas: A Post-modern Christian Revisits an Ancient Holiday
by Charles Kinnaird

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me 
                                            there lay an invincible summer."
                                                   ~Albert Camus

In the Jesus story, the Gospel writer at one point has the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, asking the question, "What am I to do with Jesus?" It is fascinating to me that from that time until this, most of us in Western Civilization have had to ask that very question and in some way respond to the question. When I was in high school, there were two Broadway musicals, Godspell, and Jesus Christ, Superstar, that represented one way that my generation was responding to the question of what to do with Jesus. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, Handel's Messiah, Zulu Zionism in South Africa, Base Communities in Latin America, and the Jesus Seminar in Santa Rosa, CA, represent a few of the many varied responses to the same question.

In my own journey, I am always re-evaluating and redefining. I took a computer course once where we were working with spreadsheets. I loved the visual effect of having the spreadsheet all laid out, then typing in another number and watching the whole screen change in response to the new data. A living philosophy has to be that way. When we are confronted with new information or new experiences, our perspective will change in some way. There may even be a shift in our world view.

The Risk of Incarnation

A few years ago, I was attending a Eucharistic service at an Episcopal Church (some traditions refer to it as Mass, or Holy Communion). It was at a time when I was re-assessing what the Christian myth meant to me, given my world view. It occurred to me that however the person of Jesus fits (or does not fit) into one's theology, the Jesus Story dramatically illustrates the risk of incarnation. It was an emotional moment and I immediately connected with that notion because I knew first-hand the risk of incarnation.

In my work as a registered nurse, I often have to ask patients to sign a consent form for the surgeon to operate. I always ask the patient "Has the doctor explained to you the risks and the benefits of this procedure?" If the patient answers affirmatively, then I know that he or she is ready to sign the consent form. That day during the Eucharist, I knew that as I drank from the cup, I was affirming my own participation in the risk of incarnation. Knowing the beauty of being alive, I was also fully aware of the risk.

Celebrating the Light

Christmas is about light and life. It is a celebration in the middle of winter that the light will come and the darkness will end. It is a celebration of the promise of new life beginning. We call it Christmas, a time when Christians celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus as the incarnation of God and a light to the world.

The celebration existed, however, long before the Christians took it over. Winter Solstice had long been a time to celebrate the dawn on the darkness of winter. It was a time to extol the evergreen that proclaimed the promise of life in the dead of winter.

Christmas for us can be a time to celebrate the joy and beauty of incarnation as we know it. If we have lived long enough, we understand the risk, but we also know from our collective experience that the darkness will end. We sense the persistent hope of new life. We know that life on this planet is worth the risk. We can use the Christmas season to acknowledge our own participation in the incarnation of Life.

Our light has come.
Our day has dawned.
We can joyfully celebrate
Life is up to something,
    and we are included!
Life is full of surprises,
    and we are a part of it!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Celebrating Christmas

[From my archives: this essay was first posted in 2014]

Celebrate the season with whatever joy, hope, and light you have

For the past few years, some folks around where I live have taken up the slogan, "Put Christ back into Christmas." Perhaps they are urging people to move away from the hectic consumer-driven buying frenzy and discover a more spiritual celebration of the holiday. I have had the sense, though, that some are saying, this is a Christian holiday, it is our holiday, so you need to celebrate it our way. Last year, I came up with a snarky comeback: "Let's put the Mass back into Christmas." Since I was a former evangelical Christian who had discovered the ancient liturgy of the Catholic Church, I could "one-up" those conservative Christians when it came to getting back to the "reason for the season."

While part of my Christmas celebration will be to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (for the "Christ Mass"), Christmas has actually spilled out into the world, creating many ways to celebrate the light that comes to us even during the darkest time of the year. Before it was a "Christian holiday season," Winter Solstice was the oldest celebration in human history, some say going back 30,000 years to a time when people built bonfires to encourage the sun not to go away completely and to exercise the sure and certain hope that days of light and warmth were coming. Christmas has become that time when we can all celebrate the coming of the light to our lives and an end to our darkened days. A friend of mine shared a Christmas sermon by Rev. W. Leslie Pugh from Midland, Texas. Pugh tells why Christmas is important to him even though he can no longer literally believe the stories from the Bible. One thing he said was that "Christmas notions about the infusion of the divine into human dwellings -- a holy baby born in a manger -- happen often."

So celebrate the season however you wish, with whatever joy, hope and light that you have, in whatever way is meaningful to you. Take time to recognize the light in your life. Spend some time rejoicing that the story of the divine infusing our human dwellings is indeed true, and that such infusions of the divine happen often in our lives. Take this moment to be aware of the divine presence that not only "dwelt among us," but is still with us today.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday Music: Christmas Time is Here

"Christmas Time Is Here, by Vince Guaraldi, performed by pianist George Winston. The song was featured in cartoonist Charles Shulz's first television special, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown."


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gingerbread Christmas

I haven’t done this in a while, but when my daughter was young, it was fun to use this gingerbread recipe I found in my Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. I used the recipe for Gingerbread People. This makes a very pliable, workable dough. After you cut out whatever shapes you want, you can roll the scraps together and cut out more. We have used this dough to make lots of little gingerbread men, stars and other shapes, and also to make a gingerbread house (pictured above).

To make the house, I had found a book in the library that contained patternes that I traced onto paper and usd those patterns to cut the shapes out of the dough. We still had to trim it a bit when the bread came out of the oven to make them all fit together. Icing sugar was used as the "mortar" to hold the house together.


1 ½ cups dark molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup shortening
7 cups all-purpose flour*
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix molasses, brown sugar, water and shortening.
Mix in remaining ingredients except frosting.
Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350°. Roll dough ¼ inch thick on
floured board. Cut with floured gingerbread cutter
or other favorite shaped cutter. Place about 2 inches
apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake until no
indentation remains when touched, 10 to 12 minutes;
cool. Decorate with Decorators' Frosting (I just buy the ready-made stuff in a tube).


*If using self-rising flour, omit baking soda and salt.

Gingerbread Cookies:
Decrease flour to 6 cups.
Roll dough ½ inch thick and cut with floured 2½
inch round cutter. Place about 1½ inches apart
on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake about 15


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Stillness

trees stand shadow-less
cold overcast winter day
the earth finds stillness


Image: " Chicago, Trees in Snow," 1950, The Art Institute of Chicago
Artist: Harry Callahan, American, 1912-1999
Medium: Photography - gelatin silver print


Friday, December 15, 2017

A New Day in Alabama

Sunrise on Orange Beach, Alabama (National Wildlife Federation photo by Pam Smith)

It was a closely watched election throughout the country last Tuesday. In Alabama, some of us were beginning to wonder if we could ever elect a Democrat again. When I first heard that Doug Jones was entering the race for senate, I was thrilled that such a decent, honorable and capable man was putting himself forward for a statewide office.

We have many citizens who proclaim that they are "a bright blue dot in a deeply red state," but the fact has remained that we are indeed a deeply red state. Last Tuesday's political upset that will send a Democrat to Washington has been an occasion of rejoicing for those bright blue dots scattered about the state.  

While I am glad that the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, won the Alabama special election for senate, the graph below is a sobering look at where we are in this state. 72% of white men voted for Moore, 63% of white women voted for Moore! In a statistic elsewhere, a majority of college educated white voters voted for Moore. Evangelicals disregarded their own moral standards to back Roy Moore as well.

(source: )

The Evangelical Factor

Elsewhere, an editorial in the premier evangelical publication, Christianity Today,  rightly took evangelical voters to task for their support of Roy Moore:

“No matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation,” the editorial explained. “Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.”

I stated a similar sentiment in November of 2008 when in a blog post I lamented the corruption of both the evangelical Christian witness and the Republican Party. It was then that I wrote: “I have seen better examples of faith and better examples of political action than has been exhibited by the Religious Right and the Republican Party over the past few years.”  In that blog essay, I was appalled at the level of hate and fear coming from some of my fellow Christians. 

Moving Forward

Doug Jones, in a news conference on Wednesday, stated that “No matter whether you’re a United States senator, whether you’re a member of Congress, whether you’re a City Councilman, all the way down, all too often, we forget those people that did not vote for you, to put you in office. Those people can’t be forgotten.”

He seems to be a man of integrity who will take the high road and who will indeed represent everyone in Alabama. An article in the Religious News Service outlines some key factors in his life of faith and public service. Most notably, he has been an effective prosecutor for justice as a U.S. Attorney in the case of bringing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombers to trial. Moreover, as a Methodist layman who attends church regularly, he believes in living his faith by caring for everyone, even “the least of these,” and treating people fairly.  Doug Jones can be a leader for all the people of our state, and a light in Washington, D.C. 

We will rejoice this day, but know that there is much work to be done, and it will be an uphill terrain from here onward. Let this day be our marker, and let us go forward, not backward in our efforts to pull our state out of ignorance and bigotry.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holiday Greetings (Merry Christmas, or Not)

This one has been making the rounds on Facebook this year. I like what this fellow says about the Christmas season, and I like what he says about living in a pluralistic society.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Word about Snowfall Down South

Southern Snowfall
It was one of those rare days
When all the conditions were right
And a bright soft snow fell
All day long.
Everything was covered in beauty.
Unneeded activity came to a halt.
No hurry.
A wonderful quiet in the city.
All is well.
It will last a day (two at the most)
Then there will be mud and slush
And life as usual.

Once, while attending Midnight Mass,
I suddenly saw that everyone was aglow.
A subtle light from within
Revealed wonder in every person,
Joy in every action.
Everything was covered in beauty
And I was completely connected
(Not the usual outsider).
No doubt that all shall be well.
Life returned to normal after a day (two at the most)
Except I carried with me the realization
That what was seen only for an instant
Is always true,
Even while life goes on as usual.

                                                   ~ CK


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Young Monk

a morning shadow
from the young monk's ascent
lingers on the steps


Image: A monk ascending the steps of a temple in Bangkok
Photo by Charles Kinnaird


Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Satire - Because Sometimes You Gotta Laugh

So my satire blog, "The Vidalia Onion," which has been dormant since January, saw a little life this week. Yesterday I posted my commentary on the Republican Tax Reform Bill:

And at the beginning of the week, I shared a fun video that I found on Twitter:

Give the site a visit. Let me know what you think.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Another Look at Faith and Politics

The following essay was first posted on November 8, 2012. It was titled, "My Best Wishes to the Republican Party," and it was an appeal for the party to return to its roots that had served our country well. We had a balance in the "point-counterpoint" between the Democratic and Republican perspectives. At the time, I saw increased levels of fear and hate in our public discourse with the advent of the Tea Party and the Republican's catering to their movement. At the time, I understood the fear and hate in our national dialogue to be a hindrance to our ability to come to a consensus in matters that are important for community and national life.

I stated at the time, "The next couple of years may reveal whether the Republicans will do some soul searching or simply redouble their strident and provincial efforts." As we have seen with the Presidential election last November and the continued support of Roy Moore in my home state of Alabama, the Republicans have indeed doubled down in their appeal to fear and hate along with the promotion of white supremacist views.

The Alabama senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore is at the moment a statistical dead heat. Whoever wins the special election next Tuesday will depend upon who turns out to vote. In my 2012 essay below, I expressed dismay over both the faith and the politics that were at the forefront. Today my dismay is only increased when I see how professed people of faith can simply disregard their own values in their efforts to win a political victory. In the case of Roy Moore, even before any of his interests in teenage girls surfaced, he was not fit for the senate based upon his record as a judge, his white supremacist views, and his misunderstanding of church and state.

Here is that essay from 2012. You can judge for yourself how well it still applies to our current state of affairs.

My Best Wishes to the Republican Party

I did a blog post a while back, How the Republicans Could Win by Losing. The point of that essay was that the Republican Party has changed over the past 30 years by increasingly catering to the radical right wing and that a loss in the presidential election might cause the party to steer back to what it used to stand for.  The next couple of years may reveal whether the Republicans will do some soul searching or simply redouble their strident and provincial efforts.

We have seen the Republican Party veer from its staid roots of business and enterprise to embrace the religious right and oust some of its most solid members. Long time Republican senator Richard Lugar of Indiana was rejected during this election cycle by his party in favor of a Tea Party radical as was Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania back in 2010.  In Indiana’s case, that senate seat will now go to a Democrat.  The radical right-wing element of the Republican party has made it clear to long-respected  moderate Republicans that they are no longer welcome.

It is Time for a Divorce

The union between Christian evangelicals and the Republican Party has not been good for either.  I grew up a Southern Baptist and have friendships with evangelical Christians that have continued to this day.  I chose to leave the Baptists but continue to claim my Christian heritage.

Increased levels of Hate and Fear

The marked change that I have noticed among evangelicals that is most distressing to me is the level of hate and fear that I see coming from them. There was a time when conservative Christians tried to be a light to the world wherever they happened to be.  When the Republicans co-opted the “Religious Right” and snagged them into the political system, many of those Christians, so it seems, became so identified with the political party that they lost the heart of their own faith-identity. Instead of seeking to preach the love of Christ, the Religious Right began to see political opponents as enemies. Never mind what Jesus said about loving one’s enemies, the Religious Right began to see their true mission to be a political cause that would seek to vilify and remove anyone with different views.  I have been appalled by the levels of fear and hate projected throughout the social media on the part of my religious friends, many of whom I have known since their younger days when they had better judgment.  

Unsavory Appeals to Matters of Faith

If right-wing politics has distorted the faith of conservative Christians, religion has been just as bad for the Republican Party. I can remember when Democrat Jimmy Carter was running for president and spoke freely of his Baptist faith as a born-again Christian. Gerald Ford was his Republican opponent and his Episcopal tradition did not quite know how to respond to such born-again talk. Since those days, the Republicans have capitalized on the sentiments of born-again Christians. They have expanded on Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy to bring the Southern white voters into their fold, and the evangelicals were just one element of that strategy.  By convincing Southerners that their party was the place where traditional values were honored, white evangelical Christians came in by the thousands, first as “Reagan Democrats,” then as registered Republicans as the Southern states shifted from Democrat to Republican. 

Today, politicians freely appeal to the religious values of voters with buzz words like “right to life,” and “family values” while instilling fear that Democrats would take away our religious freedom if given the chance to serve in public office.  The result has been that many conservative Christians have bought a political package with an agenda of selfish exclusion and myopic hate. It is time for Christians to look to the rock from which they were hewn and it is time for Republicans to return to the examples of their more staid and responsible leaders of the past.

Regroup and Retool

My point is that I have seen better examples of faith and better examples of political action than has been exhibited by the Religious Right and the Republican Party over the past few years. The presidential election this year [in 2012 when this essay first appeared] has demonstrated that a significant number of Americans are rejecting the fear, hate, and exclusion demonstrated by the new Republican Party. I hope that this means that we as a country have made a turn. I hope that we can continue to put racism, enmity and division behind us and begin to work together to build a country that works better for the common good.

Unfortunately, the election result also shows us that a significant number of Americans are fine with racism, enmity, division, and provincialism. There are still a lot of people who will vote to cede power to wealthy corporations and think that they are securing their own liberty. There was not a “landslide” political win.  My hope is that we will begin to see a more reasonable Republican Party that does not kowtow to the radical right. I would love to see responsible Republican opponents who respect science and education.  We need a healthy two-party system, not one of gridlock and bitterness.

Whether the Republican Party will rethink its options or redouble its narrow efforts is yet to be seen.  Nevertheless, my hope is that in our current struggle we can rise to our better angels (to borrow a phrase from another Republican: Abraham Lincoln). My best wishes go to the Republican Party. I hope that they can return to the political arena with a healthier message and a true concern for the country that is not clouded by fear and hate.     


Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Music: Ecce Novum (Ola Gjeilo)

"Ecce Novum," (Behold the new thing), a warm holiday piece by Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo, from the album, Winter Songs.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Wexford Carol

St. Andrew's Church in Winter
photo by Parrish Nored
I have posted this rendition of The Wexford Carol before. It is one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols. I am presenting it again here because I heard it performed by the Birmingham-Southern Choir at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook last Friday under the direction of Dr. Lester Seigel. It was one of several superb arrangements in their Festival of Lessons and Carols. 

My first encounter with the carol was in the mid 1980s when I was singing in the choir at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Birmingham. We were then under the direction of a young Lester Seigel, a most superb organist and choirmaster who was also choir director at Temple Emanu-El at the time (his weekends must have been quite busy!). These days, Dr. Seigel is an internationally known conductor and is Department Chair for the Music Department at Birmingham-Southern College. I am proud to have known him back in the day.

While I do not have a recording of the Birmingham-Southern Choir to present here, I have John Rutter’s arrangement and recording of the carol. 


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saturday Haiku: 10,000 Buddhas

ten thousand Buddhas
sitting in solemn witness
to the soul awake


Image: From Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Hong Kong (Shatin district)
Photo by Charles Kinnaird

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